http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/09/18/gotti.tapes.ap/index.html As he languished in a federal prison in 2003, John "Junior" Gotti had plenty to worry about. The jail, he told visitors, was crawling with informants. He had money problems. Old friends were getting indicted. Other members of the Gotti clan were stealing his money. But at the root of his troubles was this: The modern mob, he lamented, was losing its manliness. "Now are we men? Or are we punks or rats or weasels? You tell me," he angrily asked one friend while serving a racketeering sentence. Gotti's conversations were routinely recorded before his release from prison last year, and the tapes have played a central role in his current racketeering trial in Manhattan. A jury was to begin deliberating the case Monday. Among other things, the son of the legendary mafia boss "Dapper Don" John Gotti is accused of ordering an attack on Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who was shot twice by would-be kidnappers in 1992. Prosecutors contend that "Junior" Gotti was involved in mob affairs even after he was imprisoned in 1999. The defense says the recordings, made at the federal prison at Ray Brook, New York, show that Gotti had developed a distaste for mob life and retired. In any case, the tapes provide an inside look at the gangster's code, particularly its obsession with "being a man" at all costs. Lesson No. 1: Men fight. "If a guy wants to get all fancy and prancy, if he picks his hands up to you, you pick your hands up back. You're not a punk," Gotti explained in one recorded discussion. "No hiding behind fences," he said during another conversation. "Take our coats off like gentlemen. Now, let's see. Let's see who the tough guy is. No knives. No guns. Like gentleman. ... Let's see who the real man really is." Lesson No. 2: Men tolerate no assault on their character. Gotti is firm on this point when he discusses two uncles who diminished his leadership role in the gang by badmouthing him to his father in 2001, a year before the elder Gotti's death from cancer in prison. "If any of them ever come here, I'm telling you, I swear it to you, on my dead brother and my dead father, I swear to you, I will meet them by that (prison) door, with two padlocks in my hands and I will crack their skulls, I promise you that. I promise you that. This I take as a solemn oath as a man." Lesson No. 3: Manliness is in the blood. "You're a real man," he told longtime friend John Ruggiero. "You wanna know why, John? Not only for who you are. But for who your father was. You got his genes, you're a man." A person who isn't a man, he added, can't simply become one by acting tough. "These ain't men you're dealing with, you're dealing with frauds," he said. "It's like a kid who gets (unintelligible) all his life ... and he gets his milk money taken. What does he grow up to be? A cop. He's got a gun and a badge. That's, that's his equalizer. Got a gun and a badge, now he's a man. Well, that's how all these guys are, John, they're no different." Lesson No. 4: A man spends time with family. "Listen, I love my brother," Gotti said. "But my brother's a bum. That's all he is. No more, no less. He doesn't spend a moment with his own children. I have a hard time respecting any man who doesn't spend any time with his wife and kids." Lesson No. 5: Men can do prison time. "Some guys are made for this. Some guys just aren't," Gotti said of his life behind bars. "Gravano was an example," he said, speaking of Gambino crime family turncoat Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano. "I mean he was a legendary soldier in the street. Brooklyn, he was a legend in Brooklyn. He got to jail, he fell to pieces." Lesson No. 6: Real men don't snitch, but if they do, they don't make stuff up. "Bottom line is, if you're gonna become a rat, become a rat: Tell the f------ truth. Don't go out of your way to hurt people," he said. This is Gotti's third trial on the latest racketeering charges. The first two ended when jurors deadlocked on the charges, in part because of the defense argument that he became disenchanted with the mafia and retired long enough ago that the legal deadline for prosecuting him for old crimes had expired. Which brings us to Gotti's Lesson No. 7: Mafia life stinks. "So much treachery ... My father couldn't have loved me, to push me into this life," he lamented to friend Steve Kaplan. "Oh ... I'd rather be a Latin King than be what I am," he said, referring to the Hispanic street gang. "I swear to you, Steve, and I, I mean it on my father's grave. I'm so ashamed. I am so ashamed." My favourite is Lesson #3.Some of the men I deal with are nothing without their ranks.Everything when the boss is within earshot.