Friday, November 15, 2019

Who Were The Real ‘Peaky Blinders’? The Shelby Family Is Fictional, But A Real Street Gang Operated In Birmingham At The Turn Of The 20th Century

I’ve enjoyed watching the British crime drama Peaky Blinders on Netflix, although I know the show is historically inaccurate.

Meilan Sally at offers s piece on the real Birmingham street gang. 

The British screenwriter Steven Knight took inspiration from his father’s stories of “incredibly well dressed,” “incredibly powerful” gangsters active in turn-of-the-century England when he invented the Shelby clan—the family of razor blade-wielding mobsters at the heart of his BBC drama “Peaky Blinders.” But it turns out that the Birmingham gang that lends the series its name actually existed, albeit in a different form than the family-centered criminal enterprise.

The real-life Peaky Blinders weren’t quite as successful as the rags-to-riches Shelbys, whose criminal network evolves from a small local faction to a multi-country powerhouse over the course of the show’s five seasons. Still, the two share a number of core similarities: namely, savvy fashion sense, a brutal disregard for the law and a member base made up largely of young working-class men. These youths, hardened by the economic deprivation rampant in industrial England, created what Historic U.K.’s Jessica Brain deems a “violent, criminal and organized” subculture.

As historian Carl Chinn, author of “The Real Peaky Blinders” tells the Birmingham Mail’s Zoe Chamberlain, the main difference between the fictionalized Peaky Blinders and their historical counterparts is timing. Although the television drama is set during the 1920s and '30s, the actual Birmingham group rose to prominence closer to the 1890s. 

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

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A Little Humor: A Gorilla Walks Into A Bar

A gorilla walks into a bar. He ordered a dry martini to the amazement of the bartender.

When the bartender gave the gorilla the martini, he’s further surprised to see that the ape is holding a $20 bill..

The bartender took the $20 and then he decided to see just how smart the gorilla was, so he handed the gorilla $1 change.

The gorilla quietly sipped the martini until the bartender brook the silence.

“We don’t get too many apes in here,” he said.

The gorilla replied, “At $19 a drink, I’m not surprised.”

Note: The above photo is from a Three Stooges short film that I recently watched on METV called Crime On Their Hands

Moe, Larry and Shemp are budding crime reporters on a story about a stolen diamond when they encounter the gorilla. 

I loved the Three Stooges as a kid and I still get a kick out of them.  

You can watch the short Three Stooges film via the below link: 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

'Extraordinary' Letters Between Ian Fleming And Wife To Be Sold

Mark Brown at the Guardian offers a piece on the sale of the late, great thriller writer Ian Fleming's letters to his late wife Ann.

An extraordinary stash of letters that shine a light on the tangled relationship between the James Bond creator Ian Fleming and his wife, Ann, from their intense and secret affair to the bitter end of their marriage, are to appear at auction.

Sotheby’s is selling more than 160 letters between the couple, written over 20 years. Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in books and manuscripts at the auction house, said the letters in their scope and scale provided what “must surely be an unmatchable record of the life of the author as his fortunes changed”.
They also provide insight into the rise of Bond. Heaton said it was no coincidence that Fleming wrote his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, in the year of his marriage.
… Heaton said the letters were packed with stories of high society, travel, love of nature and gossip.

“They are quite something, it has been a real treat,” he said. “They are an extraordinary read because Ian Fleming is pretty much incapable of writing a dull sentence.” 
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Prosecutor Versus Prosecutor In Philadelphia: My Washington Times Piece On The Trump-Appointed U.S. Attorney's Feud With Liberal Philly DA

The Washington Times published my piece on the feud between William McSwain (seen in the above photo), the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of PA, and Larry Krasner (seen in the below photo) the Philadelphia DA.

In our criminal justice system, a prosecutor represents the government and a defense attorney represents the accused, but in Philadelphia there is a prosecutor versus prosecutor scenario.

Following the tragic shooting of two children, which I covered here, William McSwain, the President Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, released a blistering statement that assigned blame for the shootings on the pro-defendant policies of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.

Mr. Krasner, who was elected DA thanks in part to a huge George Soros donation, was previously a civil rights attorney who sued the Philadelphia Police Department 75 times and represented anti-police groups like ACT UP and Black Lives Matter pro-bono. He was opposed vehemently by Philadelphia police officers during the election.

On Nov. 4, Mr. McSwain stated that Philadelphians were shocked and outraged by the shootings of 11-month-old Yazeem Jenkins, who was shot four times on Oct. 19 in the Hunting Park area of Philadelphia while in a car with his father and stepmother, and 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera, who was shot in the head and killed the following day while in her mother’s arms in her living room in the Kensington area. Yazeem Jenkins remains in critical condition at Children’s Hospital.

“The community is united in its condemnation of these heinous acts –- but we must be honest about what enabled them to happen,” read the U.S. attorney’s statement. “It is the misguided policies of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner that led to these avoidable and heartbreaking tragedies. No amount of excuses or deflection can change this fact.”

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

Veterans Day 2019

Veterans Day is a Davis family affair. The below photo is of three veterans.

On the left is my late father, Edward M. Davis, who served as a Chief Petty Officer and UDT frogman in WWII. In the middle is my older brother, Edward R. Davis, who served in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam. And on the right is me. I served on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War.

Happy Veterans Day to all who served.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

U.S. Navy Helps 'Midway' Film Crew Bring Battle To Life

The U.S. Defense Department released the below story and photos on the U.S. Navy’s aid in the making of the film "Midway.":

The Battle of Midway was one of the most pivotal of World War II in the Pacific, and a major film depicting its events is about to hit the big screen. Defense Department historians who helped from start to finish say "Midway" does justice to the integrity, accountability and toughness of everyone involved in the real June 1942 battle. 

Written by Wes Tooke, "Midway" follows the war from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway, which ultimately changed the tide of the war in America's favor. The narrative follows two naval officers and includes several critical role-players, including Adm. Chester Nimitz, Gen. James Doolittle and Adm. William Halsey.

"I wanted to showcase the valor and immense courage of the men on both sides and remain very sensitive to the human toll of the battles and war itself," said director Roland Emmerich, who visited Pearl Harbor in 2016 to see firsthand the historic bases, facilities and memorials that framed much of the war in the Pacific.

Historians from the Naval History and Heritage Command helped writers and producers during script development and production. The goal was to make a movie that was as accurate as possible — give or take a few small Hollywood-style inconsistencies — and the historians who helped said they were impressed with the final product.

"Despite some of the 'Hollywood' aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made," said retired Navy Rear Adm. Sam Cox, the NHHC director who personally supported each phase of the historical review. "It does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle on both sides."

The actors portraying the real heroes were committed to getting it right, too. 

Woody Harrelson played Nimitz, who took control of the U.S. Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor. In preparation for the role, Harrelson called on Navy Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii at the time, for help in understanding the man Nimitz was and the decisions he made. 

"Admiral Nimitz came in at an extremely difficult time for the Pacific Fleet. It was really important for Harrelson to understand not just the man, but the timing of his arrival and the urgency of the situation for the Navy and nation," said Jim Neuman, the Navy Region Hawaii historian who arranged the meet-up and spent time on the set during filming. 

Harrelson also visited USS John C. Stennis while the ship operated in the Pacific. He got a close look at air operations at sea, saw the launch and recovery of various naval aircraft and spent time on the navigation bridge watching its operators. Harrelson also met with sailors, and even played piano at an impromptu jam session.

Actor Patrick Wilson plays intelligence officer Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton in the film. He visited retired Navy intelligence officer Capt. Dale Rielage to compare notes about Layton's education, his pre-war experiences and his relationships with Nimitz and the codebreakers at the famed Station Hypo.

"We were thoroughly impressed with the amount of research he had conducted on his own, and it's evident he is committed to honoring Layton's legacy," said Dave Werner, who escorted Wilson during the visit.

"Midway" is set to hit theaters Nov. 8, ahead of Veterans Day.

Friday, November 8, 2019

No Average Call: A Look Inside The FBI’s National Threat Operations Center

The FBI released a piece on the thier National Threat Operations Center.
“With our job, average doesn’t really exist,” said Sharon, a threat intake examiner at the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center (NTOC). “Every time we pick up the phone it’s a different situation.”
For NTOC threat intake examiners, that means handling about 3,100 different situations every day as phone calls and electronic tips flow into the FBI facility in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The calls and online tips can touch on any one of the FBI’s areas of focus—from counterterrorism and counterintelligence to bank robberies, public corruption, violent crime, and more.
The FBI’s goal is to make sure every tip is evaluated rapidly and appropriately as it continues to invest in the operations, training, and staffing of the intake center.
You can read the rest of the piece and watch a video via the below link:

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Little Humor: Pirate Walks Into A Bar

A pirate goes into a bar and the bartender said: “Long time since I’ve seen you. You look terrible.” 

The pirate replied, “I feel fine.”

“Well, you didn’t have that wooden leg last time I saw you,” the bartender said.

“I got into a battle and a cannon ball hit me in the leg, but I’m ok.”

“Well, you didn’t have that hook on your arm either,” the bartender said.

“Got in a sword fight and lost my hand,” the pirate explained.

“What about the eye patch?” the bartender asked.

“A bunch of sea gulls flew over the boat and when I looked up one of them shit on my eye.” 

“How did that make you lose your eye?” the bartender asked. 

“It was the first day with the hook.”

Note: The above illustration is of Captain Hook from the Walt Disney classic, Peter Pan.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Mafia Cop Louis Eppolito Dies While Serving Life In Prison For Mob Hits

The New York Post reports that Louis Eppolito, known as the “Mafia Cop,” died in prison.
Mafia cop Louis Eppolito — who along with his partner Stephen Caracappa helped whack several men for the Lucchese crime family — died on Sunday while serving a life sentence in federal prison, law-enforcement sources told the Post. He was 71. 

The ex-detective was serving a life sentence at the United States Penitentiary in Tucson for the eight contract killings that he and Caracappa helped carry out starting in the 1908s. 

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

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Little Humor: The One Condition

A year after a man married a much younger woman, he made an appointment with a lawyer.

“I want it to be nice and straightforward,” the man instructed the attorney, “Everything goes to my wife: the house, the car, the pension and the life insurance, under the one condition that she remarry within the year.”

“Fine, Sir,” said the lawyer, “But do you mind my asking why the one condition?”

“Simple,” the man replied. “I want at least one person to be sorry I died.”

Note: The above photo is of the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

My Washington Times Review Of John le Carre's 'Agent Running In The Field'

The Washington Times ran my review of John le Carre’s new spy novel, Agent Running in the Field.

On the eve of John le Carre publishing his latest spy novel, “Agent Running in the Field,” Sir Richard Dearlove, the former director of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), more popularly known as MI6, said that British intelligence officers are displeased with the otherwise well-regarded and popular espionage novelist.

Speaking at the Cliveden Literary Festival, the former spymaster said that John le Carre portrayed the SIS in a negative light. He said that the novels are exclusively about betrayal and they portray the dedicated SIS officers as untrustworthy. Trust between officers is at the heart of the SIS, he explained.

The former director said they have all enjoyed enormously John le Carre’s George Smiley novels, and he admitted that the author did in fact capture some of the essence of what it was like in the Cold War. But he added that John le Carre was so corrosive in his view of SIS that the author angered most professional SIS officers. Sir Richard Dearlove stated that the author, who worked for MI5 and SIS in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was “obsessed” with his relatively brief time as a “spy.”

The late John Bingham, John le Carre’s boss and mentor at MI5, and the man some say inspired the character of George Smiley, also disliked how his protege portrayed the secret services.

In my years performing security work for the U.S. Navy and the Defense Department, and later as a writer, I’ve spoken to many intelligence officers who also dislike John le Carre’s portrayal of intelligence officers, especially his dim view of American intelligence officers. Yet, like me, nearly all of the intelligence officers I know read John le Carre’s novels.

Although I disagree with his leftist worldview, I find Carre’s novels to be interesting and compelling, especially my two favorites: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and “The Honorable Schoolboy.” His novels are worth wading through his bouts of anti-Americanism and his dark view of the world of intelligence.  

In “Agent Running in the Field” the 88-year-old author’s narrator is a 47-year-old named Nat.

“I was christened Anatoly, later anglicized to Nathaniel, Nat for short. I am five feet ten inches tall, clean-shaven, tufty hair running to gray, married to Prudence, partner for general legal matters of a compassionate nature at an old-established firm of City of London solicitors, but primarily pro bono cases,” Nat says. 

“In build I am slim, Prue prefers wiry. I love all sport. In addition to badminton, I jog, run and work out once a week in a gymnasium not open to the general public. I possess a rugged charm and the accessible personality of a man of the world. 

“I am in appearance and manner a British archetype, capable of fluent and persuasive argument in the short term. I adapt to circumstance and have no insuperable moral scruples. I am not by any means immune to female charms. I am not naturally suited to deskwork or the sedentary life, which is the understatement of all time. I can be headstrong and do not respond naturally to discipline. This can be both a defect and a virtue.

“I am quoting from my late employers’ confidential reports on my performance and general allure over the last twenty-five years.”

Nat, a veteran British SIS officer and agent-runner, has returned to the United Kingdom after serving overseas and he expects to be forced into retirement. Instead, he is offered the job as head of a run-down London sub-station called the Haven. Supervising a misfit group of officers, Nat discovers a young woman in the Haven named Florence. Nat’s bosses have described her as talented but immature.

Florence is obsessed with a Ukrainian oligarch and London-based criminal code-named “Orson.” Nat likes the operation she has authored and he takes it to his bosses, who take their time in deciding to approve or disapprove.

In the meantime, Nat, a dedicated badminton (racquet ball) player and champion of his club, enters into a series of matches with a young man named Ed. After the matches, the two players have a drink at the athletic club’s bar, where Ed passionately decries President Trump, the Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Brexit, the British move to leave the European Union. Nat, who agrees generally with his younger friend’s view of Brexit, the American president and Putin, hardly gets in a word in as Ed pontificates over his lager.

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

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Mob Talk 35: A Look Back At The Attemped Hit On Nickey Scarfo Jr And Other South Philly Mob Anniversaries

Veteran organized crime reports George Anastasia and Dave Schratwieser discuss the 20th anniversary of the murder of South Philly mobster Ron Turchi and the attempted murder of former Cosa Nostra Philadelphia-South Jersey crime family boss Nicky Scarfo's son in Mob Talk 35.

Also discussed is former Gambino crime family underboss Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano's online interview in which he tells of a meeting former Philadelphia underboss Phil Leonetti and Nicky Scarfo in Atlantic City.

You can watch the video via the below link: