Friday, June 24, 2011

capturing a mobster

Is anyone taking bets on whether former mobster James Whitey Bulger will ever be convicted of anything more serious than stealing office pencils? After 16 years during which the FBI (umm) could not find him, the 81-year-old Boston gangster was arrested Wednesday in California. He faces a slew of charges, some related to 19 murders.

But like J. Edgar Hoover, the man whose FBI Bulger put to his own cunning uses, the gangster knows too much. Hoover was reappointed again and again by presidents who were aware that Hoover knew where the political bodies were buried. And Bulger's connections to law-abiding enforcement agencies and the politicians who bolster them seem likely to portend a slap on the proverbial wrist rather than any significant punishment. Or anyway, that's my bet.

It's kind of like the bankers and stock manipulators who sent the country and much of the world into what's being called by cute-talking analysts, "the Great Recession." Not one individual has been charged with malfeasance. It's too complex, some say. But it's also probably fair to guess that the connections of responsibility reach too far up the political food chain.

One thing you can say about a mobster like Whitey Bulger: He doesn't equivocate like a banker or politician. I doubt if he ever asked the public to think well of him, to praise his honesty and integrity or excuse his behavior. I cannot imagine his going on television like former U.S. President Richard Nixon to whine, "I am not a crook." Like Popeye, Bulger seems more capable than most of saying, "I yam what I yam ... and what are you going to do about it?"

After 16 years, they got Whitey Bulger.

It remains to be seen if they really got him.

Wall Street keeps humming through the graveyard it helped to create and I wouldn't be surprised if Whitey Bulger did the same.

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