Category Archives: Uncategorized

R. Cobb: A Thanksgiving reminder from 1968

A somber blast from the past from esnl‘s favorite countercultural editorial cartoonist of the 1960s, a literal reminder to consider the foundation for all those thanks we’re supposed to be giving tomorrow:

BLOG Cobb Thanksgiving 2

DroughtWatch: No change for the Golden State

The United States Drought Monitor released their maps early this week, opting for today instead of the usual Thursday release because of the Thanksgiving holiday:

BLOG Drought

Chart of the day II: American’s drop vacations

From the Independent, more evidence of how overworked Americans are — though it fails to address the root causes, of which we are sure you have a suspect or two in mind:

BLOG Vacation

Replay: Marilyn Monroe’s bugs and a .22-caliber killer

Here’s an esnl repost from 18 July 2010, an oldie but goody still generating a fair number of hits:

Marilyn Monroe, perhaps the most emblematic Old Hollywood screen star, is in the news again, this time because the last house she owned — and the one where she died — is up for sale again. Asking price: $3.6 million.

The New York Daily News report included this in the concluding paragraphs:

One of the more elaborate: when actress Veronica Hamel  reportedly bought the home in 1972, she discovered a telephone tapping and eavesdropping system while remodeling, according to Hamel’s  biography. This ignited the far-fetched rumors that the Mafia may have been responsible for Monroe’s death.

The home was built in 1929 and still has much of its original details, but has been remodeled several times.

First, some background. During esnl‘s years at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, he spent a fair amount of time looking into organized crime. Two sources had interesting stories to tell about the wiring found in the crawlspace at 12305 St. Helena Drive in Brentwood.

I had two sources: the late Marion Phillips [previously] and a corporate security officer who had once worked as as CIA officer. They told me the same story six years after the discovery of the wires.

The wiring was discovered during renovation work, and both law enforcement and corporate phone security officers examined the find. What they found was two different sets of wires.

Covert operators who install bugs and wiretaps have distinct “signatures” readily discernible to the cognoscenti, involving both the specific types of wires used and the way the wires are installed, ranging from the brand of connectors used to the types of knots, the manner of soldering, and the way the wires are secured.

One set of wires was instantly recognizable as an FBI installation because of the distinct coating of the wires, which was reserved for law enforcement use. The signature of the second set, installed after the FBI wires, was also instantly recognizable.

The second wire man was Bernard Bates Spindel, the tap and bug expert hired out by both law enforcement and organized crime. One of his major clients was mobbed-up Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who had ample reason to fear illegal bugs.

Robert Kennedy, appointed Attorney General by his presidential brother John, had been waging a relentless “Get Hoffa” campaign as part of his overall attack on organized crime. It was a dangerous and thoroughly illegal war, since it was waged before federal law allowed the FBI to install bugs. FBI bugs exposed the inner workings of the Chicago Outfit, the old Capone gang.

The double-edged sword posed by the bugs was the harsh reality that John F. Kennedy had shared two mistresses with Outfit boss Sam Giancana. The first was Judith Campbell Exner, and the the second was the woman the tabloids dubbed the “Blonde Bombshell.”

Giancana had another tie to the Kennedy administration as well, and to the subsequent administration of Lyndon Johnson: The CIA was paying him, through front man Johnny Roselli, to carry out a “contract” on Fidel Castro.

Just what the feds and Spindel captured on their tapes at the Monroe house remains a mystery. The actress allegedly killed herself there on 5 August 1962 after returning from the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe, a gambling resort jointly owned by Frank Sinatra and Giancana, and allegations have surfaced that Giancana beat her at his private cabin shortly before she fled back to Brentwood.

Sinatra’s ties to Giancana cost the crooner his gambling license, though a fawning Nevada Gaming Commission would later restore it two decades later, despite massive evidence that Old Blue Eyes always danced to the wise guy’s tune.

Gianana proved a high-profile and somewhat inept mob boss, and few shed tears when he was whacked in the basement of his Oak Park, Illinois, home on the night of 19 June 1975.

In a final twist of fate for esnl, Giancana was killed as as he whipping up a batch of his legendary sausage and peppers. The weapon was a silenced .22-caliber Colt Woodsman semiautomatic pistol modified and fitted out with a custom made silencer by a St. Louis armorer who provided an identical pistol to George Patrick McKinney, the killer whose trial first brought esnl into the Santa Monica courtroom of Judge Lawrence J. Rittenband, the jurist who would besmirch himself 10 months later with his handling of the Roman Polanski case.

Back to Marilyn’s curious bugs

An FBI report dated 2 September 1961 offers some insight into the bugs at Monroe’s house.

Fred Otash, a disgraced Los Angeles Police Detective turned private eye, spent his latter years publishing a trashy Hollywood tabloid, making more money from what he didn’t print that what actually appeared on paper. Otash, Lt. Phillips told me, specialized in digging up dirt on celebrities, then withholding it in return to hefty payoffs.

One of the reasons Freddie was able to thrive as a bottom-feeder was the classic con’s dodge, playing snitch in return for a blind eye from law enforcement.

A Fred Otash newspaper ads

A Fred Otash newspaper ad

On 16 August 1961, Otash reported in to his FBI handler to report that he’d been contacted in New York by Spindel, who “made known the fact that Hoffa was about to ‘bury the Kennedys’ and in doing so they were attempting to use every means possible which included the setting up of electronic listening devices on the Kennedys wherever possible.

Spindel’s approach was to determine whether informant would be interested in handling such work for Hoffa on the West Coast, such as developing information concerning the identity of any prostitutes knowqn to have any association whatsoever with either the Attorney General or the President and Spindel was of the belief thois [sic] information could be developed through [name redacted] or Peter Lawford

. . .Spindel indicated they were compiling all possible information for this so-called ‘hate campaign’ and contemplated inclusion of this material in the [Teamsters] Union magazine.

The report concludes: “There is no indication on the part of the informant of emotional instability, unreliability or the furnishing of false information.”

Otash would later play the role of supporting cast in the L.A. noir crime novels of James Elroy, and was featured in this interview by Mike Wallace in 1957.

Map of the day: The graying of Europe’s peoples


From Eurostat [PDF], which notes:

The European Union (EU) as a whole is confronted with an ageing population. In 2014, the proportion of persons aged 65 or over reached 18.5% in the EU and it is projected to further increase in the future to almost 30% by 2080. In particular, the proportion of persons aged 80 or over among the total population is expected to more than double, from  just  over  5%  in  2014  to more  than 12%  by  2080. This  demographic trend  confronts  the EU with major challenges, notably regarding the economic situation and social inclusion of older people.

In 2014 in the EU, 18.5% of the population was aged 65 or over, including around 5.1% aged 80 or over. Member States  with  the highest  proportions  of population aged  80  or  over were Italy (6.4%), Greece (6.0%), Spain and France (5.7% each). Conversely, the lowest proportions were found in Ireland and Slovakia (both with 3.0% of their population aged 80 or over) as well as in Cyprus (3.1%).

The proportion of the EU population aged 80 or over has risen over the last 15 years, from 3.5% in 2001 to 5.1% in 2014. Population projections show that the EU population will age further: by 2080, almost 1 out of every 8 persons (12.3% of the population) would be aged 80 or over. Slovakia (now the Member State with the lowest proportion) is projected  to  become  the  Member  State  with the  highest  share  of persons aged 80 or over (16.3%),  followed  by Portugal (15.8%), Germany (15.1%) and Poland (14.9%). At the opposite end of the scale, Ireland (with 7.4% of the population expected to be aged 80 or over by 2080), Lithuania (8.9%) and Latvia (9.5%) would have the lowest shares.

The Empire Report: The corrupt Saudi state

In her latest edition of The Empire Files, Abby Martin takes on the corrupt Saudi royal house and their brutal campaigns of repression and class warefare, armed and supported by Barack Obama’s government.

Sexual repression, assassinations of labor leaders, and massacres of political protesters have been part of the House of Saud’s leadership style for generations, and Abby Martin lays it all out in context.

From Telesur English:

The Real House of Saud – Saudi Arabia’s Oil-For-Tyranny

Program notes:

Meet the new head of the United Nations panel on Human Rights: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abby Martin takes us inside the brutal reality of this police-state monarchy, and tells the untold people’s history of resistance to it. With a major, catastrophic war in Yemen and looming high-profile executions of activists, The Empire Files exposes true nature of the U.S.-Saudi love affair.

Chart of the day: Not longer hopping on pop?

From the New York Times:


We’ve never quite grasped the nation of paying as much for drinking water as we do for gasoline, but Americans eagerly hop on board the notion.

At least with sodas, they give you some extras for your cash.