Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious.

I was in and around law enforcement for over thirty years during my working career.  Almost twenty five of those years were spent with  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).  I have hesitated to write this piece because I know that, regardless of how well I am able to explain things, some people will not have the proper frame of reference to understand it.

I will make some disclaimers early in an attempt to decrease the size of the brush I use to paint this picture.

In every federal law enforcement entity, the working agents are as diverse as the areas of the country where they were raised, and the values taught to them by their families.  They are also varied in both the experience and basic intellect they bring to the job.

These variations are also present in the various other levels of federal law enforcement management.

Elected representatives do not necessarily possess skills in investigation or tactical police operations.

We used to put it this way, "Big cases, big problems - Little cases, little problems - No cases - no problems."

The thought process behind the statement has nothing to do with a willingness to tackle the big stuff, but has everything to do with the various levels of management that get involved as the cases get bigger.  When people who sit in offices, far removed from the actual work environment, are involved in making critical decisions, the case loses a significant essential factor.  This factor is the "window of opportunity" that presents itself in every case to obtain and act on time sensitive information.  At every juncture in the process, management insulates itself with some form of "plausible deniability".  In other words, if things go to hell in a hand basket because of their (upper level management's) failure to act in a timely manner, or their incompetence, the blame will then fall directly on the field agent.

I have been out of the field for nearly ten years now and do not possess any knowledge of the case beyond what I read, hear, or see in the media.  Therefore I am totally unqualified to make comment on the operation in Arizona.  I can however give you some guidance in making up your own mind about what might have happened.

Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see in the media.
Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see from the NRA.
Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see from the U. S. Congress.
Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see from those in the Justice Department.
Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see from the State of Arizona.
Pay no attention to what you read, hear, or see from the Country of Mexico.

This operation is being called a "Sting Operation."  Based on my experience I cannot envision this being a sting operation.  I believe it was an "Intelligence Gathering Operation."  I believe the guns would have been sold and moved to Mexico regardless of what ATF did or didn't do.  I believe that because they had to depend on a foreign entity (a corrupt and unreliable foreign entity) for a critical half of the information hoped for, they couldn't maintain control or depend on getting trustworthy final destination information. However, because ATF did know the sources of the guns, and some of the mules who got them to and across the border, they were put in the unenviable position of being blamed if bad things happened with those guns.  I understand the frustration expressed by the field agents who report they were not allowed to act as their experience would have them act.  Delays in critical field operations almost always occur when everything has to be filtered through the endless levels of management that are present in our current day bureaucracies.

Any time you engage in an operation where you do not have complete control, you run the risk of being embarrassed by the outcome.  However, these operations are a necessary part of the enforcement picture if you ever hope to go beyond the street level bust.  In drug cases, the "Controlled Delivery" is commonplace.  The only word in the name that can be depended on is the "Delivery."  When the product is out of your custody and control, the unforeseen circumstances ratio increases exponentially.   If you are successful, you become a hero and your bosses get a lot of credit.  If bad things happen, the blame rolls downhill and lands squarely on the heads of the street agents.  The bosses above the field office level can deny any knowledge.

So, in summation, if you weren't there don't judge those who were.  Like me, you don't know what happened.  I am almost certain it didn't happen as reported.  I am certain that a huge investigation at the highest levels (Congressional) will result in nothing worthwhile.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Fighter, Part II

Dallas "Blackjack" Price, my great uncle, was a boxer in the early days of the sport.  He and his brother left Mississippi to work in the mines in Utah.  This picture was taken circa 1917.  He was a welterweight during this time period.  The photo in the previous post was taken later in his life.  His wife eventually talked him out of the ring.  The short short story that follows is fiction.  I used Dallas as inspiration, and I used his name because I liked it.


     Dallas “Blackjack” Bond, former world light heavyweight champ, returned to New York City. Here he once thrilled boxing fans in Madison Square Garden, and here he met and married Angela Minoni, a petite dark haired beauty he called Angie.

     Born in poverty, he learned to make his way in life early.  In the sweltering heat of the Mississippi lumber camps, he swung an axe and pulled on a cross-cut saw until he was lean and strong.  When his parents died, he went to New Orleans and took a job as a longshoreman working on the docks.  There were always rough men around looking for a fight.  They soon learned the tall slender kid from Mississippi had a crushing left hook.

     “It felt like someone hit me with a blackjack”, an opponent once commented after regaining his senses.

     Angie was supportive, but the years took a physical toll, and she convinced him to leave the ring.  They moved to Las Vegas, where he opened a gym and became a trainer.  They had no children, but lived well and enjoyed each other.

      Last September he lost her after a hard fought bout with cancer.  Her death hit Dallas like a liver shot in the twelfth round of a fifteen rounder.  He was sixty eight years old, conscious, but on the canvas and unable to get up.  He sold the gym and moved back to New York in December, hoping he could find something of Angie.  It was the old neighborhood, but everything had changed. 

     The coldness of the winter night seeped in through the wrinkles in the old building.  Dallas stirred under the covers in his small bed.  His six foot two inch frame took up the greater portion of its length.  He slept in his gray sweats for added warmth.  Throwing back the blankets, he arose and shuffled the short distance to his bathroom.  The door frame barely accommodated the width of his shoulders.

     Standing at the sink, he splashed icy tap water onto his face.  He ran his wet fingers through his wavy graying hair, and then dried his face with a tattered green towel. He stared into the mirror and wondered what Angie ever saw in that mug.  The reflection of his slate blue eyes looked back at him.  The thick scar tissue drooped at the corner of each eyebrow and made him look sad.  His nose was flat and slightly crooked.  With age, his cauliflower ears had lengthened and now looked like unfinished candle wax sculptures.  The line of his jaw didn’t exactly line up either.

          He turned away and moved to the living room.  A framed photograph of a youthful Angie stood beneath the lamp on the end table.  Dallas glanced her way and forced a smile as he lowered himself to the hard floor for some push-ups and sit-ups, but his heart wasn’t in it.  He held his huge calloused hands at arms length while working his fingers to loosen the stiffness in his knuckles.  Even though his once-chiseled body had smoothed with age, it was still impressive.  He stood and moved to the window.  The sun shone brightly.  It was time for a walk down memory lane.

     He slipped out of his warm-ups and put on some heavy woolen trousers and a nice plaid dress shirt.  He drank the last of his coffee, put on his coat and hat, and left the building.  For a moment he stood on the sidewalk, basking in the contrast of warm sunshine and crisp air. Before him an ever-changing pallet of skin colors moved over the gray concrete, accompanied by a symphony of dialects. The city had its own atmosphere.  He could smell smog, refuse, and people, mixed with the more pleasing and pungent odors of garlic and onion cooking. 

     “Let go of my purse!”  A woman was screaming.

     Dallas turned and saw a gang of young punks surrounding an elderly woman who was hanging on to the strap of her purse with amazing tenacity.  He felt a surge of adrenaline as he ran toward her.
     “Let go of her now!”  he yelled as he waded into the group, shielding the lady who had now fallen to the sidewalk.  “It’s not worth it guys, back off.”

     A large young man sneered as he sauntered toward Dallas.  The others watched and grinned.
     “Looks like you need a lesson in respect old man.”  The bully threw a looping right as he spoke.

     Dallas ducked to the left and the punch found nothing but air over his right shoulder.  Instinct brought his left fist in a short arc to the young man’s jaw.  His assailant fell hard to the sidewalk.  The others scattered.

     “Are you alright ma’am?”  Dallas asked, as he helped the frightened woman from the ground.

     “Yes, I think so.  Thank you so much.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

     “Do you want me to call the police?”

     She looked down at the young man now lying at her feet.  “No, I don’t think he’ll be bothering anyone for quite some time.”  She brushed herself off, thanked Dallas again, and started home.

     Dallas thought of Angie.  She fought so hard, but he couldn’t help her.  He knew she would be pleased with him today.

     You know Angie, I’m thinking about making a comeback.  The legs are gone, the reflexes aren’t so good, but I still have my left hook.  The adrenaline was wearing off and the cold air chilled him.  I think I may do it in Biloxi though.

     He glanced heavenward and his blue eyes were smiling again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Fighter

Dallas "Blackjack" Price

Sweat covers his body,
forms dark stains on
satin trunks,
a sheen on
red leather gloves.

Years of training
in stale smelling gyms
to fight.

He shuffles forward,

Sweat drips pink
over scarred eyelids
to taut canvas.

The beauty of his work
lost in its brutality.

Dennis Price

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Enough is enough.

To the Moon

The tracks were laid
right to the Moon,
so Alice took the train.
She finally reached her limit
of hearing Ralph complain.

Dennis Price

Friday, August 5, 2011

While a picture is still worth $200.

The president continues to amaze us with his "brilliant" speechifying.  While offering not one hint of a plan of his own, this genius continues to blame anyone but himself or his party, for the ridiculous state of the economy.  His only solution, as delivered through his "Opie Taylorish" press secretary, is more taxes, more government intervention, and more regulation to create jobs and stimulate the economy.  Even though this has been tried on numerous occasions by other leaders of his ilk, it has never created one job or increased government revenues.  However, we can count on the most of the others outside the executive branch for their spineless support of whatever seems to fill their pockets and keep them in favor of the ruling Oligarchy.

 Even after being rebuffed on numerous occasions, the Supreme Court of the United States continues to do what politically appointed hacks do best, and that is go along with the people who appointed them.  Thus our U. S. Constitution is minimized and rendered useless to protect us against the very kinds of tyranny it was designed to hold back.  That leaves the 535 representatives in both houses to protect their pork at all costs.  The limited roll of government has now become a huge governmental "nanny" that controls almost every aspect of our lives through endless laws, tomes of regulations, presidential edicts, burgeoning taxes, and bullying threats.  The institution we call government doesn't create anything but a huge machine capable of taking our hard earned tax dollars and turning them into a pitiful and useless pittance.

 And, while the fires of our demise are roaring, our president bleeds his rich sycophants for $38,000 dollars a plate so he can confuse enough deluded and ignorant people to get this position back for another term.  Let's pray to almighty God for a leader with some principles, leadership skills, and a backbone of iron to stop this run away behemoth.

There are people who, instead of listening to what is being said to them, are already listening to what they are going to say themselves.  - Albert Guinon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's only 2.7 trillion....

  Hi folks.  This is what one trillion dollars in one hundred dollar bills looks like.  Many in our congress have joined our president in asking that we raise the debt ceiling to accommodate our federal government's "out of control" spending.   These lunatics throw around the word "trillion" like you and I use "million."  Look at the representative icons to get some idea of the actual size of those pallets of hundred dollar bills.

The photo above gives you more perspective.  The smallest pack is 1000 dollars in one hundred dollar bills.  The next packet is one million dollars, and each pallet is 100 million dollars.  The ten pallet stack is one billion dollars in 100 dollar bills.  Now let's see what 15 "trillion" looks like.  That will be our national debt by December of this year.

Here are some of the programs the Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed cutting.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy. $445 million annual savings.Save America's Treasures Program. $25 million annual savings.International Fund for Ireland. $17 million annual savings.Legal Services Corporation. $420 million annual savings.National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings.National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings.Hope VI Program. $250 million annual savings.Amtrak Subsidies. $1.565 billion annual savings.Eliminate duplicative education programs.. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually.U.S. Trade Development Agency. $55 million annual savings..Woodrow Wilson Center Subsidy. $20 million annual savings.Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding. $47 million annual savings.John C. Stennis Center Subsidy. $430,000 annual savings.Community Development Fund. $4.5 billion annual savings.Heritage Area Grants and Statutory Aid. $24 million annual savings.Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half. $7.5 billion annual savings. DUH!!!
Trim Federal Vehicle Budget by 20%.
$600 million annual savings.Essential Air Service. $150 million annual savings.Technology Innovation Program. $70 million annual savings.Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program. $125 million annual savings.Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings.Beach Replenishment. $95 million annual savings.New Starts Transit. $2 billion annual savings. WHAT IS THIS???
Exchange Programs for Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts .. $9 million annual savings. What the hell is this anyway…?Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants. $2.5 billion annual savings.Title X Family Planning. $318 million annual savings.Appalachian Regional Commission. $76 million annual savings.Economic Development Administration. $293 million annual savings.Programs under the National and Community Services Act. $1.15 billion annual savings.Applied Research at Department of Energy. $1.27 billion annual savings. Close Dept of Energy…FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. $200 million annual savings.Energy Star Program. $52 million annual savings.Economic Assistance to Egypt . $250 million annually.U.S. Agency for International Development.. $1.39 billion annual savings.General Assistance to District of Columbia . $210 million annual savings.Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. $150 million annual savings.Presidential Campaign Fund. $775 million savings over ten years.No funding for federal office space acquisition. $864 million annual savings. Stop Growing Government…!
End prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. More than $1 billion annually.IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing payments to remain as part of its budget. $1.8 billion savings over ten years.Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees. $1 billion total savings. WHAT THE HELL…! FIRE THE BASTARDS…Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees. $1.2 billion savings over ten years. TAXPAYER FUNDED UNIONS…. COME ON!!!
Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of. $15 billion total savings.Eliminate Mohair Subsidies. $1 million annual savings.Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. $12.5 million annual savings.
Eliminate Market Access Program.
$200 million annual savings.USDA Sugar Program. $14 million annual savings.Subsidy to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).$93 million annual savings.Eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. $56.2 million annual savings.Eliminate fund for Obamacare administrative costs. $900 million savings.Ready to Learn TV Program. $27 million savings.Eliminate death gratuity for Members of Congress.
HUD Ph.D. Program.
Deficit Reduction Check-Off Act
TOTAL SAVINGS: $2.5 Trillion over Ten Years
"My question is ", What THE HELL is all this crap doing in the budget in the first place?
Is there anything listed here you cannot do without?

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's Wrong?

I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood."

The author: President Grover Cleveland. The date: February 16, 1887, in a response to the House of Representatives.

Try to imagine Barack Obama or George Bush sending this out as a response to requests for funding for entitlement programs, and you'll have a good idea where and why we've failed -- and also get an idea why the Feds were never supposed to run as much as they do.