Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Exploring Jeff Jacoby’s Call For Arms In Syria

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2013 at 12:12 am


It was in Shakepeare’s Henry IV where Lord Hotspur declared, “Now, for our consciences, the arms are fair,/ When the intent of bearing them is just.”

Such timeless words capture the question of today:  What is just for Syria?  Should America respect Syria’s national sovereignty or seek to intervene through the United Nations — or should it take unilateral action in the interest of human rights?  There are many arguments on every side, and surely they cannot all be addressed here.

One facet will be addressed however, as Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has written on this topic.  He has boldly asserted that America is the only nation capable of being the “World’s Policeman,” because America is in fact “the world’s best policeman.”  Casting those who may disagree into the Dark Ages, he invokes the restrained foreign policy views in the post-colonial world of President John Adams, who uttered that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”

Today, things are different, he argues, lauding America as “the mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential nation on the face of the earth.”  Because of this stated fact, Jacoby proclaims that America has an inherent duty to police the entire world.  He recalls the rise of Nazi Germany, the defense of Kuwait during the Persian Golf Conflict in 1990, military assistance in Kosovo, and how America “faced down the Soviet Union.”

As we have seen before, he omits critical facts which would be characteristic of a balanced perspective.  Jacoby fails to mention Vietnam, Haiti, or Nicaragua as unsuccessful intervention efforts, nor does he note that America has already committed to arming rebel forces, as we did during the Cold War.

He dismisses the United Nations by casually stating that the UN, brainchild of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, is pointless.  Jacoby notes that policing the world “is clearly something the United Nations cannot do” and refers to its “bloody trail of failure.”  What about the 2005 RAND Corporation report, which compared “nation-building” activities of the UN to those of the USA, and concluded that UN efforts actually had a higher frequency of long term success?

Jacoby’s most fatal mistake comes when he compares America to NYPD officers walking their beat to “suppress crime and reduce fear.”  He argues that America’s police role must be in the interest of “deterring aggression, maintaining the flow of commerce, and upholding human rights.”

What is so flawed here is a concept apparently far beyond Jacoby’s grasp: jurisdiction.  The NYPD has jurisdiction over New York City.  The NYPD cannot go into New Jersey to enforce New Jersey laws or even New York laws.  The NYPD cannot go into Connecticut to enforce laws, nor can the NYPD make arrests outside of New York City.  That would be beyond its jurisdiction and exceed the scope of its authority.

To enforce laws in other states and jurisdictions, the NYPD must partner with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.  To apprehend individuals wanted in other jurisdictions, there is an established process known as extradition.

Even though it is the largest police force in the United States, the NYPD cannot anoint itself to be “America’s Policeman.”  Other jurisdictions already have law enforcement apparati in place; surely they may not have as many human and technological resources as the NYPD, but that doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if it could even be said that New York City is the “mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential” city in America.

There’s something about the “rule of law” which means if you lack the authority to do something, then you can’t do it.  You can’t break the law to enforce the law; that is inherently antithetical and compromises the very principles which anyone — or any “policeman” — seeks to defend.

The same debate occurs today with the question of whether the NSA exceeded its surveillance authority: the defense is that it keeps us safe, but does the invasion of privacy in fact threaten us even more?  How can we, as a nation, defend the rule of law and then seek to act outside of it?

As one pair of Yale Law School professors recently pointed out, “In the absence of Security Council authorization, international law prohibits the use of military force to enforce international law.”

While others believe that United Nations chemical weapons inspectors should be permitted to complete their evaluation, Jeff Jacoby believes that America should break the law to enforce the law.  In another article entitled “Yesterday’s Atrocities Are Happening Again,” Jacoby compares North Korea, Egypt, and Syria to Nazi Germany.

Like a singing bard, he sadly laments: “The burning of houses of worship didn’t end with Kristallnacht, nor the gassing of civilians with Halabja, nor concentration-camp butchery with Dachau…”  While the events in Nazi Germany were one of the darkest moments in modern world history, Jacoby’s vigilant warning is that the world cannot stand idly by while injustice spreads.

Yet the method he asserts — for America to invade Syria, North Korea, and presumably, Egypt — is inherently wrong.  While Syria has not signed the UN Chemical Weapons Convention, Syria has signed the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which bans the use of chemical weapons.  Chemical weapons are the “red line” drawn by President Obama determining whether direct American involvement may be warranted.

The core issue is not whether chemical weapons were used — it is instead, “who used them?”  Was it the government of President Assad or was it rebels, as the Syrian government officially claims?  That comes down to a question of evidence, and that process is ongoing at this very moment, although it is admittedly “no slam dunk.”

Now there are fears that more chemical attacks are on the horizon, and time is of the essence.  Jeff Jacoby argues that a failure to act will lead to widespread conflict, while others believe that taking action may lead to a World War III.  To act, or not to act: that is the question.

While there can be no answer to that here, what should be clear is that America should not police the world any more than the NYPD should police Detroit, MI, Oakland, CA, St. Louis, MO, or any other jurisdiction with a high rate of crime which would benefit from such intervention.

Jacoby should understand this already, as it was he who recently criticized President Obama’s administration for “federal overreach” and abusing its authority on the domestic front.  Yet he aggressively pushes for apparent military intervention abroad in Syria, Egypt, and North Korea.

Instead of exceeding its military authority, America must work together with its political partners, under the rule of law.  We must lead by example.  If there is a legal justification for taking action in Syria or anywhere else, then it must be defensible.  To enforce the law, a police officer must have legal authority while also having legitimacy from the community.

Jeff Jacoby’s noteworthy pride in America is misplaced, because even being the “best policeman” still does not bestow an inherent power to police.



Treating Amnesia in the William Bulger Era

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm


The preceding post on this blog is entitled, “The Pursuit of Journalistic Truth and Justice.”  That pursuit is elusive at times, as Scot Lehigh’s article about William Bulger in the August 9, 2013 issue of The Boston Globe attests.  To illustrate, allow me to address its substance.

The article rejoices in how “Both Bulgers Can Soon Be Forgotten,” joining together the name of James Bulger, whose trial formally ended today with the jury’s guilty verdict on 31 of 32 counts, with that of his younger brother, William Bulger.

Lehigh proclaims that the end of the trial will “…help push the Bulger era further into Boston’s past.”

Yet, what is “the Bulger era”?  That question will be answered last.

First, let us address Lehigh’s assertions.  He blames Whitey Bulger for how he “managed to corrupt the FBI, turning the once-proud bureau into an enabler of his criminal reign.”  Yet during the series of congressional hearings by the House Committee on Government Reform, it was determined that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover himself was aware of impending murders and not only took no action, but also approved affirmative steps to ensure that the true murderer was protected while innocent men served decades in prison, some of whom died there.

Testimony from U.S. Representative John Tierney (D-MA) is excerpted below.


In short, James Bulger did not “manage to corrupt the FBI.”

As Tierney noted in 2002, it was an endemic problem — all the way to the very top.  Is it possible that the FBI used James Bulger and, by its failure to prosecute or act far earlier, had a hand in enabling him?  If J. Edgar Hoover himself knew of impending murders and failed to act — and subsequently protected those responsible, and even allowed innocent men to serve time, how did Whitey Bulger manage that?

Lehigh is simply wrong.  He misinforms us all.  The FBI was proud once, before the public knew what really went on behind its closed doors.  Why else would more than one member of Congress seek to remove the name of J. Edgar Hoover from its headquarters?  How much of that pride was an illusion?  Even U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), to his credit, lamented how his perception of the FBI was forever shattered due to facts which emerged during the Committee’s work:


Next, Lehigh calls William Bulger “dishonorable.”  This comes after the facts establish that members of Congress called J. Edgar Hoover dishonorable and call for the FBI headquarters to be scrubbed of his name.  Somehow Lehigh neglects to mention that.

Instead, he opines that William Bulger is dishonorable, because he told the truth to a grand jury and candidly stated in one random excerpt The Boston Globe chose to publish in December 2002, that “It’s my hope I’m never helpful to anyone against him.”   There was no context for when this was uttered, or what else William Bulger uttered during that testimony.

He also hoped “the worst of the charges would be proved groundless,” an unrealized hope as today’s jury verdict indicates.  Having a hope is not a statement of fact or even of intent; it is an emotion.  Imputing wrongdoing to a person’s feelings is a wrong unto itself.   Contrary to what The Globe assumed, that expression of hope was no refusal to cooperate.  Throughout life, a person hopes for many things, as much as the reality may be otherwise.

Importantly, omission is a common modus operandi of The Globe.  Beginning on page 222 of his memoir, While the Music Lasts: My Life in Politics, William Bulger describes one anecdote in which he sat for an in-person interview with none other than Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill from The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight Report Team.”

Described in the first person, it was in the Fall of 1988 that William Bulger agreed to sit for an interview and respond to questions even though he was about to leave for vacation in Europe.  On that occasion, Bulger was also asked about the 75 State Street matter, which was investigated exhaustively by five levels of state and federal review.  Bulger also promised to provide follow-up information when he returned from vacation, and O’Neil promised not to print anything until continuing the interview upon Bulger’s return in twelve days.

Yet, it was a day or so later, while William Bulger was in Belgium, that Lehr and O’Neil authored a front page Globe report proclaiming, “Senate President William M. Bulger has benefited from a trust bankrolled with money that a Boston real estate magnate claims was extorted from him in 1985…”

In short, Lehr and O’Neil lied to Bulger and waited until they knew he would be out of the country to publish their report; are not lying and deceit dishonorable?

Lehigh lies to us, too.  Below is an affidavit submitted by HAROLD BROWN himself, expressly noting the “five levels of state and federal review” — investigations — and even his own statement sworn under penalty of perjury declaring once and for all (or so one would think) as follows: “The truth is simple: Mr. Bulger played no role in connection with my [75 State Street]  project.”  Instead of reading Scot Lehigh’s misinformation, go ahead and read the truth from Harold Brown himself:



Whom do we believe?  Scot Lehigh invokes “the allegation that he and his law associate extorted $500,000 from developer Harold Brown during the mid-1980s…” but here, we have developer Harold Brown expressly stating that William Bulger was not involved at all.  Do we believe Lehigh reporting on Brown, or do we believe Brown?  That journalistic truth is self-evident.

In our pursuit, we have choices about which way to go.  Reader, I hope you tread where the light shines brightest; it may be hard to see, but it is there if you dare to open your eyes.

Lehigh further associates William Bulger with John Connolly, to whom he goes so far as to poetically refer as a “fawning acolyte.”  According to the dictionary, the primary definition of an “acolyte” is “one who assists a member of the clergy…”  So now John Connolly was William Bulger’s altar boy.  Without citing any source, Lehigh recounts an anecdote in which John Connolly purportedly advised William Bulger to cooperate with federal investigators and agree to be interviewed.  How is cooperating with an investigation somehow insidious or dishonorable?  How does that support Lehigh’s point?

Lehigh also mentions Jeremiah O’Sullivan’s role in “the second investigation” but fails to mention the third, fourth, or fifth investigation — or the sworn statement of Harold Brown himself.  If Lehigh really knew the facts, he would report that O’Sullivan participated in the “tertiary” investigative review.  We learn that directly from Harold Brown.

Finally, Lehigh notes how “It’s also long been whispered…” that the indictment and subsequent trial of Senate Majority Leader Joseph DiCarlo in 1977 paved the way for Bulger to become Senate President.  Of course, Kevin Harrington was still serving as Senate President at the time and he chose Bulger to be Majority Leader prior to his own resignation in 1978.

This investigation into construction contracts with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts actually prompted widespread ethics reform and led to the establishment of the first Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for any state in the United States, to oversee state business.  The Ward Commission was a big deal at the time and issued a substantial twelve volume report  by the end of 1980.

In his capacity as Senate President, William Bulger played a pivotal role in pushing this oversight reform bill through.  To suggest that Bulger somehow masterminded the indictment of DiCarlo is to similarly suggest that Gerald Ford was secretly responsible for the investigation of Spiro Agnew which led to his own selection as President Nixon’s Vice President.  To say that Ford had a hand in Agnew’s criminal indictment and that it “paved the way” for Ford to become President of the United States would surely draw curious glances from any rational person.  Yet this is exactly what Lehigh proffers here in regard to William Bulger.  Think about it.  Does it make sense, just because he says it does?

Wrongdoing is wrongdoing, no matter who commits it.  DiCarlo was indicted because there apparently was evidence of criminal culpability; why is that nefarious in any way?  This lopsided logic suggests that those “whispers” which Lehigh mentions are perhaps attributable to voices in his own head.  Hopefully this posting will offer some level of help to him in understanding the extreme depth of his deficiency.

Also mentioned by Lehigh is “the phone call” in January of 1995 by which “Whitey and William arranged for a secret telephone call at the home of one of William’s associates, where it would go undetected by investigators.”

William Bulger spoke to that during his 2003 testimony as well during questioning by U.S. Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA):


Thus, the official record states that it was Kevin Weeks who arranged the call, without William Bulger having advance knowledge.  Given the central role which Kevin Weeks had in the Trial of Whitey Bulger, surely he could have spoken to that if asked; yet I am unaware of that question being raised by either the prosecution or Bulger’s defense attorneys.

William Bulger also explained the reason for his concern for his brother, drawing reference to his religious faith and “The Good Shepherd story” — that no one should be turned away; he also recalls “society’s right to protect itself and to impose severe penalties on anyone guilty of such deeds.”  Specifically, the story originates directly from John 10:11-12 in the New Testament in which Jesus Christ declares, “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.”

There is no reason to believe his statement was not true, given his Catholic upbringing.  Where is the dishonor there?  The larger context of William Bulger’s statement follows:


Taking the facts into consideration, it is clear that what Lehigh presents as fact in support of his opinion, is, in fact, fiction.  He is wrong on Harold Brown, on the phone call, on the “once proud FBI,” and he is also wrong about “the Bulger era.”  James Bulger and William Bulger are two separate people.

Today’s jury verdict may speak to the legacy of James Bulger, but the era of William Bulger will not end.  Whether Scot Lehigh likes it or not — and true to the spirit of public service — the shadow of William Bulger is a part of the Boston landscape, from Hynes Convention Center and Symphony Hall, to the Public Gardens and Boston Common, to the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, to the JFK Library in his own South Boston district, the Boston Public Library, the preservation and restoration of Castle Island, to the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General.  That era extends to new generations of leaders through the William M. Bulger Presidential Scholarship and William M. Bulger Classics Award at the University of Massachusetts.  On the national level, there is also the William M. Bulger Award for Excellence in State Leadership from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Like the story of his own life, the William Bulger Era is more than a name, and his living vision for the City on a Hill and its good people proves how that era is not a name at all.

In the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill, a portrait hangs in the Senate Reception Room depicting a bust of President Abraham Lincoln looking over William Bulger’s shoulder.  It is altogether fitting and proper that he has the last word here:

“I am glad I made the late race. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Anson G. Henry, November 19, 1858


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



When Howie Carr Looked Over Bill Bulger’s Shoulder

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm


It was ten days ago that Howard “Howie” Carr published a scathing article attacking the Bulger family entitled, “Whitey In the Dock.”  He is a talented scribe, no doubt about that.  He also fails to disclose that he is scheduled to testify in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.

In this article, Carr employs dramatic and biting language, noting how “…the 83 year-old Alcatraz alum isn’t the only one on trial in the federal courthouse…” He asserts that this is not only the Trial of Whitey Bulger but instead, “The local FBI office, which aided and abetted Whitey’s reign of terror, is also in the cross hairs.”  He also suggests that “on trial in the federal courthouse” is another surprise defendant: “the state’s Democratic political establishment…”

Previously, I pointed out the flaws in Jeff Jacoby’s argument that, “Political Elite Should Shun Bill Bulger,” as well as the false headline stating that William Bulger is a “mob boss” currently standing trial, and suggesting that he is a “ruthless murderer.”  Now, Howard further claims that the Massachusetts “Democratic establishment” is something which William Bulger “ruled with an iron fist in his almost two decades as the state Senate president.”  Then, Carr asks the Reader to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: William Bulger worked with John McCormack, and John McCormack was in Washington, DC because he happened to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Like former Boston Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Vatican City, Ray Flynn, McCormack was from South Boston.  Like William Bulger, McCormack was also an army veteran.  Next, Carr reveals that J. Edgar Hoover was the FBI Director who also had his own office  headquarters in Washington, DC.  Please note that Carr does not appear to go so far as to suggest that Pope John Paul II was involved with Whitey Bulger.  However, Carr has made connections  between Whitey and Georgetown University Law School Professor, former U.S. Representative, and former Dean of Boston College Law School, Father Robert Drinan.

McCormack also allegedly “kept close watch over Whitey during his 1956-1965 stint in prison.”  Now, if we just established that McCormack was based in Washington, DC, how did he keep “close watch” over Bulger, incarcerated in San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Island?  On top of that, Howard also points out that while Whitey was serving time there, “he took massive amounts of LSD in the CIA’s infamous drug experiments.”  Now if McCormack and Director Hoover had this “close watch” over him, why was Bulger subjected to these types of experiments?  Or perhaps that was why he had the great privilege of being fed acid like candy, as Carr depicts here?

Then Carr starts talking about convicted FBI agent John Connolly but refuses to refer to him by name; instead, he calls him “Zip” — not to be confused with the song from Mary Poppins.  Like a page taken right out of his nonfiction books, Howie gives us “Whitey,” Stevie “Rifleman” Flemmi, and John “Hitman” Martorano, as Carr entitled his book about Martorano’s life.  Published last year, the full title is: Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano: Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer and the Most Feared Gangster in the Underworld.  On the cover, Bill O’Reilly even wrote his own enthusiastic endorsement declaring, “Howie Carr weaves a frightening tale of unlawful conduct, and it’s all true!”

However, it was also ten days ago that Martorano, who openly confessed to killing 20 people, “…testified that he split a $110,000 advance with Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who wrote on Martorano’s life. The killer testified that the title — “Hitman” — was Carr’s idea, not his.”  Martorano said that he was no hitman and merely murdered people free of charge to help out his friends, noting the following about Carr choosing the title, Hitman: “He thought it would sell better.”

The following day, Carr penned a reply, declaring, “And by the way, Johnny was absolutely correct on the witness stand yesterday. I did name the biography about him “Hitman” — actually, it was one of my neighbors in Florida. And yes, it is named ‘Hitman’ because I thought that title would sell more.”  Not to judge a book by its cover, but when its cover isn’t even true, what else is in a book with its higher purpose being to “sell more” and “sell better”?

Of course, Carr had to support Martorano, or else he could be on the hook for perjury, which could even taint his entire testimony.   Some may know about one expression used by the courts: “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnia.”  In other words, false in one thing, false in all.  So Howard proudly announced that his book title was just a big marketing strategy.  What does this suggest about his other books?  In the beginning, there was Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century, which suggests that William Bulger somehow conspired with James to “terrorize” Boston.  Now, was that title worded to “sell more,” too?

Bear in mind that this is in spite of the gentle and welcoming reception of Bill Bulger at former Governor and U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci’s funeral service recently.  Perhaps Mayor Menino was frightened of Bill Bulger, and that’s why he was seen on camera with him?  The view which Carr espouses suggests as much.  Most recently, Carr also published Rifleman: The Untold Story of Stevie Flemmi, Whitey Bulger’s Partner, released just over a month before the James Bulger trial began.

As the facts indicate, William Bulger hardly “ruled with an iron fist” and disagreed with his Democratic colleagues on many issues.  Readers of his memoir, While the Music Lasts, will be given a tour of numerous episodes in which William Bulger disagreed with his colleagues.  For example, he disagreed with then-serving U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on the issue of forced busing in the 1970’s.  Democrat William Keating (D-MA), who once served in the State Senate and now serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, even attempted a coup against Bulger on another occasion.

In addition to his book earnings and advances, Howard Carr reportedly secured a $7 million five-year contract with WRKO, his radio station.  Yet he wanted more money by 2010 and began to act out before he was suspended by his employer, WRKO, for “publicly and repeatedly using his program to bad-mouth the station.”  Ultimately, Carr even filed a lawsuit claiming he was a victim of “indentured servitude” and sought to be released from his $1 million annual contract.  Yet, he has often criticized William Bulger’s $900,000 severance package and $200,000 annual state pension.  As noted above, Carr’s WRKO yearly salary alone was more than 7 times what William Bulger ultimately collected after his own nearly four decades in public service, when he chose to leave his position as UMass President.

When did this all begin?  It was one rainy morning in Room 2154 of the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, DC.  The date was June 19, 2003 – a decade ago.  That was the day that William Bulger appeared before the House Committee on Government Reform and answered questions about the whereabouts of his brother.  Video footage of the hearing shows what appears to be Carr signaling and mouthing phrases to members of Congress during the hearing, particularly when William Bulger was being questioned by U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN).


On that occasion, William Bulger unequivocally stated that he did not know where his brother was, as noted in a prior entry.  His words were, “I do not know where my brother is. I do not know where he has been over the past 8 years. I have not aided James Bulger in any way while he has been a fugitive. Do I possess information that could lead to my brother’s arrest? The honest answer is no.”

During more than one somber dialog about murders committed by members of the Winter Hill gang, drug dealing, and “gun running,” Carr’s face wandered from smirking gleefully, to what appeared to be signalling to members of the Committee, to sticking out his tongue, to vainly trying to reposition his combover.

It was that hearing which launched Howie Carr’s crime author career, and one cannot help but wonder what else he would do to “sell more.”  The motive is obvious: Money.

Is that why he couldn’t stop smiling?


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.

William Bulger Is Not a “Ruthless Killer”

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2013 at 1:18 am


Last week, I wrote about a recent news article which falsely stated that William Bulger had “lost his job as president of the University of Massachusetts.”  Yet today, I stumbled upon an article which left me far more speechless.  Published by a London-based periodical, The Independent, the article’s headline and web page header boldly declare as follows: “Ruthless killer or Robin Hood?  Mob boss William Bulger to stand trial.”

What’s wrong with that picture?

I initially stumbled upon it during a routine Google search of William Bulger’s name, as shown in this screenshot:


As you can see, this website was listed on the first page of results out of more than 1.5 million hits.  The obvious problem is that, despite this misleading headline, the body of the article is about James “Whitey” Bulger, an older brother of William Bulger.

Why do I take a particular issue with this?

In short, William Bulger is a man who has committed more than 40 years of his life to public service from when he was first elected to serve in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, to his election to the State Senate, and finally his leadership role as the longest serving Senate President in the lengthy history of Massachusetts.

Retiring from the State Senate, William Bulger went onwards to a new role as President of the University of Massachusetts in 1996, where he excelled and expanded that institution’s educational mission.  In the past, he has also served as a Trustee of the Boston Public Library, Member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Board of Overseers, Trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital.

He did all of this — and more — while raising nine children who have produced a total of 33 grandchildren, living for most of that time in the same modest South Boston home with his wife of 53 years.  How can such a man, who has dedicated his entire adult life to improving the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, be confused for a “ruthless killer”?

It is quite impossible to imagine how the name of William Bulger could be confused with James “Whitey” Bulger.  When have we ever seen any other public figure’s name misapplied to the name of an accused criminal?  It’s like confusing Duke Ellington with Duke Cunningham, or William J. Jefferson with William Jefferson Clinton, or Bernie Madoff with Bernie Mac, or James Earl Ray with James Earl Jones.

Then, there are other family members like Victoria Gotti, daughter of Gambino crime family leader John Gotti.  For that namesake, Victoria secured her own reality television show entitled “Growing Up Gotti,” which frequently depicted the mischievous exploits of her three Gotti boys gleefully cruising around the grounds of their palatial mansion on ATVs.  As fate would have it, however, there was never any reality series in development for “Growing Up Bulger.”

The very fact is that the life of William Bulger epitomizes public service at a time when the airwaves, Internet, and ink media are regularly plagued by yet another report of government corruption.  Speaking of which, Bernard Kerik was recently released from the federal penitentiary.  This corruption pandemic proliferates all levels of government, from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, to Connecticut Governor John Rowland, to former New York Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, to former New York Senator Hiram Monserrate, to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, to New York City Councilman Larry Seabrook.  In such a sea of misdeeds, why is William Bulger such a target — why does it sometimes seem that we have come to expect corruption in our public servants, more than we expect integrity and honor?

Whatever the reason, it is inherently wrong and blatantly irrational for an individual to be so demeaned, after representing the highest standards of conduct which public service demands of anyone within its province.  Indeed, the National Conference of State Legislatures has even honored one of its most prestigious awards with his name: The William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award.

Perhaps part of the problem in public service today is the frenzied focus upon the many ways by which the People’s duly elected representatives do wrong and violate the public’s trust, instead of showcasing the road where a virtuous public service career should lead.

William Bulger still led us all down that road, even when there were few who thanked him.

Why “More Fertile” Doesn’t Mean “More Intact Families”

In Uncategorized on June 15, 2013 at 12:23 am


Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a lightning rod of controversy today after lauding America’s immigrant women for being “more fertile” than native-born women at a “Faith and Freedom Coalition” event.  Now, let’s dissect this debate and try to distill truth and justice.

First, the fact that Bush used the word “fertile” was quickly analyzed by some diligent reporters, some of whom immediately consulted the dictionary and concluded that Bush intended to use the biological sense of “fertile,” which would mean “more capable of reproduction.”  However, in the statistical sense, “fertility” is the term used to designate “births per woman,” which would make more sense as the intended meaning behind Bush’s choice of words.  This understanding was identified by CNN commentator Jake Tapper.

However, this opens a whole new road less traveled which shall undoubtedly make all the difference now as we walk down its uncertain path.  While immigrant women do have higher rates of fertility than native-born women in America, it is also true that fertility rates among immigrant women dramatically dropped according to a Pew Research Center study published in November of 2012.  While native-born women between the ages of 15 and 44 had a fertility rate of 58.9 per 1,000 women, foreign born (i.e. immigrant) women had a fertility rate of 87.8 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years.  The combined average for all women in the United States was 63.2 children per 1,000 women.  Yet immigrant women had the largest drop in fertility rates, which was a 14% reduction compared to the 6% reduction for native-born women in America.  What else does fertility reveal?  These statistics cannot be presented in a vacuum.

Indeed, on the global scale, Niger is the “most fertile” nation in the entire world, with each woman bearing an average of 7.1 children.  Also in the “Top Ten” for most fertile countries are Somalia and Afghanistan.  Ethiopia comes in at #14, Syria is at #72, Mexico is #99, and the United States is a distant #122 with an average of 2.06 children born per woman.  Puerto Rico comes in at #177 with an average of 1.64 children born per woman in this U.S. territory.  The World Bank has prepared a comparative chart by country for the years 1980-2012 for those wishing to learn more about fertility trends.  The world’s fertility rate is an average 2.47 children per woman, which means that the United States is even below the world average.

Yet another factor to consider is infertility; that is, the number of women who have “impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term,” formally referred to as “impaired fecundity.”  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10.9% of all women in the United States aged 15-44 have “impaired fecundity.”  That is a significant number; interestingly, 40.8% of woman bearing children were unmarried — also a significant number.

Finally, because these fertility statistics start counting from age 15, these statistics cannot neglect to address teen pregnancy rates as well — how “fertile” are they?  According to data from the CDC, the birth rate for women aged 15-19 was 34.2 live births per 1,000 women, which is a rate of 3.4%.  Compared to other countries, the United States reportedly has the highest teenage pregnancy rate of 20 other top industrialized nations in the world.  According to this same report, Mississippi is the State with “more fertile” teenage women, with its teen pregnancy rate of 64.4 children per 1,000 women aged 15-19 — slightly higher than the average rate for all pregnancies nationwide for the 15-44 age group.

What does all of this mean?  Jeb Bush correctly noted that immigrant women have a higher fertility rate than native-born women; however, he neglected to mention the purported reasons for why the immigrant fertility rate is dropping so dramatically.  One sociologist named William H. Frey opined that, “‘When you hear about a decrease in the birthrate, you don’t expect Latinos to be at the forefront of the trend.’  Mr. Frey feels that the decrease is more about the aspirations of young Latinos to join the middle class, rather than being affected by a poor economy.”  When it comes to teenage pregnancies however, “Indeed, while the share of births to teenage mothers has dropped over the past two decades across the country, the highest teenage birth share is among native-born Hispanics.”

Of course, raising children is expensive and demands that caregivers make sacrifices.  So it follows that the drop in fertility rates was also attributed to the economic recession, as families sought to reassess priorities and escape or at least mitigate the effects of poverty.  There is also the issue of infertility, for which no woman can be disparaged.  Finally, if fertility is, standing on its own, an indicator of strong economic vitality and promise, then it would appear that Niger, Afghanistan, and Somalia are role models for America to look towards for guidance, as is the State of Mississippi a guide for other States as well.  Yet Niger is a country with 63% of its entire population living below the poverty line, and Mississippi has the highest poverty rate of all 50 States.  The clear answer is that high fertility rates are not evidence per se of strong family values or business acumen, as Bush improperly asserts.

While his plain words were factually accurate, they obscured the larger point which he could have made by invoking George Santayana: “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”

When Privacy Is Security

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2013 at 11:36 pm


Earlier this week, I wrote an entry entitled “Edward Snowden and the Common Defense of Privacy” which raises the endless question of how much privacy is necessary to keep individuals private, and how much security is demanded to keep the Nation secure.  How can federal, state, and local governments ensure concurrent justice in both privacy and security?  Shall these two forces be a pendulum, forever swinging, or can they one day live in harmonious equilibrium?

Even before the recent allegations involving the National Security Agency (NSA) and Snowden, this debate raged, as it ever has.  Former Senate Juduciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has invoked the words of the farsighted and sage U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren who opined, “[T]he fantastic advances in the field of electronic communications constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the individual.”  While Warren wrote that in 1963, before the Apollo moon landing had even occurred.  Given the concerns he expressed then, it is a very good thing for his sake alone, that he’s not around to see the world in which we live today.

One recent opinion piece written by Daniel J. Solove at The Washington Post presents five common reasons for why security should trump privacy and then refutes these, one by one.  A recurring theme is the need for oversight — checks and balances which very well may be the saving grace of American government since its founding.  James Madison, writing as Publius in Federalist Paper #51, stated how “The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”  Indeed, this advocates for a gentle balance between opposing forces.  Individual privacy is, inherently, the nemesis of public security; without some governmental intrusions into individual privacy, then preparations, preventions, arrests, and prosecutions could not occur.

Writing in the eloquent voice which had breathed so much life into the United States Constitution (As its principal drafter, Madison was, after all, the “Father of the Constitution”), Madison continued,”The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”  Perhaps it is from this that we are reminded that the government is comprised of “We the People…”

The most important statement is also most relevant to today’s debate of privacy and security, as “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Therein lies one answer to this question.  It is in this very spirit that Solove’s Post article advocates for greater oversight, for checks and balances, and rather than choosing privacy as outweighing security, it asserts that greater privacy shall fortify security.

Federalist #51 continues: “We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other — that the private interest of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights [emphasis added].”  Thus, it is by privacy that there is security, for the institution of Government is ultimately comprised of individuals — together, they are the People.  While his fate remains unclear, perhaps Snowden is one such sentinel.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who reminded us above all about the importance of character.  Writing in 1857 — the same year the dreaded Dred Scott v. Sandford decision was handed down by the United States Supreme Court, he recognized the importance of privacy: “Whatever games are played with us, we must play no games with ourselves, but deal in our privacy with the last honesty and truth…Speak as you think, be what you are, pay your debts of all kinds…A little integrity is better than any career.”

While his career is over, some may still say that Edward Snowden has a little integrity.

Edward Snowden and The Common Defense Of Privacy

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 at 7:36 pm


Edward Snowden is the U.S. citizen allegedly hiding somewhere in Hong Kong after he announced concerns about the intelligence community’s surveillance practices.  For him, he stated that he “…certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the President, if I had a personal e-mail.”

With the question of legal or technical authority aside, the larger question becomes, is Snowden’s announcement just; did he “do the right thing”?  Should Snowden be himself subject to prosecution for violating national security?  Then again, he has not thus far disclosed specific details of whom he has investigated; he has merely stated capabilities.  Stating that the United States possesses nuclear armaments capable of wreaking widespread environmental and biological harm is a statement of fact.  How these devices work is another matter altogether.  Has Snowden disclosed specific details on how PRISM works?  In reply, companies such as Google are following up by requesting the U.S. government be more forthcoming on explaining Snowden’s allegations.

The root of what has happened today dates back to the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 which provided statutory authority for the creation of the specialized Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).  One recent news report points out that the FISC has rejected a mere .03%  of government intelligence requests.

Another report laments not only Snowden’s disclosures but also the fact that core intelligence functions are being outsourced in general but specifically to individuals like Snowden who is “a high school dropout.”  Issues of justice abound here.  Has Snowden disclosed anything we do not already know — that is, that the government is watching us?  Moreover, with the amorphous nature of the Internet, how can any intelligence agency distinguish between domestic and foreign email accounts or web traffic in general?  Would it be based on the street address the user has registered, the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer sending or receiving the information?  How exactly do we determine what’s foreign and what’s not when it comes to the Internet?

After 9/11, there was great criticism towards the government that it wasn’t doing its job, and what happened was attributed to “intelligence failures” and a lack of coordination among government agencies.  Now, the news media trend appears to be not that government hasn’t done enough but is instead doing too much.  Where can one find justice here?  Justice for Snowden, who is facing likely criminal prosecution; administering justice by “providing for the common defense” and protecting national security; and also by preserving individual privacy.

We must not forget those words from the U.S. Constitution in which the Founders declared among its six core purposes, that it is intended “to establish justice.”  The question asked here, again and again, is how to establish justice again and again, by its true and due administration.  Perhaps the answer will change based upon the decider’s role; the role of this blog is to ask, to observe, and to opine.

Yet, what does one do when the lofty task “to provide for the common defense” conflicts with that “to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity…”?  Should one ever outweigh the other?  Indeed, it was Benjamin Franklin who once wrote, “Those who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Yet, what if the subsequent safety is not small, nor temporary at all — what then?

Reforming the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2013 at 11:02 pm


The true administration of justice inherently requires findings of fact.

Indeed, it was Edmund Burke who implored the electors of Bristol in a speech dated November 3, 1777: “But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion…”  When the determination precedes the discussion, then there is no reason; the conclusion has already been made, thereby rendering any discussion moot.  Why, then, does this happen?  Why do social norms dictate that there be a process, even when that process may seem unnecessary to arrive at the conclusion?  The reason is because that very process is itself a part of the conclusion; it is a means to the end, but it is also an end unto itself.

In today’s news, there is much talk of great dissent between U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA).  The latest issue is the congressional inquiry into allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeted conservative nonprofits groups and that these attacks were politically motivated.  As Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa has led the push for this Committee to investigate these allegations, despite claims by Cummings that the matter was already addressed following a yearlong investigation by the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA).  Cummings is the Committee’s Ranking Democrat, having defeated Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) when Ranking Democrats were selected to serve on House Committees late in 2010.

Subsequently, Cummings has been known for speaking out on issues rather than being a lapdog to Issa.  Upon assuming his new role in January of 2011, Cummings issued a letter to Issa in which he highlighted statements made by Issa which he feared that, “I am concerned, however, that some actions over the past year—including within the past few days—fall short of this standard, raise questions about the use of Committee resources, and risk bringing our Committee into disrepute.”  In reply, a Committee spokesman declared that “It is evident that obstruction is the only agenda Mr. Cummings is interested in pursuing.”

Shortly thereafter, it was during hearings into the foreclosure crisis in late January 2011 that Issa refused to allow any opening statements from Committee members, presumably targeted at Cummings in particular, who had planned to accuse Issa with blocking the Committee from questioning an important witness from JPMorgan Chase.

On April 1, 2011, Cummings criticized Issa for failing to address his concerns which feared that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation into the “Fast and Furious” debacle would potentially compromise the Department of Justice’s “potential prosecution and ultimate conviction of international criminals…”  Of particular concern was the fact that Issa had apparently issued unilateral subpoenas without consulting other members of the Committee.

More recently, Cummings has protested against Issa’s unilateral subpoena power and moreover, objected to witnesses in the Benghazi hearings such as Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who have been permitted to be interviewed in a recorded session not on public record before testifying on the record; Cummings referred to Issa’s decision as “extreme Republican overreach.”

Last week, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform continued its inquiry into allegations that the IRS used its authority to target Tea Party groups, following the issuance of a report last month from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).  Now, Issa apparently is seeking to link this targeting out of the IRS office in Cincinnati, Ohio to officials in Washington, DC, noting that “This is a problem that was coordinated, in all likelihood, right out of Washington headquarters. We have subpoenaed documents that would support that.”  In reply, Cummings has spoken out, announcing that “Chairman Issa’s reckless statements today are inconsistent with the findings of the Inspector General, who spent more than a year conducting his investigation.”

Cummings also urged that the focus should turn towards overseeing implementation of the TIGTA report recommendations following its investigation, rather than initiating a new congressional investigation.  The TIGTA report does identify two core offices involved in reviewing nonprofit status applications: the Exempt Organizations (EO) IRS function, headquartered in Washington, DC, and the Cincinnati IRS Determination Unit, which is within the EO, and thus accountable to officials in Washington, DC.  However, the report does not indicate any knowledge of White House officials and further discloses that the EO Director, Lois Lerner, imposed subsequent remedial measures upon the Determinations Unit when the political targeting was brought to her attention.

While Chairman Issa insists that this Committee inquiry is still underway, Cummings stated that “I think this interview and these statements go a long way…showing that the White House was not involved in this…Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved…”  Issa apparently has released only excerpts of interview transcripts conducted by the Committee, and Cummings has even said that he will unilaterally release those full interview transcripts to the public, even if Issa will not.  Issa replied in a statement of his own, that “His extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth.”  Then, Cummings went further in judging Issa’s Chairmanship by writing: “Your actions over the past three years do not reflect a responsible, bipartisan approach to investigations, and the Committee’s credibility has been damaged as a result.  Your approach in all of these cases has been to accuse first, and then go in search of evidence to back up your claims.”

The words of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke opened this posting, and let these be invoked again: What sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion?  An investigation is generally a search for truth, and thus truer conclusions may best be made.  When a conclusion precedes that search, then it is inherently flawed.  This is not the first time the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has fallen under scrutiny and been the subject of dissent and discontent.  While this Committee has sought to reform itself many times, history proves that the same parts are played time and again, only by many new actors and a few who are old.

The moral is that true reform shall never have a home where eyes are closed.