America The Sensitive: The Era of Trigger Warnings.

trigger-warningTrigger warnings in Academia and elsewhere are becoming de rigueur or put in another way : “the in-thing to do.”  They are descendants from the Legion of Decency’s  censoring of movies that began in the ‘30s protecting young and old from suggestive sexual material and violence. They are reflected in the Hollywood lettering system: G, PG, PG – 13, R, or NC -17 which advises parents of the type of material they are about to view on the big (or now the little) screen so that they  can protect their children. There was a finally an acceptance that adults were able to censor their own viewing habits.

Today’s trigger warnings don’t relate to what one might see but what one might hear or read. Although it also may relate to some things that are visible. You all recall the kerfuffle at Wellesley College over the sculpture “sleepwalker” that graced the Wellesley campus. Some students suggested it was: “a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for some members of our campus community.”  We were told that some feared some students viewing the statute might end up with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The idea behind the need for trigger warnings is to protect the sensitivity of the most sensitive. A discussion of the issue by the American Association of University Professors noted there are proposals: “that students be alerted to all manner of topics that some believe may deeply offend and even set off a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) response in some individuals.”

An article by Boston lawyer Harvey Silverglate touches upon the issue.  He wrote about a woman on a panel at Smith College, Wendy Kaminer, who was defending free speech which she suggested was being thwarted by the “proliferation of campus speech codes that restrict supposedly offensive languages.” During her presentation the issue of Mark Twain’s “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn” came up which apparently is considered “hate speech” because it has the n-word in it.

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An FBI Story: Told By A Gangster Named Flemmi: Part Three

P1010073Steve Flemmi had to come up with the tale of the meeting at the Miami Jai Alai fronton to get his deal to avoid the death penalty prosecution in Oklahoma and Florida. He had to get himself out of a jam by offering up FBI Agent Paul Rico. His story doesn’t work out when examined closely. Unfortunately it was never tested under cross-examination.

John Martorano, as you might expect, tells a similar story since he was the gunman in both murders so he too had to escape the Oklahoma and Florida death penalties. Martorano told his story first. Of course, Martorano never met Rico (nor did he meet FBI agent John Connolly who he testified against). He too, though, implicates Rico in the murder of Wheeler. How could Flemmi and Martorano tell a similar story?

They had opportunities to spend a lot of time together. They were incarcerated in the Plymouth, MA, jail from around 1995 through 1997. They were also questioned by the same agents. We also heard how Salemme said these agents gave him the book Black Mass to refresh his recollection. Reading Flemmi’s statement to the agents it is clear they were asking him about certain incidents, refreshing his recollection and leading him.

But as I’ve mentioned before it’s the little differences in recounting a story that tell whether people are telling the truth. It’s easy to say for them to say they met with Rico, but not so to get the details right, especially those details that may have easily been overlooked or forgotten in trying to retell a rehearsed story but which should have been remembered if the event occurred.

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Judge Young’s Turnabout – You Gotta Have Courage and Heart!

(1) Lady JustinceThe information that follows about the activity in court today is courtesy of the tweets by Bob McGovern at the Herald. @BobMcGovernJr to whom I owe my thanks.

After calling the case one of massive corruption last Thursday Judge Young appeared to have reconsidered what was involved in the matter. Thankfully he did because up until the sentencing time I was expecting O’Brien to go away for five years. He got 18 months while the prosecutor asked for 70 months, almost 6 years. O’Brien’s co-defendant Taveres got 3 months and Burke got probation while the prosecutors wanted 46 months for them.

Young, although refusing to stay the sentences pending appeal which probably means the two defendants sentenced to prison will serve their time prior to the hearing of their appeals which doesn’t make much sense, looked into his heart and in a stinging rebuke to the prosecutors took into account the true nature of the matter that he was dealing with was system-wide patronage.

He recognized that O’Brien did not create the system of patronage and that it has existed for time immemorial in Massachusetts and elsewhere in America. He also must have recognized that those who were the beneficiaries of the patronage, the judges and politicians who had their friends hired were not before the court. It is clear he knew that O’Brien put no money in his pocket and took that into account.

Young came back at Prosecutor Wyshak who said O’Brien should get a greater sentence because he showed no remorse. He said: “I’m not going to punish him if he doesn’t beg for forgiveness” and “no one is going to be punished for exercising his Constitutional right” in going to trial.

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Continuing Florida Injustice: Connolly Case To Be Heard Again

(3) John ConnollyI can only scratch my heads at the shenanigans of the Florida Appeals Court.

Here’s a little background. November 6, 2008, Connolly was convicted by a Florida jury and sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder by gun when the gun that murdered the victim was wielded by another (a witness against him) and Connolly was 1500 miles away. The actual murderer got 12 years which wrapped up another 19 murders. Connolly was acquitted of first degree murder and conspiracy to murder.

Connolly  appealed his conviction. May 26, 2014, a written decision is filed by the Appeals Court overturning his conviction. If you are any good at math you’ll see it took five and a half years for that decision to be rendered.

The government appealed that decision. Today, November 13, 2014, six months after overturning his conviction the Florida Appeals Court wants to hear his appeal again. It will do this in February 12, 2015. This will be by all the judges on that court. In the meantime Connolly remains in prison.

I’m not sure how long it will take all those judges to make up their minds but I expect judging from the snail’s pace of justice in Florida it will be another nine months at a minimum. I guess Connolly’s going to have to continue being patient because the judges have no problem going very slowly.

If Connolly conviction is then overturned, it will have been seven years after he first appealed. That’s a pretty long time for a person wrongfully convicted to wait to get his justice. But here’s the problem, a dose of reality. Does the Florida Appeals court really want to be known for having kept an innocent guy in prison for that long?  I think not. The best way to get egg off its face is to not overturn the conviction. So things look dire for Mr. Connolly.

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John O’Brien May Have Been Better Off In The Mafia:

justice weepsCorrection: O’Brien sentencing is today. Yesterday I said it was going to happen then but I erred. But another day gives me a chance for another comment on the matter.

I missed this but last Thursday in preparation for his sentencing today Judge Young made the following pronouncements. He said: “Mr. O’Brien was the organizer and leader of criminal activity and abused a position of public trust.” He added that O’Brien was guilty of “massive corruption.”

By the way this gang that O’Brien organized consisted of two other people in the probation department both of whom had no criminal records. One was a woman and the other a guy now in his seventies. So the leader that Judge Young was talking about had two followers.

The concept of being a leader usually connotes a bigger following than that. The lowest leadership position I’ve known prior to this was a leader of a Marine fire team but he had three people following him. I’ve never heard of someone being a leader of so few people. When I think leader and organizer I think of someone like a Mafia boss not someone like Grouch Marx.

The reason for making O’Brien into a leader and organizer is so that Judge Young can give O’Brien an enhanced sentence of up to two more years than that provided by the sentencing guidelines. According to them O’Brien should get three years but Young can now almost double it to almost six.  Of course the prosecutors having pulled off this scam where they have turned patronage into a crime want him to do about six years because he showed no remorse. I’m not quite sure how he’d do that other than pleading guilty but he couldn’t do that because he doesn’t believe he committed a crime.

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An FBI Story: Told By A Gangster Named Flemmi: Part Two

P1010073John Callahan hoping to buy World Jai Alai (WJA) approaches the owner Roger Wheeler who refuses to sell. The rebuffed Callahan decides if he murders Wheeler then his widow will sell the business. He hires ($50,000) Flemmi and his friends to do this.

Callahan tells Flemmi that former highly experienced FBI Agent Paul Rico who works for WJA is all for it. Now get this. Flemmi picks up the phone and calls Rico at his office in WJA. Rico has no problem telling this life-long gangster who he knows has been an informant in the past and may very well be one at the time he is talking to him over the telephone he is that he is in on the plan to murder Wheeler. He has no concern with the phone being bugged, others listening in or putting his future in the hands of a gangster.

Wheeler gets murdered by Flemmi’s friends John Martorano and Joe McDonald. It turns out that Wheeler’s widow won’t sell WJA to Callahan. Flemmi and his friends decide Callahan is a liability. Martorano and McDonald murder him.

Accept Flemmi’s story as true. Put yourself in Rico’s position. He’s sitting in the WJA office having been involved with Flemmi in the planning of the murder of its owner. The plan for the sale fell through. Now his partner in the deal to buy the company, Callahan, has also been murdered. What do you think this hardened FBI agent is thinking?

I’d have to guess that if he were in on the plan he’d be worried for his own life. He is the only non-gangster out there who can finger the murderers. But that’s not the case.

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The Globe Shows Its Hand: Admits O’Brien Case Was About Patronage

salem_witchOne of the great travesty of justices is about to occur this afternoon.  Judge William Young will sentence former commissioner John O’Brien to prison for five or more years for engaging in patronage.

For O’Brien to be convicted the judge had to come up with a highly convoluted instruction to the jurors according to attorneys who read it.  One suggested if it was that difficult explaining why the actions of O’Brien were criminal then how could O’Brien be convicted in the first place. Isn’t it the idea that if a man commits a criminal act he should have an inkling that he is doing it. But everyone knows nothing criminal occurred in this case because as the judge himself said “patronage is not a crime.” I suppose what he meant to say (forgive me Orwell) is: “all patronage is not a crime, but some patronage is different than others.”

Remember the O’Brien case began with the Globe’s Spotlight Team article on the patronage in the probation department.  As expected, the Massachusetts Supreme Court followed up on it and eventually the Globe was clamoring for the U.S. attorney to do something about it. She, as it usually occurs when the Globe makes its demand, fell in line. O’Brien was indicted and convicted for patronage even though patronage is not a crime.

But we are supposed to believe this is not about patronage yet the Globe headline for its editorial today states: “John J. O’Brien sentence should send a warning on patronage.” Whoever set the headline apparently slipped and disclosed what we all knew it was about even though the Globe, Judge Young, and the federal prosecutors have tried to tell us wasn’t.

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An FBI Story: Told By A Gangster Named Flemmi: Part One

P1010073I’ve dabbled in fiction writing. The main thing you have to do to be credible is to maintain a person in character. The protagonist should not be as sharp as a razor on one page and dumb as an ox on the other. That’s because you have to write to our common experience. Characters must be believable. For instance, if I were writing about an FBI agent, who I didn’t want to portray as an everyday competent agent, she’d either be a lazy bumbling fool or a courageous brilliant investigator. She wouldn’t be both.

It is only in the world of gangsters (and federal prosecutors) that you have the agent that is at the same time a highly skilled agent capable of dealing with the most vicious of criminals but is also an ignorant waif who has failed to learned the basic skills of investigatory work despite many years on the job.

I’ve recently read Steve Flemmi’s portrait of FBI Special Agent Paul Rico. He worked for the FBI for more than 25 years. Even after he retired the FBI brought him back in an undercover role in an investigation of a federal judge where he posed as a criminal. He worked in Boston from sometime in the 1950s up to 1970. He moved to the Miami office from which he retired in 1975. After that, he obtained the position of the head of security for World Jai Alai, a Florida gaming company.

He was what is called a brick agent. He worked the street. When the FBI instituted its Top Echelon Informant program he was designated the agent in Boston to handle it. He was able to turn several top criminals into FBI informants including Steve Flemmi, who tells the story, his brother Jimmy and others. He was also able to turn Joe “the Animal” Barboza, a Mafia hitman, into a cooperating witness against the top Mafia leaders in New England. Three major cases were brought against them with his help. He also was instrumental in developing informants that brought other Mafia hitmen to justice.

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The New FBI: Undermining Foreign Governments

Yesterday I mentioned that I’d read an article on Sunday that showed our government was supporting a terrorist organization in Iran that had murdered many civilians. The leading actor in the relationship with the terrorist organization is Thomas McHale, a N.Y./N.J. Port Authority cop, who left there to work for the CIA. After being booted out by them he joined the FBI and for all it appears the Pentagon.

McHale developed a relationship with U.S. based members of a terrorist  group Jundallah –“the soldiers of God” – another Muslim group who has the idea that the way into God’s heart is to murder people. What’s strange about this whole arrangement is Jundallah is not a threat to the United States but to Iran. It is responsible for several terrorist attacks in Iran. Well more than 150 men, women and children have been murdered by it.

In 2009 the United States examined its actions and on November 3, 2010, declared it a terrorist organization. Despite that, the FBI and the Pentagon continued to support McHale. According to the article, in late 2013 McHale was still making trips to Afghanistan to meet with his sources in that terrorist group.

One problem with all this is that the exposure of McHale and his trips by the article undermines much of what the U.S. government has been telling the world. Iran has all along suggested that the attacks by Jundallah were sponsored by America and Israel. In October 2009 at least 31 people were murdered in a mosque. The Speaker of  Iran’s parliament said: We consider the recent terrorist attack to be the result of US action. This is the sign of America’s animosity against our country, Mr. Obama has said he will extend his hand toward Iran, but with this terrorist action he has burned his hand.”  Can’t particularly blame the Iranians when something like that happened, keep in mind our response to the Marathon Terrorist Attack.

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Veteran’s Day: Put On Your Caubeen

(1) lindburgOne of the great American heroes was not a veteran. There’s a song about him that was popular during his time. I’ve sung it often to my kids when they were young. My daughter, a lawyer in New York City, when out with her friends having a beer or two after a hard day’s work can still entertain them with its words that she learned as a young girl, along with some other ditties I sang to her that I learned in the bars of Scollay Square during my college days (that I cleaned up a bit) or while in the Marines.

I mention all that because I’m going to paraphrase some of the words from that song for this post on the veterans. I want you to “take your hats off to [the] lucky plucky [veterans], the saviors of the USA.”  Truly, they are.

We’ve all read about the so-called “greatest generation” which are the veterans of WWII. But I suggest that is a misused term. The guys (and gals) who fought in that war against the Nazis and Japanese sure were brave and all that good (1) yankee divisionsoldiers should be but that was not unique to that generation. How about the Yankee Division “that made a decision to mop up Germany” in the War to End All Wars and other WWI troops?

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