OMG: Whitey’s ‘solitary act’

The Boston Globe breaks a story that is fascinating on multiple levels about gangster James (Whitey) Bulger breaking a rule at his prison in Florida and being sent to solitary confinement for 30 days.

Bulger, who is serving a life sentence for participating in 11 murders, was shipped off to solitary last June for masturbating in his cell with the lights on. Prison officials say sexual activity of any kind is prohibited. As one official put it, sexual activity, even when alone, “interferes with the orderly running of the institution.”

Like any self-respecting gangster, Bulger appealed his punishment, saying he was “set up” by a corrections officer. He told a hearing officer he was just applying a medicated powder to his genitals to deal with a yeast infection. At 85, he said, his sex life is over. As for why the lights were on, Bulger told officials he always sleeps with the lights on because of the lingering effects of an LSD experiment he participated in in the 1950s.

Finally, the story was fascinating for the way the Globe squeamishly wrote about it. The newspaper couldn’t bring itself to use the word masturbate. The Globe’s front-page headline said “Bulger put in solitary for a solitary act.” The story, written by Shelley Murphy, referred to the gangster as getting into trouble of a sort “not easily discussed.” Murphy subsequently reported that Bulger was accused of — “there’s no polite way to say this — sexually gratifying himself.”

Several other news outlets that picked up on the Globe story had no problem using the word masturbate. Some even used masturbate in the headline. But locally most news outlets took the puritanical route, using euphemisms for masturbation. The Metro’s headline said “Bulger got solitary for allegedly pleasing himself in jail cell.” Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr trotted out one euphemism after another, suggesting at one point that Bulger was “like a kid back in the old days caught in his bedroom with a flashlight and a copy of a National Geographic featuring a big spread on the native girls of New Guinea.”

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

Lawmakers consider a bill that would require anyone convicted of drunk driving to equip their car with an ignition interlock device. (State House News)

The Pioneer Institute says the Legislature’s exemption from the Open Meeting Law is unconstitutional. (Associated Press)

The Easton town administrator confirmed the town has received a subpoena from federal investigators probing state Sen. Brian Joyce but would not comment on what was requested. (The Enterprise)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who once said he was personally pro-life, wins an award from an abortion rights group. (Boston Globe)

The Brockton City Council has filed suit against Mayor Bill Carpenter, claiming he overstepped his authority when he signed an agreement to sell wastewater for cooling to the developers of a proposed controversial power plant in the city. (The Enterprise)

CASINOS

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy doesn’t sound thrilled with casinos, telling Massachusetts residents “be careful what you wish for.” (Masslive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A man opened fire at a lawn mowing equipment company in Kansas, killing three before being shot to death by police in a shootout. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The GOP presidential debate Thursday turned into a political version of Thunderdome, with Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz piling on frontrunner Donald Trump and turning the snark table on him. (U.S. News & World Report) It wasn’t too little but was it too late? (New York Times) The story in the Globe is just a series of attacks between the three candidates, nothing more. Nothing of substance.

Columnist Scot Lehigh urges Gov. Charlie Baker to endorse either Marco Rubio or John Kasich before Super Tuesday. (Boston Globe)

Former Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham says the GOP has gone “batshit crazy.” (Washington Post)

Latinos crowd a hearing in Salem urging officials to take voter harassment concerns seriously. (Salem News)

Holliston attorney Rebecca Brodie, a one-time single mother on welfare, announced her candidacy for Middlesex Sheriff, running on a platform of prison reform. (MetroWest Daily News)

EDUCATION

Columnist Farah Stockman digs into the budget problems facing the Boston Public Schools, and concludes the problem is that teachers and administrators are among the highest-paid in the country. (Boston Globe)

Boston Latin School headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta finally does an interview, but won’t answer a lot of questions. (Boston Herald)

Public higher education officials are on the verge of coming up with a plan to offer an affordable college degree costing $25,000 to $27,000 — $15,000 for financial aid students. (The Sun)

The Mashpee School Committee and School Superintendent Brian Hyde have reached an “amicable” agreement for Hyde to leave his post. Hyde has been on administrative leave since being charged with trespassing in a student’s home; he was acquitted of the charges earlier this month. (Cape Cod Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

At a press conference in front of the State House, Justina Pelletier says she is still angry about her treatment at Children’s Hospital and gearing up for a lawsuit against the institution focused on parental rights in determining care. (Boston Globe) Children’s also takes heat at a public hearing on its expansion plans, which will result in the closure of Prouty Garden. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack sits down with Globe editors and reporters and defends regular, modest fare hikes at the T.

Boston’s Logan Airport is using valets to handle overflow parking. (WBUR)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Listen to what’s not said in the debate over solar power. (CommonWealth)

Attorney General Maura Healey pushes the DPU to delay a hearing on whether Eversource Energy’s electricity customers should help finance a natural gas pipeline project in which Eversource has a 40 percent stake. (CommonWealth)

National Grid says customers in Worcester participating in a pilot program that charges time-of-day electricity rates cut energy use 4 percent and saved $1.25 million in the first year. (Telegram & Gazette)

City and port officials in New Bedford are looking to reduce oil spills in the harbor and will use a state grant to clean bilge pumpouts on fishing boats, a main contributor to oil slicks. (Standard-Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Prosecutors seek a 50-year sentence for Philip Chism, who was convicted of brutally murdering his teacher Colleen Ritzer. (Gloucester Times)

State and academic officials gather at a MassINC forum to explore ways to reduce recidivism among young offenders. (Telegram & Gazette)

Bye, bye Miss American Pie: Students at Barnstable High School have petitioned the superintendent to cancel a concert planned in April featuring singer Don McLean, who is facing domestic violence charges in Maine. (Cape Cod Times)

MEDIA

Boston Herald publisher Pat Purcell talks glory days at a Babson forum; his tone indicates the tabloid is doing well financially. (Boston Herald)