Maureen Dowd: The Patrician President and the Reporterette: A Screwball Story
Thomas L. Friedman: The ‘Next America’
Eugene Robinson: What Has the President Been Smocking?
Max Boot: Our Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning
Frank Rich: Mueller’s Steady Stream of Russia Revelations Is Driving Trump Crazy
Peggy Noonan: History Gives George Bush His Due
Paul Krugman: The GOP Goes Full Authoritarian
E. J. Dionne, Jr.: Are Republicans Abandoning Democracy?
Dana Milbank: Cover Letter for Aspiring White House Chiefs of Staff
Adam Gopnik: The Yellow Vests and Why There are So Many Street Protests in France
James Fallows: Serving Trump Revealed Who John Kelly Always Was
David Brooks: It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
David Gergen: Trump Drums Up an Immigration Crisis that Does Not Exist
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Congress Takes Critical Step Toward Reasserting Its War Powers Control
Charles M. Blow: Surviving a Criminal Presidency
Carl Hiassen: How Does Labor Secretary Acosta Sleep at Night?
Charlie Pierce: The Wildness in This Country Is Spiraling Out of Control Now
Jonathan Chait: The Mueller Investigation of Trump is Not Finished
Fareed Zakaria: I’m Not Calling to Revive WASP Culture, Just to Learn From It
George F. Will: The Ignored Story of America’s Biggest Serial Killer
David Ignatius: How a Chilling Saudi Cyberwar Ensnared Jamal Khashoggi
Nicholas Kristof: Your Tax Dollars Help Starve Children
Froma Harrop: Few of Us Are Even Remotely Prepared for Elder Care
John Underhill: Watch Out Now
On November 6th, America returned the Democrats to House leadership, yet the Senate remains in the grip of the Republican Party after Donald Trump called Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum a ‘Thief’ and also sent the military into The South to save fearful Texans, à la The Alamo, from 1,500 or so itinerant migrants now chilling somewhere near Cancún. Before all the votes are counted and Jerry Nadler has a chance to choose his (oversize) House Judiciary chair, Donald Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with a guy named Matt Whitaker. This guy, the new Attorney General or ‘Top Cop,’ was last seen as a CNN analyst posting an op-ed, Mueller’s Investigation of Trump is Going Too Far. Whitaker, who Trump apparently never met (or did, or didn’t?) once prosecuted an eagle-scout Democratic State Senator in Des Moines, Iowa named Matt McCoy (now a County Commissioner) because McCoy ‘extorted’ $2,000, over two long years, from some poor victim. It turns out that the two grand was a legitimate bill for services rendered, which the client had disputed. For this, McCoy was read The Hobbs Act, but really, he was railroaded into an unjust prosecution — which has taken McCoy over ten years to repay legal fees — and oh yeah, Mr. McCoy, without a hint of scandal in over twenty years of public service, is also gay. In fact he was the first openly gay member of the Iowa Legislature. After going after the gay Democrat, Whitaker left the Justice Department and began working as a consultant for a phony company that bilked dozens of suckers out of $26 million of their hard-earned money. This is the man who Donald Trump picked to run the Justice Department –a hatchet man.
In October, the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series, so… the Yankees suck! When I wrote last year that the Yankees were cursed by the Trumpino, I wanted to point out that Trump was a phony Yankees fan and also a phony president (emoji here of dropping mike). Sometimes what I want to write about comes out very different by the time the article is finished and in that post, I lost my original idea and went off on a tangent, as my mother used to accuse me and brought in some history involving Trump’s political mentors Roy Cohn and Roger Stone. This month I have to restrain myself from going after how Trump is distracting us with an absolute disgrace of an Acting Attorney General, to be followed with an equally disgraceful nominee, because Donald Trump is an outright criminal. He knows full well how guilty he is and the only thing he can do, now that the House is in the hands of the Democrats, is to break the government to save his ass.
Writing is an act of discovery and when I write something I always try and verify my claims and give the reader a link to my sources. In doing research, I’m often confronted with additional facts that either help or hurt my original idea and in following up, I always learn more. When I learn more, I make additional changes to my original thoughts and in the end, it is what it is. Last month’s post, Pretenders to the Throne, is a typical example of my going off on a tangent and in the end, I had nothing really meaningful to say about the candidacy of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Knowing this, I went after his drinking and the fact that he’s an Irish Catholic (anyone else think it’s weird that 66.66% of the Supreme Court is Catholic?) I also plugged in a few thoughts about my favorite film director, Martin Scorsese. That’s my crutch. I love movies and I’m always thinking, “Hey, they made a movie about that.” I also love history and I’m always thinking, “Hey, that happened already.” With the past prologue and art imitating life, I’ve got a post for anything. This month, I’ve been thinking a lot about two movies, Oliver Stone and Eric Begosian’s Talk Radio (1988) and Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (1991). I’ve also been thinking a lot about the history of Italy, for some reason, so let’s see if I can avoid that nasty subtangent.
The movies I mention are similar in one way: the film’s protagonist is a ‘shock jock.’ In the 1970’s and ’80’s, disc jockeys or DJs were gaining popularity in local markets across the nation as personalities like Howard Stern and Don Imus were decidedly not ‘politically correct’ (aka kind and considerate) to listeners. In Denver, Alan Berg was typical of these shock DJs only here, Berg approached issues from the left as opposed to the vast majority of shock jock DJs, who were on the right end of the political spectrum, such as Glenn Beck, Art Bell, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Berg was murdered by a listener in 1984 and this story formed the theme to Begosian’s brilliant play on which the film was based. Director Oliver Stone sought to recreate the paranoia and isolation of talk radio and together they made one of the best films about public discourse ever made. The other film I remember about loose talk, The Fisher King, is based on an Arthurian legend of a hobbled king where the brilliant director Terry Gilliam updated the story to modern New York (made in 1990, the film seems far from modern today). Gilliam cast his hero as a DJ and the film opens with everyone’s favorite actor Jeff Bridges as Jack Lucas, an irascible shock jock-style DJ who dares listeners to rise up and strike back against the ‘beautiful people.’ He inadvertently inspires a listener to kill innocent victims at a trendy restaurant and this murderous act pushes Bridges’ character Jack into a spiral of despair, least of which is caused by the loss of his job. The film explores Jack’s road to redemption, told through a coincidental connection with a homeless person played by Robin Williams in one of his finest performances. Terry Gilliam’s Pythonesque touch is shown in the nightmarish visions of Williams’ character ‘Parry’ — his wife was killed in the very same senseless act of violence that Jack inspired. In Jack’s confrontation with the homeless man obsessed with finding the Holy Grail, they both find healing through the magic of kismet (or fate). Responsibility and repentance are at the heart of the film’s message, where Jack appreciates the gift of redemption offered to him and accepts his penance.
The same dynamic is on display with Donald Trump bemoaning the blame he gets after every mass casualty tragedy that has taken place since he was elected president. The difference is that Trump refuses to accept any responsibility (as the leader of a great nation), yet he’s really not even qualified to be a shock jock. In Talk Radio, the true story of Alan Berg’s murder, the real danger of loose talk — that nutcases really believe it — directly resulted in Berg’s murder. He was killed by a Klansman (who died in jail in 2008) because he thought Berg was a smart-mouthed Jew. Freedom of speech is one thing, but when you intentionally try to incite crazy people, bad things happen. Just prior his murder, Berg said in a Rolling Stone article,
I’m angrier than anyone who calls my show. Anger is one of the greatest motivators in the world. Rage destroys.
How right he was. Anger and hatred that’s verbalized and acted out often defies logic — it’s all about destruction — and that’s it. America’s most recent atrocity, where eleven innocent people were murdered in a restaurant by a gunman who posted (live) on Instagram that the reason for committing the mass murder was simply boredom (amorality?) and that’s far more often a motivator than a specific grievance, such as the anti-Semitic murders committed in Pittsburgh in our last atrocity. We have so many mass murders in America now that they’re almost commonplace, where just last year, the unimaginable number of 58 innocent people were killed in Las Vegas in the largest mass murder in US history because, it seems, the killer was also just bored. What has happened to us?
In 1988, I traveled to Europe and visited the beautiful country of Italy, staying in Bologna, Milan and Rome. Little did I realize as I was traveling through the country that it was the end of what became known as the ‘Years of Lead.’ I was just a dumb, Eurailpass-toting student, landing in London at Gatwick and returning from Schiphol in Amsterdam, but Italy took up the bulk of my vacation. I remember being shocked at how you could buy a beer at a McDonald’s (!) and I was also surprised about Italy’s embrace of communism, especially in Bologna, home of the oldest university in Europe. Called the “Keynote Communist City,’ I noticed street signs outside the train station directing visitors to Stalingrad and Lenin Avenues and to the the statues of Engels and Marx. Bologna is in Northern Italy and it’s the spiritual home of the Etruscans, and the surrounding region of Emilia‐Romagna has been a bulwark of communism since the end of World War II, where in Italy, communism has always had an Italian accent. Benito Mussolini once said,
Here in Italy Socialism was a unifying factor. All Italian historians have recognized this. The Socialists of Italy were advocates of one idea and of one nation. From 1892, when they cut adrift from the anarchists at the Congress of Genoa, down till 1911, they battled for on behalf of a united Italy.
On August 2, 1980, fifty pounds of TNT detonated in a suitcase at the Bologna Train Station, killing 85 innocent people. No one has ever claimed responsibility for the atrocity and in 1995, an Italian government investigation into the bombing concluded that neo-fascist organization ‘Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari’ or NAR was responsible. The NAR maintained close links with the Banda della Magliana, a Rome-based criminal organization that was more closely associated with the ‘black hand’ than the ‘black shirt.’ They started in 1985 in Rome’s violent Magliana district and allied with known mafioso La Cosa Nostra, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta for control of Italy’s criminal underworld. Two years before the Bologna Train Station Massacre, the President of Italy, Aldo Moro, was kidnapped and murdered by the so-called Red Brigades or ‘Brigades Rossi’ (BR) of Italy — a coalition of communist organizations that were supported by a shady network of Soviet-funded terror under the control of Moscow. After Moro was murdered, most of the BR assassins were rooted out and arrested and the rest went into hiding. These brazen attacks on the citizens of Italy, culminating with the murder of the President (supposedly by left-wing terrorists) provoked a political backlash that has resulted in conservative governments that Italy has enjoyed since.
Five policeman were killed at the time Moro was kidnapped and his lifeless body was unceremoniously dumped halfway between the headquarters of the Christian Democrat Party (Moro’s political party) and the Communist Party of Italy. Moro was attempting to broker a truce between communists and center-left democrats in Italy when he was murdered — just after his ‘historic compromise’ was proposed. Years later, a man named Licio Gelli, Grandmaster of the Freemason Lodge Propaganda Due (P2), along with a secret military organization called Gladio, (Operation Gladio or sword, a CIA-backed, NATO-affiliated anti-communist organization) were revealed to be involved in a so-called ‘strategy of tension’ during the Years of Lead. After WWII, at the outset of the Cold War, it looked like the Soviet Union was attempting to continue the world war when Gladio was hastily arranged and stashes of hundreds of pounds of TNT and guns were secreted away in various countries throughout Europe in the hopes that they would provide tools for an insurrection against any future communist aggression. As the Cold War entered it’s fourth decade, many of these secret organizations began to, shall we say, improvise on their own. With all this TNT and a network of paid-off politicians, police and papparazzi, the Italian flair for drama was center stage after the hot summer of 1969 and the powder keg was ready to blow.
The first person who died in the Years of Lead was Italian policeman Antonio Annarumma, killed during a left-wing protest march, hit by a ‘tube’ during the melee. The police car he was driving crashed into another police car on the way to the hospital where he died, sparking the outrage that led to the ten-year terror campaign. The Piazza Fontana Bombing in Milan struck the national bank in December, 1969, where seventeen innocent Italians were killed, then the Piazza Loggia bombing killed eight and wounded over 100 during an anti-fascist gathering in Lombardy in 1974. Here we have the introduction of the Ordine Nuovo, or ‘New Order’ of Italy (officially dissolved by the Italian government in 1973) which sought to reestablish fascism in Italy and they became the most powerful far-right organization in the post-war Italian republic. Licio Gelli, Mario Tuti and the P2 were behind the next atrocity, however, in August of 1974, when the Italicus Express Train Bombing occurred in a tunnel under the Apennines Mountains near Florence, which resulted in the deaths of twelve innocent passengers.
I wanted to find out what happened to these terrorists and the assassins of the Italian President and it turns out that most are still alive and well — let out of jail in the early 1990’s. Mario Moretti, the ‘brain trust’ behind the kidnapping and assassination of Moro, was released from federal prison in 1998. He still must appear nights and weekends at his local jail in Milan for his misdeeds, however. It seemed that all through the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Italian government was besieged by endless provocations from leftist terrorist organizations and when the government finally attempted to figure out where the hell all that TNT came from, the Gladio network, tied up with right wing terror groups and the mafia were exposed as the true culprits — not the commies. CIA sacred cow, Director William Colby himself admitted US involvement in the network but disavowed any knowledge of the shenanigans in the 70’s (under his watch) yet when mafia involvement was exposed in the terror plots the ‘shit hit the fan.’ The Train 904 Bombing was tied to the mob by pentito (informant) Tommy Bruscetta and when the mafia tried to get the Italian authorities off their case, they went all the way to the mattress makers. The Corleonese family, the ‘family of families’ in Sicily in which Francis Ford Coppola based his epic The Godfather films were implicated during the Maxi Trial in 1986, where Corleonesi boss Salvatore Riina had decimated all the other mafia families, resulting in hundreds of murders, including many high-profile killings such as Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, head of counter-terrorism, who had arrested the Red Brigades founders in 1974. Italian Magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino would deliver a deadly, legal blow to the mafia in Sicily, for which they would later pay with their lives in one of the most brazen attacks on civil order in history. Before that, in 1988, Falcone collaborated with Rudy Giuliani, at the time U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in proceedings against the powerful Gambino and Inzerillo families in New York. When Falcone returned to Sicily, he was one of the most marked men in the world and his luck ran out in 1992 at the horrific Capaci Bombing, which killed Falcone, his wife and three police escorts. Borsellino was killed shortly thereafter and a terrified nation finally capitulated after a blatant attack on the Italian people at the treasured Uffizi Gallery after the Via dei Georgofili Bombing in Florence claimed five lives and countless masterpieces in the ancient museum.
In one of the few recollections of terrorism prior to 9/11, I remember Sylvester Stallone starred in the movie Nighthawks (1981) where he faced off against the terrorist Heymar Reinhardt (alias Wulfgar) played by the fantastic Rutger Hauer, whose character was loosely based on the leftist terrorist Carlos the Jackal in the 70’s. The Jackal was part of a network of Soviet-funded terrorists that used to get together for regular board meetings and family outings, it seemed. Highlighted by the Lod Airport Massacre in Israel by the Red Army of Japan, Soviet-funded terror organizations were gaining an upper hand against liberal democracies across the world. In Stallone’s film, Wolfgar was a cold-blooded killer, a ‘gun for hire’ without a job. He figured the best way to advertise himself was to commit a terrorist act to show off his skills to any prospective terrorist employers. Sly hunts him down and slays his enemy in a high-stakes showdown perched above the Roosevelt Island tram holding a group of kidnapped tourists. This is how I remembered the various terrorist organizations from the 70s – Socialist, extremist and soulless. Watch out now. Here it seems that I’ve reached a tangent. I’m going to shut it down now, even though I want to get all up into Operation Condor, Henry Kissinger and the Italian connection led by Ordine Nuovo leader Stefano Delle Chiaie. Too late for that, you say?
November 13, 2018