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Reviews Mixed on “J. Edgar” Movie

 
 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Friday marks the official general release of the much awaited “J. Edgar” movie produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The reviews are mixed, so I thought I’d post some  from papers around the country. The movie, way before its release, became controversial because of its suggestion that J. Edgar Hoover was having an affair with his right hand man Clyde Tolson.

I’d like to hear what you think. Send your comments to lengela@ticklethewire.com. I’ll try to publish as many as I can.

Here’s some of the reviews.

Washington Post

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post

Anyone with strong opinions about founding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is unlikely to come away satisfied by “J. Edgar,” Clint Eastwood’s ambitious, ultimately deflating portrait, which somehow manages to elide his worst abuses of power while making a burlesque of his personal vulnerabilities.

Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) shrewdly organize “J. Edgar” around secrets – those that Hoover wielded in order to gain and keep power for an extraordinary 48 years at the bureau and those that he kept about his own intensely guarded private life. But because Hoover so adroitly avoided leaving any kind of paper trail, much of “J. Edgar” necessarily hinges on speculation and hearsay, especially regarding his intimate personal and professional relationship with Associate FBI Director Clyde Tolson.

To read more click here.

Los Angeles Times

By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

“J. Edgar” is a somber, enigmatic, darkly fascinating tale, and how could it be otherwise?

This brooding, shadow-drenched melodrama with strong political overtones examines the public and private lives of a strange, tortured man who had a phenomenal will to power. A man with the keenest instincts for manipulating the levers of government, he headed the omnipotent Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years. Though in theory he served eight presidents, in practice J. Edgar Hoover served only himself.

Starring an impressive Leonardo DiCaprio and crafted with Clint Eastwood’s usual impeccable professionalism, “J. Edgar” gets its power from the way the director’s traditional filmmaking style interacts with the revisionist thrust of Dustin Lance Black’s script.

To read more click here

The Orlando Sentinel

By ROGER MOORE
The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
Although the screenwriter of “Milk” didn’t script a “gay fantasia” on Hoover’s successes and monomaniacal excesses, he has written a film that provokes more inappropriate laughter than any mainstream period piece since Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

It’s fascinating to interpret Hoover’s career through his twin obsessions — his experiences battling Bolshevik bomb throwers in the “Red Scare” of 1919-1020 that made him fear communists more than mobsters, and the conflicted, “my big secret” that was his personal life, which made him a fussy hypocritical moralist.

But if you’re not snickering at the sight of Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime “close associate” Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer of “The Social Network”) in bathrobes, reading Hoover’s “secret files” on the sex lives of the powerful and giggling like a couple of gossipy queens, you’re going to be in the minority.

To read more click here.

The New York Times

By MANOHLA DARGIS
New York Times

Even with all the surprises that have characterized Clint Eastwood’s twilight film years, with their crepuscular tales of good and evil, the tenderness of the love story in “J. Edgar” comes as a shock.

Anchored by a forceful, vulnerable Leonardo DiCaprio, who lays bare J. Edgar Hoover’s humanity, despite the odds and an impasto of old-coot movie makeup, this latest jolt from Mr. Eastwood is a look back at a man divided and of the ties that bind private bodies with public politics and policies. With sympathy — for the individual, not his deeds — it portrays a 20th-century titan who, with secrets and bullets, a will to power and the self-promotional skills of a true star, built a citadel of information in which he burrowed deep.

To read more click here

The New York Daily News 

By Joe Numaier
New York Daily News

Despite over two hours’ worth of recalling, recanting, stonewalling and bullying, the secrets that lie at the heart of “J. Edgar” remain hidden.

That may be because director Clint Eastwood’s movie is of two minds about J. Edgar Hoover. The longtime FBI “head cop” is a hard-working, but narrow-minded patriot, an upholder of a limited definition of honor and a corruptible battler of corruption.

That can be a plus in a bio-pic, but in a movie whose scope is several decades’ worth of law and order, fair-mindedness often turns into fuzzy noncommitment.

At least Leonardo DiCaprio, grounded and sure, has commitment to spare. His portrayal of Hoover is undeniably terrific.

To read more click here.

The Wall Street Journal

By Joe Morganstern
The Wall Street Journal

As the peerlessly powerful and widely feared director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the course of almost five decades, J. Edgar Hoover saw himself in a constant state of war—against radicals, gangsters, Communists and any politicians, including presidents, who tried to get in his way. “J. Edgar,” with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, is at war with itself, and everyone loses.

Clint Eastwood’s investigation of Hoover’s life and tumultuous times seeks the cold facts behind the crime-fighter myths, the flesh-and-blood man behind the dour demeanor and the rumors of homosexuality. Yet Mr. Eastwood’s ponderous direction, a clumsy script by Dustin Lance Black and ghastly slatherings of old-age makeup all conspire to put the story at an emotional and historical distance. It’s a partially animated waxworks.

To read more click here.

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Doing the Right Thing in the Penn State Scandal

As head of the FBI’s Ann Arbor office, Greg Stejskal got to know well the legendary University of Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Stejskal, who has retired from the FBI, gives his insights into the Penn State scandal and discusses how he thought Schembechler, who died in 2006, might have handled it.

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

“Do the Right Thing –Always,” Bo Schembechler

I want to preface this by saying, I was an admirer of Joe Paterno and Penn State football, which in my adult life have been synonymous. I don’t know Joe Paterno, but I know that he has been head coach at Penn State for 46 years and has been extremely successful, winning 409 games and two national championships.

Paterno achieved this seemingly without compromising sound values. His players were encouraged to be student-athletes with equal emphasis on the student part.

The football program’s slogan was “success with honor.” All of that including Paterno’s legacy is in jeopardy.

There was a seamy underside to all that success, Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky played for Paterno then became a coach. Ultimately, he was Penn State’s defensive coordinator (the face of Linebacker U). He was characterized as Paterno’s heir apparent. But if numerous allegations are to believed, Sandusky was, at least, as far back as the mid 90s, a child molester – using his position and its status to sexually abuse young boys.

Sandusky’s alleged transgressions go beyond despicable, but the issue for Paterno is what did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it. According to the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, that was investigating the allegations against Sandusky, in 1998 the Penn State police conducted an investigation regarding allegations that Sandusky was in involved in the molesting of young boys.

The case was presented to the local prosecuting attorney, but no charges were brought as a result of that investigation. (It is difficult to believe a case could be presented to the prosecutor without Paterno being aware of the investigation.)

Coincident with the conclusion of that investigation, Sandusky was informed by Paterno that he would not be Paterno’s successor as head coach. Following the 1999 football season, at the age of 55, Sandusky retired from the Penn State coaching staff.

I don’t know what caused Sandusky’s precipitous fall from grace, but the timing, at best, seems curious.

Although Sandusky was no longer on the Penn State coaching staff, he was still a member of the PSU faculty. He remained an Assistant Professor of Physical Education Emeritus with full access to Athletic Department facilities and other perks.

According to the Grand Jury report, March 1, 2002, Mike McQueary, a PSU football graduate assistant (now the wide-receiver coach) saw Sandusky sodomizing a young boy in the shower area of the football building. McQueary knew Sandusky andwas shocked and unsettled, but on the following day he reported what he had seen to Paterno. Paterno then told the Penn State Athletic Director, Tim Curley, of McQueary’s eyewitness account. Later McQueary would be interviewed by Curley and Penn State Senior Vice-President, Gary Schultz. It is not clear what further actions were taken as to Sandusky, but it is clear this incident was never reported to the police or child welfare authorities. Nor apparently was any action taken to identify the young boy or ascertain his welfare.

Sandusky retained his Assistant Professorship (He was listed in the faculty directory as recently as last week.) and his access to University facilities. According to the Grand Jury report, Sandusky’s abuse of young boys continued after 2002.

So did Paterno fulfill his responsibility as head football coach and as Sandusky’s former boss?

I don’t think it can be overstated the prestige and sheer clout that Paterno has at Penn State, but for whatever reason, he apparently never used any of that to further pursue the Sandusky matter or to inquire about the welfare of the alleged victims.

In comparison, I pose the hypothetical question: What would Bo Schembechler have done?

Bo is a man I did know. Bo was a legendary football coach at Michigan from 1969-1989 and a peer of Paterno.

To the best of my knowledge, Bo never had to deal with any of his staff being alleged child molesters.

He did have situations that required staff and players having to take responsibility for their acts even if it might reflect badly on Michigan, a place he loved and revered.

In 1987, the FBI was investigating two sports agents, Norby Walters and Lloyd Bloom, who had ties to organized crime. Walters and Bloom had worked up a scam where they bribed blue-chip college football players to sign post-dated, secret, agency contracts while they were still eligible to play college football – a clear violation of NCAA rules. Ultimately some of the players balked, threats were made by Walters and Bloom, and the whole thing fell apart.

Players who had signed the contracts were identified. They were all star players on prominent college teams. Two of the players were on Bo’s 1986 Michigan team.

When Bo found out, he was livid. He called one of the players, Garland Rivers, an All-American DB, into the office and had Rivers tell him the whole story.

Then Bo called me.

When I got to Bo’s office, Bo told Rivers “Tell this FBI agent everything about your relationship with Norby Walters.” Bo could have distanced himself and Michigan from the investigation.

Michigan would have been just one of many major football programs victimized by Walters and Bloom. But that wasn’t Bo. Damage control doesn’t mean hiding from the truth. It means taking responsibility for your actions and trying to rectify the mistakes.

Walters and Bloom had enticed his players to break the rules. They had besmirched Michigan. Bo knew he had to take a stand and do what he could to protect future players from illicit agents.

Later, when Walters and Bloom went on trial in Federal Court for racketeering and fraud, Bo testified. He was the star witness. His testimony was so strong, the defense declined to cross exam him. Walters and Bloom were convicted. What had been a dark moment in Michigan football history was a comeback win as important as any that had occurred on the field.

So what would Bo have done if faced with an assistant coach who was allegedly molesting young boys.

We’ll never know for sure, but I’m certain that he wouldn’t have just reported the allegations to his boss and done nothing else. Bo would have made sure the police were aware of the allegations. And that assistant coach would not have had access to Michigan athletic facilities or be emeritus anything.

It has been said that Paterno fulfilled his legal responsibility by reporting the allegations to the Penn State AD.

However, it would seem he did not fulfill his moral responsibility by making sure the allegations were pursued and, thus, protecting potential future victims.

We may never know why Paterno failed to pursue the Sandusky matter further. Perhaps Paterno didn’t do more out of a misguided effort to protect the reputation of Penn State, but if that was the motive, far more damage has been done to Penn State’s reputation than would have been done had this matter been fully confronted in 1998 or 2002.

Bo did not see degrees of honor and integrity. You either did the right thing or you didn’t – half way was unacceptable.

 

“Geezer Bandit” Chalks Up #15 in Calif.

"Geezer Bandit"/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

That rascally bandit known as the “Geezer Bandit” continues his elusive ways.

On Wednesday, the FBI issued a statement that the bandit, who appears to be in his 70s, had hit his 15th bank in the San Diego area on Sept. 30, the Associated Press reported.

The robbery occured  at a Wells Fargo bank inside a Vons grocery store in La Jolla, Calif., AP reported.

AP reported that the bandit approached the teller counter, pointed a revolver pistol at the teller and demanded money.

The Geezer Bandit began is robbing ways in 2009.

A $20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the robber’s arrest and conviction.

Some have speculated that the Geezer Bandit may actually be wearing a very-well crafted Hollywood quality mask to make it look as if he’s a senior citizen.

 

Guatemalan Drug Enforcement Improves; DEA Standing in the Shadows

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Elio Lorenzana, on who’s head the U.S. government placed a $200,000 reward, was peacefully detained after a DEA-supported operation.

The lede of the story, on the website InSight (tagline: “Organized crime in the Americas”), reads: “Guatemala has now captured more top-level drug traffickers in the past two years than in the previous decade, no doubt thanks to pressure from the US.”

Elio Lorenzana was the youngest son of what the report called one of Guatemala’s most influential families–involed in both legitimate and illegitimate businesses, including narcotics running and drug trafficking.

The quiet arrest stands in contrast to five previous attempts, reports InSight; Guatemalan forces began pressuring the Lorenzana clan only after a US court indicted the family for drug trafficking in March of 2009.

The operation was part of a newly implemented strategy, wherein Guatemalan forces use less visible partnerships with the DEA, though the agency still plays a key advisory role.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Cyber Ring that Infected Millions Taken Down

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Six Estonians operated a vast internet fraud that infected approximately 4 million computers in more than a hundred countries–500,000 of which were in the US–according to a federal indictment unsealed in New York Wednesday. Their arrests in Estonia on Tuesday were the culmination of a two-year FBI probe named Operation Ghost Click.

The cyber ring, beginning in 2007, used what is called a DNSChange to interfere with unsuspecting people’s web browsing.

DNS, which stands for Domain-Name-System, is the system by which website names and urls are converted into numbers, allowing computers to communicate over a network. The DNSChanger was able to manipulate Internet advertising by redirecting user’s browsers not to the sites they intended to go to, but related sites controlled by the group. They generated $14 million in illicit fees from the scheme, and deprived legitimate businesses and advertisers of potential revenue.

The DNSChanger disabled the anti-virus software of some victim’s computers, exposing them to further viruses.

“They were organized and operating as a traditional business but profiting illegally as the result of the malware,” said one cyber agents that worked the case. “There was a level of complexity here that we haven’t seen before.”

The six Estonians were arrested in their homeland by local authorities on Tuesday, and the U.S. will seek extradition.

Column: When it Comes to J. Edgar Hoover, What Journalism?

Schwarz is a retired FBI agent.

Gregg Schwarz/facebook

By Gregg Schwarz
for ticklethewire.com

For just one small moment, let’s take a look at this trade called journalism. I thought this was to be based on some facts. Possibly an interview or two. Maybe even some research that was based in fact.

That is not what I see about Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and his private life. The people who are out there making claims and attempting to ruin the good reputation of the father of law enforcement are doing all of this based on the desire to make headlines and money.

Plenty articles and books are being written. And now the latest: Hollywood’s dubious attempt at capturing history through the movie “J. Edgar.”

Unfortunately, they’re not based on fact, but rather speculation and conjecture.

It is a shame. They need to remember there is no larger rumor mill than the Special Agents of federal law enforcement. Law enforcement knows rumors. But hearing rumors and publishing them are two different things.  Sure, rumors know no bounds. That’s where journalists are supposed to come in; to separate the fact from the fiction, the rumor from the reality.

Interestingly, all those years and not one one rumor — at least not one published one — until more than ten years after the man died? Unfortunately, Mr. Hoover cannot respond.

What journalism?