Thread: Unpaid Bill
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Old 09-10-2018, 05:15 PM
vapros vapros is offline
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: baton rouge, la
Posts: 3,141
Default Oh, say we can see

Today the sun shines pretty bright on the American mafia, the cosa nostra. This is not to say that things are looking rosy for them Ė quite the opposite. I am saying that they are much easier to see than they used to be. The mob has been lit up, so to speak, and has been forced out of the shadows. This illumination began in 1957 when the New York state police busted up the big conference of mobsters at Apalachin. Even J. Edgar Hoover finally had to acknowledge that crime in this country was really organized. Then, in 1970 Congress passed the RICO law. (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Since that time and under that law, the electronics guys have devised more and better ways to listen in on what the wise guys are saying and who they are saying it to.

Watching the videos of the wild animals in Africa it is obvious that the lions, leopards and hyenas are not as wild as they used to be Ė they canít escape the truckloads of tourists that want to watch and the animals have to deal with it. Itís sort of that way in America for the wise guys. If they want to have a really private conversation they have to go and do it on the sidewalk outside of the social club or candy store where their private phones used to be. And on the sidewalk someone is getting it on video, and so the cops know who their friends are Ė or at least who they appear to be. The speakers might not even be certain of that themselves.

Enter the media, like George Anastasia of the Philadelphia Enquirer whose stuff I have been trying to follow. On a regular basis and in print and on television George tells all about the mob in his city. In New York it is a guy named Jerry Capeci, in Montreal there are a couple of writers with French names. Obviously the people (like me) want to know and somebody will oblige us. So, who is telling George? Well, he is a regular at the big court cases, for one thing, and the transcripts from all the bugs and wiretaps and body wires are public information, and he studies them all and does his reporting. In addition, he is a native of south Philadelphia and grew up in the culture there. He is on a first-name basis with many of the guys and some of them are willing to talk to him about the life they are in. Itís a life that most of us cannot even imagine, a life of crimes, jail and death. Even more, a life of treachery, deceit and distrust within itself.

The FBI and other government agencies have hit the mafia with a body blow, under RICO, because RICO crimes are federal offenses. Sentences are long and good behavior gets you nothing any more. You have to do it all, or at least most of it, and in federal penitentiaries, too. Where the old mobsters were tough guys, dedicated to the code of silence and willing to do their time without giving up anyone else, itís not that way any longer. Omerta has gone by the boards. Facing forty or fifty years of hard time, todayís wise guys will deal. Everything they know is for sale to prosecutors, and the prosecutors are buying and the guys on the street are watching one another from the corners of their eyes. Being a Ďratí is not the killing offense it once was. There are too many, and the witness protection program is taking them in and hiding them and giving them new names. Itís certainly not the end of the cosa nostra, but itís a major change. They are looking for new and safer ways to do what they have always done. It is still all about money.

George Anastasia is writing about the same characters that Damon Runyon wrote about eighty years ago. Like George, Runyon was a newspaperman. He wrote about the guys and dolls (have you seen the movie?) on the streets of New York. They had funny nicknames, like the ones I mentioned yesterday, and lived their lives around the little crises that always seemed to find them. The difference is that Runyon wrote fiction and made up his own dialogue. Anastasia writes non-fiction and he gets his dialogue verbatim from the wiretaps. You couldnít make this stuff up, he says, because nobody would believe it. And yes, they talk like Tony Soprano and with his vocabulary, too. Another difference, and I find this astounding, is that todayís goodfellas handle such huge sums of money, yet they seldom have any in their pockets. They are racketeers, as defined by the law, but they are in businesses also. The money flows upward, and top bosses do get rich, but the street guys are mostly brokers. They bet with the bookies and borrow from the loan sharks and scuffle to make the rent. They live the life, seeming to be aware that they wonít ever get to retire. If they donít die violently they will probably go to jail.

Anastasia writes and speaks fearlessly. Itís what he do Ė yeah, I like to say that. He can speak of last yearís murder of John Doe and note that even though there have been no arrests it is well known that Joe Blow was the shooter Ė stuff like that. So, why doesnít Joe Blow kill him? I donít know. Maybe Joe figures itís what they call good ink. I will continue to read about it, but I wonít burden you with it any more for a while. Over and out.
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