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Ring of Fire, Den of Thieves

Owney the Killer Owney the Killer

Which brings us to today -- and to the terrible threat the modern Democratic Party poses to legitimate, constitutional government in our country.  I often refer to it as a criminal organization masquerading as a political party, and it is; its sordid history is indisputable. Were it not for its uncanny ability to make gullible voters believe it is the exact opposite of what it really is, and for its media wing to continue to misrepresent it as willfully and happily as ever Pravda did for the CPUSSR, it would long ago have been run out of town on a rail.

This is not to hold any brief for the Republican Party. With its characteristic soft-headedness and its perpetually round heels when it comes to "bipartisanship," the GOP is only marginally less dangerous. Indeed, as the current example of Marco Rubio demonstrates, the Right is ever ready to fall in love at the first guy who makes Goo-Goo eyes at them and whispers sweet nothings about the Constitution in their ear -- and then betrays them at the first opportunity. As I tweeted recently, we all owe Rubio a debt of gratitude for revealing his true colors as a special-interest candidate before we nominated him for president.

But the Democrats have taken municipal corruption -- their specialty from the time of the Tweed Ring and the rise of Tammany Hall in the mid-19th century, right up to the 1930s -- to a whole new level. For what they learned as the Machine took over one big city after another -- not just New York, but Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans and others -- was that once they'd seized the big population centers (which is where the votes were), it was but a short hop to taking control of a whole state. Which they did. When I was researching my novel about Madden, And All the Saints, I came upon his ledger book for the early '30s; written in a kind of gangster code, it lists all his income and expenditures around the time  of the Castellammarese War, among them regular financial transactions between him and the governor of New Jersey, listed as "Trenton." Upon his arrival in Arkansas, Owney Madden took over not only Hot Springs but the whole state. His lawyer, the late Q. Byrum Hurst, told me that he would summon whomever was occupying the seat to a meeting in the woods somewhere between Bubbles and Little Rock. There a suitcase full of cash would change hands, and the governor would return to the state capital, instructions in hand; he even gave one of them a new Cadillac -- a gift duly acknowledged in a letter from the grateful gent after his term in office had expired.

And so the states fell -- Arkanas, Illinois, Jersey, Nevada (which Benny Siegel turned into a wholly owned criminal enterprise). Some, like New York and Florida, partially resisted. The upstate Republicans fought a successful rear-guard action against Tammany, achieving a mutually beneficial modus vivendi until relatively recently, when the state senate finally saw the writing on the wall and threw in with the Democrats to create Andrew Cuomo's dream one-party state. Florida, to which Meyer Lanksy retired after no other country on earth would take him in, including Israel, never quite succumbed, even though the Mob's presence there in the form of racetracks was huge.