A Friendly Get-Together

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Do you remember the 1957 meeting of Mafia bosses in Apalachin, New York? About 100 of the Big Bosses met at the home (it must have been large!) of local Mafia chieftain Joe Barbara, and the local police became curious when they noticed numbers of expensive cars with out-of-town license plates at the Barbara home. The cops, acting on the principle of "arrest now, ask questions later," arrested as many of the men as they could catch, and a prosecutor named Milton Wessel subsequently tried them on conspiracy charges. What conspiracy? Well, when the men refused to say what they were doing at the Barbara home, that was enough, in Mr. Wessel’s mind, to convince him that nefarious things were transpiring. Twenty men were convicted, and fifteen sentenced to the maximum term of five years in prison. Less than a year later, the Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit overturned the convictions, pointing out that the government had not produced a shred of evidence that any crime had been committed. Mr. Wessel subsequently became a professor of law at Georgetown University.

What brought this episode to mind was the recent meeting in Trinidad of another group of powerful men — including, of course, President Photo-Op-bama, at what has been called the Summit of the Americas. These "summit" meetings seem to have become woven into the fabric of contemporary life, so that their occurrences are not regarded with the interest that, perhaps, they deserve. The president’s first foreign trip, perhaps not technically a "summit," was to Canada, in February, where he met with Canada’s Stephen Harper, and they both said nice things about each other, and reassuring things about the status of the world, with the inevitable promises of continuing "dialogue."

Then he went to London, at the end of March, for something called the "G20 Summit." He didn’t accomplish much there, but the European press thought he was just wonderful, and liked Michelle, too. Gosh, he looked good, and talked good, and had a nifty wife, to boot! She’s even planted a garden, and plans to raise their own food! Wow!

In April, he was off again, this time to the aforementioned Trinidad, for the latest summit. He shook Hugo Chavez’s hand, which was, I guess, the most newsworthy event at that meeting. Was that handshake a good thing — or a bad thing? It reminded me of the story of the psychiatrist who, on a walk, encountered someone who said "hello" to him. This left the psychiatrist puzzled. "Just what did he MEAN by that," he fretted.

So what’s the common denominator in these four "summit" meetings? Secrecy. In this day and age, the world’s rulers could easily meet via closed circuit TV, and save a bundle in travel expenses. But hackers could probably get access to the goings-on. Face to face, walking in the garden, or riding in a car, the rulers can achieve privacy — the sort of privacy that, when achieved by Mafia bosses, constitutes "conspiracy" and merits a jail sentence! When achieved by the government rulers, it means statesmanship, and merits the greatest reverence.

Did the Mafia chieftains meet to find ways to better the lives and fortunes of the people they controlled? Hardly. Do you think the "legitimate" rulers meet to explore ways to make us richer, or free-er? That would be the day! And they are rulers, not leaders. If they were, as they would have us believe, actually leaders, they could send their heads of state to these meetings. We have, after all, a Secretary of State, renowned far and wide for her expertise and knowledge of international affairs. She and her foreign counterparts could work out the details of whatever their respective governments needed to discuss. But when the head men themselves meet, person to person, there’s skullduggery afoot, and it certainly won’t be the banal pap and drivel that will be published or broadcast; rather, stuff too important to be written down, published, or entrusted to underlings.

Mafia summits are bad enough, but the Mafia bosses are only local. When the international bosses, self-important nabobs who can argue that, because they are the law, whatever they do is proper and legal, get together, watch out! Whatever they decide, it’s not likely to be for your good, or mine.

Dr. Hein [send him mail] is author of All Work & No Pay, which is out of print, but may occasionally be obtained on eBay.

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