Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Genovese, Costello and Anastasia: The Decline And Fall Of the American Mafia

Jim Zirin at offers a piece on the organized crime meeting at Apalachin, New York.

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the trial in the infamous mobster conspiracy case, United States v. Bufalino, known as the “Apalachin affair,” a case that prosecutors won before a jury, and lost on appeal.  The case involved 20 of the more than 60 mobsters who attended a summit meeting of the American Mafia on November 14, 1957 at the 130-acre estate of boss “Joe the Barber” Barbera in Apalachin, New York. The meeting, which became a scene in Mario Puzo’s Godfather, occurred in Apalachin, a sleepy hamlet along the south shore of the Susquehanna River about 145 miles northwest of New York City. The jury must have wondered why anyone would go there.

Before the meeting could get off the ground, state police and federal agents raided Barbera’s home. At the time, no one knew what was on the bill of fare. There was no evidence at trial of the purpose of the meeting or that there was anything improper or illegal about it.

The government charged the Apalachin 20 with conspiracy to obstruct justice by giving similarly false and evasive answers before the grand jury as to the nature of the meeting.  The defendants, many of whom were festooned in Italian tailor-made suits, drove expensive cars and had come long distances to attend the meeting, were apprehended as they tried to escape the house into the nearby woods, which police found strewn with newly printed hundred dollar bills.

No one at the trial was permitted to say the word “Mafia,” as it was deemed too prejudicial. Still, the jury must have known that sitting in the well of the courtroom before them was an underworld stew of evil. The guest list at the Barberas that evening read like a mobster “social register.” Among those in attendance were notorious gangsters Don Vito Genovese, the kingpin of the mob, Carlo Gambino, Joe Profaci and Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonnano.  Questioned by police, virtually all of them claimed that they had visited the house from such far-flung locations as Buffalo, Rochester, Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles because they heard Barbera was not feeling well.  Anther claimed he had visited the house to deliver fish.

Although at least 50 men managed to escape into the woods outside Barbera’s house, state troopers and federal agents successfully arrested another 58.  State Trooper Edgar Croswell, a real life Inspector Javert who had been channeling Barbera for about a year, headed the raiding party.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Semper Paratus, "Always Ready": A Look At The Role Of The U.S. Coast Guard

Back in 2004 I wrote a piece on the role of the U.S. Coast Guard for Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the piece via thr below links:

Charlton Heston Honored With U.S. Postage Stamp

Last week Paul Bond at the Hollywood Reporter offered a piece on the ceremony honoring actor and activist Charlton Heston with a U.S. stamp.

Charlton Heston, the movie star, political activist and former head of the National Rifle Association, got his own postage stamp on Friday, unveiled at a ceremony at the historic Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Burglary: The Discovery Of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI

Veteran journalist and author Joseph C. Goulden offers a fine review of Betty Medsger's The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI in the Washington Times.

During his troubled last years, even friends of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover would confide — sotto voce, to be sure — that “the Old Man” was past his prime and should leave office. The complaints were that decades of wielding autocratic power had stripped Hoover of sound judgment to the point where he felt he could do no wrong. Such was what I heard from two men who had held the rank of assistant director, and who admired Hoover's service to law enforcement.

Long despised by the left — the hostility went both ways, to be sure — Hoover gave his enemies the “smoking gun” they long sought when bold anti-war activists broke into an FBI office in the Philadelphia suburb of Media the night of March 8, 1971. They chose an evening when the nation’s attention was sure to be focused elsewhere — on a long-anticipated boxing match between Joe Frazier, a supporter of the Vietnam War, and Muhammad Ali, a convicted draft dodger.

Working with the skills of professional burglars, the activists stripped the office of every file in sight and hauled them off to a farm in upstate Pennsylvania for examination. Of the thousands of stolen documents, perhaps the most explosive was a 1970 memorandum directing agents to increase their interviews of antiwar activists and other dissident groups.

The key sentence read, “It will enhance the paranoia endemic in these circles and will further serve to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

... Yet Ms. Medsger skirts around an ugly underside to the “New Left” that caused Hoover's reaction, excessive though it might have been. Consider bombings, both of government buildings (including universities) and private businesses. In his 2011 book, “MH/CHAOS: The CIA’S Campaign Against the Radical New Left and the Black Panthers,” the veteran counterintelligence officer Frank Rafalko devoted 46 pages to listing 943 instances of bombing from January 1969 to July 1970, several of which killed innocent persons.

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter And Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"

On this Holy Day of Easter, I'd like to once again watch Mel Gibson's brilliant film about the life and death of Jesus Christ, The Passion of the Christ.

You can read my column on Mel Gibson and the film via the below link:

Cruising the Caribbean Aboard The Explorer Of The Seas

I've not posted anything in a while as I was offline while cruising the Caribbean aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Explorer of the Seas (seen in the above photo).

Along with my beautiful wife and our good friends, we left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on April 10th and sailed down the East Coast and off to our first port-of-call in Bermuda.

We visited Bermuda aboard the Explorer of the Seas in 2012 and it was good to see the beautiful  island again and we once again visited the beach at Horseshoe Bay (seen in the below photo).

We went on to visit Philipsburg, St Maarten, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the best port-of-call was last, Labadee, Haiti.

We enjoyed touring Old and New San Juan, as well as Castillo de San Cristobal, the fort the Spanish began to build in 1634 in San Juan and took nearly 150 years to complete. The fort was still active in World War II and the U.S. Army turned it over to the National Park Service in 1961.

Below are three photos of the fort:

And below is a photo of our stateroom and a photo of the sea from the ship's rail:

And below is a photo of the ship at Labadee, Haiti:

We had a wonderful time with our good friends and it was a fine cruise.

I'll post more on the trip at a later time.

Note: You can click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

John Wayne: 10 Things You Might Know About The Great Man

Martin Chilton at the British newspaper the Telegraph offers 10 things he learned from Scott Eyman's new biography of the late, great John Wayne.

John Wayne, who made 162 feature films, was one of the 20th century's biggest Hollywood stars. Here are 10 things we learned about the Oscar-winning actor from an impressive new biography by Scott Eyman.

• John Wayne cheated at chess

John Wayne was actually very good at chess (film director and experienced player Josef von Sternberg "was livid" when beaten by Wayne) and the actor had a chessboard permanently set up on his 136ft boat, The Wild Goose. Wayne once said of fellow actor Rock Hudson: "Who the hell cares if he's queer? The man plays great chess." Wayne repeatedly cheated when playing chess against Robert Mitchum (Wayne had huge hands and would carefully slide a piece into a different position as he made a separate move) and Mitchum eventually plucked up the courage to tell him he was cheating. Wayne replied "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."   

• He loved literature

Wayne liked the novels of Agatha Christie but his two favourite books were written by Arthur Conan Doyle and both are historical novels – The White Company (1891) and Sir Nigel (1906) – both set during the Hundred Years' War. Wayne was also a fan of Charles Dickens and if the actor agreed to a business deal, he would always say "Barkis is willing!", a phrase used by Mr Barkis when he tells David Copperfield that he is ready to marry Peggotty.

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

You can also read a review of the John Wayne biography via the below link: