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March 30, 2011

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decent outlaws like Jesse James

I invite you, from the actual historical record, to explain to me how Jesse James has earned the adjective "decent".

Over to you avedis. Stick it to the man, dude!

Actually, they're probably complicated human beings, just like everyone else. And they're probably not all alike.

Well, they're all alike in that they're complicated human beings, just like everyone else. When I write of bottom-feeding crabs, I write metaphorically, within the context of complicated human beings. Whatever the many reasons for their being where they are, they are there, they are murderous, they are dangerous, they are sociopathic, they are destructive and they suck, as far as complicated human beings go. See the aforementioned serial killers and despots. Shall I go Godwin and mention a particular complicated human being? Should we have no opinion on him, either?

(Maybe I misunderstand what you mean here, sapient, when you say you don't get why people should have opinions on this. I can understand if you're referring specifically to Frank Jr.'s decision, but not if you're referring to the generally suckiness of mafiosi.)

I do think it's worth pondering what their choices were, and how they ended up doing the things they did. That's not romanticizing them - it's a matter of trying to understand why some people end up making all the wrong choices, while others seem to make all of the right ones.

Aside from thinking that just about no one, if anyone at all, makes all the right or wrong choices, I agree completely, which was my point in making the distinction between romanticizing and fascination. I'm quite interested in what makes people so dysfunctional, so outwardly and destructively dysfunctional.

Not to digress further, but I think I've actually formulated An Actual Opinion on Libya that may last four or five whole days. Now I just have to see if I can make time to write it up in the next couple of days. No promises.

Department of Typos Above: "I tend to not romanticize violence of people into it" should ahve been "violence or people into it."

People do wrong and right things for reasons that are sometimes incomprehensible.
Most human behavior is comprehensible with enough information, for a certain value of "comprehensible," which may include "this is how a particular mental illness manifests and causes certain behavior" or "this is how a certain set of neurological functions causes certain behavior," or brain injury, or, more often, if one has sufficient knowledge of someone's childhood, parents, infancy, youth, experiences, knowledge set, culture, and in short, all that goes into making them who they are, or, that is, enough knowledge of said sets.

Most things are comprehensible with enough information, when processed through the right accurate set of other information and algorithims, to put it in overly cold and rather robotic fashion.

Another way to look at it, though, is that it's possible to understand people without empathizing with them, and it's even possible to empathize with the suffering some people have gone through that made them into horrific human beings without sympathizing with the horrific behavior, or person, and without forgiving, and it's even possible to forgive someone -- though if someone has done something horrific, forgiveness is really only appropriate and applicable from the person or people they've wronged, not from others -- without apologizing for them, or defending them.

I'd list a lot of smart comments above, that I agree with, but that's why I want a "like" button.

And, yes, the set of ObWi commenters is one I'm generally proud to be associated with, which is why I've hung around here so long.

Even when some of us, including me, are jerks sometimes.

Because that's comprehensible, if not always forgiveable. (And sometimes I haven't forgiven myself, but one can only move on, after trying to right one's wrongs.)

OK, there was the one time that the guy delivering the cookies threatened to kill a kid who cut him off in the parking lot.

I have a story where I was more or less the kid from the parking lot. Not fun. You might not really know about some of your Spidey senses until they start going off. It's interesting, if nothing else.

Wow, what a bunch of goody two shoes pollyannish perspectives we have here.
And you were raised to be, and inculcated with, the values of the tough guy, the macho guy, the man who Defends; I think a number of us get that. And I don't have any problem with it, save that it does make your views and the way you express them rather predictable at times, which is also fine, but the way your manifestations of toughness causes you to derogate the opinions of those you disagree with is often rather disagreeable.

I could put this into ruder terms, but that's not the kind of guy I am, save when I feel like it. But alpha male chest-pounding doesn't get one too far in a battle of wits and verbal debate. I'm sure you could beat me up, and quite a few of us up.

And if a bunch of criminals, or tough guys, or armed folk, were coming after us while we were trying to defend a fixed location, I imagine I'd want you with me.

But blog comment threads aren't that kind of place.

First, not all mobsters are stupid. Myer lansky, Bugs Siegel and many others are considered financial geniuses.
I refer you to Howard Gardner.

There are many kind of intelligence.

And being sociopathic and stupid/intelligent in any way are orthogonal.

And that is why real people don't like the rats that snitch out outlaws or the cowards that shoot them in the back, etc.
Your personal opinions of who are and aren't "real people" are duly noted, but I won't ask your pardon for mocking your attempts to declare your subjective approach an objective reality. Assertion and preference aren't an argument.

You're announcing your own personal set of mental categories. Fair enough. That's nice. But implying that those who hold different views aren't "real" and that your views are privileged and the only "real" ones are, well, let me say this: ahahahahahaha.

And ha. And haha.

So there. Because you know what? That isn't very smart.

Neither are generalizations about all politicians or cops. You're announcing your prejudices.

And that's all.

Again, you're entitled, but you're simply making absolutist generalizations no different from "all soldiers are baby-killers" or, hey, "all liberals are air-headed pansy inteleckchul eggheads."

It's not really a very interesting conversational mode; that's my own prejudice. I prefer a tad of nuance, and, yes, smartness, with my dose of opinion.

That's the real opinion of a real man who is a real person who holds real beliefs that are really thought out, and who believes in real argument, rather than substituting assertion for argument.

Repetition is not an argument. Use of an adjective like "real" is not an argument. It's simply repetition of an adjective.

I'm afraid I'll have to return your submission for revision. It does not meet our needs at this time. (That's a publishing joke; sorry; I'm not serious; I'm simply mocking you somewhat, because, you know, that's what a Real Man does.)

You're also deeply confusing the concept of rule of law with authoritarianism. I'd suggest reading up a bit more on both concepts.

But I'll back up and ask you, avedis, since it seems that we can both agree that Authoritarianism Is Bad, as to how you feel about republican democracy with civil rights and liberties, separation of powers, or whether you have a preferred system of government.

Would you or do you prefer tribalism? Gangs? How do you think groups of people should best organize to live together optimally?

I will note that I do see considerable consistency in some of your views: personal loyalty and honor are values you hold, and I respect that.

But your implicit contention that they're sufficient for people large masses of people to live well and fairly with each other, your eagerness to defend violence as not a last resort, but rather, you imply, as something Real People/Men leap to at least verbally defend the threat of, and your denigration of the concept of "law" as useful, do not appear to me to be well thought out. You may, of course, simply be expressing yourself poorly, or possibly I'm simply misunderstanding you, or even more likely, you're expressing your views in sufficiently simplistic terms as to not be filling in enough of the rest of your opinion for your full opinion to be clear to me.

So I invite you to expand on what form of government you'd prefer to live under, since what you're implicitly defending seems to be tribalism. You are, after all, literally defending gangsterism over the rule of law, and if so, why haven't you decided that Somalia would be lovely at this time of year, or any time of year? There are plenty of places in the world where you can go defend you and yours with guns and have no useful law or "authority" at all, other than might making right, after all, if that's what you truly think makes for a safer and better environment for folks to raise families in, or retire to.

What Real Men and Real Warriors wear.

"Another way to look at it, though, is that it's possible to understand people without empathizing with them, and it's even possible to empathize with the suffering some people have gone through that made them into horrific human beings without sympathizing with the horrific behavior, or person, and without forgiving, and it's even possible to forgive someone -- though if someone has done something horrific, forgiveness is really only appropriate and applicable from the person or people they've wronged, not from others -- without apologizing for them, or defending them."

Gary, this is a most intelligent and relevant statement, IMO. For the record, I do not like gangsters. I think they are parasitic sociopaths. That being said, I learned a long time ago that demonizing an enemy is a very poor method. Doing so colors and distorts the perception to the point where the ability to take correct action is impaired. Rather, it is better to understand the enemy in the context of their own, and then the larger, social and psychological melieu. Also, the world of men is so large and complex that decisions are rarely, if ever, made on a black/white basis. They are mostly made in shades of grey. Today an person or group is made an ally based on some characteristic(s), tomorrow an enemy based on some other characteristic(s); or maybe the same characteristic(s) which was once useful, but no longer is. Demonizing is for propaganda; for mobilizing the masses and is unbecoming an intelligent person.

I could give a flying f**k about either Jr or Sr Calabrese. Dr Science asked a question and I thought I would try to answer it in a tone and language commensurate with the position that holds that Jr is a rat. Personally, i do think he is a rat and that is, indeed, based on an assessment of character and a personal sense of honor. If I had to recruit a mafia asset to achieve a successful outcome to a mission/operation (and the US gov't has done this on numerous occasions) I would look more deeply into Sr, but I would avoid Jr like the plague based on his retarded character development.

"I'm sure you could beat me up, and quite a few of us up." Technically speaking, that is probably true. I still practice these skills and, as my wife says, I am "freakishly strong" from years of regular workouts and farm work. However, one should never assume the outcome of an engagement if recon has been insufficient to determine the size and composition of an opposing force :-). But seriously, who cares? Additionally, I do not want to beat anyone up. I prefer to select from a different option set: a) forgive and forget b) ignore c) predict potential sources of conflict and adjust so as avoid conflict d) my favorite, air differences, understand, find common ground and then work together to build something bigger and better than what we could have done as individuals. Any how, as I sit today, a toddler could probably kick my @ss as I find myself, again, laid up with crippling back pain; which makes me onery; which is an excuse for being a indelicate loud mouthed [email protected] Not that I believe in excuses, but there you have it.

"You're also deeply confusing the concept of rule of law with authoritarianism."
Here we disagree. I think there is a distinction in theory, but not one in practice. Laws are made by governemnts and they are enforced by governemnts. There are no good governements. There are only varying degrees of badness in governments.

Right here in the USA we have a law based on on those good ideas; like civil rights. Yet, where are we? We spend $billions upon $billions to kill people in their native lands while right here at home the infrastructure that made this country an industrial power and thriving economy crumbles around us for lack of funding. The middle class is disappreaing for lack of gainful employment and big banks and other favored industry sectors rob us blind. Those were our tax dollars that went in to their coffers and bonus checks. Our children can't get a decent education for lack of funding. Our citizens go without healthcare. The rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer. Those civil rights seem to be eroding at a rate that correlates with all the other errosions above. Who supports all of this? Our government. What can we do about it? Nothing. Protest and you will be jailed and/or have your head cracked. Or maybe, if you're lucky, you'll just be ignored. For now. But believe me, you're going to be on a list and when the whole sh!t house goes up in flames, they'll be checking that list and you'll be the first to go.

Rule of law my @ss. Even here in the USA the law is whatever the guys with guns and badges say it going to be today and those guys ain't working for you and me. And it's getting worse and fast.

So yeah, I know, I should shut up and ...oh look...Charlie Sheen just said something wacky and so and so was seen at the galla whatever with that big football star.......oooh and some scary rag head dude is doing something bad, let's go get 'em.......

"Would you or do you prefer tribalism?"
Yes, I would. A communistic tribe. However, I realize that there are way too damn many of us for that to work. So I sit back and sigh and pour another drink and watch the folly of the world of men as it unfolds.

"How do you think groups of people should best organize to live together optimally?"

This question deserves its own comment.

As I said, my personal preference would be along the lines of one of the more egalitarian Native American societies pre-white man. I'd be happy there.

Recognizing that we can't go back there, as well that no system is perfect, I think the ideals and values of the US Consitution are as good a foundation for a large society as we can have.

But it isn't enough. It isn't working any more. It is on its death bed suffering from two forms of cancer; Greed and Complancency. Greed has always been there, but Complacency is particualry insidious, It lowers the immune system and allows greed to run rampant.

If the People would demand another Roosevelt and a redux of 1930s public works and workers' rights and a cessation of sickening pandering to big corporate interests and foolish endless overseas military adventures we could get this thing back on track.

It won't happen though. The Law (aka the corporate mafia's button man) has gained too much power and control.

I do know how to kill you by poking my finger into your eyeball, or crushing your throat with a blow, or driving bones of your nose up into your brain, and a few other tricks, if I caught you by surprise and didn't miss, just for the record. :-)

But mostly I'd run away.

In the past. Now I'd mostly just shuffle, so I'd instead have to try to talk you to death. :-)

Finally, Gary, I eagerly await your thoughts on what we should do regarding Libya. I have a hunch that you will be in favor of dropping a few $ billion worth of US of A wip @ss on those sorry brown heads.

I know you thought that way about Iraq. I, on the other hand, am on record as predicting that one as a complete farce, a tar pit, and being strongly opposed.

Funny, you complain about someone - like me - being an annoying unidimensioanl alpha male persona as opposed to diplomatic and witty, but then you want the the whole country to be alpha; The Alpha Country beating up anyone in the world that it thinks needs a thumping.

See, I too look for consistency and when I find it lacking..........

"...or driving bones of your nose up into your brain..."

That one is, actually, a fallacy. The other two methods are effective.

I guess we could have a duel, canes at one pace. A fine pair we'd be. I believe you have the advantage sir, your cane is made of metal and mine of wood.

On what fantasy planet does anyone who has been reading the internets for more than 24 hours believe that Gary Farber was a supporter of the Iraq War? Or war generally? Or gunboat diplomacy or American exceptionalism or getting our way by force?

russell: "I have more important things to shed my tears over."

Me too. And I hope you don't think I was glamorizing or romanticizing criminals. But they're people who get caught up in circumstances just like everybody else. Some people have more obvious choices than others. For example, it would never have occurred to me to join the mafia because I wasn't invited - had no contact with it as far as I know. I'm not smart enough to lead a life of crime on my own and not get caught. It's easy to say that I'm beyond temptation, when actually it was that temptation was beyond me. I'd like to think that I'm not greedy or sociopathic (and I don't think I am, honestly) but It just hasn't come up enough for me really to be tested. I have been tested otherwise, with mixed results. And, some of my most honorable efforts have been unsuccessful, to the point that I now consider them to have been mistakes.

If, russell, in your family's restaurant, you had made the wrong "choice" of wholesalers, something bad may have happened. If the guy who visited your family had made the wrong "choice" of careers, something bad may have happened to him or his family. As I understand it, the mafia and gangs thrive on the principle that people don't have a choice. So they probably (just guessing here) exercise their humanity in more circumscribed way and learn to ignore the evil in what they're doing.

We make laws because certain actions have bad effects on other people. I'm not unhappy when people who break those laws are zealously prosecuted and put in jail. I just prefer not to generalize that all of these people have degraded themselves beyond redemption. Some of them probably have. Some suspicion is justified. Some people may be "stunted as a human being." But isn't that the same thing as saying that they are subhuman? I don't think dehumanizing people is ever a good attitude, especially when generalizing.

On what fantasy planet does anyone who has been reading the internets for more than 24 hours believe that Gary Farber was a supporter of the Iraq War?

That one made me LOL a bit, too. I think we've got a case of mistaken identity, here.

But, russell I forgot to thank you for the story of your family's business. As I said, I've had little direct contact with mafia (although I have known two or three people who were probably involved). It's not romantic to me at all, but it is interesting how organized crime sets itself up in a community.

On what fantasy planet does anyone who has been reading the internets for more than 24 hours believe that Gary Farber was a supporter of the Iraq War?

I'm sure there's an alternative universe in which Gary is a Steven Des Beste-esque character who floods comments sections with long linked screeds about the necessity of the Iraq war carefully linked with sources that "prove" the whole thing will be over relatively quickly after we find the WMDs being supplied to Al-Qaeda.

The bearded Gary. Not that there's anything wrong with it, I hope slash fiction isn't the next step.

Maybe I have the wrong Gary. I thought he was this guy.

http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2002/08/ive-been-pretty-pro-war-on-iraq.html

and the guy that wrote numerous similar pieces during the build up to the Iraq war. If I have the wrong guy I apologize.

This
I have a hunch that you will be in favor of dropping a few $ billion worth of US of A wip @ss on those sorry brown heads.

I know you thought that way about Iraq.

is not the same as this

http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2003/02/timing-im-still-on-fence-about-war.html

And this

I, on the other hand, am on record as predicting that one as a complete farce, a tar pit, and being strongly opposed.

Perhaps you could like to what you wrote in in the early naughts to verify that. As in math, just because you get the right answer doesn't mean that you did the problem correctly.

Finally, Gary, I eagerly await your thoughts on what we should do regarding Libya. I have a hunch that you will be in favor of dropping a few $ billion worth of US of A wip @ss on those sorry brown heads.

I know you thought that way about Iraq.

Could you quote me my thoughts saying that, since you "know" that, please?

Thanks!

I think I've forgotten, but it's been a while.

I don't mean to be piece-meal, so apologies, but:

[...] but then you want the the whole country to be alpha; The Alpha Country beating up anyone in the world that it thinks needs a thumping.
This is not something I believe, either, to put it mildly.

I don't like to promise future posts; things have a way of coming up. It's conceivable you may see a post from me about Libya in te next couple of days, but no promises.

I could give away the store with a link to someone else's post that more or less sums up my key conclusion, but then there'd be no suspense.

But it doesn't involve the U.S. continuing military action in Libya, if that helps. Not in any significantly scaled way, at the very least. Nor by way of fig-leafing it over to NATO, either.

But I don't want to write a careless preview.

"I thought he was this guy."

Yes, I'm the guy who wrote that post that said:

[...] At the very worst, to support war on Iraq, these are arguments that need to be refuted or at least responded to.

Questions have to be answered clearly:

1. How dangerous are Saddam Hussein's potential weapons of mass destruction?
2. Is military attack the best and most prudent means of ending that danger?
3. Is the threat of use of such weapons made more or less dangerous by attack?
4. Laying aside the WOMD aspect, is it justifiable to "effect regime change" in Iraq, preferably to a friendly and reasonably just democracy, simply on cold grounds of drastically changing the geopolitics of the region, leading to, in theory, an outbreak of friendly democracies in the Arab world, liberating the Arab peoples from theocratic or autocratic oppressive regimes, and making settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict simpler?
5. Can that actually be likely accomplished, not just wished and hoped for?

My own tentative answers, today?

1. I don't know, and always want more data. But they're extremely worrisome. (Here's another report out of Whitehall.)
2. I don't know. I'd hope so, but it, from my level of knowledge, seems very uncertain, and 3 makes for further worry. Unfortunately, this is the sort of thing where we can't really know until either a) attack is tried and succeeds or fails, or b) we get to look back at then-available historic records thirty or forty years in the future.
4. Maybe. But 5 is a big hunk of theory, a reverse Domino Theory, that demands a whole chain of events. It may be possible. If it is, it certainly would be a wonderful thing. But events tend towards unpredictabilty, and the Law Of Unintended Consequences is a constant enemy we have few precision weapons against.

I lean towards support of a war, but like almost everyone else, I want clear explications, and Congressional debate, and hearings, to get the best possible answers we can, in public, to these questions. Oh, and I want a Congressional Declaration of War. Call me old-fashioned.

Only then could I fully support it, not just lean. I certainly can't just put blind trust in Our Leaders. That hasn't always worked out so well, y'know?

And it bodes ill for this Administration that they lean so heavily on the Trust Us, and Trust Us To Keep Secrets argument in all areas of government.

That elephant won't hunt.

8/11/2002 01:05:00 PM

What other "pro-war" posts of mine can you turn up?

The worst you can say is that I've condemned myself many times for not vigorously campaigning against the war before it started, or for some time afterwards, and that I was on the fence for a time. That's something I deeply regret, but taking a while to come out strongly against something is hardly the same as being either strongly for something, or for something at all.

Saying that at a given moment I hadn't yet made up my mind about something, and here's one predilection to consider, but here are a bunch of questions that would have to be answered (which never were) before I'd agree, isn't saying that I'm for something.

I can see how you might be misled by just reading the the subject header, or by taking my first sentence as implying something the rest of the post should refute, and especially in light of lacking context of all the rest of what I've written, and all the rest of my positions over the years.

I, to the best of my memory, never wrote anywhere that we should attack Iraq. But if I did, please do quote it to me.

I'm not going to bother to list all the peace marches I've marched in, the thousands of links to anti-war posts and comments and so on I've made, most particularly about the war in Iraq, or how we should get out of Afghanistan. Lately, tweets and Facebook links.

And hooboy you don't want me discussing Vietnam.

Or we could go back to my opposition to Gulf War I, although it was the fact that I later concluded that I was wrong about that that misled me into having doubts for a time as to whether opposing invading Iraq was also totally a bad idea.

It's easy to fight or not fight the last war, or to make knee-jerk assumptions, and it's easy to make knee-jerk assumptions based on having been wrong before, too. One situation is rarely exactly like another.

I guess, Gary, it is possible to see your stance on the Iraq War - pre-invasion - as being ambivalent, cautious and somewhat reasoned, but I don't. Instead, I see your stance as being deliberately architected to contain a lot of weasel holes. To my mind,a principled stance would have been more like, "I am opposed to war. War should only be considered as an option of last resort and absolute necessity. Therefore, I want to see some hard proof that Saddam is a threat to the US. Absent that proof, I am opposed to war".

The little "proof" that was offered to us was really lame. A laughing stock if it wasn't so sad that our gov't tried to pass it off on us; which should have been a hanging offense. To those with less background, it should have been enough to know that every time the gov't offered "proof" that proof was discredited within 48 hours or so (e.g. the uliminium tubes).

Then there were inspectors in the country and they were coming up with nada. If we knew Iraq had dangerous sh!t then we should have been able to point the inspectors to at least a little of it, right?

Finally, even in worse case scenario (Saddam with nuclear weapons), there was never any serious discussion of how he could be a threat to the US. You know, litle details like nuclear weapons need to be, like, um, delivered to the target; usually via a long range missile or airplanse or submarines (none of which saddam had).

If you were opposed to the Gulf War, then I salute you and I suggest that your original stance was correct.

It must be difficult to be a lib. You have my sympathy. You want so badly for the gov't to be the solution to your problems. You want so badly to be able to be dependent, but then you have to reconcile the fact that the gov't is always lying, plundering and killing and turning a blind eye to those in need.

avedis/Gary discussion strikes a chord, probably somewhat unrelated to the topic, with me. It brings to full bloom an earlier discussion on Obama and whether he has principles and sells them out, never had them etc.

I find the constant juxtaposition of the hard right and left a discussion bordering on petulant, sorry for the harshness of the word but I did search for another, in a world where we all would like believe our core values are immutable and wee settle for compromise at the risk of our souls being lost.

I no less than anyone else.

I find myself at times reflecting on my admiration for the principled stance of the right in the face of what seems to be a perverse lack of principle on the left, even when I vehemently disagree with the stance they have taken. Then, in perhaps the next thought, wonder how the left can be so pedantic, on what is such a grey issue.

I am working hard on my internal conversations.

All this to say that I have greater respect all the time for a friend of mine who once told me that he had lots of strong views weakly held. That he worked to defend his positions vigorously while keeping his ears and mind open to the opposing views, just in case.

I have been trying that more lately. I just decided that I don't want to be able to out argue everyone, I may feel right, but sometimes I just may be stupid.

But isn't that the same thing as saying that they are subhuman?

No, it isn't.

It's saying that people have made choices that limit their ability to relate to other people as fellow human beings.

Sometimes people are born into, or find themselves in, circumstances that make it very hard to choose a good and humane way of life. That's tragic.

But however they found themselves in a life of violent criminality, one of the consequences is that it limits how you relate to other people. It stunts you as a human being. Not in terms of your irreducible humanity, but just in basic, practical terms.

There are lots of things like that in life, becoming a mafiosa is certainly one of them.

You have my sympathy. You want so badly for the gov't to be the solution to your problems. You want so badly to be able to be dependent

Feh. Lame.

You're a smart guy avedis, if you put your mind to it you could do better than that.

"But however they found themselves in a life of violent criminality, one of the consequences is that it limits how you relate to other people. It stunts you as a human being."

Cops, soldiers, real life sailors... all live lives that to some extent stunt their growth, lives of duty or loneliness.

The depiction in this thread of the average mob guy as living a life of violent criminality is pretty unrealistic. Like many things in our culture, like cops, most mob guys go through life never drawing a gun or beating up anyone.

Even the "enforcers" typically are two bit vandals sent to break a guys plate glass window or slash his tires as a reminder. It has been a long time since the mob figured out that crimes against persons were counterproductive and to be avoided as much as possible.

In general, most mob crime against people is against the people that are referenced here, snitches. Even in those cases that acticity is outsourced to people outside the inner circle, mostly nameless people who know people and can be denied, that aren't made members of a family.

The world changes, the businesses and business rules have changed. Money does better than fear these days. For a long time owning a politician has been a better route than scaring him, laundering your money through the local merchant gets more loyalty than fear of reprisal and the Walmarts of the world don't pay the vig.

I am working hard on my internal conversations.

Or so your internal conversation would have us believe ;)

"Or so your internal conversation would have us believe ;)"

Am too. Am not.

The depiction in this thread of the average mob guy as living a life of violent criminality is pretty unrealistic.

How is that unrealistic? The average mafia don might not himself be personally engaging in violence, but where do you get the idea that the average mafia criminal is living a life of anything but violent criminality?

And ironically, what they've done is outsource their "legitimate" enterprises to locals (eg, the bookies) and collect tribute/ protection money from them, to the point were the only business the mafia is left with is violence and the threat of violence.

In the meantime, talking about family betrayal.... Ouch.

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