Posts Tagged ‘Bulger’

The Pursuit of Journalistic Truth and Justice

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm


As expressly stated in the “About” section, The Firmest Pillar Blog is dedicated to the principles of truth and justice.  These themes are then applied to current events.

One current event is the Trial of Whitey Bulger, which dominates the news on a nearly daily basis; very relevant is the tendency of media to associate James “Whitey” Bulger’s younger brother, William, with the criminal allegations for which he now stands trial.

Allow me make one thing clear: Those events, illustrated in large part by various news outlets, exemplify these themes of truth and justice.  Journalism is, by design, inherently about truth.  The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) notes clearly and unambiguously, “Journalism’s First Obligation is to the Truth.”

Furthermore, “Its First Loyalty is to Citizens.”  Also, “Its Essence is a Discipline of Verification,” “Its Practitioners Must Maintain an Independence from Those They Cover,” “It Must Serve as an Independent Monitor of Power,” “It  Must Provide a Forum for Public Criticism and Compromise,” “It Must Strive to Make the Significant Interesting and Relevant,” and “It Must Keep the News Comprehensive and Proportional.”  In theory these should form a solid foundation by which “Its Practitioners Must Be Allowed to Exercise Their Personal Conscience.”

These are noble and lofty principles which parallel the Code of Ethics promulgated by the Society of Professional Journalists.  Yet too often, I see skewed news coverage.  In a profession whose wellspring is truth, what does it mean when what is essentially a means to educate the populace does not comport with these principles?

Time and time again, news stories have played out and disseminate misinformation, or unverified information.  This is dangerous and wrong.  It is for this reason that the experience of William Bulger exemplifies this very theme, where assumptions have been made, where gossip becomes fact, and when repeated enough times, it becomes the reality which we do neither question nor notice; we simply live with it without thinking twice — and without seeing any need to think twice.

The views conveyed in this blog may at times be unorthodox; they may protest against the grain.  They may present a perspective which is so off the mainstream path that the Reader may even conclude this is a propaganda tool aimed to portray William Bulger and others in a positive light.  At all times, every effort is made to show the facts as they are and prompt the Reader to think deeply and to question that reality.  The news is forever filtered through its messenger; that is the nature of any secondary source, is it not?  Like it or not, it can only be seen through a veil.

Drawing from one early political theory text, it is in Plato’s Republic that Socrates depicts the beginning of enlightenment as “…human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads…”

Socrates next describes the path of progress: “At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him…”

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, concludes, “But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort…[T]his is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.”

This old idea equally applies today — the joy of reading the past is realizing that it’s not past at all.  In many ways, learning urges the questioning of convention.  It first requires that one must be open to it, to consider the matter at issue, to make conclusions, and then to “exercise personal conscience.”

That is what this blog strives to do.  There is no other agenda than to explore truth and justice; if any of the issues presented here contribute to contemporary dialogs, then I have done my part, however small; that is the only hope and the sole agenda.

While journalism “must serve as an independent monitor of power,” the field of journalism is itself a source of power.  Who monitors journalists?  With the First Amendment functioning often as both a shield and sword from interference, in the end the pen may very well be mightier than the sword.  It may also prove to be a potent tool in the pursuit of journalistic truth and justice — especially when wielded for good.

The Unusual Case of William M. Bulger abounds with voluminous material to illustrate situations where what is reported, simply does not reflect the actual facts.  Instead, false facts inherently adorn a false reality.  This is true even in instances when facts are readily and easily verifiable simply by consulting a primary source.

Going forward, there will be further discussions involving William Bulger, but there will be illustrations involving others as well. Every day, I come across articles which distort or misstate the facts.  Exploring these pieces is an apt direction to take.

To get closer to the light, one must open the window and pull away the shades, and that task is left for the Reader.  If you are reading this, surely there is some willingness to consider issues raised here and elsewhere.  That purview shall serve you well.

Finally, I must commend one British news outlet about which I posted previously.  After writing to The Independent, I have heard from its Deputy Editor regarding an article which is now corrected.  Many thanks to that publication for demonstrating a side of journalism which we do not often see.  Coupling the duty to report responsibly, it is also incumbent to take responsibility when due.

That message is below, in relevant part:


Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding to your email below.

You are absolutely correct of course that we made a mistake with our headline, which referred to William instead of James Bulger.  The sub-heading was correct and the body of the article made clear that the man on trial was James, rather than his brother – who also featured in the piece as you know.

I am sorry about this slip, which we have now corrected, and hope you might continue to read the Independent, in spite of having had cause to write to us on this occasion.

With best regards

Will Gore

Deputy Managing Editor

London Evening Standard, The Independent, i & Independent on Sunday




Why We Must Shun False Media Reports of William Bulger

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm


In my last entry, I pointed out an indefensible error in the libelous headline of a British newspaper, The Independent.  I’ve even followed up by writing to the reporter and managing editor to correct and retract this egregious misstatement, but they have thus far failed to take any action.  Today, the drama continues, only much closer to home.

Boston Globe reporter Jeff Jacoby has written an article containing within its headline an ominous declaration: “Political elite should shun Bill Bulger.”  He then lays out his case, arguing that Mr. Bulger showed no allegiance “…to the people of Massachusetts, not to the law, not to Whitey’s innumerable victims, not to the truth — and not to God.”  Jacoby constructively asserts that Bulger should have been banned from attending the funeral service for former Governor Paul Cellucci and presumably should not venture outside into the public eye ever again.

As a preliminary matter, it’s important to note that Jacoby is a former assistant of the late Dr. John Silber, President of Boston University.  Ironically, Dr. Silber was one of those “political elite” who spoke out time and time again in support of William Bulger.  William Bulger spoke at Silber’s funeral service this past September as well, calling him “an independent spirit.”  Bulger further noted that, “He taught by example, he was determined to do that. He recognized people paid greater attention to what he did rather than what he said.”  In January, William Bulger also attended the funeral service for former Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Thomas McGee.

Yet his attendance at services for McGee and Silber went without this bold scrutiny.  William Bulger has a long tradition of attending the funeral services of his colleagues; indeed he even delivered the eulogy for U.S. Representative Joe Moakley in 2001.  On that occasion, he lamented: “Humility and pride, seemingly contradictory, coalesced in you, our Joe. Integrity. Justice. And useful service. It is wrenching to say goodbye.”

In these pieces, there is a recurring theme which dramatically contrasts that espoused by Jacoby.  As both his record and delicate choice of words show, William Bulger is a highly principled man who lives his life by certain core virtues.  The traits he admires in others reflect those which he holds so dear within himself.  If what Jacoby asserts was true, then surely he claims to know William Bulger far better than so many who are proud to call him a colleague and friend; these are the people who know Mr. Bulger.  Was Jacoby’s former employer, the esteemed Dr. Silber, wrong all along, too?

By insulting Bulger, Jacoby similarly attacks anyone in Bulger’s association circles, both living and dead: Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, John Silber, Joe Moakley, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, and former Republican Governor William Weld.  Importantly, current U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (also a former prosecutor from Middlesex County) wrote of William Bulger’s autobiographical memoir While the Music Lasts, “If you want to know what politics is all about — the joy, the sorrow, the purpose of public life — read this book.”

Famed historian David McCullough also wrote, “But it’s also a chronicle of an exceedingly intelligent twentieth-century American whose understanding of human nature is exceptional, and who apparently hasn’t an idea in the world of how to be dull.”  Even then-Governor William Weld (who served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts from 1981-1986) wrote that the book “…is a combination of hard-nosed politics and lyrical prose.  For the political insider, it is pure poetry.”  Indeed, it was Governor Weld who even recommended William Bulger’s appointment as President of the University of Massachusetts beginning in 1996.  Given that he was the former chief federal prosecutor in Boston and a member of the opposing Republican party, how was this possible if Bill Bulger is so sinister?

The real question then is, are all of these people really that corrupt themselves, or just naively stupid — and does Mr. Jacoby really know it all, while they apparently know nothing?  That is what he is saying — they really are Know-Nothings, whereas he is a Know-It-All.  Jacoby’s former boss, John Silber, is a Know-Nothing, too.  So is Ted Kennedy.  And don’t forget our current U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

Needless to say, these meritless attacks on William Bulger always seem to escalate in gravity and frequency following the death of another of his colleagues; the most recent onslaught began soon after the death of former U.S. Representative Joe Moakley (D-MA) in 2001, and has resurged in intermittent waves ever since.  Not only is this approach sleazy and misleading, but it also tactfully dillutes the truth by attacking William Bulger at a time when those who know the the truth have died.

Jacoby urges that the death of his revered colleagues is not enough; even Mr. Bulger’s living colleagues should shun him now as well.  Such tacit efforts to isolate targets are, in fact, a common tool of bullies.  One anti-bullying organization warns, “Bullies often feel threatened by good performers, because it increases their own feelings of inadequacy and shame.”  Is it possible that such ill-reasoned criticisms, like those of Jacoby, are more probably sprung from dark hearts of envy?  The facts clearly do not match up with his empty assertions —  words lacking in substance, unless we choose to believe in them.  Yet, to do that would be to debase and demean our own intellectual capacities.  To do that is to see a vile mirage which serves up poison, instead of water.

There is also the fact that clearly, the beating of William’s own heart led him to far different places than his older brother, James.  Indeed, it was during the June 19, 2003 hearing that he distinguished himself from his brother, noting “Truth to tell, over the years I was unable to penetrate the secret life of my older brother.  He marched to his own drummer and traveled a path very different from mine.  Jim had his own ways I could not possibly influence.”  Current U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose brother was a car thief who served time in prison, made a fortune selling car alarms, and was himself arrested on more than one occasion; yet today he is Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  In 2003, former Governor Michael Dukakis wrote how his own brother has had criminal problems as well in penning an article entitled “A Vote of Confidence for Bill Bulger.”

Moreover, with approximately 3.2% of America’s population currently living in prison or under some “correctional control,” that amounts to more than 10 million people, which doesn’t include those released from prison or parole.  Each of these “criminals” has a mother and father, and many have children and siblings.  Yet, unlike in more distant places and times, our blood does not define social stature, and “Corruption of Blood” is expressly prohibited by Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution even in cases of Treason.

The deeds of William Bulger’s own life exemplify public service, as those words etched into the cover of his memoir firmly attest.  One cannot “fake” virtue.  You either have it, or you don’t.  And as the achievements of his life plainly show, William Bulger knows a lot about what public service is, and what it isn’t.

Like his Irish immigrant forebears, William Bulger has proven beyond any doubt that we all live in a Land of Possibility.  Possible not because he cheated — but instead because he worked hard, he loves his family, he respects his enemies, and he has never stopped believing in what matters most: Humility, Integrity, and Justice.  The keystone is that bundle of core virtues which have so defined the bedrock of Bulger’s own life.  He is thus not only a model for public service but also exemplifies that immortal apparition which is the American Dream.

With all things considered, Jeff Jacoby may very well be the real Know-Nothing here.

The Day UMass Lost William Bulger

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm


In Boston, the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger is underway, as widely reported in the news.  One such story was published about a week ago by Asma Khalid at WBUR.  This article contains one glaring inaccuracy which is so often misstated that justice demands a proper recounting of the facts.  Specifically, this article illustrates how James “Whitey” Bulger is the older brother of William Bulger — the former President of the University of Massachusetts (UMass) and the longest-serving State Senate President in the history of the Commonwealth.  Why is this important?

Well, for those who remember and especially for those who do not, there was quite a stir ten years ago when William Bulger was subpoenaed to Washington, DC to testify before the House Committee on Government Reform about the whereabouts of his brother.  He clearly and unequivocally stated, “I do not know where he has been over the past eight years, I have not aided James Bulger in any way while he has been a fugitive…”

Yet this reporter, Asma Khalid, goes on to declare, “But that wasn’t an adequate defense: Bill Bulger lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”  Yet this is wrong.

After he testified before the Committee, William Bulger attempted to return to his duties as President of the University of Massachusetts, but then-serving Governor Mitt Romney instructed the UMass Board of Trustees to fire William Bulger from his position as President, because the Board holds oversight jurisdiction over UMass.  In reply, the Board consulted legal counsel and concluded, “In fact the evidence is that the quality of our students, our fund-raising, and research funding have all increased dramatically in recent years…It is the consensus of the board, although not unanimous, that President Bulger has the authority to lead this institution going forward.”  In response, Governor Romney — clearly displeased that the Board of Trustees had refused to do his bidding — subsequently “…said he will begin replacing board members, one by one, until his appointees have a majority – not until 2006.”

Indeed, because Governor Romney chose to establish his higher education policy platform on the issue of whether or not William Bulger should be UMass President, William Bulger chose to resign for the good of the University of Massachusetts on August 6, 2003.  In his resignation speech, President Bulger expressly referenced Governor Romney’s actions, noting how “…the attacks on dedicated public citizens who serve on our Board are being revealed for what they are. And every effort will be made to assure that trustees will remain independent and will be devoted to the betterment of the University of Massachusetts — and to no one or nothing else.”

He pointed out that the Board members had a duty not to serve Governor Romney, but instead to advance the interests of the University.  He continued, “These assaults — politically motivated to be sure — come at a time when the University of Massachusetts, like many public universities across the nation, is struggling to cope with the effects of painful budget cuts.”

Finally, President Bulger expressly declared that he had made a difficult yet noble choice for the betterment of the University: “Although we have met the challenges and are up to the task of meeting more, I increasingly believe that the University and its Board of Trustees should not be subjected to further assault.  I hope that the step I take today will be helpful in our effort to provide a measure of protection for the University.”

Subsequently, even President Bulger’s decision did not save those UMass Trustees who would not kowtow to Romney, as they were eventually replaced by new appointees as of September 2006.

So now going back to Khalid’s article on WBUR, how exactly did Bulger somehow “lose” his position as UMass President?  Asma Khalid writes that he had not proffered “…an adequate defense.  Bill Bulger lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”

That simply is not true.  To the contrary, Bill Bulger’s selfless act was a loss for the University of Massachusetts.