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Posts Tagged ‘ORGANIZED CRIME’

BANKSTERS AND DRUGGIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 16, 2020 at 3:50 am

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

Scarface - 1983 film.jpg

Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding court in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASPish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer—his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony: We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse. The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.” 

Then follows this exchange:

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming….

TONY: Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk. I’m talking. I go low, you go high. I know the game. This is business talk.

BANKER: Let me explain something. The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida. There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER: There’s no place else to go. 

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas. 

BANKER: Once maybe. Then what? You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

In December, 2017, the  the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Merrill Lynch $26 million for failing to identify suspicious money-transfer activities in customer accounts for years. 

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

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. 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

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. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer. 

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly—and routinely—investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2019 at 12:07 am

Donald Trump has a longstanding hatred of whistleblowers when they betray his crimes and follies. But he feels completely different about “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Presidential candidate Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.” 

Image result for Official White House photos of Donald Trump

Trump can’t refute the sheer number of witnesses who have testified to his extortion attempt on Ukraine. So he now seeks to shift blame to the person who originally testified to his extortion.

On November 6, his son, Donald, Jr., tweeted out an article which might—or might not—have contained the name of the Intelligence community whistleblower.

A Trump shill later claimed that Trump hadn’t known about his son’s efforts to attack that official.

The law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP, called on Attorney General William Barr to open a criminal investigation into any leaks of the whistleblower’s identity. 

“As attorneys representing whistleblowers for over 35-years we are extremely concerned about the nation-wide ‘chilling effect’ the disclosure of the identity of any intelligence community whistleblower will necessary cause. Whistleblowers need to reassurance that the laws protecting them will be strictly enforced. 

“If the [whistleblower’s] name is revealed by any person, including Donald Trump, Jr., we hereby request that the persons engaging in this obstruction of justice be immediately arrested.” 

Yet Barr, as Trump’s handpicked Attorney General, has so far refused to take any action against those in violation of whistleblower statutes. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace-related laws.

Image result for official seal of osha

According to a 2002 amendment to the federal retaliation statute:

“Whoever knowingly, with intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

These forbid an employer to fire, lay off, threaten, reduce pay or hours, blacklist, demote, deny overtime, benefits or promotion to anyone protected by such laws.

One such witness is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine. A member of the National Security Council, he felt it improper for a President to ask a foreign leader to investigate an American citizen.

Trump called Vindman, a Purple Heart winner who was wounded in Iraq, “Yesterday’s Never Trumper witness.” 

Ultimately, the identity of the whistleblower doesn’t matter.

As Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) tweeted on November 8: “One more time for the people in the back: The whistleblower pulled the fire alarm. The 1st responders showed up and saw smoke, flames, and @realDonaldTrump holding matches. Does it matter who pulled the fire alarm?”

The truth of the original complaint about Trump’s extortion attempt has been repeatedly validated by multiple witnesses.

It now remains to be seen whether Republicans care more about the truth of that complaint—or bowing in subservience to a thoroughly corrupt President.

THE WITNESS IS THE ENEMY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2019 at 12:07 am

Before 1966, witnesses who dared expose the deadly secrets of the Mafia came to a brutal end once trials ended. And sometimes before trials even began.

For example: In 1940, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a notorious hitman for Murder, Inc., the execution squad of the New York Mafia, turned State’s evidence against his cronies. His testimony sent his former boss, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, to the electric chair for murder.

He was set to testify against Albert “The Executioner” Anastasia, the chief of Murder, Inc., in November, 1941. Then fate—or bribed police—intervened.

Reles was being guarded round-the-clock by a lieutenant and six detectives at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Nevertheless, he “fell” 42 feet to his death from his sixth-floor room. No one was prosecuted for his murder.

As Joseph Valachi, a future Mafia witness, later testified: “I never met anybody yet who thought Reles went out that window on purpose.”

Abe-reles.jpg

Abe “Kid Twist” Reles

In 1966, the United States Justice Department indicted Rhode Island Mafia Boss Raymond Patriarca. Thus, protection of its star witness, hitman Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, became a top priority.

Assigned to guard him was a small, handpicked detail of deputy U.S. marshals under the command of John Partington. For 18 months, the marshals foiled every effort by the Mafia to “clip” Barboza.

His testimony convicted a half-dozen top Mafiosi—including Patriarca. Then the marshals packed Barboza off to California under a new identity—and a new life.

Other Mafiosi—having run afoul of the Mafia and impressed by the success of the marshals in keeping Barboza alive—signed on as witnesses.

This, in turn, led the Justice Department to create an official Witness Security Program. By 2019, the Program had protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,600 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Deputy U.S. marshals guarding a witness

Every President since John F. Kennedy has championed the vigorous prosecution of organized crime. And fueling this drive is the testimony of endangered witnesses requiring air-tight security.

Donald Trump is the first President to blatantly attack those who dare to “rat out” their former criminal associates.

On August 21, 2018, attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.  

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: “For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

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U.S. Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel [sic] he must be a John Dean type ‘RAT.’

“But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

TRUMP HATES/LOVES “RATS”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2019 at 12:08 am

Former FBI Director James Comey has had firsthand experience in attacking organized crime—and in spotting its leaders.

In his bestselling memoir, A Higher Loyalty, he writes:

“As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.” 

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Validating Comey’s comparison of Trump to a mobster:

On August 21, 2018, Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him:  

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.”

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

Image result for united states department of justice building

United States Department of Justice

To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. 

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: 

“The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

But Trump feels completely different abut “flippers” when their revelations serve his interests.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

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The leak revealed a DNC bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders. Clinton, who was about to receive the Democratic nomination for President, was thoroughly embarrassed. Sanders’ supporters were enraged.

Donald Trump’s reaction:

  • “WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.”
  • “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart, you gotta read it.” 
  • This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
  • “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one just a little while ago it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, probably illegal, between the Department of Justice the Clinton campaign and the State Department, you saw that.”

But now Trump has reverted to his longtime hatred of “leakers.”

In July, 2019, he told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine, which faces increasing aggression from Russia.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and the media and Congress soon learned of it. 

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., tweeted: “The transcript of the call reads like a classic mob shakedown: — We do a lot for Ukraine — There’s not much reciprocity — I have a favor to ask — Investigate my opponent — My people will be in touch — Nice country you got there. It would be a shame if something happened to her.”

On September 24, 2019, Nancy Pelosi, speaker to the House of Representatives, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.

On September 26, Trump told a private group at a midtown hotel: “I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy.

“You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

TRUMP HATES/LOVES “RATS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 30, 2019 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, Mafia “Boss of all Bosses” John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit. Among these:

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 

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 Donald Trump

  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Anthony Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone. He has badmouthed—and fired—such ardent supporters as his ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
  • He has an unrelenting hatred for “rats” who prove equally disloyal to him.

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John Gotti

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn “star” Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

Trump executive Michael Cohen 012 (5506031001) (cropped).jpg

Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as at his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

Cohen,  feeling abandoned and enraged, struck back: He “rolled over” on the man he had once boasted he would take a bullet for.

On August 21, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. He also said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.

Among his revelations:

  • Trump has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election. But Cohen said he believed it did.
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed he had “no business” in Russia. But Cohen testified that the Trump Organization had sought to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”
  • Trump denied having had sex with and paid off porn “actress” Stormy Daniels. But Cohen confirmed that Trump had instructed him to pay her $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him:

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair.

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

THE PRESIDENT AS MAFIA BOSS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 28, 2018 at 12:24 am

James Comey has had a long and distinguished career in American law enforcement:

  • 2002 – 2003:  United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • 2003 – 2005:  United States Deputy Attorney General
  • 2013 – 2017:  Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

As a result, Comey has firsthand experience in attacking organized crime—and in spotting its leaders.

In his bestselling memoir, A Higher Loyalty, he writes:

“As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and the truth.” 

On May 9, 2017, President Donald Trump fired Comey as FBI director. There were five reasons for this:

  • Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made the “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.
  • Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief—as was the case in the former Soviet Union.
  • Trump had tried to coerce Comey into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand. 
  • Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into well-documented contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • The goal of that collaboration: To elect Trump over Hillary Clinton, a longtime foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Trump and his shills have adamantly denied that he demanded that Comey serve as his private police chief. 

But now Trump has proved that he—and not Comey—was the liar. And more like a mobster than a President.

On August 21, his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud. And, more worrisome for Trump, Cohen said he had made illegal campaign contributions “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”—Donald Trump.

On August 23, on the Fox News program, “Fox and Friends,” Trump attacked Cohen for “flipping” on him: 

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers. Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they—they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go. It—it almost ought to be outlawed. It’s not fair. 

“You know, campaign violations are considered not a big deal, frankly. But if somebody defrauded a bank and he’s going to get 10 years in jail or 20 years in jail but if you can say something bad about Donald Trump and you’ll go down to two years or three years, which is the deal he made.”

Image result for Meme: White House says the FBI has "extreme bias" against Trump"

Making “flipping” illegal would undo decades of organized crime prosecutions—and make future ones almost impossible.

“It takes a small bum to catch a big bum,” as one deputy U.S. marshal once stated.

Boy Scouts simply won’t hang out with career criminals. To penetrate the secrets of criminal organizations, investigators and prosecutors need the testimony of those who are parties to those secrets.  

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 gave Justice Department prosecutors unprecedented weapons for attacking crime syndicates across the country. One of these was the authority to give witnesses immunity from prosecution on the basis of their own testimony.

Thus, a witness to a criminal conspiracy could be forced to tell all he knew—and thus implicate his accomplices—and bosses. In turn, he wouldn’t be prosecuted on the basis of his testimony. (He could, however, be prosecuted if someone else accused him of criminal acts.)

Organized crime members aggressively damn such “rats.” There is no more obscene word in a mobster’s vocabulary.

But no President—until Trump—has ever attacked those who make possible a war on organized crime. 

On August 19, he tweeted: 

“The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify – I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide……” 

In 1973, former White House Counsel John Dean testified before the United States Senate on a litany of crimes committed by President Richard M. Nixon. Dean didn’t lie about Nixon—who ultimately resigned in disgrace.

For Trump, Dean’s sin is that he “flipped” on his former boss, violating the Mafia’s code of omerta, or silence. 

Trump knows better than most how dangerous a “flipper” can be. His former lawyer and mentor, Roy Cohn, represented some of the most notorious Mafiosi in the country—such as John Gotti and Carmine Galante. 

And both Gotti and Galante went to prison owing to “flippers.”

For Donald Trump, there is no greater nightmare than becoming the victim of those who know—and are willing to share—his criminal secrets.

“SCARFACE” AND REAL-LIFE BANKSTERS

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on March 3, 2017 at 10:37 am

It’s a scene familiar to anyone who’s seen Scarface, the 1983 classic starring Al Pacino as a Cuban drug dealer who makes it big in the cocaine business.

Scarface - 1983 film.jpg

Tony Montana (Pacino) is holding court in his Florida estate.  His visitor is a WASP-ish banker.

Bankers as a rule don’t make house calls. But Tony is no ordinary customer–his men literally haul bags full of bills into the bank when making deposits.

Except that now the banker has some unpleasant news for Tony:

We’re not a wholesale operation.  We’re a legitimate bank.  The more cash you give me……the harder it is for me to rinse.

“The fact is I can’t take any more of your money unless I raise the rates on you.”

TONY: You gonna raise…

BANKER: I gotta do it.

BANKER: The IRS is coming….

TONY: Don’t give me that shit! Let’s talk. I’m talking. I go low, you go high. I know the game. This is business talk.

BANKER: Let me explain something. The IRS is coming down heavy on South Florida. There was a Time magazine story that didn’t help. 

There’s a recession. I got stockholders I got to be responsible for.  I got to do it, Tony.

TONY: We’ll go somewhere else.  That’s it.   

BANKER: There’s no place else to go. 

TONY: Fuck you, man! Fuck you! I’ll fly the cash myself to the Bahamas.  BANKER: Once maybe. Then what? You’ll trust some monkey in a Bahamian bank with millions of your hard-earned dollars? Come on, Tony. Don’t be a schmuck. Who else can you trust? That’s why you pay us what you do. You trust us.

Stay with us. You’re a well-liked customer. You’re in good hands with us.

(At this point, movie audiences burst into laughter.  The line, “You’re in good hands with us” seemed directly lifted from the slogan used by Allstate Insurance: “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”)

Now, fast forward to 2014.

A Reuters news story dated May 21, 2014 noted that investigators from the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were probing Charles Schwab and Bank of America Corporations Merrill Lynch brokerage.

The SEC wants to determine if these brokerages violated anti-money laundering rules that require financial institutions to know their customers.

Broker-dealers are required to establish, document and identify customers and verify their identities in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act.

In 2012, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, ordered regulators to guarantee that financial institutions are identifying the true beneficial owners of their accounts.

The reason: Drug cartels and terrorist groups have become highly creative in hiding and transferring their illegal funds.

According to sources close to the investigation, Charles Schwab and Merrill accepted shell companies and persons with phony addresses as clients.

In both cases, some of the accounts were eventually linked to drug cartels.  Some of those accounts held hundreds of thousands of dollars; others held millions.

A Texas rancher and Charles Schwab client transferred money to a holding company that was actually a shell company.

Most of the Schwab clients being investigated lived near the Mexican border. Some were linked to Mexican drug cartels.

Click here: Exclusive: SEC probes Schwab, Merrill, for anti-money laundering violations – sources | Reuters

No further stories could be found on the Internet to update the progress of these investigations.

In fact, the government should have assumed long ago that brokerage companies were engaging in such behavior.

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned in The Discourses, his landmark book on how to preserve freedom within a republic:

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. 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

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. 

But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Whenever the creating of wealth becomes an end in itself, all other ends are sacrificed to this.

Greed begins in the neurochemistry of the brain. A neurotransmitter called dopamine fuels our greed. The higher the dopamine levels in the brain, the greater the pleasure we experience.

Harvard researcher Hans Breiter has found, via magnetic resonance imaging studies, that the craving for money activates the same regions of the brain as the lust for sex, cocaine or any other pleasure-inducer. 

But snorting the same amount of cocaine, or earning the same sum of money, does not cause dopamine levels to increase. So the pleasure-seeker must increase the amount of stimuli to keep enjoying the euphoria.

Federal investigators need to view large concentrations of wealth as sources for at least potential corruption.

And they should ruthlessly–and routinely–investigate those sources, whether in the vaults of the Mafia or of major financial institutions.

COPS AND DRUGS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 26, 2016 at 12:05 am

It’s a movie that appeared in 1981–making it, for those born in 2000, an oldie. 

And it wasn’t a blockbuster, being yanked out of theaters almost as soon as it arrived. 

Yet “Prince of the City” remains that rarity–a movie about big-city police that:

  • Tells a dramatic (and true) story; and
  • Offers serious truths about how police and prosecutors really operate. 

It’s based on the real-life case of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in the film). 

Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in “Prince of the City”)

A member of the elite Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Ciello (played by Treat Williams) volunteers to work undercover against rampant corruption among narcotics agents, attorneys and bail bondsmen. 

His motive appears simple: To redeem himself and the NYPD from the corruption he sees everywhere: “These people we take from own us.” 

His only condition: “I will never betray cops who’ve been my partners.” 

And Assistant US Attorney Rick Cappalino assures Ciello: “We’ll never make you do something you can’t live with.” 

As the almost three-hour movie unfolds, Ciello finds–to his growing dismay–that there are a great many things he will have to learn to live with. 

Treat Williams as “Danny Ciello”

Although he doesn’t have a hand in it, he’s appalled to learn that Gino Moscone, a former buddy, is going to be arrested for taking bribes from drug dealers. 

Confronted by a high-ranking agent for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Moscone refuses to “rat out” his buddies. Instead, he puts his service revolver to his head and blows out his brains.  

Ciello is devastated, but the investigation–and film–must go on. 

Along the way, he’s suspected by a corrupt cop and bail bondsman of being a “rat” and threatened with death. 

He’s about to be wasted in a back alley when his cousin–a Mafia member–suddenly intervenes. The Mafioso tells Ciello’s would-be killers: “You’d better be sure he’s a rat, because people like him.”

At which point, the grotesquely fat bail bondsman–who has been demanding Ciello’s execution–pats Danny on the arm and says, “No hard feelings.”

It is director Sidney Lumet’s way of graphically saying: “Sometimes the bad guys can be good guys–and the good guys can be bad guys.”

Prince Of The City folded.jpg

Lumet makes it clear that police don’t always operate with the Godlike perfection of cops in TV and films. It’s precisely because his Federal backup agents lost him that Ciello almost became a casualty.  

In the end, Ciello becomes a victim of the prosecutorial forces he has unleashed.  Although he’s vowed to never testify against his former partners, Ciello finds this is a promise he can’t keep.

Too many of the cops he’s responsible for indicting have implicated him of similar–if not worse–behavior. He’s even suspected of being involved in the theft of 450 pounds of heroin (“the French Connection”) from the police property room.

A sympathetic prosecutor–Mario Vincente in the movie, Rudolph Giuliani in real-life–convinces Ciello that he must finally reveal everything he knows.

Ciello’s had originally claimed to have done “three things” as a corrupt narcotics agent. By the time his true confessions are over, he’s admitted to scores of felonies.

Ciello then tries to convince his longtime SIU partners to do the same. One of them commits suicide.  Another tells Ciello to screw himself:  “I’m not going to shoot myself and I’m not going to rat out my friends.”

To his surprise, Ciello finds himself admiring his corrupt former partner for being willing to stand up to the Federal case-agents and prosecutors demanding his head.

The movie ends with a double dose of irony.

First: Armed with Ciello’s confessions, an attorney whom Ciello had successfully testified against appeals his conviction. But the judge rules Ciello’s admitted misdeeds to be “collateral,” apart from the main evidence in the case, and affirms the conviction.

Second: Ciello is himself placed on trial–of a sort. A large group of assistant U.S. attorneys gathers to debate whether their prize “canary” should be indicted. If he is, his confessions will ensure his conviction.

Some prosecutors argue forcefully that Ciello is a corrupt law enforcement officer who has admitted to more than 40 cases of perjury–among other crimes. How can the government use him to convict others and not address the criminality in his own past?

Other prosecutors argue that Ciello voluntarily risked his life–physically and professionally–to expose rampant police corruption. He deserves a better deal than to be cast aside by those who have made so many cases through his testimony.

Eventually, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York makes his decision: “The government declines to prosecute Detective Daniel Ciello.”

It is Lumet’s way of showing that the decision to prosecute is not always an easy or objective one.

The movie ends with Ciello now teaching surveillance classes at the NYPD Academy. 

A student asks: “Are you the Detective Ciello?”

“I’m Detective Ciello.”

“I don’t think I have anything to learn from you.”  And he walks out.

Is Danny Ciello–again, Robert Leuci in real-life–a hero, a villain, or some combination of the two? It is with this ambiguity that the film ends–an ambiguity that each viewer must resolve for himself.

BENEDICT ARNOLD–CAPITALIST HERO: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2015 at 12:01 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warns in his masterwork, 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. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Where the crimes of corporate employers are concerned, we do not have to wait for their evil disposition to reveal itself. It has been fully revealed for decades.

It’s time to recognize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons.  It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

Trea$on

The United States desperately needs a new definition of treason–one that takes the above-mentioned truth into account.

  • Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.
  • Employers who enrich themselves by weakening their country—by throwing millions of qualified workers into the street and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.
  • Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens instead of willing-to-work Americans—are traitors.

And with a new definition of treason should go new penalties–heavy fines and/or prison terms–for those who sell out their country to enrich themselves.

A starting-point must be an all-out campaign to educate voters on the need for major reforms in corporate law.

One non-profit, non-partisan organization that’s already pursuing this is Public Campaign.

Its goal: Eliminating special interest money in American politics by securing publicly-funded elections at local, state and federal levels.

According to its website:

“Twenty-five profitable Fortune 500 companies, some with a history of tax dodging, spent more on lobbying than they paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2012….

“Over the past five years, these 25 corporations generated nearly $170 billion in combined profits and received $8.7 billion in tax rebates while paying their lobbyists over half a billion ($543 million), an average of nearly $300,000 a day.

“Based on newly released data by Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), these 25 companies actually received tax refunds overall those five years.

“So most individual American families and small businesses have bigger tax bills than these corporate giants. Unfortunately, most American families and businesses do not have the lobbying operation and access these 25 companies enjoy.”

25 Companies That Spent More On Lobbyists Than Taxes | Public Campaign

Then comes the list:

Several companies on this list are well-known–and spend millions of dollars on self-glorifying ads every year to convince consumers how wonderful they are.

Among these:

  • General Electric
  • PG&E Corp.
  • Verizon Communications
  • Boeing
  • Consolidated Edison
  • MetroPCS Communications

But non-profit organizations alone can’t mount and sustain the sort of nationwide, bluntly-worded educational effort that’s long overdue.

The United States Government–through such agencies as the Justice Department–should start and maintain a nationwide advertising campaign of its own.  Its goal: To educate voters on the real-life greed and public irresponsibility of such corporations.

It should be modeled on the efforts of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to  publicize the dangers of organized crime.

During that campaign, he issued the following warning:

“If we do not, on a national scale, attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as effective as their own, they will destroy us.”

That warning applies equally to criminal corporations.

Robert F. Kennedy

Republicans–and some Democrats–have worked tirelessly to defend the greed of the richest and most privileged 1% of America.

For example, they ingeniously dubbed the estate tax–-which affects only a tiny, rich minority–-“the death tax.”  This makes it appear to affect everyone.

As a result, millions of poor and middle-class Americans who will never have to pay a cent in estate taxes vigorously oppose it.

By doing so, they unknowingly support the greed of the very richest Americans who despise the needs of those poorer than themselves.

Democrats should thus cast reform efforts in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Corporate Criminals: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.”

“De-regulation = Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

“[Name of corporation] Pays a Lower Percentage in Taxes than You.”

“Corporations Are Greedy People, Too” 

“Owning a Corporation Shuldn’t Be a License for Treason”

Such an advertising campaign could lay the groundwork for an all-out Federal effort to reign in that greed and irresponsibility thrugh appropriate reform legislation.

It was Stephen Decatur, the naval hero of the War of 1812, who famously said: “Our country, right or wrong.”

Stephen Decatur

Billionaire tax-cheats and their Right-wing allies have coined their own motto: “My wallet–first and always.”

SLUMLORDS–THE REAL UNTOUCHABLES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on July 18, 2014 at 6:23 am

San Francisco tenants need not be put at the mercy of greedy, arrogant slumlords.  And the agencies that are supposed to protect them need not be reduced to impotent farces.

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI)–which is charged with guaranteeing the habitability of apartment buildings–should immediately adopt a series of long-overdue refirms.

Presently, there is no bureaucratic incentive for DBI to rigorously control the criminality of slumlords.  But this can be instilled–by making DBI merely a law-enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.

Parts One and Two of this series outlined a series of long overdue reforms at DBI.  Here are the remaining four:

  1. Landlords should be required to bring all the units in a building up to existing building codes, and not just those in need of immediate repair.
  2. Landlords should be legally required to hire a certified-expert contractor to perform building repairs.  Many landlords insist on making such repairs despite their not being trained or experienced in doing so, thereby risking the lives of their tenants. 
  3. DBI should not view itself as a “mediation” agency between landlords and tenants.  Most landlords hate DBI and will always do so.  They believe they should be allowed to treat their tenants like serfs, raise extortionate rents anytime they desire, and maintain their buildings in whatever state  they wish.  And no efforts by DBI to persuade them of its good intentions will ever change their minds.
  4. Above all, DBI must stop viewing itself as a mere regulatory agency and start seeing itself as a law enforcement one. The FBI doesn’t ask criminals to comply with the law;  it applies whatever amount of force is needed to gain their compliance. As Niccolo Machiavelli once advised: If you can’t be loved by your enemies, then at least make yourself respected by them.

By doing so, DBI could vastly:

  • Enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions ofdesperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers

And such reforms are equally overdue at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office.  Among these:

  • Creating a special unit to investigate and prosecute slumlords.
  • This should be modeled on existing units that attack organized crime, with slumlords targeted as major criminals.
  • Wiretaps and electronic surveillance should be routinely used.
  • Prosecutors should strive for lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.
  • Rewards should be offered to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.

By doing so, it can:

  • Vastly enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions  for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

But slumlord atrocities are by no means confined to San Francisco.  This is a crisis that needs to be confronted at State and Federal levels.

Many cities lack adequate funding to effectively investigate and prosecute slumlord abuses.  And even when the money exists for such efforts, the will to redress such abuses is often lacking.

Thus, legislation is essential at State and Federal levels to ensure that law-abiding tenants are protected against law-breaking slumlords.

At the core of this effort must be a revised view of slumlords.  They should be seen, investigated and prosecuted in the same way as Mafia predators.

Their crimes are not “victimless.”  And their victims are usually those who are too poor to effectively fight back.

And, like the Mafia, they easily buy public officials–including law enforcement agents–and/or hide their crimes behind teams of expensive attorneys.

At the Federal level, the Justice Department should designate a special section within the FBI to investigate and prosecute slumlord abuses.

Or this could be set up within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • This should be modeled on existing strike force units that attack organized crime, with slumlords targeted as major criminals.
  • Court-ordered wiretaps and electronic surveillance should be routinely used.
  • Rewards should be offered to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.
  • Prosecutors should strive for lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.
  • Slumlords’ properties should be sold at public auctions, with the monies divided among various Federal agencies.
  • The tenants living in those properties would not be evicted.  They would instead now live under a new, law-abiding landlord.

At the State level, similar tenant-protection units should be created within the Department of Justice.

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987′s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

It’s long past time for local, state and Federal governments to forcefully speak up on behalf of American tenants who cannot defend themselves against predatory slumlords.

As Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

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