Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Fire That Makes A Good Detective: My Washington Times Review Of Michael Connelly's 'The Night Fire'

The Washington Times ran my review of Michael Connelly’s The Night Fire.

In Michael Connelly’s latest crime novel, he brings together his character Hieronymus “HarryBosch and his other character Renee Ballard together. His defense attorney character Mickey Haller from “The Lincoln Lawyer” also appears in a minor role in the novel.

For those unfamiliar with the popular series, Harry Bosch, now pushing 70 in real-time, was raised in an orphanage after his prostitute mother was murdered and he went on to serve in the Vietnam War as a “tunnel rat,” one of the soldiers who crawled through narrow Viet Cong-built tunnels in pursuit of the wily and deadly Communist guerrillas. He later joined the LAPD and for more than 30 years he was a stubbornly independent and dedicated detective whose personal credo was “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”

In Mr. Connelly’s novel “The Late Show,” the author introduced Renee Ballard, an attractive, 30ish, smart and tough detective who was banished from Robbery-Homicide, the elite division that investigated the most complex, serious and media-covered cases, such as the Manson murders, to the night shift after she accused her lieutenant of making a physical pass at her. The daughter of a Hawaiian surfer, she is part Polynesian and sleeps mostly in a tent on Venice Beach with her dog after her night shift. (the character is based on LAPD Detective Mitzi Roberts, a consultant on the “Bosch” TV series).

With Harry Bosch retired from the LAPD, he and Ballard team up — him on the outside and her on the inside — and they agree to take on cases that interest them and do not appear to interest anyone else.

“The Night Fire” begins with Harry Bosch attending the funeral of his old mentor, John Jack Thompson.

“John Jack — he was always called that — was a good man who gave forty years of service to the Los Angeles Police Department in uniform and as a detective. He put many bad people away and taught generations of detectives how to do the same,” Mr. Connelly writes in the opening of the novel. 

“One of them was Bosch — paired with the legend as a newly minted homicide detective in Hollywood Division more than three decades earlier. Among other things, John Jack had taught Bosch how to read the tells of a liar in an interrogation room. He once told Bosch it took a liar to know a liar but never explained how he had come by that piece of wisdom.”

John Jack’s widow gives Harry Bosch a 20-year-old “murder book” that her husband stole from the LAPD when he retired. She asked her husband’s old partner to return the murder book — a thick three-ring binder used by homicide detectives as a formal case file that includes an investigative chronology, crime scene and victim photos, medical reports and other evidence — to the LAPD.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Flawed Solutions: My Washington Times Piece On The Knee-Jerk Gun Control Response To Deadly Shootings After Children In Philadelphia Are Shot

The Washington Times published my piece on the knee-jerk response to the tragic shooting of two children in Philadelphia.

A mob guy I’ve known for years was in a South Philadelphia bar talking about his plan to open a gun range where he was going to teach young gangbangers how to shoot straight — South Philly style.

“None of that holding the gun sideways like they do in the movies and spraying bullets across the street or from a fast-moving car,” he said half-jokingly. ”I’ll teach ‘em to get up close and hold the gun right, like we do, and not leave any innocent bystanders dead in the street.

“Like us, they should only kill their own.”

The jest was in response to reports of two children who were shot in two separate incidents less than 24 hours apart in Philadelphia. A 2-year-old girl was killed on Oct. 20, and a 11-month-old boy was shot earlier several times. The boy remains in critical condition.

The 2-year-old girl was shot in the head and killed when multiple bullets burst into her home in the Huntington Park section of the city. The child’s 24-year-old mother was shot in the back and the head, and a carpet cleaner working in the house was shot in the stomach.

The police suspect an AK-47-type rifle was used in the shooting.

“No child should be murdered in their living room. It’s just terrible,” Philadelphia’s acting police commissioner, Christine Coulter, told reporters.

Earlier, a woman had been driving in North Philadelphia when bullets pierced through the trunk of her car, striking her 11-month-old stepson four times. There was also an unidentified man in the car with the woman and child, and police suspect he was the target of the assault.

The police believe a 9mm handgun was used in this shooting.  

City officials held a news conference on Oct. 21 and asked the public to help police bring the shooters to justice. A $30,000 reward was offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the two shootings. In addition to the reward offered by the city, the police union was offering an additional $5,000 reward for information that led to an arrest.

A suspect was arrested on Oct. 22 and charged with murder in the shooting death of the 2-year-old. The police are now working on identifying a second suspect. The police don’t yet know if the suspect in custody fired the rifle, but they believe he was one of two people responsible for the murder of the child. Early reports indicate that the shooting came about due to a dispute with the child’s father and that the dispute was possibly drug related.  

The acting police commissioner stated that tips were instrumental in the arrest, and she noted that everyone, like her, was outraged over a child being murdered.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney offered his strong feelings over the shootings in a statement. “I am outraged, disgusted, and heartbroken by the violence this weekend that claimed the life of an innocent 2-year-old and left another infant fighting for his life.”

The shooting of children is indeed tragic, but even though the police investigation is in its early phase, city officials immediately raised the issue of gun control as a remedy and a preventative measure. City officials quickly called for lawmakers to legislate gun laws prohibiting the sale of AR-15 type rifles.

I don’t doubt the mayor’s grief and sincerity over the shooting of the children, but I don’t subscribe to his solution. After every shooting incident, those on the left are too far too quick to blame the gun rather than the shooter, yet they never blame the car after a drunk driver or terrorist uses a vehicle to kill and injure. Nor do they blame the explosives rather than the bomber. And they fail to recognize the distinction between a legally own firearm and an illegally obtained one. 

One person who certainly knows something about illegal guns is the notorious former Cosa Nostra New York Gambino crime family underboss Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.

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

Monday, October 28, 2019

My Washington Times Review of Ian Rankin's 'In A House Of Lies'

The Washington Times published my review of Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus crime novel.

In Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus crime novel, “In a House of Lies,” we find the retired Scottish detective inspector suffering from COPD and living alone with his dog, Brillo.

Throughout Ian Rankin’s popular series of crime novels, John Rebus has been portrayed as a flawed but decent and honorable man. Brooding, cynical and sarcastic, the curmudgeonly former detective previously found solace in his love of music, smoking and drinking, but the COPD has ended the smoking and drinking for him.

A former British soldier who served in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles,” John Rebus left the army and joined the police. Throughout the series, he has taken on serial killers, gangsters and corrupt politicians. He often took on his bosses as well.

As Mr. Rankin aged his character in real time (like Michael Connelly’s LAPD detective Harry Bosch), the author was compelled to retire John Rebus from the police force when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 60. And despite the popularity of the character, the retired detective was not always the center of the action in the later novels.

Divorced from his wife, with his daughter and granddaughter living a good distance away, Rebus has few friends and a stalled romance with pathologist Deborah Quant, so he has to be content with walking Brillo and listening to music in his flat.    

But when a group of small boys discover an old car abandoned in the woods near Edinburgh, Scotland, that contains in the trunk the remains of a young private detective who was the subject of a contentious missing persons case back in 2008, John Rebus becomes involved in the reopening of the cold case.

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

Operation Obliteration: How US Gunships Cornered ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Before He Dragged Three Children With Him Into A Dead-End Tunnel And Detonated A Suicide Belt, As Donald Trump Said He Watched Live On TV Link 'Like A Movie'

·         The Daily Mail offers a piece on the US raid that killed ISIS leader in Syria.          

·         Trump announced ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'died like a dog' after being run down a dead-end tunnel.  U.S.-led forces descended on al-Baghdadi's lair in Idlib, Syria overnight, where he was cornered in the tunnel.  Five years ago al-Baghdadi launched his self-styled 'caliphate' which brought new wave of terror to the globe.  His murderous reign came to an end after he detonated his own suicide vest and killing three of his children. Abdullah Qardash, who previously served under Sadam Hussein, is now thought to be the new ISIS leader. Iraqi-Kurdish officials detained one of Baghdadi's wives, a nephew and the wife of one of his trusted couriers.

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

Sunday, October 27, 2019

U.S. Forces Kill The World's Most Wanted Terrorist, ISIS Founder, Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, In Syria

Jim Garamone at the Defense Department offers the below piece: 

U.S. forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (seen in the above photo) in a raid in Northwestern Syria last night, President Donald J. Trump announced today.

The "daring and dangerous raid" went off without a hitch, Trump said. There were no casualties among the American forces.

“Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations."

Baghdadi was arguably the world's most-wanted terrorist. He was the founder and leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. 

ISIS — an outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq — exploded onto the scene in 2014. The group took advantage of the Syrian civil war to take territory and proclaimed itself a caliphate.

The terror group ruled from its capital of Raqqa, Syria. It held vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq — including Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

"The United States has been searching for Baghdadi for many years," Trump said from the White House. "Capturing or killing Baghdadi has been the top national security priority of my administration. U.S. special operations forces executed a dangerous and daring nighttime raid in northwestern Syria and accomplished their mission in grand style."

Trump said he watched much of the raid from the White House Situation Room, and he called the U.S. forces who executed the raid "incredible."

President Donald J. Trump is joined by Vice President Mike Pence; National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien; Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper; Army General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Army Brig. Gen. Marcus S. Evans, the Joint Staff's deputy director for special operations, in the White House situation room as they monitor developments as U.S. special operations forces close in on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound in Syria, Oct. 26, 2019. 

Trump said Baghdadi was trapped in a dead-end tunnel and exploded a suicide vest that killed him and three children. 

"His body was mutilated by the blast; the tunnel had caved in on it, … but test results gave certain, immediate and totally positive identification it was him," Trump said.

"The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him," the president said.

The American forces also took information and material from the compound that will be exploited moving forward, Trump said. 

"Baghdadi's demise demonstrates America's relentless pursuit of terrorist leaders and our commitment to the enduring and total defeat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations," he said.

U.S. support to indigenous forces in Iraq and Syria led to the defeat of the physical caliphate in March. The group has been attempting to reconstitute itself as a terror group. The raid yesterday is a reminder to all that the United States and like-minded nations will not let this happen, the president said. 

"This raid was impeccable, and could only have taken place with the acknowledgement and help of certain other nations and people," Trump said. "I want to thank the nations of Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and I also want to thank the Syrian Kurds for certain support they were able to give us. This was a very, very dangerous mission."

Saturday, October 26, 2019

On This Day In History Wyatt Earp, His Brothers And Doc Holiday Faced Off Against Clanton-McLaury Gang At The Gunfight At The OK Corral

As notes, it was on this day in history that the famous Wild West gunfight at the O.K. Corral was fought.

As On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former Kansas police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, the town marshal, represented “law and order” in Tombstone, though they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless. The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. In October 1881, the struggle between these two groups for control of Tombstone and Cochise County ended in a blaze of gunfire at the OK Corral.

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

And if you would like to read a good biography of Wyatt Earp, I'd recommend Casey Tofertiller's  Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Little Humor: Two Irish Nuns

Two Irish nuns were stopped a traffic light in Dublin when a bunch of rowdy drunks pulled up alongside of them.

“Hey, show us yer teets, ya bloody penguins!” shouted one of the drunks.

Quite shocked, Mother Superior turned to Sister Mary Immaculata and said, “I don’t think they know who we are; show them your cross.”

Sister Mary Immaculata rolls down her window and shouted, “Piss off, ya fookin’ little wankers, before I come over there and rip yer balls off!” 

She then rolled up her window, looked at Mother Superior, and quite innocently asked, “Did that sound cross enough?”

The Art Of Writing About Organized Crime And The Rise And Fall Of The New York Mafia: Talking Mafia History In A Former Mafia Stronghold

Nancy Bilyeau at offers a piece on a talk given by organized crime authors Nicholas Pileggi and Anthony M. DeStefano.

Pileggi is author of Wiseguy, which was made into the great Martin Scorsese crime film Goodfellas, as well as Casino, which Martin Scorsese also made into an outstanding film.

DeStefano is the author of Gotti's Boys and The Last Godfather.

You can read the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times review of Gotti's Boys via the below link:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Little Humor: The Secret Spot Out Back

A couple celebrating their 60th anniversary was seated at a restaurant when the husband leaned over and asked his wife, “Do you remember the first time we had sex together over sixty years ago? We went behind the village tavern where you leaned against the back fence and I made love to you.”

Yes, she said, “I remember it well.”

“OK,” he said, “How about taking a stroll around there again and we can do it for old time’s sake?”

“Oh Jim, your old devil you. That sounds like a crazy, but good idea!”

A police officer sitting in the next booth heard their conversation and, having a chuckle to himself, he thinks to himself, I’ve got to follow these two to keep an eye on them in case they need help.

The couple walked haltingly along, leaning on each other for support aided by walking sticks.

Finally, they get to the back of the tavern and make their way to the fence. The wife lifted her skirt and the husband dropped his trousers. As she leans against the fence, they suddenly erupt into the most furious sex that the policeman has ever seen. 

This goes on for about ten minutes while both are making loud noises and moaning and screaming. Finally, they both collapsed and lay on the ground panting.

The policeman was amazed. He thought he learned something new about life and old age..

After about half an hour of lying on the ground recovering, the old couple struggle to their feet and put their clothes back on. 

The policeman, still watching, had to ask them what their secret was.

As the couple passed him, he said, “Excuse me, but that was something else. You must’ve had a fantastic life together. Is there some sort of secret to this?”

Shaking, the elderly husband said, “Well, sixty years ago that fence wasn’t electrified.” 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

My Washington Times Piece On October Being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

The Washington Times published my piece on October being designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I recall a comedian many years ago telling a joke about a man who was arrested for wife-beating. He was convicted and the judge charged him a $10 entertainment tax.

The joke received a huge laugh then. These days we treat domestic violence much more seriously. Accordingly, President Trump issued a presidential proclamation that designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

“Domestic violence poisons relationships, destroys lives and shatters the bedrock of our society — the family. Homes should be places of comfort and stability where love and mutual respect thrive. Domestic violence erodes this environment, leaving many Americans in potentially life-threatening situations. As a nation, we must resolve to have zero tolerance for acts of domestic violence. During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we reaffirm our steadfast commitment to empowering survivors and ending this deeply destructive abuse,” the proclamation stated.

Mr. Trump also stated in the proclamation that his administration has made it a priority to provide victims of domestic violence with needed assistance. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) funds critical services and training across the country to prevent domestic violence and to support law enforcement efforts to hold domestic violence offenders accountable for their crimes.

“In fiscal years 2018 and 2019, approximately $8 billion — a historic amount — has been made available for victim services through the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, funding more than 3,000 domestic violence local service providers and national domestic violence hotlines,” Mr. Trump stated. “These services assist more than 2 million domestic violence victims annually, helping individuals and families heal from physical and psychological wounds.”

According to the Justice Department, domestic violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.

As a writer, I’ve accompanied police officers out on patrol many times. A good number of cops have told me that they disliked responding to calls of domestic disputes where they often encounter the aftermath of domestic violence. The disputes often involve drugs and alcohol abuse, and a backdrop of complicated family conflicts. The cops told me that witnessing the suffering of the women and children saddens them and they feel anger toward the person who caused the pain. It is often a struggle to remain professional, I’ve been told.

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

Former Honduran Congressman Tony Hernández Convicted Of Conspiring To Import Cocaine Into The United States And Related Firearms And False-Statements Offenses

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released the below information:
NEW YORK - On October 18, DEA Special Operations Division Special Agent in Charge Wendy C. Woolcock and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey S. Berman announced that a jury returned a guilty verdict against Juan Antonio Hernández Alvarado, aka “Tony Hernández,” on all four counts in the superseding indictment, which included cocaine importation, weapons and false-statements offenses. Hernández is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2020.
“This conviction serves as a warning to all those who traffic illegal drugs into our country with complete disregard for human life,” said Special Agent in Charge Woolcock. “The United States will not tolerate any individual or organization that seeks to gain profit through violence and corruption. The DEA will continue to stand with its partners to pursue justice regardless of social status. No one is exempt from being held accountable for predatory criminal activity.”
“Former Honduran congressman Tony Hernandez was involved in all stages of the trafficking through Honduras of multi-ton loads of cocaine that were destined for the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Berman. “Hernandez bribed law enforcement officials to protect drug shipments, solicited large bribes from major drug traffickers and arranged machinegun-toting security for cocaine shipments. Today, Hernandez stands convicted of his crimes and faces the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”
Hernández is a former member of the National Congress of Honduras, the brother of the current President of Honduras and a large-scale drug trafficker who worked with other drug traffickers in, among other places, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico, to import cocaine into the United States. From at least in or about 2004, up to and including in or about 2018, Hernández helped process, receive, transport and distribute multi-ton loads of cocaine that arrived in Honduras via planes, helicopters and go-fast vessels. Hernández controlled cocaine laboratories in Honduras and Colombia, at which some of his cocaine was stamped with the symbol “TH” for “Tony Hernández.”
Hernández also coordinated and, at times, participated in providing heavily armed security for cocaine shipments transported within Honduras, including by members of the Honduran National Police and drug traffickers armed with machineguns and other weapons.  Hernández also used members of the Honduran National Police to coordinate the drug-related murder of Franklin Arita in 2011, and he used drug-trafficking associates to murder a drug worker known as “Chino” in 2013. In connection with these activities, Hernández participated in the importation of almost 200,000 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. 
Hernández made millions of dollars through his cocaine trafficking, and he funneled millions of dollars of drug proceeds to National Party campaigns to impact Honduran presidential elections in 2009, 2013 and 2017. Between 2010 and at least 2013, one of Hernández’s principal co-conspirators was former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, aka “Chapo.” During that period, Hernández helped Guzmán Loera with numerous large cocaine shipments and delivered a $1 million bribe from Guzmán Loera to Hernández’s brother in connection with the 2013 national elections in Honduras.    
Hernández, 42, was convicted on four counts:  (1) conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of 10 years and a maximum prison term of life; (2) using and carrying machine guns during, and possessing machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a mandatory consecutive prison term of 30 years; (3) conspiring to use and carry machine guns during, and to possess machine guns in furtherance of, the cocaine-importation conspiracy, which carries a maximum prison term of life; and (4) making false statements to federal agents, which carries a maximum prison term of five years.
This case is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda L. Houle, Jason A. Richman, Matthew J. Laroche and Emil J. Bove III are in charge of the prosecution.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Fight Over Literature: My Washington Times Review Of 'Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged The Literary Cold War'

The Washington Times published my review of Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War.

When one thinks of the Cold War — the era when the two world superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, were adversaries from the end of World War II in 1945 to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 — perhaps one thinks of Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall, spy vs. spy dramas, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the arms race or Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev stating, “We will bury you.”

But in addition to the conflict between spies, soldiers and statesmen, there was another conflict that took place during the Cold War: The fight over literature.

“Between February and May 1955, a group secretly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency launched a secret weapon into Communist territory. Gathering at launch sites in West Germany, operatives inflated 10-foot balloons, armed them their payload, waited for favorable winds and launched them into Poland.

“They then watched as the balloons were carried deep behind the Iron Curtain, where they would eventually disgorge their contents. These, though, were not explosives or incendiary weapons: they were books,” Duncan White writes in the opening of his book, “Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War.”

“At the height of the Cold War, the CIA made copies of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” rain down from the Communist sky.”

“Cold Warriors is the story of the writers who dealt with the consequences of having literature become a Cold War battleground. 

… Authors around the world were involved in the Cold War conflict, Mr. White explains. “They led double lives as spies, volunteered in foreign wars, engaged in guerrilla insurgencies, churned out propaganda, exposed official hypocrisy, and risked their lives to write books that defied the Cold War consensus.”

Mr. White calls his book a group biography that traces the interconnected lives and works of writers on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And the cast of characters is impressive: Graham Greene, John le Carre, Stephen Spender, Ernest Hemingway and others. Some of the writers were leftists whom the Soviets called “useful idiots,” while others, like George Orwell, condemned the Soviet Union’s evil empire.

Mr. White also covers the courageous Russian writers, like Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who defied the all-powerful Soviet regime to write great literature that did not conform with Soviet ideas. The book also covers British spy and traitor Kim Philby, who didn’t write fiction, Mr. White says, he lived it.

I was surprised that the book did not cover thriller writer Ian Fleming more. As a young reporter for Reuters in 1933, he covered the Metro-Vickers espionage trial of British engineers in the Soviet Union. Later, after serving as a naval intelligence officer in World War II, he became the London Sunday Times’ foreign manager and several of his foreign correspondents also reported to British intelligence. And in addition to taking on international criminals, Ian Fleming’s James Bond character battled Soviet spies and assassins. For many readers, James Bond was the ultimate fictional Cold Warrior.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Chinese National Sentenced To 40 Months In Prison For Conspiring To Illegally Export Military And Space-Grade Technology From The United States To China

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:
On October 16, 2019, United States District Judge Diane J. Humetewa sentenced Tao Li, a 39-year-old Chinese national, to 40 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.  Li had previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to export military- and space-grade technology to the People’s Republic of China without a license in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. 
“This case is one of many involving illegal attempts to take U.S. technology to China.  Li attempted to procure highly sensitive U.S. military technology in violation of our export control laws.  Such laws are in place to protect our national security, and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce them,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers. “We don’t take these crimes lightly and we will continue to pursue them.”
“If you steal our military and space technology, you should expect to go to prison,” said Michael Bailey, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. “But for the diligent work of HSI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, our nation’s security would’ve been damaged by Mr. Li.”
“Li’s sentencing was the result of a highly successful joint investigative effort with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that prevented U.S. military technology from falling into the wrong hands,” said Bryan D. Denny, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Western Field Office.  “It also reaffirms our commitment to protecting America from this type of activity and, equally so, serves as a warning to those intent on illegally exporting our technologies that the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and its partners will pursue these crimes relentlessly.”
“This sentence is well deserved and further demonstrates the lengths of criminal activity by those who seek to engage in illegally obtaining sophisticated materials,” said Scott Brown, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Phoenix. “One of HSI’s top priorities is preventing U.S. military products and sensitive technology from falling into the hands of those who might seek to harm America or its interests. We will continue to aggressively pursue violators wherever they may be.” 
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li worked with other individuals in China to purchase radiation-hardened power amplifiers and supervisory circuits and illegally export them from the United States to China.  The electronic components sought by Li are capable of withstanding significant levels of radiation and extreme heat, and as a result, are primarily used for military and space applications.  Due to the technological capabilities of the electronic components sought by Li and the significant contribution that the components could make to a foreign country’s military and space programs, both parts required an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, prior to being sent out of the United States. Notwithstanding the licensing requirement, the Department of Commerce has a policy of denial to export these types of electronic components to the People’s Republic of China.
Between December 2016 and January 2018, Li, who resided in China, used multiple aliases to contact individuals in the United States, including representatives of United States-based private companies, to try to obtain the electronic components. Additionally, Li and his coconspirators agreed to pay a “risk fee” to illegally export the electronic components to China.  In furtherance of his request, Li wired money from a bank account in China to a bank account in Arizona.  Li was arrested in September 2018 at Los Angeles International Airport, as Li attempted to travel from China to Arizona to meet with one of the undercover agents. 
The investigation in this case was conducted by HSI and DCIS.  The prosecution was handled by Todd M. Allison and David Pimsner, Assistant United States Attorneys, District of Arizona, Phoenix, with assistance from Scott Claffee, Trial Attorney, Department of Justice National Security Division.

Did 'Hill Street Blues' Rip Off Ed McBain's 87th Precinct Series? A Tragicomic Tale Of Stolen Set-Ups, Threatened Lawsuits, Bruised Egos, Stalled Adaptations, And Besieged Productions

I began to read and enjoy Ed McBain's 87th Precinct crime novels when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I also read and enjoyed his other crime novels, such as A Matter of Conviction. Ed McBain's  novel about New York street gangs was made into one of my favorite films from the 1960s, The Young Savages, which starred Burt Lancaster and Telly Salvalas. 

(Ed McBain is seen in the above photo).

I also read his literary novels, such as The Blackboard Jungle, written under his name Evan Hunter, which he legally changed from his name at birth, Salvatore Lombino. He died in 2005.

Paul Abbott at offers a piece on Ed McBain’s belief that the TV series Hill Street Blues ripped off his 87th Precinct series.    

Nothing, as they say, comes from nothing; largely authors and creators are quick to acknowledge, if not the direct influences on their work, then at least the traditions from which their output has emerged. Evan Hunter was proud of his work, boastful about it on occasion, but as Ed McBain he was happy to acknowledge the debt the 87th Precinct series paid to such things as the radio version of Dragnet, for example. 

The 87th Precinct books, and in particular the stories from the first two decades of the near fifty-year lifespan of the series, helped to shape the notion of what a police procedural series could be. What McBain did most successfully was demonstrate that much of policing was based on luck as well as and that all the tedious day-to-day matters that the job entailed couldn’t be avoided. In fact, he reveled in them, reproducing forms, reports, autopsy findings and laws as photostats in the books. Had this detailed quasi-fictional procedural nature been the only unique feature of the books, then they may not have become as successful as they did, but McBain’s coup de grace was to portray his cops as interesting and unique individuals struggling with not only their lives and relationships at work, but often at home as well. It is ironic that even with this winning formula, the 87th Precinct series was never effectively adapted for the screen, or at least not to McBain’s liking. Even worse, when police procedural shows really hit big in the early eighties, it was with a television show set in an unnamed city, starring an Italian-American cop as lead character, and focused on day-to-day procedure balanced against the relationships and lives of the cops in the squadroom. This was Hill Street Blues, still one of the best thought-of and most loved of all police television shows. Evan Hunter was livid.

“No of course they didn’t consult me,” the author told The Guardian newspaper in 1990, “if you come in to steal my jewels, you don’t say ‘May I come in tonight through the window please?’” Hunter’s first response to the appearance of this new show was to put a call in to his lawyer. He was told he had a case, but it would probably cost at least $500,000 dollars to fight it. He couldn’t afford to take the legal risk and instead took the opportunity to make his feelings known in interviews, and even out of the mouths of his characters in the 87th Precinct stories themselves. 

In his contemporaneous novel from 1984, Lightning, McBain dedicates three pages to venting his spleen. Everyone’s favorite bigot, Fat Ollie Weeks, is livid that an episode of Hill Street Blues has featured a character called Charlie Weeks, himself an out-an-out racist. Ollie goes on to outline all the similarities between the 87th Squad and Hill Street Blues and explains that he considered suing the TV company but that it’d, “prolly cost me a fortune.” It’s a fascinating insight into the author’s mindset as characters in a book, based in a fictional city, discuss fictional portrayals of cops in a fictional city. The layers of reality become quite blurry.

Hunter’s first response to the appearance of this new show was to put a call in to his lawyer. He was told he had a case, but it would probably cost at least $500,000 dollars to fight it.

Evan Hunter’s fury at Furillo and his Hill Street Friends might have been more tempered had he not himself been engaged in writing a new 87th Precinct television pilot himself at the time. “I knew we were dead in the water,” he told Bill Slocum in the New York Times. Furthermore, had any of the other attempts to bring the 87th Precinct to screens, large or small, been successful, then maybe Hunter would have looked the other way. As it was, even by 1981 there had been a string of attempts at rendering the 87th Precinct tales on screen but none of them had satisfied their creator.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Ship Of Fear: The American Aircraft Carrier

The Navy Times offers a piece on aircraft carriers by Geoffrey Norman.

The sight of an aircraft carrier up close, even at dockside, linked to land by umbilicals, is overwhelming — more than 1,000 feet long, displacing 100,000 tons, 30 stories tall from waterline to the ship’s island. 

The sense of power is undeniable. Each of the 90 planes operating from its deck carries a heavier bomb load than the largest bomber of World War II (not counting nuclear bombs).

It takes no imagination to appreciate the sense of impotence a carrier can instill in a hostile power. Nobody wants a piece of this monster.

The carrier is the ultimate refinement of a weapon evolving from oar-powered galleys to wooden vessels that carried acres of sail and three decks of iron cannons to steel-hulled dreadnoughts that fired guns at ranges requiring corrections for the curvature of the earth.

No other warship can launch supersonic aircraft against targets hundreds of miles away, recover them and launch them again, over and over. Capable of making 800 miles a day, it can quickly project power across the globe.

And the carrier is a particularly American man-of-war. 

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

Note: The top photo is of the USS Ronald Reagan. The above photo is of my old ship, the USS Kitty Hawk, circa 1971. 

On This Day In History Notorious Chicago Gangster Al Capone Went To Prison

As notes, on this day in 1931 Chicago gangster Al Capone went to prison.

On October 17, 1931, gangster Al Capone is sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion and fined $80,000, signaling the downfall of one of the most notorious criminals of the 1920s and 1930s.

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

You can also read my Crime Beat column on Get Capone via the below link:

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Take No Prisoners: My Washington Times Piece On Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez Wanting To Abolish Prisons

The Washington Times published my piece on Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to abolish prisons.

The FBI recently confirmed that Samuel Little, 79, is the most prolific serial killer in American history. Little has confessed thus far to strangling 93 women between 1970 and 2005.

Crime analysts at the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) confirmed that Little has been matched to 50 cases, with many more cases pending final confirmation.

I thought of Samuel Little as I was reading about the tweets on prison abolition put out by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who previously called for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery,” the congresswoman tweeted to her many followers “To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country.”

Decarceration? Prison abolition? Really?

“People tend to say, “what do you do with all the violent people?” as a defense for incarcerating millions,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted later. “A cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them.”

Well, yes, Congresswoman. What would we do with Samuel Little and the other violent prisoners, as well as the many thieves and cheats who are thankfully locked up where they can’t victimize more innocent people, if we were to abolish prisons? 

… So Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s comments on prison abolition made me think of Mark Twain. 

“Suppose you were an idiot,” Mark Twain said famously in 1891. “And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”

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

My Washington Times Review Of 'Facing The Bear: Scotland And The Cold War'

The Washington Times published my review of Facing the Bear: Scotland and the Cold War.

After serving two years on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, I went from serving on one of the largest ships in the world to one of the smallest, as I was assigned to a 100-foot Navy harbor tugboat at the American nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.

The two tugboats at the floating naval base in the middle of the loch were the workhorses of Submarine Squadron 14. In addition to towing submarines and barges in the loch, the tugboats were also sent out to rendezvous with submarines at sea. The tugboats engaged in naval exercises with the submarines and performed medical evacuations and intelligence missions.

I recall the American, British and Soviet submarines playing dangerous cat and mouse games in the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic, and had the Cold War turned hot, as Trevor Royle states in his book “Facing the Bear: Scotland and the Cold War,” Scotland would have been a prime target for destruction by the Soviets.

The Cold War, which lasted roughly from the end of World War II in 1945 to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, saw the US and NATO allies poised and ready for war with nuclear-armed missiles aimed at the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc nations. 

“For much of the period Scotland was on the front line, mainly due to its position on NATO’s “northern flank” — the waters of the north-east Atlantic and the Norwegian and Barents Seas with the vital Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) gap through which Soviet nuclear-armed submarines and strategic bombers would have attacked in the event of an outbreak of hostilities,” Trevor Royle writes. “That made Scotland the first major obstacle: it would have been in these northern seas and over Scottish skies that the first battles would have been fought. That accounted for the build-up of sophisticated antisubmarine warfare facilities and air defenses in Scotland and it was from the American and British bases on the Clyde that the strategic submarines would have launched the response by way of Polaris and Poseidon missiles, each of them capable of destroying Hiroshima several times over.”

In Mr. Royle’s history of the Cold War era in Scotland, he notes that not everyone was happy with the American Navy creating a nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch near the Clyde. The 1960 US-UK deal to allow the Polaris-equipped submarines to locate in Scotland became a focal point for anti-nuclear protests. Mr. Royle explains that the movement attracted pacifists, environmentalists, trade unionists and leftist politicians. Yet many Scots welcomed the Yanks and were thankful for the defense partnership, as well as the infusion of dollars into the local economy.

… The book also covers the Scottish regiments that served in the Korean War and in West Germany, as well the Scottish cultural aspects of the Cold War. The book even mentions briefly my old Navy tugboat, the USS Saugus, YTB-780. 

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