Five Best Wednesday Columns

On Whitey Bulger, electricity in Afghanistan, and honesty with DSK

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Michael Patrick MacDonald Whitey Bulger's Wake South Boston native Michael Patrick MacDonald shares the story of his neighborhood's grief over more than 250 friends and family members who died as a result of the "drugs, crime and murder" out of which Whitey Bulger made a living. In today's Boston Globe, MacDonald describes his muted neighborhood slowly coming out of White Bulger's code of silence once the mob boss went on the lam in 1995, opening mothers' eyes to the fact that drugs and organized crime were responsible for the trend of young deaths. MacDonald himself lost two brothers and saw his sister become paralyzed and brain-damaged for having been involved in drug violence. "Unfortunately, even if Bulger does go to trial for the 19 murders, the focus will not be on the extensive organization that wiped out generations of our families in Southie," he writes, explaining why, years later, this case matters. "Southie has been dispersed, and our dead are not coming back. But getting to the truth of extensive collusion in the drug trade that wiped us out will allow us, beyond Southie's now-broken borders, to say never again."

Glenn Zorpette on USAID's Shoddy Electrical Plan for Afghanistan  The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' magazine editor Glenn Zorpette outlines the problems with the United States Agency for International Development's $1.2 billion plan "to create a modern electrical grid" for Afghanistan in The New York Times. "When it comes to electricity, the agency has a dismal record, one that needs to be reviewed now, before the grid plan moves ahead." USAID and the Army Corps of Engineers have simultaneously "planned two different diesel-generating facilities in the same location, but with different transformers, switches, contractors and manufacturors." He's unsure why this is, but observes that USAID's plan "is under intense pressure from two sides: from the State Department overseers, who want to show progress before the troop pullouts are well under way, and from President Karzai, who wants more control over development funds and activities." Zorpette insists that the project should be passed off to the Army Corps of Engineers because "it has performed better than USAID on electrical projects in Afghanistan; it is less hobbled by politics; it has experienced engineers." If the job isn't reassigned, "we can expect many millions of dollars to be wasted."
Dorothy Rabinowitz on The Manhattan DA's Honesty  "For having uncovered and publicized the reasons not to trust the accuser in [the Dominique Strauss-Kahn] case, [Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R.] Vance deserved praise. Instead, he found himself the target of the attack," observes The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz. "He had had the backbone to step back, rather than go blithering on about the strength of a case he and his staff discovered to be suspect." Vance could have won this case, she argues. "A zealous prosecutor could have--would have--exploited the racial element here, and the enormous status difference between the wealthy and powerful foreigner and the poor hotel worker." She believes that Vance's publication of his suspicions with regards to DSK's accuser shows that "the man now in charge of the Manhattan DA's office knows--and has shown that he knows--that the duty of a prosecutor is first and foremost to do justice, not to win cases, [which] is something for which citizens can be grateful."
Tom Lindenfeld on Ending Corruption in D.C. Politics  D.C. political consultant Tom Lindenfeld is concerned about pervasive corruption in D.C. and suggests that "the District use the current scandals to propel policies that would stop future corruption in its tracks." He lays out ten steps to "cleaning up our politics," in today's Washington Post, including pledges to "end 'pay to play'...Ban contributions from lobbyists...Crack down on independent expenditures...End constituent service funds...Bar elected leaders from receiving free legal advice...Ban the practice of setting up nonprofit organizations to fund nonofficial mayoral travel and related expenses...All government meetings should be open and held in public...Strengthen and enforce city contracting rules...impose a strict 'bad boy' provision...[and, finally,] Ban contractors working under false pretenses." Lindenfeld insists that "It does not matter whom you supported or who wins an election; without a bedrock of strictly enforced ethical standards, any effort to end cronyism will fail."
Mark Wallace on Iran's Gruesome Repression Tactics  In the face of protests against its neighbor's repressive dictators, Iran's "populace is strangely silent," Mark Wallace, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and president of United Against Nuclear Iran, notes. That's because the Iranian government has been cracking down ever since Cairo's first protest began. "The most gruesome manifestation of this repression has been a wave of public executions," he explains in the Los Angeles Times. "Though exact numbers are difficult to come by, it is now estimated by human rights organizations that more than 140 people have been executed in Iran so far this year, a rate that, if continued, would push the number far past the total for 2010." He declares that "the international community needs to call for an end to this kind of barbarism and highlight more broadly the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran." One way would be for international crane manufacturers to show that they "do not in any way condone the use of their cranes to stage public executions [by taking] the principled stand of renouncing their business ties with the regime until Iran becomes a civilized member of the international community."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.