|I don't think this caught on.|
Behind the scenes here at Confessions of Ignorance, I've been uncharacteristically fumbling a bit for a topic. There are tons of topics, of course, but none of them has felt 'hot', or hot enough to spend a lot of time on here. However, I'll make up for it now by making two confessions of ignorance. The first is that, until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of Whitey Bulger, gangster, terrorizer, and alleged murderer of Boston. Which of course makes it rather hard to celebrate with the same glee as others his capture yesterday. All the same, I have seen quite a bit of news about him in the past twenty-four hours, and besides being captured in the town of my birth, Santa Monica, California, my sister now lives in the town just north, and could easily have passed Bulger and his girlfriend on the Third Street Promenade or countless other places.
|Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica|
Anyway, that little bit of ignorance may well have cost her, or even me ( since I've been known to visit) two million dollars.
Well, never mind, I'm sure I can make it up by writing this blog somehow.
The second bit of ignorance, though, is a bit more shocking. As the bio of Bulger was divulged the term 'racketeering' came up a couple of times. I know of course that racketeering is a crime and one those that gangsters get imprisoned for, but realized that I don't actually know what the activity consists of. Running a racket is running some kind of illegal scheme, but is it anything more precise than that?
Okay, essentially, a racket is an illegal business. We've all heard of a protection racket, in which money is extorted from businesses to protect them, when the real villain they are being protected from are the gangsters behind the racket themeselves. There is also the numbers racket, which is an illegal lottery, and since it seems to have been an Italian phenomena in poorer neighborhoods from at least 1520, I'm wondering if the numbers racket proceeds the other kinds of rackets as a term, especially since it had a system in place where runners ran money and betting slips back and forth between betting parlors and the headquarters, known as a numbers bank. Just an idle guess on my part, though.
The term racketeering, however, has a specific date of origin. This was in June, 1927, when Gordon Hostetter of the Employer's Association of Greater Chicago used it to describe not the local mafia, but the local trade unions. An article in the Journal of Urban history by Andrew Cohen says that Gordon was an anti-union activist and wanted to imply and association between "bootleggers like Al Capone" and the trade unions. The unions eventually were able to fight back against this image, and convince the public that they were the victims of extortion, not its perpetrators. But this picture of unions continued to shape the legal status of collective action.
Hmm. This is all beginning to sound very familiar. Very recently, somehow...
|This is not Whitey Bulger.|