Charlie's Books

Charlie's Books
Buon Giorno, Amici!

Our motto ...

Leave the (political) party. Take the cannoli.

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Right now 6 Stella crime novels are available on Kindle for just $.99 ... Eddie's World has been reprinted and is also available from Stark House Press (Gat Books).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The First Family … Oh, Sarah … Where’s Hugo?


The First Familyby Mike Dash … I think I was 8 or 9 or maybe 10 when I first saw Pay or Die with Ernest Borgnine. I remember it was on Million Dollar Movie (when they used to replay the same movie five (5) nights in a row). It was my introduction to The Black Hand (what some originally called the mafia) and although I was rooting for the Italian Sergeant/Lieutenant Detective (Petrosino), I remember being intrigued by the criminals in the story (all essentially bullies) and wondering how they became so powerful? I was very naive, amici.

The thing I didn’t wonder, that never crossed my mind until many years later, was whether or not the character I had been rooting for in the movie was real or fictional; they had certainly made him appear real.

Fast forward thirty plus years when I’m living in Little Italy. Irony of ironies, I’m standing at a tiny triangular park off the corner of Kenmare and Spring between Cleveland Place and Lafayette Street waiting for someone to drop off money (the irony being I was one of the bad guys) and quickly getting irritated because the guy I’m waiting for is late, when I turn around and read the plaque attached to the fence (see above). Lieutenant Petrosino Park. No, there was no epiphany. I liked what I was doing at the time, especially the fazools, but it did make me wonder whether or not it was some cosmic sign.

Another dozen years pass (nearly 10 since I abandoned being a bad guy) and I pick up a book called, The First Family by Mike Dash, a well-researched and meticulously laid out tome that offers those interested in the genesis of the Italian-American mob a detailed history of its main players and all the social, economic and political variables necessary for its growth and survival.

Dash touts a smallish man with a deformed hand, Giuseppe Morello, as the first Capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) in what was then the ghetto of Little Italy. Also known as The Clutch Hand, Morello hailed from the small and very impoverished town of Corleone, Sicilly (Si, amici, the same Corleone Mario Puzzo wrote about and Francis Ford Coppola made ubber famous in his iconic Godfather mob films). Already a member of the honored society in Sicilia, Morello came to New York and apparently made a few attempts at living a legit life. Between bad economic times and the way Italians were treated back in the day (forgetaboutit), he returned to old habits (counterfeiting—and not very good counterfeiting as one of his forged notes was described as having “11 misspellings”)—and after finding himself in trouble, fled to New Orleans, Louisiana (where other Sicilians had found refuge). After a few years of picking cotton (yep, you read it right), the Morello family gave up on the American dream via killing oneself and returned to New York where the Clutch Hand reformed his mob family exclusively with people from his home town of Corleone, Sicilly.

The First Family provides individual stories of terror, extortion and revenge (Sicilian vendetta style), and, of course, murder (as is part of its subtitle) and those are as intriguing as the story of how poorly the police (back in the day) pursued the criminals of Little Italy and Italian Harlem, but it most accurately provides us with the harsh reality of what all ethnic criminal organizations/mobs ultimately do to their own people, especially when the pickings are most ripe (when they first immigrate to a new country). It was interesting to read how law enforcement back then also relied on informants within or close to the mobs to pursue arrests (but much more often than not, without convictions).

I can’t recount what the author offers in this very interesting book about the genesis of the American Mob because it would do a disservice to some very polished writing. The First Family is a very well documented account of what happened to Italian immigrants shoved into the ghetto called Little Italy; how some violently fought their way across the five points (the Gangs of New York Five Points) and eventually established what became a national coalition of organized crime. Me, I’m still fascinated with this stuff much the same way I’m fascinated by the American Civil War. It is an undeniable slice of Americana that remains intriguing. Dash makes no excuses for the ruthless Giuseppe Morello or any other form of organized crime. I used to, but that has more to do with what were personal insecurities than reality.

More than worth the price of the investment, The First Family is a must read for anyone interested in organized crime, the economics of an immigrant underclass trying to survive in a capitalist society, immigration, law enforcement, Italian and/or American history. Knucksline's best non-fiction read of 2009 to date.

Oh, Sarah … When the McCain campaign first announced her candidacy and she gave her first GOP stump speech at their convention, I thought, “Oh, boy. If this hot looking momma knows her stuff, the Obama campaign is in big trouble.” I wanted a good political dog fight between the two major parties (both of which I’d like to see disappear before the next sunset) and McCain was clearly about to get his clock cleaned by Obama and the Do Nothing Democrats (which, I enjoy pointing out as often as possible, are doing exactly that now that they have a clear majority—absolutely nothing for the citizens who voted them into power). I was hoping Palin had that special something to counter the obvious charisma Obama brought to the campaign. My assumption was she had half a brain, knew her policy as well as she could skin a moose and that she would be able to answer media questions without looking like a complete moron. After months of keeping her safely away from public Q&A’s, McCain and the GOP finally had to let Sarah speak without her convention script and she uttered these gems while being interviewed by Charlie “throw me a softball” Gibson:

GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.

I remember turning to the Principessa Ann Marie and saying: “Huh?”

A few minutes later, I threw my hands up and said what Peggy Noonan had said when Palin's name was first announced as McCain's VP choice: “It’s over.”

There are so many Palinisms to poke fun at, but why bother (other than it is fun to do so)? I’m not sure if she’s as dumb as she speaks, but then George Bush turned out to be twice as dumb as he sounded. Her recent attempts to equate Obama’s half-assed attempt at “reforming” health care with “evil” was pushing the envelope a bit too far for Knucksline.

Hey, she’s been an amusing dingbat since her first date with reality (the Gibson interview) and then came her further dismantling with each subsequent interview but the joke has been over long enough. Her attempts to stick her face into national politics should be as funny as the Amy Poehler rap on SNL or the Tina Fey skits (which are mostly Palin’s words—see the 2nd half of the linked video), but sadly her national rebirth isn't funny. Palin is one scary broad.

Palin is also a moron; maybe a hot moron, but a moron nevertheless. Her brand of politics is as ugly as she claims to have been attacked in the media. We’d like to believe she’s only doing more damage than she’s already done to her party, but the truth of the matter is there are still people who champion her cause (which is to champion a political party that brought this country to its financial knees over an eight year period, started wars it had no idea how to pursue {never mind end} and permitted the fleecing of American workers).

This country needs national healthcare AND IT CAN AFFORD IT. End the two dopey wars none of us can explain anymore and demand that corporate America quit treating its workforce like the $2.00 an hour hires they outsource to Chennai, India (RR Donnelly, Goldman Sachs, et al) and elsewhere. Let Sarah speak (she’s nothing more significant than fodder for SNL), but start to hold accountable those with the keys to the car NOW. Republicans blew it the last 8 years. Democrats have been blowing it since I can remember (most obviously by letting Republicans win back to back to back elections starting with Reagan and DE-FUCKING-REGULATION). Now they have the power and the majorities necessary to do what they promised in the last presidential campaign. Obama looks good and he can speak. He’s as cool as Chili Palmer, but so far he can’t unite his party, never mind “reach across the aisle.” He took Bush’s lead on the bailouts and he’s given Wall Street everything it wanted. He’s done little contrary to George Bush since he’s in office and it is starting to sound like “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

DOC exaggeratingly called Obama a thug in his last comeback … Knucksline thinks Obama needs to act a lot more thuggish if he wants to get anything done. He needs to kick some Democratic ass and fast. He needs to use the bully pulpit doing what he does best—taking it to the people. He may be an historical figure by the mere fact of his election, but to be a great president he needs to accomplish things for the people who elected him (not the healthcare industry or Wall Street or Defense contractors).

Last week, blowhard Keith Olbermann pasted a few of the Blue Dog Democrats most responsible for starting the process of killing the already watered down version of national health care in one of his drama queen (and we mean that as in he's way too dramatic for reality--not that he's gay) “special comments” … and while the wars (both of them) no longer seem to concern Keith-O, his attack on the blue dogs was exactly what Obama needs to do if he wants to shed the Obambi image he seems to be polishing of late.

At this stage of the game, Knucksline continues to see Sarah Palin as a comic figure and Barrack Obama as the first minority president. Okay, great. So what has either done for you lately?

It isn’t much, but we will say this for Sarah Palin: At least she makes us laugh.

Where’s Hugo? ... Home torturing his mommy and daddy, no doubt. The Hugonator was picked up Saturday night a few minutes before Rigoletto had a nervous breakdown and Spartacus declared Jihad (we’ve learned the chunky grey mouse’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was snuck into the country in a middle eastern Galabya). The Principessa Ann Marie was getting way too attached to the little fella, but by Friday night (after stepping in one of Hugo’s deposits in the Casa Stella master bedroom) Knucks had reverted to using his favorite speech patterns.

To wit: “C_cks_cker, motherf_cker … Jesus f_cking Christ on the cross … motherf_ck me in the …”

Well, yous get the idea.

*The boss forced me to clean those last lines up a bit. 99.9% against all forms of censorship, Knucksline went into long negotiations through the night (the original post had no underscores replacing characters) ... but this morning, the union busting Principessa won out (by hiding my coffee can).
Oy-vey ...

And the DOC says ...
Chaz, my man, what is with this relentless Sarah-bashing?

Did she send back that lingerie you mailed her? Don't take it so personally. Some people don't like leather underwear.

I would guess of the 48% of the people who voted for McCain, 30% of them voted for him because of her. I know I did. I'm sick of the elite cookie cutter politicians. We've had all the grads from Princeton and Harvard and where do we stand right now? Lets for once try someone from the University of Wallamaloo or wherever the hell she went. She seems honest. Oh, you want more than that. Granted she is not as slick as the Bamster or as smart as "W", but lets hear her views on outsourcing. She never got far enough to be asked that.

Her kid is in Afghanistan. I don't think the Bamster knows where that is. Who do you think will end that war sooner? Also, remember that she was running for vice president. You should be comparing her to the Hair Club for Men imbecile that we currently have. I kept hearing "a heartbeat away from the presidency". Yeah, so is Joe. Good luck sleeping tonight.

I'm beginning to think that McCain never really wanted to win and they set Sarah up for the fall. Why else would you schedule her, with no coaching, for two hostile interviews right out of the gate. Why not put her on Hannity and O'Reilly to get her feet wet. No, they put her on with that pedantic putz staring over his granny glasses like she is Oliver Twist.

So until the Bamster does something you like... lay off Sarah.

As a sidenote: You would think that in a house with 2 dogs and a powerlifter, someone would grow a pair and kill the freaking rodent. . . just a thought.

Your best pal,