That one time when I pissed off the mafia in New Jersey

Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, April 1991
The offices of The Leader Newspaper was located in a large office on the second floor above a volunteer fire department. Some fire departments have banquet halls and the like to help pay for expenses. Banquets and weddings aren’t a full time source of a reliable income, an office is.

One draw back: the large air-raid style “emergency whistle” that was used to summon the volunteers from around town was directly outside of the editor’s office window. Sometimes, three or four times each day, the entire office screeched to a halt, phones were put on hold and staff plugged their ears. After the siren wound down and three profanities uttered by my editor Al Applegate, we would just continue with our conversation.

Al was a great guy. He was retired high school teacher and everyone knew him. He even taught my two older brothers. He gave me great freedom to express my views. I would repay him by with siding on topics important to him. I took sides in a local school board issue that I had no real interest in. The cartoon was turned into a t-shirt by faction and they all showed up to an important meeting wearing bright orange t-shirts that read “SCHOOLBOARD DICK.”

I would do a weekly hand drawn editorial cartoon for the newspaper on their op-ed page. Payment was $30 per cartoon, I remember, which was a week’s worth of gas in 1991. Each week I would do either local, state, national or international commentaries. We tried to keep it local but there are only so many cartoons that you can draw of local zoning regulations. We met on Monday, I submitted my work on Tuesday and the paper came out on Thursday.

One Monday after the siren silenced, Al and I talked about upcoming cartoons. Here’s how the exchange went:

“So what do you want to cover this week?”
“I have an idea about the trial and Storino testifying…”
“Absolutely not. Next idea?”
“Aw come on Al. It’s the biggest story in the news. TV and papers from New York to Philly are leading with it. Storino being called to testify drops it right in our own backyard. Aren’t we writing about it?”
“Nope. It’s been covered to death. People are tired of hearing about it.”
“Yea right. Let me do a cartoon about it, at least we can say we covered it somehow. It’s a cartoon who ever takes them seriously? I won’t even mention his name.”
“I guess you’re right, we should at least make a mention of it. Don’t use his name or likeness, OK?”

A little background from Wikipedia:
In 1984, the Jersey leadership murdered James “Jimmy Sinatra” Craporatta, a contractor and Lucchese associate. When Craporatta refused to share the proceeds of a video gaming operation he controlled, the Jersey mobsters beat him to death with metal head golf clubs.

The Lucchese family wanted to take over SMS Inc., a company that made video poker machines. SMS Inc. was owned by Craporatta’s nephews, Vincent and Pasquale “Pat” Storino, reputed associates of the Bruno/Scarfo crime family.

This turned into one of the longest organized crime trials in U.S. history. Everyone whose name ended in a vowel got called in to testify at some point. It was on the local New York City news every night. One person that was brought in to testify was Pat Storino, a leader in our local business community. He and his family owned four out of five businesses on our local boardwalk and had a role in the entire Jersey Shore network of like-minded individuals.

I think the most he was ever nailed on was having slot machines in an apartment above one of his arcades on the boardwalk. I thought I would do a parody of the mob films that were hot at the time. Who could get pissed over a cartoon?

The following Monday I went in to meet with Al and he asked me to close the door and sit down. He never said that before.

“We lost three quarters of our ads this week,” Al said. “Everyone that’s even remotely associated to Pat Storino pulled their ads.”

A local paper depends on local advertisers and the bars and restaurants depend on the paper to pull in locals during the slow season.

Al had just gotten off of the phone with the newspaper’s owner, Mark Goodson. Yea, the TV game show producer owned our paper. I had the same boss as the Price is Right models. Goodson was none too happy, but was going to wait it out to see if they came back.

I asked if I still had the gig, Al’s response was: “We’ll see.” I submitted a safe cartoon for the next week about parking meter rates going up that summer and hoped for the best.

The next Monday my editor was in better spirits. Most of the advertisers had returned and he had a visitor. During the previous week a guy came in sharply dressed in a suit and asked to speak with him personally. I got the impression it had been a nerve-racking week for everyone at the tiny newspaper and this guy made everyone jump.

The visitor lived in the next town over and was the chief prosecutor of organized crime in New Jersey. A busy man for sure. He had seen the cartoon and laughed so hard he wanted to know if he could have the original art to frame and hang on his office wall in Trenton.

Al was more than happy to hand it over and may have thought that it offered some protection from both Storino and Goodson, which it evidently did. Me and Al continued to work there for a few more years.

Advertisers are the Achilles heel of media. Control the advertisers, you control the media. In the late 1980s, conservative Christian groups would boycott the sponsors of TV sitcoms that showed too much cleavage. Today, Marxists do it to anyone who dares to contradict their narratives. State-funded outlets like PBS and NPR? Same thing, the state controls the purse strings, they control the message.

This was my first red pill moment when I got to peer behind the curtain of free press.

A special thanks to Janet Sittler for sharing my old work that I don’t even have anymore.

Hard Rock Hotel Swept Away

Mayor Cantrell posted on social media on April 21,9021:

“Canal Street lake-bound is officially reopened to vehicle traffic for the first time since the Hard Rock collapse. Even as the challenges piled up in the last 18 months — the work never stopped. We grieve for the lives lost, and we are grateful for the progress that has been made. We thank our businesses and our residents for their patience.”

To read the Mayor’s words it would sound as if she is proud of the work her administration has done in clearing up the collapse site. ” Even as the challenges piled up in the last 18 months — the work never stopped. ”

A little perspective here: The entire World Trade Center disaster site was cleaned up in only SEVEN MONTHS. The Twin-fucking-Towers and several other buildings hauled away in less than half the time of one 18 story building.

“…the work never stopped ” The collapse occurred in October of 2019, demolition didn’t start until May of 2020. Correction, there was about seven months of nothing but thumbs up collective asses trying to un-cluster this fuck. The last body wasn’t recovered until 10 months after the disaster. Even by a Big Easy metric, this was slower than shit through a funnel.

There has been a long history of a corruption and incompetency with the New Orleans building inspectors going back to the Landrieu administration. There was a Federal investigation into bribery involving city inspector Kevin Richardson and charges were filed. He was dismissed from his position by then Mayor Landrieu.

Just months prior to the HRH collapse, the city leadership blustered about holding the permit inspectors accountable using the latest in GPS tracking and digital records. City building inspectors Julie Tweeter, Eric Treadaway were suspended and Thomas Dwyer resigned before he could be suspended (What a pussy).

With all of the current social outrage over the behavior of law enforcement recklessly taking lives and being held responsible, I ask why aren’t all government employees held to the same level of accountability? Officials, employed by the city failed at their positions whether by negligence or corruption and it resulted in the deaths of three construction workers and dozens more injured are just allowed to resign and walk away?

Would everybody have been cool with Derek Chauvin just handing in his resignation and walking away? I didn’t think so. Is it comparing apples and oranges? City employees fucked up and people died. In one case the city government throws the employee under the bus in the face of public opinion, the other city employees are quietly ushered out the back door of city hall.

Perhaps indicting those building inspectors for negligent homicide would open up a Costco-sized can of worms for city hall that they would prefer not to see the light of day. Disclosure would involve emails and records from with in the department and the depth of the incompetence would reveal more that there were more people involved in the endemic corruption of city hall. Where were their supervisors?


Julian Assange, Seth Rich, Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma

What do these three men have in common?
Think whistle-blower.
Think targeted.

Why was Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma deported back to Honduras after giving an interview about HRH construction safety issues?
How did ICE get suddenly involved with a migrant who had been here for 17 years? (Washington Post from 11/30/19)

Why would a federal agency (ICE) deport a material witness to an investigation of a serious construction accident that killed three and left 20 injured?

We’re Quarter Rats,
We’re Everywhere

Mitch, I know where you got them shoes

I follow former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on twitter. I don’t know why, all of his tweets are essentially the same: Condescending, white “progressive” and self-flagellating for woke points. If you saw him on the street and said “Nice weather.” He would probably respond with “Only for white people.”

In all fairness, he is running a business. In 2018, he wrote the book “In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.” Genius grift by the way. How can a white Southern man from a prominent political family gain capital from racism? I chuckle when I see CNN calls Mitch to polish up his head to appear on one of their panels discussing…what?

To paraphrase President Biden: “You’re a one-trick pony soldier horse fat face … come on man, you know, the thing.”

“Hey Mitch, where can I pick up a good po-boy?”
“There’s a place three blocks down from the white supremacist statue to racism, on the left.”
“Uh ok, thanks.”

Like that monotypical uncle who always manages to steer the family dinner conversations back to his favorite topic of model railroading; Mitch will always come back to the statues. I think he deserves a statue for tearing down statues of fellow Democrats. It’s probably safe to say Mitch’s official stance on slavery in this country is that it was a bad idea. I really don’t know any American that would dispute that. None. The minute number of actual real white supremacists share that same belief, also.

The statue issue aside, who cares? Tourist come down here to binge eat, binge drink and cheat on their spouses. They want to see titties, not General Lee. Some locals may find the reminder of slavery from 200 years ago offensive? Slavery bad?

I know where you got them shoes.

You must have at least one pair of sneakers in your walk in closet filled with those wild gray suites. Do you even wear the pants anymore? Or just the shirt, jacket and tie when you’re a talking head for six minutes of relevancy?

I’d bet a paycheck that many of those folks down at the statues protesting wear one of many major brand of sneakers; made by humans enslaved on the other side of the globe, imprisoned for no other reason than their ethnicity, forced to work under horrendous conditions and daily inhumane abuse. Protesting the ugliest part of America’s past that’s been over for about 150 years while wearing shoes made by slaves a few weeks earlier.

Imagine 180 years ago, a Northern educated white lady and an abolitionist, sipping tea and clutching her pearls while saying, “Those Southerners are so evil, using slaves to work in the fields! By the way, do you like my new cotton dress? It’s so comfortable and inexpensive.”

Imagine being a Black slave and knowing that 180 years later your descendants would be wearing apparel made by forced labor. You could hear that facepalm clear across the field.

We cannot correct past injustices to those people. History is etched in stone despite what we write on paper or what bronze we tear down. If you are sincerely and deeply disturbed by this blot on our nation’s past, and feel the need to do something positive, work to end slavery that is happening today. Your moral outrage will not change the past, but it could change today.

Perhaps it’s not important to you since they aren’t Black Americans. They’re so poor and live so far away, it doesn’t matter to you. In 2016, there were about 40 million “modern” slaves, including forced marriages, sexual exploitation and debt bondage, according to the United Nations. It’s difficult to calculate exact number for obvious reasons. Less than 400,000 human beings used for chattel slavery were shipped to the U.S. between 1525 and 1866, according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Imagine if we turned all of our energy and passion for this crime in a direction that could tangibly change something. If protests were directed towards bad actors, instead of inanimate objects from the past, there would be meaningful change.

In September 2018, there was news story about how Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn wanted to ban Nike products following the Collin Kaepernick-Nike deal. Mitch was quick to jump on board that streetcar named Attention and call “unpatriotic” and defended Nike. How could Nike afford to pay Collin Kaepernick $25 million dollars? Slave labor. Does any of this click?

A few corporations have stepped up to the plate and took a stand against China and its Uighur concentration camps: forced labor, sexual abuse, forced abortions and organ harvesting of Uyghur Muslims. Any business that takes a position opposing slave labor in China should be applauded and patronized. Those who ignore or profit from it should be treated worst than Aunt Jemima syrup was. Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous now? Outrage over a syrup label but none over people enslaved today.

Hey Mitch, do you know where the slavery is?
On your feet.

About the title. Here in the French Quarter of New Orleans, specifically Bourbon Street we have street hustlers. “Shoe Guys” will stroll up to unsuspecting tourists, point to their feet and say: “Nice shoes, I’ll bet you $5 that I know where you got them shoes.” The gullible tourist will usually blurt out “Where?” The Shoe guy will respond: “You got them shoes on your feet. You owe me $5!”

If they’re not running shoes, you better pay up.