Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

My Washington Times 'On Crime' Column: Craig Johnson On His Walt Longmire Crime Series


The Washington Times ran my weekly On Crime column, which covered crime novelist Craig Johnson and his popular fictional character Walt Longmire.

I asked crime novelist Craig Johnson how he would describe his character Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire.

“Decent,” Craig Johnson replied. “It is a word that you don’t hear so much anymore. When we were growing up, that’s what you heard all the time. People said be decent to each other, be kind to each other.

“I think Walt kind of embodies a certain aspect of a lost American culture. He is decent and he does care, and he is looking out for the people in his county. Whenever I do ride-alongs with these sheriffs here in Wyoming, Montana and other places, I hear them say all the time, “my people, and my people this and that.” They take it very personally. People having entrusted them with the most treasured thing they have — their vote. They are connected.”

Mr. Johnson went on to say that Longmire has a code that he lives by and he is a throwback to the early cinema Western heroes, although he grants that Longmire is facing a more complex world today.

I first became acquainted with the modern-day sheriff by watching the television series “Longmire,” which was based on Mr. Johnson’s novels. The show originally appeared on A&E and later moved to Netflix. Walt Longmire was portrayed by Australian actor Robert Taylor and Katee Sackhoff portrayed his deputy, Victoria “Vic” Moretti, a transplanted South Philly Italian-American and former Philly cop. Lou Diamond Phillips portrayed Henry Standing Bear, Longmire’s best friend. The series also offered a good number of supporting cast members.

Mr. Johnson has written 15 novels about Walt Longmire, the sheriff of the fictious Absarka County in Wyoming. His latest novel is “Land of Wolves,” which I reviewed here.

Walt Longmire, a big and taciturn man with a dry sense of humor, has been described by Mr. Johnson as “overage, overweight and overly depressed, but he still gets up in the morning and tries to do his job.” As I noted in my review, his crime novels offer a modern take on what he calls the cowboy mythos and the romance of the epic West.

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

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/30/craig-johnson-on-his-walt-longmire-crime-series/ 



Saturday, December 28, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'From Russia With Blood: The Kremlin's Ruthless Assassination Program And Vladimir Putin's Secret War On The West'


The Washington Times ran my review of From Russia With Blood.

Ben Macintyre, a columnist for the London Times and the author of “The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War,” “A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal,” and other fine books on spies and espionage, wrote about a Russian GRU (military intelligence) assassination group operating in Europe that is the descendant of the Soviet assassination organization SMERSH, the counterintelligence unit that inspired Ian Fleming.

“If the idea of a ruthless spy-killing unit sounds like the stuff of fiction, that’s because it became precisely that,” Ben Macintyre wrote in his Times column. “In the James Bond novels, Ian Fleming portrayed Smersh (director of operations: Rosa Klebb) as a massive counterintelligence network that more closely resembled the KGB.”

Ben Macintyre wrote that the real SMERSH was effective in not only murdering Soviet traitors (some of whom were undoubtedly innocent, he noted), but SMERSH also instilled terror among potential enemies and enforced obedience in Soviet citizens.

“And now it is back, with a new name and a new remit but essentially the same purpose: to put the fear of God, and assassination, into Russia’s enemies, traitors and deserters,” Mr. Macintyre wrote. “According to intelligence sources, Unit 29155 is an elite sub-unit of GRU assassins that operated out of the Haute-Savoie in the French Alps, conducting a variety of wet jobs across Europe: notably the attempted poisoning in Salisbury of GRU officer-turned-MI6 spy Sergei Skripal, and the attempt to kill a Bulgarian arms dealer in 2015.”

In Ian Fleming’s classic 1957 thriller “From Russia With Love,” James Bond was the target of a SMERSH plot to assassinate him and discredit British intelligence in a scandal. SMERSH sent out from Russia a psychopath assassin named Red Grant to kill Bond. Ian Fleming admitted that his plots were fantastic, but he also said they often lifted the tip of the veil to reveal the real world of espionage. 

Heidi Blake’s “From Russia With Blood” (a clever take on Ian Fleming’s “From Russia With Love” title), lifts the veil off a series of murders in the United Kingdom and places blame squarely on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

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

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/27/book-review-from-russia-with-blood/ 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Santa Canceled: Pictures Of Santa Coming Down The Chimney In Blackface Surface


The Babylon Bee reports on calls for canceling Santa as photos of him in blackface surface.

You can read the satirical piece via the below link:

 https://babylonbee.com/news/pictures-of-santa-coming-down-the-chimney-in-blackface-surface

My Washington Times Piece On Why Drug Cartels Should Be Designated Terrorist Organizations


The Washington Times ran my piece on designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organization.

In an interview with Bill O’Reilly, President Trump stated that he planned to designate the Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations.

His comment was in response to the brutal murder of nine American citizens in Mexico last month. The murder victims included women and children. 

“A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing,” Mr. Trump tweeted following the murders. 

“If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!”

Retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official Jack Riley, the author of “Drug Warrior: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo and the Rise of the Opioid Crisis,” approved of Mr. Trump’s idea of designating the cartels as terrorists.     

“This is something that myself and others have been advocating for a number of years. I think I even discussed this during my congressional testimony in 2016,” Mr. Riley said in an interview on NPR.

“I think it’s a game changer. Clearly, the cartels, with their financial backing and the death and misery that they’ve caused both in Mexico and United States, at least in my opinion, meet the threshold as a terrorist organization. And I think this shows real leadership on the part of the president. I commend him. And I hope we can get it done because it’s a game changer.”

Last week I spoke to Javier Pena and Steve Murphy, the two retired DEA special agents who took down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and they too supported the idea of designing the cartels as terrorists.

“They are terrorist organizations to me. They’re killing, they’re corrupting, and they’re intimidating.” Mr. Pena said. “We see the violence, such as the recent massacres in Mexico. If we name them terrorist organizations, maybe we’ll get a lot more support from a lot of other people.”

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Oldfellas: Frank Sheeran, 'The Irishman' And 'I Heard You Paint Houses': My First Washington Times Weekly 'On Crime' Column


The Washington Times ran my first weekly On Crime column. 

The column covered Frank Sheeran, The Irishman and I Heard You Paint Houses, the book The Irishman was based on.

Netflix reported that more than 26 million people initially watched Martin Scorsese’s crime drama “The Irishman.”

I’ve enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s classic crime films, such as “Mean Streets,” “Casino” and “Goodfellas,” so I looked forward to watching “The Irishman.” I was also interested in watching the film as part of it covers organized crime in South Philadelphia, where I grew up.

I watched “The Irishman” on the night it premiered on Netflix and although the film was slow, long and a bit too talky, I enjoyed it.

But I viewed the film as fiction.

I read “I Heard You Paint Houses,” the book “The Irishman” was based on, some years ago. According to the author, Charles Brant, Frank Sheeran confessed to him that he murdered former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa and New York mobster “Crazy Joe” Gallo. He also confessed that he was involved in the murder of President Kennedy and that he knew of a bribery scheme between President Nixon and Jimmy Hoffa

I don’t believe a word of it.

The late Frank Sheeran (portrayed by Robert De Niro in the film) was a Philadelphia small-time crook who became a Teamsters union official and grew close to Jimmy Hoffa (portrayed by Al Pacino), and he was connected to Western Pennsylvania Cosa Nostra boss Russel Bufalino (portrayed by Joe Pesci) and South Philly/South Jersey Cosa Nostra boss Angelo Bruno (portrayed by Harvey Keitel).

According to the criminals and cops from that era that I spoke to, Sheeran was a serial liar.

You can read the rest of the column below or via the below link:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/25/comparing-the-irishman-and-i-heard-you-paint-house/ 



Note: You can click on the above column to enlarge.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

George C. Scott As Scrooge In 1984's 'A Christmas Carol'


Although the late, great George C. Scott, one of my favorite actors, is best known for his powerful performance as General Patton in Patton, I believe he gave an equally powerful performance as Scrooge in the 1984 adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

You can watch the entire film via the below link:

Christmas 2019: Celebrating The Birth Of Our Savior Jesus Christ


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

NORAD Tracking Santa Again This Year


Every Christmas Eve the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks the flight of Santa.


You can watch NORAD track Santa via the below link:

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Never-Ending Saga Of Cop-Killer Mumia Abu-Jamal And His Victim's Tenacious Widow: My Washington Times Piece On Maureen Faulkner, The Philly DA And A Cop Killer Who May Go Free


The Washington Times ran my piece on the never-ending sage of convicted cop killer Abu-Jamal, the cop’s widow and the Philly DA.

So many years have passed since Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal in December 1981, yet the convicted cop killer’s court appeals go on and on, as does the suffering of Faulkner’s widow, Maureen Faulkner.

In Maureen Faulkner’s 2007 book, “Murdered by Mumia: A Life Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice,” she recounts how she was told that her Philadelphia police officer husband had been shot and killed back in 1981,

“The knock. That rap on the door that is the dread of all of the spouses of people who put their lives on the line — cops, firefighters, EMTs, the military, each profession with its own protocol. I got the knock in the early morning hours of a bitter-cold Wednesday, December 9, 1981, when my fitful slumber was interrupted by the thud of destiny. 

“That’s how I learned my relationship with Danny of 913 days, 396 of which we were married, was over. The horrors of the night had started with a knock and ended with a scream. I remember shrieking and crying and thinking I was in a nightmare, hoping I could be dreaming, and it wasn’t true.”

But it was true, and her nightmare continues. Abu-Jamal, a militant and former Black Panther, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1982 based on eyewitness testimony, ballistics and his confession at the hospital after the shooting. His death penalty sentence was later commuted to a life sentence, and his many appeals continue to this day.

But so does the fighting spirit of Maureen Faulkner. Her latest battle is with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. Last month, she asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to remove the DA from the Abu-Jamal case due to conflicts of interest and transfer it to the Pennsylvania attorney general.

“We have a district attorney who I believe is confusing criminal justice reform for criminal justice anarchy,” her attorney, George Bochetto, said. “Mumia could be free by Christmas on the streets.” 

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


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Criminals Are Cowards And Opportunists: My Crime Beat Column On Christmas Season Crime


My Crime Beat column below originally appeared in the South Philadelphia American in 1998: 

As shoppers, tourists and families are enjoying the Christmas season, burglars, pickpockets, purse snatchers, armed robbers and con artists are on the prowl.

Over the years, I’ve covered a good number of business, civic and community meetings. At one such meeting, I heard Tim Fanning, a Philadelphia Police Officer who serves as the 1st District’s Community Relations Officer. 

I asked the veteran officer if he had any good holiday crime prevention tips that he could pass on.

“Criminals are basically cowards and opportunists,” Fanning said. “As cowards, their victims are almost always senior citizens and women – people they perceive as being unable to fight back.

“As opportunists, they are constantly on the prowl, looking for a door with a flimsy lock or someone casually swinging a handbag on one finger.”

Fanning said you should try to avoid going out at night alone, especially during the holiday season. But if you have to, walk in lit areas and in the center of the sidewalk where someone can’t jump out and grab you. 

Be alert and aware of your surroundings, Fanning advised. Like a shark, the thief and purse snatcher will often pass you at least once. Proper body language is important, as you’re less likely to be attacked if you have a confident air about you.

“To protect your home while you’re out shopping, use anti-crime measures that create noise and light, as they are the best deterrents,” Fanning explained. “An audible alarm or a good barking dog will send the common thief running.”

I’d add some useful common-sense tips, such as park your car in a well-lighted area when out shopping. Lock your car and close your windows, if you only plant to be gone for a moment. 

Put your packages in the trunk of your car and not on the back seat where it is visible to a thief. When returning to your car have your keys in your hand, so you don’t appear vulnerable as you dig in your purse or pocket for the keys. 

Don’t carry a lot of cash. Use a credit card. Carry your purse tightly under your arm, or under your coat, and never lay in down on a counter, even for a second. 

While you’re out shopping, the anti-Santa will go out your chimney (or door) with a sack of your gifts, and not the traditional way Santa does it. Don’t have gifts visible through your house windows when you’re out.

Mark all your appliances with a unique identification number. If your TV and other appliances are stolen, these numbers will help the police in recovering them.

Be cautious when someone comes to the door and asks for charitable donations. Crooks will take advantage of your Christmas generosity to start a charity exclusively for themselves. Give to charity organizations you know, like your church. 

You should also be cautious of public utility or delivery people who come to your door. Ask to see some ID and tell them you are calling their organizations to verify their identities. See if they take off faster than Santa’s reindeers. 

Trust your instincts at all times. 

“Remember, just as you go to your place of work to do your job the criminal’s job is to go out and steal,” Fanning said. 

And criminals certainly don’t take a Christmas vacation, I might add.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A Little Humor: Beautiful Woman On A Plane


A man boarded an airplane and took his seat. 

As he settled in, he glanced up and saw the most beautiful woman he ever saw boarding the plane. 

He soon realized She was heading straight towards his seat. As fate would have it, she took the seat right beside his. 

Eager to strike up a conversation he blurted out, “Business trip or pleasure?”

She turned, smiled and said, “Business. I’m going to the Annual Nymphomaniacs of America Convention in Boston.”

He swallowed hard. Here was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen sitting next to him, and she was going to a meeting of nymphomaniacs! 

Struggling to maintain his composure, he calmly asked, “What’s your business at this convention?”

“Lecturer,” she responded. “I use information that I have learned from my personal experiences to debunk some of the popular myths about sexuality.”


“Really?” he said. “And what kind of myths?”


“Well,” she explained, “one popular myth is that African-American men are the most well-endowed of all men, when in fact it is the Native American Indian who is most likely to possess that trait. Another popular myth is that Frenchmen are the best lovers, when actually it is men of Mexican descent who are the best. I have also discovered that the lover with absolutely the best stamina is the southern redneck.”


Suddenly the woman became a little uncomfortable and blushed. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I shouldn’t really be discussing all of this with you. I don’t even know your name.”


“Tonto,” the man said, “Tonto Gonzales, but my friends call me Bubba”.

Note: The above photo is of actress Jill St. John from the James Bond film. Diamonds Are Forever. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Launch Of Operation Relentless Pursuit: The Operation Will Surge Federal Law Enforcement Resources Into seven of America’s most violent cities


The DEA released the below information:
DETROIT – Today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced the launch of Operation Relentless Pursuit, an initiative aimed at combating violent crime in seven of America’s most violent cities through a surge in federal resources.
Joined at a press conference in Detroit by DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, ATF Acting Director Regina Lombardo, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and United States Marshals Service Director Donald W. Washington, Attorney General Barr pledged to intensify federal law enforcement resources in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, and Milwaukee – seven American cities with violent crime levels several times the national average.
“Americans deserve to live in safety,” said Attorney General Barr. “And while nationwide violent crime rates are down, many cities continue to see levels of extraordinary violence. Operation Relentless Pursuit seeks to ensure that no American city is excluded from the peace and security felt by the majority of Americans, while also supporting those who serve and protect in these communities with the resources, training, and equipment they need to stay safe.”
“Drug traffickers - including cartels and street gangs - will stop at nothing to turn a profit, often using violence and intimidation to expand their reach,” said Acting Administrator Dhillon. “This targeted surge of resources will further strengthen our ability to work with our federal, state, and local partners to pursue the worst offenders and make our communities safer.”
“The men and women of ATF are deeply committed to and focused on reducing crime gun violence in our communities,” said Acting Director Lombardo. “We are proud that our efforts have significantly contributed to the historic reductions in violence that our nation has realized in recent years. Project Relentless Pursuit combines the resources of ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals to support our state and local law enforcement partners in those cities that – regrettably – continue to be plagued by rates of violent crime that are simply too high. Through Relentless Pursuit, we pledge to hold accountable the trigger-pullers, firearm traffickers, violent criminals and those who supply them the guns to terrorize our communities. ATF will aggressively utilize every available tool, including our crime gun enforcement teams, National Integrated Ballistic Information Network and firearms tracing to identify, investigate and support the prosecution of the most violent firearm offenders.”
“The FBI remains committed to providing our specialized expertise and resources to assist our federal, state and local partners fighting violent crime,” said Director Wray. “We are here today to reaffirm our dedication to reducing violent crime in the cities selected for Operation Relentless Pursuit to combat the threats that arise from gangs and criminal enterprises that drive violence in the communities we are sworn to protect.”
“The U.S. Marshals Service is proud of the integral role we play in supporting Attorney General Barr’s strong leadership and commitment to combating violent crime and enhancing public safety throughout our nation,” said Director Washington. “We will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to make communities safer by addressing violent crime at its core and taking the worst of the worst fugitives and other felons off the streets.”
The Operation will involve increasing the number of federal law enforcement officers to the selected cities, as well as bulking up federal task forces through collaborative efforts with state and local law enforcement partners. The surge in federal agents will be complemented by a financial commitment of up to $71 million in federal grant funding that can be used to hire new officers, pay overtime and benefits, finance federally deputized task force officers and provide mission-critical equipment and technology.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Little Night Music: Merry Christmas From Dino And Bob: Dean's Martin's Rendition of 'Silver Bells' And Bob Hope Sings The Song In 'The Lemon Drop Kid'


Silver Bells is one of my favorite Christmas songs and Dean Martin is one of my favorite singers of Christmas music.

You can listen the late, great Dino sing Silver Bells via the below link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lylWDAo9hFw


You can also hear the late, great Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing Silver Bells, which was written for the Bob Hope film, The Lemon Drop Kid, (based on a Damon Runyon crime story) and link to the film via the below link:

www.pauldavisoncrime.com/2017/12/bob-hope-sings-original-silver-bells-in.html

First French Bond Girl Dies aged 78: Claudine Auger Starred As Domino opposite Sean Connery's 007 in Thunderball


Danyal Hussain at the Daily Mail reports on the death of French actress Claudine Auger, who starred in the James Bond film Thunderball with Sean Connery.

French actress Claudine Auger, best known to international audiences for playing the first French Bond girl alongside Sean Connery in 'Thunderball', has died aged 78.

Claudiner Auger made her name in Thunderball as the first French 'Bond Girl', playing the character Domino.

You can read the piece and view photos of the actress via the below link:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7811859/Claudine-Auger-starred-opposite-Sean-Connerys-James-Bond-Thunderball-dies-78.html 





Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of 'The Many Lives Of James Bond: How The Creators Of 007 Have Decoded The Superspy'


The Washington Times published my review of The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy.

I’ve been a James Bond fan since I first saw “Dr. No” back when I was a pre-teen. I was hooked the moment I saw actor Sean Connery introduce himself with what would become his signature line, “Bond. James Bond.”

Viewing the early Bond films with Connery led to my reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels as a teenager. I was pleased to discover that the novels were darker, more complex and more interesting than the films.

I’ve been an Ian Fleming aficionado ever since. I’ve read all his novels and short stories and nearly all of his journalism. I’ve been to the building in London where Ian Fleming once lived, and I even spent a week with my wife at the Mecca for James Bond fans, Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa Goldeneye, where he wrote all of the Bond stories.  

I love Ian Fleming’s vivid descriptions of exotic locales, beautiful women and evil villains. The stories are suspenseful, atmospheric and compelling. Dedicated to queen and country, Fleming’s Bond is a British patriot and a modern knight who fights the good fight against Soviet assassins, international criminal syndicates and megalomaniacal masterminds who would wreak havoc on the world if not for Bond. And along the way, he enjoys a good drink, a fine meal and the companionship of attractive women.

So, what’s not to love?  

Mark Edlitz, another Bond fan, albeit from a later generation, offers a book for Bond fans called “The Many Lives of James Bond: How the Creators of 007 Have Decoded the Superspy.”    

“Pick a Bond, any Bond. When you hear the name James Bond, what comes to mind? For many, it is likely to be a favorite Bond movie or one of the actors who has portrayed the secret agent,” writes Mark Edlitz in his introduction. “After all, it is natural to think first of the cinematic Bond. The multibillion-dollar franchise has retained its remarkable box office power for nearly 60 years — the first Bond movie, “Dr. No,” appeared in 1962 — and its popularity shows no sign of waning. Still, another Bond aficionado might think first of the twelve novels and nine short stories written by Bond’s creator Ian Fleming.

“But the movies and books are just the most prominent facets of the diverse and ever-expanding James Bond universe. Bond fandom extends to continuation novels, video games, comic books, comic strips, radio dramas, and even to an animated television series.”

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

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/18/book-review-the-many-lives-of-james-bond/ 













Philadelphia Man Pleads Guilty To Federal Attempted Robbery And Firearms Charges After Receiving Shockingly Lenient Plea Deal On State Charges From Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office


The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of PA released the below information:
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Jovaun Patterson, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania entered a plea of guilty before United States District Court Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg on charges of one count of attempted robbery which interferes with interstate commerce (known as Hobbs Act robbery), and one count of using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.  These charges stem from the defendant’s attempted armed robbery on May 5, 2018, of the KCJ, Inc. convenience store during which Patterson shot the store owner Li (“Mike”) Poeng with an assault rifle, leaving Mr. Poeng in a coma and eventually confined to a wheelchair.
Prior to federal prosecutors filing these charges by Indictment in February 2019, Patterson was arrested by Philadelphia police for the May 5, 2018 incident and charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery–threat of immediate serious injury, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, possession of a firearm on a street in Philadelphia, possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault, and reckless endangerment of another person.  On November 15, 2018, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office permitted Patterson to enter a negotiated guilty plea to charges of only aggravated assault, robbery–threat of immediate serious injury, and possession of an instrument of crime.  The DA’s Office also agreed to a sentence of only 3½ to 10 years’ imprisonment.  That plea deal was in line with the soft-on-crime priorities of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.  Thereafter, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stepped in to bring federal charges and ensure justice was done. 
“Violent crime is a severe and growing problem in Philadelphia, and fighting that trend is a top priority of my Office,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain.  “The Philadelphia District Attorney, Mr. Krasner, does not share that priority – preferring to look out for violent offenders like Mr. Patterson, who received a ridiculously lenient plea deal because of Mr. Krasner.  I can assure the citizens of Philadelphia that my Office sees the problem and is working hard to do what we can to stem the rising tide by bringing federal charges when we are able, which is what occurred here.  Now, this defendant will face a potential sentence that reflects the severity of his crime.”
“ATF’s top priority is combating violent crime; one of the ways we accomplish that mission is by keeping firearms out of the hands of violent offenders,” said Donald Robinson, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Philadelphia Field Division.  “This case is a perfect example of the collaborative effort between ATF, our partners at the Philadelphia Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office in targeting violent offenders and protecting our communities.”
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.   The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
The case was investigated by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Salvatore L. Astolfi.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille's 'The Deserter'


The Washington Times published my review of The Deserter.

Inspired by the strange case of Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. Army sergeant who deserted his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently captured by the Taliban and held captive until 2014, ”The Deserter” is a thriller about a U.S. Army officer who also deserts his post in Afghanistan and is held captive by the Taliban.

But the fictional Capt. Kyle Mercer is different in many ways from the real deserter. Mercer is an elite special operator who kills and beheads his captors on video and then looks into the camera and resigns his Army commission. Mercer resembles more the renegade Col. Kurtz character in Francis Ford Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now” than the oddball Bergdahl.

In Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille’s “The Deserter” two U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigators are assigned the task of finding and bringing to justice the deserter, who has been identified as living in Venezuela. The two investigators are Chief Warrant Officer Scott Brodie and Chief Warrant Officer Maggie Taylor

 “Brodie tried to recall what he knew about this case. Captain Kyle Mercer had been a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment — Delta, more famously known as Delta Force. He was the elite of the elite, one of the most potent weapons in the military’s arsenal, and the tip of the spear in the counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan,” the authors write.

“One night three years earlier, while stationed with a small team at a remote combat outpost in the rugged Hindu Kush, he walked off. According to his teammates, Captain Mercer must have left sometime after midnight. He took all his field gear with him, along with night vision goggles and his M4 rifle, but no one had actually seen him leave the outpost, and no one noticed he was missing until first light. Conclusion: He deserted.

“Desertion is rare. Desertion in a war zone like Afghanistan even rarer. And desertion in a war zone by an officer in an elite unit, unheard of.”

The desertion of Capt. Mercer is a mystery, a public relations nightmare and a major security risk, as he possessed in his head highly classified information about counterinsurgency operations. Capt. Mercer was a highly trained, experienced and well-regarded officer. All his teammates described him as a capable, competent, and brave commanding officer. Why a man like Capt. Mercer would desert is a mystery to the investigators.       

“Captain Mercer was an enigma even before he walked off in the night into a rugged mountain range in one most dangerous and godforsaken corners of the earth,” Nelson DeMille and his son Alex DeMille tell us.

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

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/dec/16/book-review-the-deserter/ 

Monday, December 16, 2019

A Little Humor: Dennis' Problem At School


A teacher noticed that little Dennis at the back of the class was squirming around, pulling at his crotch, and not paying attention. 

She walked to the back of the class to find out what was wrong with Dennis..

Dennis was embarrassed and whispered to the teacher that he had a minor surgery on his penis over the weekend and it was now quite itchy.

The teacher told him to go the principal’s office and call his mother to find out what he should do about it. 

He did that and then returned to the class.

Suddenly, there was a commotion at the back of the room. 

The teacher went back to investigate and discovered Dennis sitting at his desk with his pants down and penis hanging out.

“What are you doing? Did you call your mother?” the teacher said.

“I did,” Dennis replied. “She told me that if I could stick it out until lunchtime, she’d come and pick me up from school.”

Note: The above photo is of Jay North from the old TV series Dennis the Menace. 

John Wayne: True Grit Indeed: A Look Back At 'True Grit' On The Classic Western Film's 50th Anniversary


The late, great actor John Wayne is one of my favorite actors and True Grit is one my favorite films.

The Duke won his only Oscar for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn, an old, rugged and drunk deputy U.S. Marshal.

When I read Charles Portis' True Grit novel I knew the Duke would be perfect as Rooster Cogburn. (Portis can be seen below in a photo with John Wayne).

Henry C. Parke at True West Magazine looks back at True Grit on the classic Western film’s 50th Anniversary.


Half a century ago, audiences awaited the premiere of True Grit with some trepidation. After all, its star, John Wayne, had lost a lung to cancer. He’d done movies since, but none as vigorous as this, and his recent film, The Green Berets, had received a tepid-to-terrible reception due to its gung-ho support of the nation-polarizing Vietnam War. Joyously, his fans’ doubts were misplaced. It was a wonderful story, a wonderful film, and Wayne’s performance would earn an Oscar. 

True Grit is the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross’s battle for justice after her father’s murderer escapes into Indian Territory. Mattie hires notoriously tough and disreputable Rooster Cogburn and, joined by Texas Ranger Le Boeuf, they try to bring the killer back to Judge Parker’s court for trial. 

When Wayne read Charles Portis’s novel, his Batjac Productions immediately bid for the film rights, only to be outbid by legendary producer Hal Wallis, who four years earlier had produced The Sons of Katie Elder with Wayne! Duke confronted Wallis and learned to his surprise that Wallis had bought it intending for Wayne to star. 



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

https://truewestmagazine.com/article/true-grit-50-years/?mc_cid=eb2f1f0b96&mc_eid=53715224b5


Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Little Humor: Fifty Dollars Is Fifty Dollars


An elderly man and his wife went to the state fair every year, and every year the husband would say, “Dear, I’d like to ride in that helicopter.” 

And his wife always replied, “I know Dear, but that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars.”

One year, the old couple visited the fair, and the husband said, “Dear, I’m 85 years old. If I don’t ride that helicopter today, I might never get another chance.” 

His wife replied, “Dear, that helicopter ride is fifty dollars, and fifty dollars is fifty dollars.”

The pilot overheard the couple and said, “Folks, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and don’t say a word, I won’t charge you a penny! But if you say one word the ride will cost you fifty dollars.”

The couple agreed.

The pilot, who had a bent sense of humor, did all kinds of fancy maneuvers, but not a word was heard from the couple in the back. 

The helo pilot performed daredevil tricks, but still not a word from the couple. 

When they landed, the pilot turned to the husband and said, “Shit, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn’t. I’m impressed!”

The husband replied, “Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out, but you know, fifty dollars is fifty dollars!”

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Hearings On Impeaching Santa Claus Who Is Accused Of Quid Pro Quo For Giving Children Gifts In Exchange For Good Behavior


The satirical Babylon Bee offers another clever piece:

U.S.—Legislators have begun to hold hearings on impeaching Santa Claus after an overheard conversation seemed to imply he was offering a quid pro quo: gifts in exchange for good behavior.

FBI agents spied on Claus at various malls as he repeatedly said things like, "Sure, I'll get you a pony. But first, I need you to do something for me... be a good little boy!" The FBI was able to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Claus, because it's easier to get a FISA warrant than to get a Costco membership. 

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

https://babylonbee.com/news/ho-ho-no-santa-claus-accused-of-quid-pro-quo-after-giving-children-gifts-in-exchange-for-good-behavior  

The Lineman: The Art Of Norman Rockwell


I recently came across an illustration of a lineman painted by the late, great artist Noman Rockwell.
The Lineman caught my attention as my late father, Edward M. Davis, was a lineman after serving in the Navy as a UDT frogman during WWII. 
The Lineman was used in a Bell Telephone advertisement, which stated that the lineman “helps get the message through.”
The Norman Rockwell Museum offers the below:
Humor and wit were central aspects of Norman Rockwell’s character. From his first Saturday Evening Post cover, Boy with Baby Carriage, in 1916 to his thematic No Swimming paintings to The Gossips, Rockwell filled a societal niche by providing levity during times of great strife. As Pablo Picasso noted, “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” 

Through two World Wars, the Great Depression, civil rights struggles, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Norman Rockwell’s paintings presented Americans with a window into a more idyllic world.
Though Rockwell is often regarded for paintings that addressed serious issues occurring at the moment of their creation, a great deal of Rockwell’s oeuvre is reflective of his sense of humor and natural playfulness.
You can visit the Norman Rockwell Museum via the below link:

https://www.nrm.org/ 

Note: The above painting is Norman Rockwell’s self-portrait.

Tis The Season For Christmas Carols: Why I Love Christmas Music



Christmas carols are being aired on a good number of radio stations now and I hear the usual complaints of it being too early for Christmas carols and how some people truly hate the holiday music. 

A few years back I had tried to answer these seasonal complaints with a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer on why I love Christmas carols. 

You can read the piece below:   





Note: Above is the cover of a CD my daughter Brittany bought me a few years back. The CD offers some great, classic Christmas carols by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis, Jr and others.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Late Danny Aiello: How He Went From ‘Part-Time Thief’ To ‘Do The Right Thing’


Rob Baily-Millado at the New York Post offers a piece on the late actor Danny Aiello.

Danny Aiello didn’t launch his scene-stealing acting career until he was 40 — but he was born to do it.

“It must be something I was more or less destined to do,” the Bronx native told me in 2014 upon the publication of his autobiography. “The reason being, I didn’t voluntarily leave one life for another; it just so happened to be that way.”


A whole lotta words for a lotta life.

Aiello’s life ended Thursday night at age 86 in New Jersey after a brief illness. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Sandy Cohen, with whom he had four children.

As the public mourns a beloved character actor, I can’t help but remember that the Oscar nominee was so much more than Sal, the pizzeria owner, in Spike Lee’s iconic “Do the Right Thing,” or Cher’s cuckolded fiancĂ© Johnny in “Moonstruck.” 

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

https://nypost.com/2019/12/13/from-petty-thief-to-union-boss-danny-aiello-was-so-much-more-than-a-beloved-actor/?_ga=2.144341491.715793091.1576276041-2.221816984.166377045.1559744977-2.245623044.166377045.1559744977-2.157468730.166377045.1559744977-2.254397704.166377045.1559744977-2.96836312.637863766.1559590502-2.135288310.637863766.1559590502-2.144179317.1368529669.1559500392-2.173952995.1368529669.1559500392-2.240212811.99568973.1559150609-2.203390809.99568973 

Massachusetts Man Pleads Guilty To Illegally Retaining Classified National Defense Information Regarding U.S. Military Programs


A Sharon, Massachusetts, man pleaded guilty today to willfully retaining national defense information.

Ahmedelhadi Yassin Serageldin, 66, an Egyptian-born nationalized U.S. citizen, admitted to removing classified national defense information from his workplace at a defense contractor without authorization and keeping it unsecured within his home.  Serageldin was originally indicted and arrested in November 2018 on one count of misleading conduct with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent communications to a law enforcement officer relating to the commission or possible commission of a federal offense.

The original indictment alleged that Serageldin was a systems engineer at Raytheon Company in Massachusetts from August 1997 until he was terminated in May 2017.  Serageldin had a secret-level security clearance in order to complete his assignments on several defense contracts for the U.S. government involving military radar technology.

According to court documents, in 2017, Raytheon investigated Serageldin for time-card fraud.  The time-card fraud investigation allegedly led Raytheon to uncover evidence that Serageldin had downloaded a substantial number of files from Raytheon’s computer network and had connected removable electronic storage devices to the network in violation of Raytheon’s security policy.  During the company’s internal investigation, the indictment alleges, Serageldin engaged in misleading conduct to hinder, delay, or prevent Raytheon employees from communicating with law enforcement about his time-card fraud and his potential mishandling and retention of classified information and national defense information.

Today, Serageldin pleaded guilty before Chief United States District Judge Patti B. Saris to a Superseding Information charging him with having unauthorized possession of, access to, and control over numerous classified documents, writings, and notes relating to the national defense, and then willfully retaining the same and failing to deliver them to the United States.  At the plea hearing, the prosecutor noted that while executing a search warrant at Serageldin’s house, federal agents found thousands of paper documents and electronic files belonging to Raytheon or the U.S. Department of Defense, and that many of them were marked as containing classified information.  The Superseding Information lists five specific documents, all of which pertain to U.S. military programs involving missile defense and are classified at the SECRET level.

According to a plea agreement filed in the case, the original charge of obstruction of justice will be dismissed at the time of sentencing.  Sentencing is scheduled for April 14, 2020.

The charge of willfully retaining documents relating to the national defense and failing to deliver them to the United States provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greatest, restitution, and forfeiture.  Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Boston Field Division; and Leo Lamont Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office, made the announcement today.  Assistance with the investigation was provided by Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston.  Raytheon Company has cooperated with the investigation, which was launched after they notified federal authorities about the suspicious conduct.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott L. Garland, Deputy Chief of Lelling’s National Security Unit, is prosecuting this case with the assistance of Trial Attorney Scott Claffee of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division.