Monday, November 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Eliot Ness’s credentials are untouchable

thomasson column sig

By
March 11, 2014 |

The ATF can’t seem to catch a break . . .  even when it comes to naming a headquarters building.

The much maligned (by gun nuts) Justice Department agency has plans to formally attach the name of its most illustrious alumnus – Elliot Ness of “Untouchables” fame – to its relatively new, architecturally interesting nerve center here but has run into protest from a couple of politicians from Chicago.

For those of you too young to be familiar with the Ness story, that’s where Prohibition-era gangsters held sway under the beady eyes of the most infamous of American crime lords, Alfonse Capone, until Ness and his boys helped bring him to the bar of justice on income tax charges. There have been arguments ever since over the role Ness and his men, portrayed in a bestselling book, popular TV series and motion picture, actually played in the entire affair.

But two things seem abundantly clear. Without the backing of Chicago and Illinois politicians, (where governors to this day seem to have trouble staying out of jail) Capone and his counterparts during the years of vicious squabbling over illegal liquor turf couldn’t have thrived. Second, there seems to be about as much evidence that Ness did have a significant part in bringing down Scarface Al as there is that he didn’t.

Actually, Ness went on to a distinguished law enforcement career proving he was more than just a figment of Hollywood’s imagination. And is it Ness’s fault that some author attached the aura of incorruptibility to his name in reviewing a period when almost all the other characters in this bloody Shakespearian drama were just the opposite, including those who held office at the same level of those of the protesters, two aldermen?

Those who will make the ultimate decision about whether to honor Ness and his intrepid band with a nod to their prowess, real or imagined, should consider that to do otherwise would be to acknowledge that the only winner in this latest revision of history was Capone, who in the long run and with the aid of syphilis beat the system and died in luxury in Florida. Do we really want to enshrine the designer of such legendary events of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre by letting him win in the last analysis?

Besides there is considerable precedent when it comes to attaching dubious distinction in these public naming exercises. Take the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover building for instance. While Hoover was the iconic director of the national police force, his publicized personal achievements were often embellished.

In fact it is not incorrect to say that the scourge of bank robbers and communists and a whole lot of others who disagreed with him had feet of clay all the way up to his waist. Ask anyone who served in Congress and lived in mortal fear of him while he held forth. Remember those secret files and dossiers he allegedly kept on half of Washington? Just because they were never found doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

It is also accurate to say that ATF agents, including many of the old ones from the days when the agency was in the Treasury Department and went belly to belly with truly bad guys, have spilled as much of their own blood in defense of the law as any federal enforcement group. In the process these are guys who have endured less recognition and more malignant attacks than any similar force in U.S. history. In the interest of full disclosure I will say that my son was one of those and never a day went by when I wasn’t concerned about his welfare.

So whether Elliot Ness totally deserves the accolade proposed begs the question as to who cares. He was not just made up of whole cloth as my grandmother used to say, but a real live person who obviously did a job tainted only slightly by myth as is often the case in the retelling of events. So back off Chicago unless you feel comfortable with leading a cheer for the bad guys.

This is an agency that needs a day in the sun, an escape from the hovering menace of gun slinging lobbyists and politicians whose predecessors allowed the Capones of the world to operate with Tommy Gun efficiency. Everybody needs a hero.

Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: thomassondan@aol.com.

Dan K. Thomasson

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Cadets raise cash to help wounded Air Force veteran

    By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Solano cities gather for Thanksgiving meal

    By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

     
    Food Addicts group sets Thanksgiving Day meet

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

    Local government board schedules meeting

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Turkey Trot returns Thanksgiving Day

    By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

    Holiday tree-lighting events begin

    By Glen Faison | From Page: A3

     
    Holiday boutiques in full swing

    By Susan Winlow | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    .

    US / World

    Anxieties mount as Ferguson waits on grand jury

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    3 months after Napa quake, recovery rolling

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    San Jose police arrest man after airport chase

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    Surfer missing off beach south of San Francisco

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Thief suspect falls through ceiling, leaves phone

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    1 killed, dozens injured in California bus crash

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Boy with fake gun dies after shot by Ohio officer

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Israeli Cabinet moves to define Israel as Jewish

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Former DC Mayor Marion Barry dies at 78

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Giffords rides in Tucson cycling event

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Suicide bomber kills at least 45 Afghans

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Some 30 horses die in stable fire outside Chicago

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Crew blasts off for International Space Station

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    US tells Iran to consider nuclear talks extension

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Damage worse than thought in Japanese earthquake

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Joey Chestnut devours turkey to win eating contest

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Strong quake in west China kills 5; 54 hurt

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Health care M&A leads global deal surge

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

    .

    Opinion

     
    Does D stand for deliberate, deception, denial?

    By Colleen Britton | From Page: A8

    OMG, am I eating a GMO?

    By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: Nov. 24, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: Nov. 24, 2014

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

     
    Horoscopes: Nov. 25, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

    My sister-in-law expects me to pay her for damages, but she won’t pay me

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

     
    Horoscopes: Nov. 24, 2014

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

    .

    Entertainment

    ‘Mockingjay, Part 1′ opens with $123 million

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    TVGrid Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

    List of winners of the American Music Awards

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    1D, Katy Perry win big at American Music Awards

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    TVGrid Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Speights scores 28 as Warriors hold off Thunder

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Hyde scores go-ahead TD, lifts 49ers past Redskins

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Federer leads Swiss past France for Davis Cup

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Hamilton answers Rosberg in style to clinch title

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Stacy Lewis sweeps 3 biggest LPGA awards

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    UCLA honors Robinson, retires No. 42 for all teams

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Katy Perry to perform at Super Bowl halftime show

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    NFL roundup: Seahawks roll past Cardinals

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Athletics acquire 1B Ike Davis from Pirates

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Revs win 2-1 at Red Bulls in East final 1st leg

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Sarvas puts Galaxy past Seattle 1-0 in West opener

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    First lady attends Princeton women’s hoops game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Leslie “Esi” Gros

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Jack I. Johnson

    By Glen Faison | From Page: A4

    Dorothy Pouge Arnold

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Arthur Irving Weiner

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

    .

    Comics

    Get Fuzzy Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Baldo Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Garfield Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Frank and Ernest Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Wizard of Id Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Baby Blues Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Pickles Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    For Better or Worse Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Dilbert Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Blondie Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Rose is Rose Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Zits Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Peanuts Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Beetle Bailey Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Sally Forth Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    B.C. Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Sudoku Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Cryptoquote Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Word Sleuth Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Crossword Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Bridge Nov 25

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    B.C. Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Garfield Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Baby Blues Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Dilbert Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Rose is Rose Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Frank and Ernest Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Peanuts Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Beetle Bailey Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Pickles Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Wizard of Id Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Sally Forth Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Baldo Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Get Fuzzy Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Zits Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    For Better or Worse Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Blondie Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Cryptoquote Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Word Sleuth Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Crossword Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Bridge Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Sudoku Nov 24

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7