Brotherly loyalty

While Whitey Bulger was at the center of the spectacle that played out Friday afternoon at the Moakley courthouse, the lead supporting actor in the day’s drama was undoubtedly his brother, William Bulger, who strode in and out of the courthouse with two of his sons, with a pack of eager reporters in hot pursuit.

True to form, Bulger had little to say to the press. The enduring moment from his courthouse appearance, therefore, was the brief acknowledgment he and his brother shared when Whitey Bulger was brought into the courtroom. Much has been made over the years of William Bulger’s loyalty to a brother facing charges that include 19 murders, and Whitey Bulger’s arrest last week — along with William Bulger’s appearance in court — has set off a fresh round of discussion of the limits of the brotherly love.

Writing in yesterday’s Boston Globe, Joan Vennochi said Billy Bulger’s decision to maintain unqualified fealty to his brother will overshadow everything else he did in a long career in state politics and as president of the University of Massachusetts. Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald rushes to the younger Bulger’s defense today.  “He’ll find no condemnation here,” Fitzgerald writes of Bulger’s decision to show support for his brother with his courthouse appearance.

But it’s not just the fact of Billy Bulger’s appearance in court that raises questions; it’s his earlier statement about Whitey to a grand jury that he hopes he is “never helpful to anyone against him.” Fitzgerald even raises the Unabomber case that drew frequent comparisons at the time of Bulger’s 2001 grand jury testimony and subsequent 2003 appearance before a congressional committee. It was Unabomber Ted Kaczynksi’s brother who turned him in once he realized his recluse sibling was the one terrorizing research scientists with mail bombs.

“Billy took a different road, but unless you’ve traveled it, too, can you say with certainty what you would do if asked to join a posse hot on the heels of someone you loved?” asks Fitzgerald.  “Unconditional love does not mean unconditional approval,” he writes, suggesting that Bulger can support his brother without condoning his actions.  Does that mean Billy Bulger will dutifully attend his brother’s upcoming trial to provide familial support, but also hope that his brother doesn’t somehow wriggle out from under the mountain of evidence against him with an acquittal?

Joseph Oteri, a longtime friend of BIlly Bulger’s, told the Globe, “We’re South Boston people, and when you grow up in Southie, the cardinal virtue is loyalty.”  Said Oteri, “We grew up fiercely loyal to each other and hating rats — in that order.”  The great irony, of course, is that he and others are defending the family loyalty being shown to a guy who was the biggest rat of them all.

                                                                                                                                                                 –MICHAEL JONAS  

The Globe speculates on whether Whitey Bulger holds any secrets from the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Slate’s Jack Shafer outlines the lessons Bulger can teach journalism students. Dan Kennedy calls out Salon for misunderstanding a Mike Barnicle column that appears to downplay Bulger’s crimes.

Bulger is being monitored around the clock in a cell block of Plymouth county jail that the sheriff calls “a jail within a jail,” the Patriot Ledger reports.


The Springfield Republican supports a proposal to empower police to pull over motorists who aren’t wearing safety belts.

The Boston Herald applauds Attorney General Martha Coakley’s recent push on health care costs. Meanwhile, Coakley’s report on the problems of a global payment system should not stymie Gov. Deval Patrick’s attempts to reform the system, says The Berkshire Eagle.

State officials are looking into an innovative approach to social problems that allows investors to bet on programs they think will produce better outcomes than current practices.

The MetroWest Daily News says the Republicans’ ethics proposals are a move in the right direction.

The Cape Cod Times says the region needs to consider what to do about three major problems: wastewater treatment, solid waste disposal, and onshore wind turbine siting.


Neighboring towns make pitch to provide municipal services at Devens, the Lowell Sun reports.

Lawrence has spent $170,000 over the last year picking up 800 tons of illegally dumped trash, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

In an editorial, the Gloucester Times welcomes the proposal to have Gloucester city workers bid for a municipal custodial contract.

Lowell is near a deal to suppress legal challenges to its taking of a large portion of the Appleton Mills complex by James Lichoulas Jr., the Lowell Sun reports.

A Lawrence man was arrested stealing toilet paper from City Hall, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

William Lantigua’s rise to mayor of Lawrence appears to have been good news for a poverty-ridden city in the Dominican Republic, mayoral largesse that may now have the attention of federal prosecutors.

The Sun Chronicle digs into a seemingly subjective Civil Service decision that recently came down against Attleboro. CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl recently outlined the system’s shortcomings.

Bourne needs to reinstate its lifeguards, says the Cape Cod Times.

The Brockton Enterprise finds that Brockton’s superintendent may not be adhering to a clause in his contract that requires him to reside in the city.


Springfield homeowners consider their losses and move to rebuild.


Time examines the job-generating wonder of Texas and Gov. Rick Perry’s role in creating it.

The New York Times weighs the national prospects for same-sex marriage, after New York’s recent vote.


Rep. Michele Bachmann is turning herself into a serious alternative to Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Romney now has to battle Jon Huntsman for the affection of Utah’s campaign financiers.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been everything he promised he’d be, and all it got him was this lousy 29-percent approval rating.  After resorting to a tasteless tequila joke, he’s not doing too well with Latinos in Texas either.


Hamilton-Wenham signs a contract giving teachers small raises over the next three years while discontinuing a practice that allowed out-of-district staff to enroll their children in the municipality’s schools, the Salem News reports.

Some school district officials are worried that proposed new teacher evaluation regulations will overburden the administrators who will have to carve out time to carry out the more extensive reviews.


In the second half of a two-part series, the Globe yesterday looked at how the Massachusetts health care reform law Mitt Romney championed is working.  The verdict:  pretty well.

The Patriot Ledger continues its series on South Shore overdose deaths with a review of death certificates from Quincy, Braintree and Weymouth. In an editorial, the paper calls for policies that rehabilitate rather than punish drug offenders.


Time reports on a scary report card for the world’s oceans.

A California company is working on solar windows which could double as solar panels.


In the National Review Online, George Weigel argues that libertarians were incorrect in their support of gay marriage in New York because legalizing it “represents a vast expansion of state power.”