The world meets Jessica Mah

Say what you like about Whitey and Catherine, but they went in the right direction, to southern California. And in the end they made a handsome couple in that excellent and iconic courtroom drawing, their final portrait together; Whitey Bulger with that distinguished beard, like a South Boston white-trash Lawrence Ferlinghetti, his handsome mistress framed slightly behind and to his creative left side. The west is the best, and the best final destination for those of us who, like Whitey’s family and mine and Tip O’Neill’s and five generation of Kennedys, lived virtually on the same block since we arrived from Ireland these last 150 years.

Whitey’s epic journey might well be the last for the Southie Irish and all of Europe’s “huddled masses” who made the Atlantic crossing. It might even mark the end of Europe, as long-term economic forecasters have been suggesting; the final death cough of life as we learned it in Europe: 500 years, described by Jacques Barzun from “Dawn to Decadence,” with Whitey and Catherine at the very end sunning in Santa Monica.


Getting smart

Half a century ago, President Lyndon Baines Johnson set up a National Crime Commission to study the broad and confounding subject of crime in America. A useful report was published in 1967, but for the most part the systemic reforms hoped for by the sponsors and participants have not occurred. In fact, many of the problems analyzed then still exist, and some have gotten worse.

That was the subject of a new report, Smart on Crime, just released by the Constitution Project. It included contributors from a collation of 40 interested organizations that run the ideological range from the ACLU to the Cato Institute to the Open society, ABA, PEW Center and others. Its aim is to present Congress and the administration with an agenda for reform of the criminal justice system, and hopefully to provide a proposed national commission now before the U.S. Senate with a jumpstart of recommendations.


A nation’s need for blame

There are times when even the capture of the culprit fails to quench people’s thirst for justice. This usually happens in the wake of horrific, mind-bending crimes like the shooting in Arizona last weekend that killed six people and injured scores of others. The gunman’s intended target, a congresswoman, has barely escaped with her life, for now.

But in the heated aftermath — sparked by comments by the Tucson sheriff, who was a close friend of two of the victims — there seems to be a wider indictment being brought by some in the media. He suggested that a general political climate of intolerance caused these events.


Sarah Palin tosses gasoline on flames

Whatever else you say about Sarah Palin, she’s got the worst sense of timing in politics today.

Just when the nation is yearning for healing, the same morning members of Congress prepare to gather in prayer, just hours before the president goes to Tucson to deliver a message on the need for us all to pull together — Palin decides to pour more gasoline on the flames of hatred and division she has already ignited.

It would have been so easy, and appropriate, for Palin to say what so many other public figures have said. Something like: In light of Saturday’s tragic shooting, it’s important that we all do a little soul-searching about the political rhetoric. I certainly never meant anybody any harm when I put up that map with “bull’s-eyes” on it (her word), but today, looking back, I realize it was probably inappropriate. And I wouldn’t do it again.


The psychopathic rhythms of everyday American life

Reporting on Jared Loughner’s music choice, The Washington Post’s J. Freedom du Lac says a lone video is listed as a “favorite” of the shooter, Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” “ ‘Let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor, let the bodies hit the floor,’ the singer barks in a refrain that carries an eerie echo in the context of the shooting rampage Saturday in Tucson,” he writes. David Horowitz, executive director of the First Amendment group Media Coalition, told the reporter, "it seems like a real stretch" to suggest that "Bodies" had anything to do with the shooting.


A few early reflections

I am heartbroken by the tragedy in Arizona and wish the best for everyone affected by the shootings, those grieving and those recovering from the horror of Saturday.

In my column Thursday I will touch on the broader issues this has raised, but I will briefly take note here of how this event is already affecting the 2012 presidential race. Let's start by agreeing that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is not remotely responsible for the actions of mentally unstable people and should not be the central focus of the discussion over how to arrive at a more measured and reasoned debate. Do comments like "don't retreat, instead RELOAD" coarsen the political discourse? Absolutely. Is she the only person who talks that way? No way.


From the minds of babes

Like everyone in America, my three granddaughters in Atlanta were troubled by the recent murders and mayhem created in Arizona by a crackpot using a Glock. So much so, they wrote to their president seeking his leadership in this troubling violent world they find fearsome. “I don’t think there should be guns. People would have to figure out there [sic] problems without hurting each other,” Anabel wrote.

These aware children have genuine cares and fair questions. “I hope these violent things stop. What can we do about this?” Cait earnestly asked her country’s leader.

Joanna inquired of her president, “If you have any good ideas, please write me back.” She noted, “It’s not OK to shoot people,” along with reporting that she is sorry about what happened to Gabrielle Giffords.


Arizona justice

Some guys never catch a break.

In 1974, William Macumber was convicted of two counts of murder in Arizona and sentenced to concurrent life sentences without parole. Two other clients of Macumber’s attorneys had confessed to the crimes, but the lawyers couldn’t say anything because they were bound by rules of attorney-client confidentiality. When their confessing client died, the attorneys received permission from the state bar ethics committee to reveal their deceased client’s confession in order to avoid an injustice to Macumber.


National Guard or a new national drug policy

I turned on Fox News and watched Laura Ingraham interviewing a state senator from Illinois. The state senator wants to call out the National Guard to patrol the streets of Chicago, which has been enduring a running gun fight for months now in the city’s toughest neighborhoods. Laura asked a simple question: Why can’t the cops handle it? The answer: They are outgunned and outmanned.


Cheney: The Liz mob

Instead of considering this a political controversy, let's make it personal. Forget Liz Cheney and Fox News. Let's suppose YOU are charged with a violent felony and face years in prison. You'd sure want an attorney. Right? The best you can get.

But let's suppose the particular crime is one that everyone despises so much that they assume anyone accused of it is guilty and deserves the harshest treatment ... including you.