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Posts Tagged ‘WITNESS SECURITY PROGRAM’

IDIOCRACY: IT’S MORE THAN A MOVIE–IT’S AMERICAN REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 25, 2022 at 12:36 am

“I’ve chosen this life. I know what it is. There are things about it that sometimes are disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do. And just put all that other stuff aside.”” 

The speaker wasn’t a longtime Mafia enforcer turned-State’s-witness. He was Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And he was speaking with an NBC News reporter about death threats he had received.

At 81, Fauci is getting the sort of protection reserved for organized crime witnesses through the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program.

NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

Dr. Anthony Fauci

The U.S. Marshals Service has deputized nine officers from the Department of Health and Human Services as bodyguards for Fauci.

So what has this man—who has dedicated his entire adult life to protecting Americans against infectious diseases—done to require such protection? 

He has merely spoken the hard medical truth about Coronavirus. In doing so, he has at times contradicted former President Donald Trump’s ignorance- and lie-riddled statements. 

For example: Trump has loudly touted hydroxychloroquine, used for treating malaria, as a miracle cure for the Coronavirus.

Yet Fauci has dared to point out there have been no scientific trials of the drug for its effectiveness against Coronavirus. Moreover, given the medical condition of some patients, it could even prove fatal.

Statements like this have infuriated Trump’s base of—at best—half-educated fans.

During the 2016 Presidential race, after winning the Nevada primary, Trump infamously celebrated his victory: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”   

A February 24, 2016 USA Today story covering this event carried the headline: “Donald Trump loves the poorly educated—and they love him.”

And at the bottom of the story came this warning: “Some—journalists, mostly—noted that Trump’s proud embrace of poorly less educated voters and the resulting shock may only cause those less educated voters to embrace Trump all the more.” 

And they do.

A Colleague Admits that Support for Trump Derives from Selfishness ...

There has been a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans on the merits of higher education.

An August 20, 2019 story in Forbes noted that a Pew Research survey, conducted in July, had found that “67% of Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents say higher education is having a positive effect on the country compared to only 33% of Republicans and Republican-leaning participants.” 

Furthermore, “the percentage of Republicans attributing a positive effect to higher education has steadily eroded from 58% (2010), 53% (2012), 54% (2015), 43% (2016), and 36% (2017). Among Republicans, 59% now say higher education has a negative effect on the U.S., compared to just 18% of Democrats.” 

This disdain for education in general—and science in particular—has led to the following: In March, 2020, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus.

These are the same people who get their version of reality from Right-wing sources like Fox News Network and Rush Limbaugh. 

Rush Limbaugh

On his March 27, 2020 show, Limbaugh dismissed Coronavirus as “the common cold,” then added: “We didn’t elect a president to defer to a bunch of health experts that we don’t know

“And how do we know they’re even health experts? Well, they wear white lab coats, and they’ve been in the job for a while, and they’re at the CDC and they’re at the NIH, and they’re up, well—yeah, they’ve been there, and they are there.

“But has there been any job assessment for them? They’re just assumed to be the best because they’re in government. But, these are all kinds of things that I’ve been questioning.” 

This is the same Rush Limbaugh who said, in 2015: “Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it’s true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots.”

Five years later, in February, 2020, Limbaugh—a longtime and heavy cigar smoker—announced that he had Stage Four lung cancer. He died on February 17, 2021.

And then there is former President Trump—and his chorus of cheerleaders.

On February 25, 2020, Kayleigh McEnany, his fourth press secretary in three years, said on Fox Business: “This President will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the Coronavirus come here.” 

During February and March, she repeatedly downplayed the threat of the disease, even as it spread across the United States. 

These, then, are the types of “reliable sources” that millions of Right-wingers take as gospel—while dismissing the warnings of the medical profession as erroneous or, worse, products of a liberal conspiracy.

And by daring to contradict such blatant ignorance—if not outright lies—Dr. Anthony Fauci has made himself a target for Right-wing hatred and death threats.

Their hatred for Fauci proves once again the correctness of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of Fascism: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.” 

By the time Trump left office—on January 20, 2021—more than 400,000 Americans had died of COVID-19.

WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2022 at 12:12 am

The United States Marshals Service is now charged with protecting the nine Justices who comprise the Supreme Court of the United States.

Deputy U.S. marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal judges, members of Congress and organized crime witnesses

As protectors, they are probably best-known as the operators of the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program. Launched as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, they have successfully protected and relocated thousands of endangered organized crime witnesses.

But there are significant differences between the security provided for Mafia witnesses and that being provided for Supreme Court Justices.

While a witness is testifying, s/he receives 24-hour protection from five to a score of marshals. Since visits to courthouses are especially dangerous, marshals often use deception as a vital weapon in keeping their charges alive.

A caravan of marshals cars, with sirens blaring, will pull up to the front of a courthouse, with a deputy playing the role of the witness. While all eyes (including those of mob assassins) are focused on this, a postal truck will enter the building through an underground passage. Inside: The witness and one or two guards dressed as mailmen.

U.S. Marshals Service, Career Opportunities, Duties

A witness security detail

Helicopters and speedboats have also been used to transport witnesses to and from court.

In at least one case, marshals installed Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, the most-feared Mafia hitman in New England, in a fortified room inside the courthouse. When it came time to testify, he would be brought into the courtroom through the judges’ elevator. 

But once testifying is completed, the marshals no longer offer 24-hour protection. Instead, they provide witnesses (and their wives and children, if there are any) with new names, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses and other records supporting their new identities. 

Then they are shipped off to a new state where—hopefully—they can start their lives over on the right side of the law and safe from their enemies.

Thus, round-the-clock protection by the marshals isn’t intended to be permanent. 

But in the case of at least six Supreme Court Justices this may well prove different. These are the ones who are preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade and re-criminalize abortion for millions of women.

To prevent attacks on the Justices at the Supreme Court, an eight-foot, “non-scalable” fence now surrounds the building.

Fencing Goes Up Around US Supreme Court - YouTube

Once a long-held fundamental right is revoked, anger toward those responsible becomes the natural reaction. And for some people, that anger can easily flare into violence.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s January 22, 1973 Roe decision, abortion has been legal throughout the United States for 49 years. Those who have been born since can’t recall a time when it was a criminal offense.

On June 8, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was arrested by deputy U.S. marshals near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the Justice. He was armed with a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, pepper spray and duct tape.

In this case, the marshals had been alerted by Roske’s threat. But the truly dangerous assassin is one who doesn’t announce his intentions and simply acts on them.

Knowing you are so hated that people want to murder you creates huge psychological pressures on those threatened. Some people become prisoners of their own bodyguard, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. 

Others adopt a “Live it up, because tomorrow I may die” attitude. They chafe at the security regimen imposed on them, sometimes even trying to elude their protectors.

Security specialists for the Marshals Service have warned countless witnesses: “You’ve got to realize that your life’s in danger.  Keep your eyes open. Use your head.  Don’t lie to us. Stay close to us. 

“Keep us apprised of everything that’s going on.  Suppose you’re sitting out on your balcony and you see something flash. What could it be?  A pair of binoculars?  A rifle-scope?  Be aware of your position, and help us protect you.” 

Presidents have been protected by the United States Secret Service since 1901, when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became the first Chief Executive to be assigned agents.

Logo of the United States Secret Service.svg

Before this, three Presidents had been assassinated—Abraham Lincoln (1865); James A. Garfield (1881) and William McKinley, Roosevelt’s predecessor (1901).

In 1963, John F. Kennedy would become the fourth.

Two attempts were made on Gerald Ford (1975) and, in 1981, Ronald Reagan was seriously wounded.

As a result, it’s unthinkable that a President would not be guarded round-the-clock. 

But no Supreme Court Justice has ever been assassinated.

Justices have been able to come and go as they please, without even being recognized by the vast majority of citizens they affect with their rulings.

That will soon change—at least for those who intend to strike down Roe. They will become familiar faces—for those who hate them. Already, their home addresses have been splashed across the Internet.

At least 13 states will automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters if Roe is overturned. This will create legions of new enemies for the Justices. And there will be no end-date to this hatred.

Which means the Justices will likely live in fear—and under heavy armed guard—for the rest of their lives.

WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2022 at 12:13 am

Tyrants know they lack legitimate authority–and so they must live behind armed guards and high fences. They constantly fear being overthrown–or killed.

“It was only years later, when I was imprisoned at Spandau, that I really understood what it must be like to live each day under such intense psychological pressure,” Albert Speer, architect and Minister of Armaments to Adolf Hitler, told Playboy during a 1971 interview.

“Looking back on Hitler’s physical environment in his military bunkers in Berlin and Rastenburg, I realized how similar the atmosphere was to a prison—immense concrete walls and ceilings, harsh electric light instead of daylight, iron doors and iron grilles over the few windows.  

“Even Hitler’s brief strolls through the barbed wire perimeters, surrounded by armed guards and police dogs, resembled a convict’s exercise in the jail yard. Hitler had turned all of Europe into a prison, but he had become its leading prisoner.”

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-V00555-3 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

At least six Justices of the United States Supreme Court have joined Adolf Hitler as prisoners of their own bodyguard.

In the past, Justices came and went as ordinary citizens did. Occasionally they made a controversial decision, but then the uproar died down and everything stayed the same.

It took the alleged gutting of Roe v. Wade to change all that.

On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that would explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, it would end the Court’s 49-year-old decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. 

Reaction was swift—and devastatingly angry. 

Threats of violence against the Justices have poured in—especially the six Right-wing ones behind the decision:

  • Amy Coney Barrett
  • Brett M. Kavanaugh
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Samuel A. Alito
  • Neil M. Gorsuch and 
  • John J. Roberts. 

Supreme Court defies critics with wave of unanimous decisions - ABC News

Justices of the Supreme Court

As a result, all nine Justices have been given extra security through the U.S. Marshals Service.

The marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal organized crime witnesses, members of Congress and Federal judges. So the odds are that the Justices will remain safe from violent attack. 

The question that remains to be answered: How well will they hold up under the intense pressures of facing potential violence—and having to live under constant guard? 

Almost immediately after Politico published its article on the Justices’ decision to overturn Roe, an eight-foot steel fence went up around the Supreme Court building. All entry points were blocked to vehicles and police patrols were beefed up.

United States Marshals Service - Wikiwand

As if that were not claustrophobic enough, the Justices’ home addresses were quickly shared online.

Justices have received threatening phone calls at their homes.

The group, “Ruth Sent Us”—named in honor of deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—planned a protest at what it called “the homes of the six extremist justices.”

“ANNOUNCING: Walk-by Wednesday, May 11, 2022! At the homes of the six extremist justices, three in Virginia and three in Maryland. If you’d like to join or lead a peaceful protest, let us know,” the website stated. 

“Our 6-3 extremist Supreme Court routinely issues rulings that hurt women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights. We must rise up to force accountability using a diversity of tactics.” 

The group even published a Google Maps graphic pinpointing homes “where the six Christian fundamentalist Justices issue their shadow docket rulings from.

“We intend to stop the corruption of our Supreme Court, and stop the spread of fascist laws,” the group said. “Instead of waiting for the extremist Court to strip our rights further, we must rise up now.”

In Virginia, where three of the six justices live, protesting outside a private home is illegal.

Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft majority opinion, canceled a scheduled appearance in Nashville, and the other justices are also cutting back on public events. 

Meanwhile, the Court has been thrown into a frenzy of self-investigation to discover who leaked the upcoming decision.

Far more attention has been paid to this by the Justices than to the enormous implications for millions of American women if abortion once becomes a criminal act. Chief Justice John Roberts publicly said: “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.” 

Not all protests were aimed at the Justices. 

Ruth Sent Us also planned to target Catholic churches on Mother’s Day—telling followers to protest “that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe.” It published a video of churchgoers trying to kick out protesters who interrupted a service, chanting, “Without this basic right, women can’t be free — abortion on demand and without apology.”

The Catholic group, CatholicVote, demanded that President Joe Biden condemn Ruth Sent Us for targeting Catholic churches and disrupting Mass on Mother’s Day. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Biden, a lifelong Catholic, strongly favors abortion rights.  

The U.S. Marshals Service has operated the Witness Security Program for threatened organized crime witnesses since 1970. Of its approximately 19,100 participants, none have been killed who followed its guidelines.

But there are serious differences between the security afforded Mafia witnesses—and that being accorded Supreme Court Justices.

WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2021 at 12:10 am

Sean Penn is not the first celebrity to “get close to” a gangster.

Singer Frank Sinatra set the standard as far back as the 1940s when he was often seen in the company of notorious Mafiosi such as Charles “Lucky” Luciano and Willie Moretti.

(It was Moretti who is rumored to have freed Sinatra from his financially-limiting contract with bandleader Tommy Dorsey in the early 1940s.  

His alleged method of persuasion: Jamming a pistol down Dorsey’s throat and threatening to kill him. Dorsey eventually sold the contract to Sinatra for one dollar.)

But the mobster whom Sinatra was most-often linked with—by gossip and FBI reports—was Sam “Mooney” Giancana.

Giancana started out as a “wheelman” and enforcer for the teenage “42 Gang,” then joined the Chicago mob in the late 1930s. By 1957 he had been appointed its boss.

Sam Giancana.jpg

Sam Giancana

Sinatra often partied with Giancana, both in nightclubs and at his own residence in Palm Springs, California.

In December, 1959, financier Joseph P. Kennedy summoned Sinatra to the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. His son, Senator John F. Kennedy, was planning to run for President in 1960. And the elder Kennedy wanted Sinatra’s help.

Sinatra and the Senator were by now well-acquainted. They shared a taste for gossip, nightclubs and beautiful women.

According to Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, the Kennedy patriarch said: “I think that you can help [the campaign] in [the] West Virginia [primary] and Illinois [in the general election] with our friends.

“You understand, Frank, I can’t go. They’re my friends, too, but I can’t approach them.  But you can.”

Frank Sinatra '57.jpg

Frank Sinatra

By “our friends,” Kennedy meant the Mafia. Joseph P. Kennedy had done business with the mob as a bootlegger during Prohibition.

Now he wanted the Mafia to pressure local union members into voting for JFK—and making contributions to the Kennedy Presidential campaign.

Sinatra went to his friend, Sam Giancana, and asked for the mob’s support.  And Giancana promised to deliver it.

In return, Giancana—and other mobsters—expected to win an ally in the White House. He was later overheard on an FBI wiretap saying he had been promised by Sinatra that “if I even got a traffic ticket, none of those fuckers [the FBI] would know me.”

Since 1959, Giancana and other “Top Hoodlum” mobsters had been under increasingly heavy FBI surveillance. Giancana wanted it stopped.

And Sinatra had assured him that, under a Kennedy Presidency, it would stop.

On Election Night, 1960, John F. Kennedy carried Illinois—and won the White House by a mere 120,000 votes nationwide.

Then, to the horror of the Mafia, JFK installed his brother, Robert Francis Kennedy, as Attorney General. From 1957 to 1959, RFK had pursued gangsters as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee. 

Now he declared all-out war on organized crime.  Convictions against organized crime figures rose 800% during his four years in office.

 Robert F. Kennedy

Sinatra tried to deliver for Giancana.  He sent Peter Lawford—his Rat Pack pal and brother-in-law to the President—to talk with Robert Kennedy about laying off on the Mafia don.

Kennedy bluntly told Lawford to mind his own business.

Giancana came under even greater pressure. FBI agents put a 24-hour “lockstep” surveillance on him, following him even into church and restrooms.

“I was on the road with this broad,” Giancana raged to his murderous associate, Johnny Formosa. “There must have been 20 guys [FBI agents]. They were next door, upstairs, downstairs, surrounded all the way around!

“Get in a car, somebody picks you up  I lose that tail—boom!—I get picked up someplace else!  Four or five cars, back and forth, back and forth.”

In another exchange with Formosa, Giancana’s anger at Sinatra boiled over:

“The last time I talked to [Sinatra] was at the hotel in Florida.  And he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.  If I can’t talk to the old man [Joseph P. Kennedy] I’m going to talk to the man [President Kennedy].’

“One minute he says he’s talked to Robert, and the next minute he says he hasn’t talked to him.  So he never did talk to him.”

Formosa suggested a remedy: “Let’s show ’em.  Let’s show those fuckin’ Hollywood fruitcakes that they can’t get away with it as if nothin’s happened.

“Let’s hit Sinatra. Or I could whack out a couple of those other guys, Lawford and that [Dean] Martin.  And I could take the nigger [Sammy Davis, Jr.] and put his other eye out.”

Giancana refused to issue the contract. But he seriously considered doing so, as he confessed to a Chicago associate named Tommy DiBella:

“One night I’m fucking Phyllis [McGuire, a member of the famous McGuire sisters trio], playing Sinatra songs in the background, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself, ‘Christ, how can I silence that voice?’

“It’s the most beautiful voice in the world. Frank’s lucky he’s got it.  It saved his life.”

Sinatra’s Rat Pack “pally,” Dean Martin, summed it up: “Only Frank could get away with the shit he’s got away with. Only Frank. Anybody else would’ve been dead.”

Sinatra survived the murderous anger of a mob boss.  It remains to be seen if Sean Penn can do the same.

WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 2, 2021 at 12:11 am

Actor Sean Penn believes the Mexican Government wants to put him at risk by convincing Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman that Penn played a role—deliberately or negligently—in his capture.

“We know the Mexican government, they clearly were humiliated by the notion that someone found him before they did,” Penn told interviewer Charlie Rose.

“Nobody found him before they did. We are not smarter than the DEA, or Mexican Intelligence.  We had a contact upon which we were able to facilitate an invitation.”

By “we” Penn meant himself and Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had actually arranged the meeting.

Kate del Castillo at the 2012 Imagen Awards.jpg

 Actress Kate del Castillo

“They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?” Rose asked.

“Yes,” Penn answered.

This is entirely possible.  Guzman’s escape from a “maximum security” prison in July, 2015, had proved internationally embarrassing for the Mexican Government

Even more embarrassing: He escaped through a mile-long tunnel that literally led to his cell.  Almost certainly this happened with the collusion of some prison guards.

Penn—and del Castillo—could face dangers from at least three groups.

Danger #1: El Chapo

Already there is evidence that “El Chapo” regrets having given an interview to Penn and del Castillo in the Mexican jungle on October 2, 2015.

Related image

Sean Penn

Published in Rolling Stone on January 9, 2016, the article contained such Guzman boasts as:

“I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Juan Pablo Badillo, one of Guzman’s attorneys, has since claimed that the article contains falsehoods:

“It’s a lie, absurd speculation from Mr. Penn. Mr. Penn should be called to testify to respond about the stupidities he has said.

“He [Guzman] could not have made these claims. Mr. Guzman is a very serious man, very intelligent.”

This could spell danger for Penn and del Castillo. Guzman is responsible for the deaths of thousands of rivals, journalists and police.Related image

Among the witnesses to the drug cartels’ savagery is Michael Levine, a 25-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the author of Deep Cover: Mexican Government Drug Corruption From the Inside.

“Depending on what the cartels and/or the many corrupt Mexican cops and Mexican government officials believe El Chapo divulged during the interview, Penn, and whomever else was present, may be in more physical danger than he could ever imagine,” said Levine.

An anonymous law enforcement official said that not only could Penn be in danger, but so could his entire family.

“It won’t happen now. They [the cartels] wait. Him or people close to him are in danger. They don’t single out the one person.  They go for the person’s family.

“He poked his head into a nest of vipers with an amazing global reach. He was a fool.  As public as Penn is, he will be a sitting duck.”

Danger #2: Guzman’s Competitors in the Drug Trade

“The problem with dealing with someone like Guzman on this personal basis, where one is perceived as a ‘friend’ or an aide or a business partner of sorts to Chapo, is that you have to be prepared to inherit all his enemies, and there are many,” warned Michael Levine.

“These are some very kill-crazy people. The notoriety gained by killing someone like Penn or even del Castillo will actually turn these bastards on.

“It’s a step into the dark world of the kill crazies.  Believe me it is there, and unwittingly these two may have stepped into a world where there is an actual competition to kill them,” said Levine, who has dealt face-to-face with Latin American drug lords.

Danger #3: Wannabe Cartel Members

Countless men—in Mexico and the United States—would love to “do El Chapo a favor” by gunning down Penn and/or del Castillo.

This could happen even if Guzman harbors no ill will toward either.  It would be enough for someone to simply believe that he did.

An additional motive: The fame—or infamy—that the assassin of a “big celebrity” like Penn would receive. John Lennon died at the hands of such a fame-obsessed, psychotic gunman.

This means that literally anyone could be a potential assassin—making it that much harder to defend against.

When clients enter the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program, they are quickly asked: “Who do you think poses the biggest threat to you?”

Deputy U.S. marshals, who operate the program, assume that a witness is the best judge of who poses the greatest danger to him.

Related image

Witness Security Program protection detail

This works well when a witness is unknown and testifying against someone who is equally unknown to the public.

But when a witness is notorious—such as Sammy “The Bull” Gravano—and the defendant is equally infamous—such as John Gotti—all bets are off.

Of course, Federally-protected witnesses have two advantages going for them that Penn and del Castillo do not:

First, they are protected by the U.S. Marshals Service, which has an excellent track record in protecting its charges; and

Second, they are expected to assume a low profile, which serves as their best protection.

Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo aren’t Federally-protected witnesses. And they’re unlikely to assume a low profile by going into hiding.

WHEN SCREEN CRIMINALS MEET REAL ONES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 1, 2021 at 12:24 am

Actor Sean Penn is used to being a tough guy—onscreen.

In 2006, he played real-life mobster Mickey Cohen (1913 – 1976) in Gangster Squad.  And in 2013, he played Willie Stark, a corrupt, Huey Long-type Southern governor in a remake of All the King’s Men.

As Cohen, Penn put out contracts on his enemies and even went mano-o-mano in a long-running (and fictional) fistfight with an LAPD detective.

And as Stark, he clawed his way to power and bullied both his enemies and his supporters.

Perhaps Penn should have paid more attention to the way those movies ended.

Sean Penn by Sachyn Mital (cropped).jpg

Sean Penn

Mickey Cohen goes to prison, where he is brutally waylaid by other inmates.

And Willie Stark, at the height of his power, is shot by a longtime enemy.

Had he thought about it, he might have decided it could be a mistake to meet with Joaquin “El Chapo” (“Shorty”) Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord.

On October 2, 2015, Penn met with Guzman in an undisclosed location in the Mexican jungle.  He was there to interview him on behalf of Rolling Stone magazine. 

Guzman wanted a movie made about him.  So he had reached out to Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, asking her to meet with him to discuss such a project.  She, in turn, referred him to Penn, whom Guzman said could come along for the meeting.

Penn had his own agenda: To write an article for Rolling Stone whose “purpose [would] contribute to this conversation on the war on drugs.”

Three months later, on January 8, 2016, Mexican Marines and Federal Police launched an early-morning raid on a house in Los Mochis, in northern Sinaloa, where Guzman’s drug cartel operated.

The Marines expected to find Guzman there, and they did—ending his almost six-month flight after escaping from prison in July.  

One day after Guzman’s capture, Rolling Stone published Penn’s 10,000-word article.  

Penn had not been allowed to bring a tape recorder or even take notes with pen and paper.  So he had been forced to memorize as much of Guzman’s tale as he could.

Penn seemed to be enraptured by Guzman:

“There is no doubt this is the real deal. He’s wearing a casual patterned silk shirt, pressed black pants, and he appears remarkably well-groomed and healthy for a man on the run.  

“He opens [actress Kate del Castillo’s] [car} door and greets her like a daughter returning from college.  

“It seems important to him to express the warm affection in person that, until now, he’d only had occasion to communicate from afar.”  

Even so, Penn quoted Guzman as bragging: “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world.  I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”

Booking photo of Joaquin “El Chapo“ Guzman (front).jpg

 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

After the interview’s publication, Penn came under fire for having allowed Guzman to approve the article.  He claimed that, despite this, Guzman had not asked for any changes.  

He also drew sharp criticism for having used his status as a movie star to play the part of a reporter. 

But worse was to come.  

Shortly after the capture of “El Chapo,” Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez “credited” Penn with having played a vital role in the capture of the drug kingpin.  

The meeting between Penn, Castillo and Guzman “was an essential element, because we were following [Guzman’s] lawyer, and the lawyer took us to these people and to this meeting.”  

Suddenly, American experts on Mexican organized crime cartels began seeing Sean Penn in a new light—that of a movie star with a big target on his chest and back.

Suppose Guzman began suspecting that Penn had deliberately led Mexican authorities to him?  Or that he had done so even accidentally, through negligence in how he had traveled?

“These cartels are very violent, they do not forgive any transgression and they will respond in a most violent manner,” said Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“These are people who have dismembered, who have decapitated individuals.  So killing Sean Penn and del Castillo means absolutely nothing to them.”

Vigil believed it was careless for the Mexican Government to publicize any ties between the Penn meeting and Guzman’s arrest:

“If Chapo Guzman perceives that they cooperated with authorities in his capture, [the cartel] will go after them.”

He argued that the risk is likely  for del Castillo because she was the one in contact with Guzman.

She was the one whom Guzman’s associates supplied with a Blackberry—the phone they believed most secure.  And it was her and Guzman’s flirtatious exchanges that led to the meeting in the jungle with Sean Penn.

“Apart from that, [del Castillo] is originally from Mexico, she has all of her family in Mexico.  One of the traditional violent methods [the cartels] use is if they can’t get to the target, they’ll go after their family members.

“If I were Kate del Castillo, I would run like the wind.”

THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2021 at 12:14 am

Once Presidents leave office, they usually lead quiet—and highly prosperous–lives.

It’s become commonplace for Presidents to write—or ghostwrite—their memoirs. These usually fetch them a hefty advance, even if sales prove disappointing.

Then there’s the speaker’s circuit, where fees per speech usually run into tens of thousands of dollars.

These are activities that leave the average ex-President an extremely wealthy man—but don’t impact the public purse. 

But there are other perks—such as lifetime Secret Service protection for themselves and their spouses, as well as taxpayer-funded office expenses—that put a serious strain on the national budget.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

George W. Bush, unlike his father, got two full terms (2001 – 2009).

Bush made money in the oil industry and owned the Texas Rangers professional baseball team  before he became Governor of Texas and then President. He’s made tens of millions through a book deal and speaking fees.

His net worth has been estimated at $40 million. 

Barack Hussein Obama served two terms (2009 – 2017). 

Obama has greatly profited from paid speeches and production deal with Netflix worth an estimated $50 million. He also gets a government pension of $161,000 a year. Michelle Obama got a reported $65 million advance for her memoir “Becoming.”

Obama’s net worth has been estimated from $40 to $135 million. 

Donald Trump served one term (2017 – 2021). 

Before he entered politics, Trump reportedly got $200 million from his father to enter the real estate business. He made millions as a New York City real estate mogul. Many of his other businesses have failed, but Trump’s vast property holdings make him by far the wealthiest president of all time. He has also profited from his show “The Apprentice,” which ran from 2004 to 2017.

His net worth is estimated at $3.2 billion.

 * * * * * * * * * *

It’s long past time for the re-evaluation of Presidential welfare.

By all means, Presidents deserve a pension, but it should be on a par with the time they served in office. This currently amounts to $219,200 per year for life.

Most police officers must serve 20 years before they can collect their full pension. And they are required to put their lives on the line almost every day. No police officer is allowed to retire on a fulltime pension after serving eight—or even just four—years.

Then there’s the matter of funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country. Ex-Presidents and their staffers can receive up to $1 million annually in reimbursements for costs.

Seal of the General Services Administration.svg

Ex-Presidents use these monies to propagandize their accomplishments—or what they claim were their accomplishments—while in office. This usually takes the form of self-serving autobiographies—which, in many cases, are ghostwritten efforts.

Former Presidents certainly have the right to publish their memoirs. But they should not receive public monies for doing so.

Moreover: Presidents aren’t required to submit their manuscripts to what amounts to a censorship committee to guarantee they don’t spill national security secrets.

Agents of the CIA are—and can have royalties from their books seized if they don’t allow their manuscripts to be so screened.

As for lifetime Secret Service protection: In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.  

Secret Service in action: Did 2 agents get into a drunk driving accident at the White House? - YouTube

Secret Service agents guarding Barack Obama

In 1994, as a cost-saving measure, Congress acted to limit protection for future former presidents and spouses to ten years after they left office. 

But on January 12, 2013, President Barack Obama signed a new law authorizing lifetime protection of all former Presidents and First Ladies. In addition, children of former Presidents will receive protection until they are 16 years old.

This was clearly in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center—and America’s entry into a global war on terrorism. 

Still, this is hardly necessary. There has not been one recorded case of an attack on a former President since the Secret Service began protecting the Chief Executive in 1901.

From a national security viewpoint, it is also unnecessary. Once a President leaves office, he is essentially out of the loop of daily government business.

The protection of organized crime witnesses by the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program offers a useful remedy.

While awaiting trial, witnesses are given 24-hour protection by deputy U.S. marshals. But once the trials are over and they have received their new identities and relocation to a safe area, that protection is withdrawn. If they are once again threatened, they can request it from the Marshals Service.

And if such protection is deemed necessary for a former President, then a financial means test should be applied.

Every living ex-President is a millionaire—including even Jimmy Carter, whose wealth is estimated by USA Today at $8.2 million. 

Millionaires are not considered eligible for local, state or Federal welfare programs—unless they are former Presidents.

Thus, millionaire ex-Presidents who believe they need/deserve lifetime Secret Service protection should be required to pay for it out of pocket—or hire private security. 

Treating former Presidents as gods is not only an outrageous waste of taxpayers’ monies. It is an affront to the ideals of a democratic nation. 

THE PORNOGRAPNY OF PRESIDENTIAL PERKS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2021 at 12:25 am

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

George Orwell’s famous novella, Animal Farm, was a brutal, symbolic attack on the Soviet Union and its brand of Communism. But it applies just as accurately to the different ways poor and rich Americans are treated.

Let’s start with the poor.

According to the Social Security website: “Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). It is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people, who have little or no income; and It provides cash to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter….

“One of our highest priorities is to help people with disabilities achieve independence by helping them take advantage of employment opportunities. Work incentive employment supports help disabled and blind SSI recipients go to work by minimizing the risk of losing their SSI or Medicaid benefits….

“We do not count the first $65 of earned income plus one–half of the amount over $65. Therefore, we reduce your SSI benefit only $1 for every $2 you earn over $65.”

Social Security Administration Asks for Comments on Info Collection Request

Wow! An SSI recipient can earn up to $65 dollars before that begins to affect his SSI. 

In 1960, $65 was equal to $575.88 in 2021 dollars.

That would have been great in 1960. But 1960 is now 61 years ago. 

According to Intuit, an American business that specializes in financial software: “The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.”

And according to Statista, a German company specializing in market and consumer data: In February 2021, the average monthly rent for an apartment in the United States was $1,124.

So being able to earn $65 before the Social Security Administration starts reducing your SSI monthly payment shouldn’t be considered a “work incentive.”

For despicable contrast, consider how America’s former Presidents are treated.

us-presidential-seal - Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Former Presidents Act of 1958 provides several benefits and perks that are available to Presidents after they leave office. Their biggest perk is an annual pension equal to the pay for a Cabinet Secretary, which is $221,400 in 2021. 

Widows of former Presidents are eligible for a $20,000 yearly pension. In addition, former Presidents and their spouses can opt to receive lifetime Secret Service protection.

According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, ex-Presidents are provided with:

  • Funding by the General Service Administration (GSA) to staff, set up and furnish an official office anywhere in the country.
  • Reimbursement for themselves and their staff up to $1 million annually for costs.
  • $500,000 a year for their spouses for official travel and security.
  • The guarantee of a funeral with full honors and burial, if they or their spouse wants it, at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Let’s go back 41 years–to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989.

  • Reagan believed that government should not help the impoverished.  Those who lacked wealth to buy such necessities as housing and medical insurance were written off as unimportant.
  • He claimed to be a “fiscal conservative.” But he drastically shrank the tax-base, bloated the defense budget and destroyed programs to benefit the poor and middle-class.
  • As a result, Reagan produced a $1 trillion deficit—which only the Clinton Administration eliminated.
  • Before his Presidency ended, 18 wealthy Californians contributed $156,000 apiece to buy him a 7,200 square-foot mansion overlooking Beverly Hills.
  • Reagan signed a multi-million dollar deal to write his Presidential memoirs and publish a collection of his speeches.
  • He signed an exclusive contract with a Washington lecture bureau, which paid him $50,000 per speech given in the United States and $100,000 overseas. This made him the highest-paid speaker in the country.
  • These monies came in addition to his Presidential pension of $99,500 a year for life and his $30,000 annual pension as a former governor of California.
  • At a cost to the government of $10 million annually, Reagan continued to receive lifetime Secret Service protection from 40 fulltime agents.

Ronald Reagan's presidential portrait, 1981

Ronald Reagan

According to a November 5,2020 article in USA Today:

Reagan had made money as a movie and TV actor for more than 20 years. He owned several pieces of real estate, including a 688-acre property near Santa Barbara, California. He also profited from his post-Presidential autobiography. 

Reagan had a peak net worth of $14.3 million.

After Reagan came George H.W. Bush (1989 – 1993).

Bush made his initial fortune running an offshore oil drilling company and owned millions of dollars worth of property, including an estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, which around the time of his death in November 2018, was valued at $13.5 million. Like most ex-Presidents, he authored his autobiography: All the Best.

His peak net worth: $26.6 million.

William Jefferson Clinton served from 1993 to 2001. 

Since leaving office, Clinton has made millions from his 2005 book My Life. But his wife, Hillary, provides most of his wealth. She reportedly received a $14 million advance for her 2014 memoir Hard Choices. She also made millions from paid speeches.

His peak net worth: $76.8 million. 

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2020 at 5:51 am

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employer.  And they’re doing it the unconventional way: They’re hiring companies to create them.

One such company is CareerExcuse.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were an outstanding employee.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get:

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • “Instant” degrees.
  • Landlord reference
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike the Federal Witness Security Program (WITSEC) the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals.

They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes. Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

Click here: CareerExcuse Job References

Or they’ve acquired–deservedly or not–a series of bad job references 

Image result for images of resumes

“Some people see it as unethical,” Jennifer Hatton, senior partner at CareerExcuse, said in a 2015 interview with Business Insider.

But, said Hatten, “I don’t see why you shouldn’t deserve a shot, just like the next person” if you do have the skills and experience required.

“There are many things that happen in people’s lives, with [employers] going out of business, being laid off, managers just unrightfully firing you, sexual harassment suits—-you name it, it happens in the workforce.”

And it’s true.

An article in the March, 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest gives the lie to the excuses so many employers use for refusing to hire.

Entitled “22 Secrets HR Won’t Tell You About Getting a Job,” it reveals such truths as:

  • After you’re unemployed more than six months, employers consider you unemployable—no matter your skills/experience. 
  • It’s not what but who you know that counts.
  • Cover letters are often ignored, going directly into “the round file.”
  • Many employers illegally try to screen out parents—such as by checking cars for child safety seats.
  • You’re not protected against age discrimination. Many employers regularly ignore the law. If you are in your 50s or 60s, leave your year of graduation off your resume.

And in its June 8, 2011 cover-story on “What U.S. Economic Recovery?  Five Destructive Myths,” Time magazine warned that profit-seeking corporations can’t be relied on to ”make it all better.”

Wrote Rana Foroohar, Time‘s assistant managing editor in charge of economics and business:

“There may be $2 trillion sitting on the balance sheets of American corporations globally, but firms show no signs of wanting to spend it in order to hire workers at home.”

Meanwhile, CareerExcuse claims to have more than 2,000 job-seeking clients.

“Our main clientele right now is IT executives, and they’re pretty high-level,” Hatton claimed. The average customer seeks a salary of $60,000 to $80,000.

There are areas of employment that CareerExcuse refuses to fill—medicine, government, law enforcement or government. Jobs where your employment would “put other people in danger,” said Hatten. These are also employers capable of conducting serious background investigations.

Hatton claimed that during the almost two years she had been with CareerExcuse, no one had ever discovered a faked background.

But William Schmidt, who founded the company, admitted to Motherboard that a fake reference could easily be punctured: “All it would take is one person to drive to that address and go to that office.”

And the inevitable result would be immediate termination.

For some users of CareerExcuse, the company has proven an infuriating disappointment.

Click here: 17 CAREER EXCUSE complaints and reports @ Pissed Consumer

Like many clients of the Federal Witness Security Program, they complain of promises not kept. Among their complaints on Pissed Consumer, a consumer-complaint website:

  • “When a serious job opportunity came recently, I realized alot of loop holes in their services, address of company on the website was different, email addresses weren’t valid or active.”
  • “They took my $ and never returned my calls or emails.What a joke!”
  • “Their phone go to voice mail and they dont reply back to calls after a voice mail is left for them to reply …It is easy for the employer to know that the reference is fake.”
  • “When the prospective employers called, Career excuse answered the phone with ‘Career Excuse, how can I help you.’ They were supposed to answer the phone in the name of the fake company they put together.”
  • “They only gave me a cheap looking web page and they don’t even answer the phones to GIVE the service I payed for. They are a scam and complete rip-off.”

Throughout the United States, countless numbers of lazy, greedy, arrogant and/or incompetent employers are refusing to hire. And millions of willing-to-work Americans remain trapped in unemployment or under-employment as a result.

Until this situation changes, companies like CareerExcuse will continue to function—and proliferate.

Such a change isn’t going to happen tomorrow.

ARROGANT EMPLOYERS MEET LYING JOB-SEEKERS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 24, 2020 at 12:17 am

In 1966, the U.S. Department of Justice did something it had never before done: Protect a witness against the Mafia during trial, and then relocate him (and his family) to safety under a new identity.

That witness was Joseph “The Animal” Barboza.  Once the most-feared enforcer for the New England Mafia family of Raymond Patriarca, Barboza had run afoul of his boss.

With a mob contract out on him, Barboza felt he had nothing to lose by telling FBI agents and Federal prosecutors everything they wanted to know about the Boston Mafia.

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Joseph Barboza

A 16-man security detail of deputy U.S. marshals was immediately assigned to Barboza. The marshals relocated him to Thatcher’s Island, off the coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts. There they foiled two attempts by the mob to kill Barboza with a telescopic-sighted rifle.

Through a series of trials, Barboza sent the top echelons of the Patriarca family—including Patriarca himself—to prison. Then he and his wife and daughter were outfitted with new names and shipped out of New England to begin life over in safety.

The success of the Barboza detail led other Mafia witnesses to come forward. And this, in turn, led to the official creation of the Witness Security Program (WITSEC) by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

To date, the U.S. Marshals Service—which runs WITSEC—has successfully protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 of their family members.

Click here: U.S. Marshals Service, Witness Security Program.

It’s been the “new identities” part of the Program that has always attracted the most attention from the press and movie-makers.

Staged photograph of a WITSEC detail

In the early days of WITSEC, a handful of security Inspectors created these in a totally haphazard fashion. These included legal name-changes, Social Security card, driver’s licenses and falsified job histories.

In some cases, marshals would tell prospective employers, “We can vouch for this man’s skills as a(n) ———-, but that’s all we can tell you.”

Witnesses’ children were provided with fictitious school records.  The names of schools would be changed, but the actual grades earned by the children would be retained.

These records would be “backstopped”—supported with documentation placed at those institutions where the witness (or his family) was alleged to have worked or attended school.

Similarly, medical records for witnesses and their children would be partially falsified. That is, names of hospitals they had obtained care in would be changed, but their actual medical histories would be accurately charted.

Since the 1990s, the Marshals Service has centralized its “re-documentation” program. Parents, spouses, children, siblings and even mistresses are all taken to an orientation center in a Washington suburb

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There, witnesses are debriefed by Federal agents and prosecutors.  They—and their families—are also prepared for the new lives they’ll take on under new identities.

In the early years of the program, witnesses were provided with flimsy aliases that quickly collapsed under even light scrutiny.

In 1973, Gerald Martin Zelmanowitz, a convicted stock swindler, found his new identity of Paul J. Maris easily punctured.

He got into a legal dispute with Creative Capitol, an investment firm that had loaned $2 million to his struggling new business,”The Paul Maris Company.”

Creative Capitol’s president, Milton Stewart, ordered a quiet investigation into Maris’ background.

This quickly turned up the following:

  • Maris and all five members of his family had been issued sequential Social Security numbers.
  • There was no record of Maris’ birth certificate.
  • Maris had claimed a background in Army Intelligence, but his Army service number had never been issued.
  • Maris’ resume said he had attended John Bartram High School in Philadelphia and Baldwin Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.  But officials at both schools denied that he had ever been one of their students.
  • Maris’ alleged home address in Philadelphia turned out to be a vacant lot in an all-black neighborhood.

Finally, the private investigator discovered that Maris had testified against a Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo, a notorious New Jersey Mafia chieftain.  His testimony had convicted DeCarlo for murder conspiracy.

Fearing for his life, Maris fled with his family from San Francisco. All of them were readmitted to the Witness Security Program and relocated under new identities.

Until recently, only organized crime witnesses with a price on their head could obtain falsified job histories.  But no more.

Thousands—if not millions—of job-seeking Americans are now able to obtain stellar job references to impress potential employers.

CareerExcuse runs 200 fictional companies that don’t exist, have staffs or make money.

But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and they’ll confirm you were a stellar employee while you were there.

For between $100 and $200, you’ll get

  • One to three false—and positive—references from a company or companies you’ve never worked for.
  • A fake company address.
  • Local phone numbers to give to prospective employers.
  • A guarantee that those employers will receive positive vouchers for you.
  • A “completely legitimate” resume-writing service.

Unlike WITSEC, the clients of CareerExcuse aren’t hardened criminals. They are legitimate citizens trying to erase gaps in their resumes.  Or they have worked for a long series of short-term employers and want to appear a stable employee.

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