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About this blog: The Raucous Caucus shares the southpaw perspectives of this Boomer on the state of the nation, the world, and, sometimes, other stuff. I enjoy crafting it to keep current, and occasionally to rant on some issue I care about deeply...  (More)

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What have we learned (so far) from Boston?

Uploaded: Apr 22, 2013
The nation can now catch its collective breath, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and speedy, live capture of at least one perp. We'll now enter a much longer and arduous phase of the investigation, as authorities attempt to learn whatever more there is to know about this latest loathsome attack on American homeland safety and liberties. It's not too soon to contemplate what we can take away from this, to remember for the future.

First, in many ways, these attacks are like the roaches in Houston (stay with me, here – I'm a former resident). Not only do the vermin lurk unseen, but occasionally they will make their presence known. It's just too easy to make a bomb or, gawd knows, secure another type of weapon. These thugs apparently assembled quite an arsenal. So, it is necessary to take steps to minimize their presence and their chances of success.

You can't expect to completely eradicate the pests, but if you do nothing – or if you obsess to the point abandoning your life -- they win. I don't care who's in charge, vigilance is required, and occasionally it won't be enough. Tom Friedman predicted the so-called Super-powered Angry Individual fifteen years ago in his one great book – 'The Lexus and the Olive Tree.' It is simply part-and-parcel of life in the 21st century.

That said, the difference between terrorism and crime lies within our control. If our societal response is fear, that's terrorism at work; if it's anger, collaboration and a deep resolve to mourn, comfort, catch and especially to live our lives, that's crime – and we'll get less of it. We saw a lot of the latter in the defiant, firm-set jaws of Bostonians over the past week. They did us proud, and have given America a template for future use in these tragic circumstances.

I'm told that the Israelis take it a step further – they sweep away the rubble and minimize the coverage and disruption, as if to say "we flick you away like a bug." If true, I'm not even sure that's better, but directionally it, too, thwarts the very purpose of the mayhem -- to incite fear and alter behavior.

Next, early information is always wrong. That's nobody's fault -- there are just too many variables, the scene is too fluid and no one person has a good summary perspective. And that's when it happens right under our noses, in daylight, downtown, during a well-covered domestic festival. When the incident occurs elsewhere (Libya comes to mind) the lag-time to good intel becomes much worse. That is to say it is utterly foolish to rush to judgment in events like this. We want instant answers, and we want to strike back. But that's how mobs form, and Boston, again, showed remarkable restraint in that regard, as well.

Other opportunists – on Both sides of the political aisle, will show no such circumspection. An aide to the Prez was all-to-eager to note that the incident occurred on Tax Day, darkly implying a right-wing domestic source. And on last Monday evening I listened to some aptly named radio troll inveighing mightily against the President and the Massachusetts Governor, who, after all, is also at least as black. The guy stopped just short of charging those officials with complicity in the crime -- I loves me my First Amendment more than just about anything, but he had me grinding my teeth. The upshot? Don't listen to early stuff that just has to be crap. It reflects on the spokesmoron, alone.

I also heard the same joke linking Nancy Pelosi and a fictional ban on pressure cookers from at least three different sources on the same day. None of them is clever enough to have come up with it alone – is there really a coordinated effort among ideologues to spread derisive humor, too? /sigh And a note of caution: this is also a good place for a scammer-alert. They prey on empathy, which is plentiful in these situations.

Also, remember that our media system lionizes s/he who gets The Scoop. I have it on good authority (Don Henley) that careers are made thereby -- hence the old newsroom saying: "if it bleeds, it leads." And that sets reporters up to fail. They will swarm all over an event like this, reporting minutia atop trivia to keep their mugs in front of us.

They routinely throw too much caution to the wind in their headlong rushes to be first. So, it just doesn't pay to sit rapt by the radio or TV, unless you really Are fascinated by what the SWAT team did in the 90-year-old lady's backyard. And even if the reporters won't wait for confirming sources, you probably ought-to. Seeking-out several outlets for coverage is also a good approach.

Finally, I heard this called the first terrorist attack investigated on social media. The government may not actually have 'a machine that sees everything,' as the TV show says (or does it?), but public and private surveillance images and other records abounded, and appear to have assisted in fingering the suspects. That's pretty remarkable, and for all its privacy implications, at least our public lives make it harder to carry-out this kind of plot. Twitter is the one new medium I haven't embraced -- regular readers will agree that I have difficulty getting to the verb in only 140 characters -- but maybe it's time.

Obviously, it's still early -- but what other lessons do you take away from the events of last week?

Synopsis: here are a few observations from the Boston bombing tragedy. What are yours?
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Actually, I tend to agree with your analysis(which concerns me)I think it is very important that we are vigilent with security concerns(no more complaining if it takes long time go thru sporting event metal decectors) but that we do not let terrorist win by cancelling or curtailing our daily lives and daily events.

For example, there was concerns about proceeding with the "Run with Pat" charity race at Arizona State this weekend, a big fundraiser for hero Pat Tillman and the veterans charitable organization his family started. Some wanted to cancel the race due to terrorist concerns. What do you think Pat Tillman would want to happen, do you think he would want us to go hide and change our lives and routines, due to fears of terrorist? Hell no! If we stop living our lives, than the terrorist win.

By the way, did you see that great story on 60 minutes yesterday about these amazing dogs that are trained to sniff bombs, and work with our military and police officers in fighting terrorist and crime? These dogs do amazing things and really are an asset in fighting crime and preventing terrorist activities. How about we pass a federal and or state law that whenever anyone is convicted of animal abuse, there is a big fine in which the proceeds go to taking rescue dogs from the pounds and rescue dog organizations and having them work with these amazing dog trainers and become allies in our war against crime and terrorism by working with our military and police officers.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Tom Cushing is a registered user.

American -- welcome back! I just knew you'd come around. ;-) So now there's what, THREE things on which we agree: dogs, Athletics and terrorism? Progress!

I will search-out that 60 Minutes excerpt -- thanks for the tip. In a similar vein, I think it's hilarious (and quite revealing) that medical researchers are trying to develop a machine that sniffs-out cancer alMOST as well as a dog does. Garsh, if only there was a place where they could go and get free dogs, who'd work literally for kibble for the next decade ... but where's the profit in That?

There was also a recent article in Time magazine about how animals grieve, and they do -- I think I feel my annual animal advocacy column a-borning.

Don't be a stranger.

Posted by C. R. Mudgeon, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

I agree with most of the column above, especially with the fact that it is usually better (for everyone) to not jump to conclusions too quickly. This not only applies to past events, prior to the identification of the two bombers, but also to the continuing investigation, to look into the possibility of other involved parties.

Posted by Rich Davidoff, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Apr 25, 2013 at 10:07 am

What have we learned? Again, yawn, Islam is not "the peaceful religion" as we are repeatedly told. Perhaps it is the PIECEFUL religion considering the mayhem it causes around the world with naught a whisper from CAIR- yes--pause to vilify those nasty Christian crusaders from centuries ago---Obama refuses to use the word "terrorist"--if you control the dialog you control the people. Many immigrants are here to destroy the American way of life. Many others were born here and wish to "adjust" our Constitution.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Apr 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm

I'm not sure why, but some folks seem to be fixated on the fact that the Prez said "individual or group" on the day of the blasts, and called it an act of terror the (very) next day, when he knew it was. That's just being circumspect -- had he stated, before knowing, that it was an act of attempted terrorism and it turned-out differently, he could be accused of fear-mongering (with aLot more justification).

As to the role of Islam, I think Richard Clarke has it about right when he says that, out of 1.6 Billion Muslims, 50,000 - 200,000 are jihadists. That's roughly 1/100 of 1%, if I did the math right. I don't know how that % compares with the atheists, Buddhists, Zoroastrianists and even Christians who might be called terrorists of various kinds, but I do know a very small number when I see one. It's a mighty small brush with which to try to tar a mighty large bunch of people.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Apr 26, 2013 at 8:21 am

For American: here's a link to a New Yorker article (it won't bite) on bomb-sniffing dogs. Web Link

Pretty interesting stuff -- the point seems to be that the dogs are a tool in the tool box, not the whole box itself. That said, what we're trying to do is to make it incrementally more difficult to pull-off these attacks, and these pups can play an important role in achieving that goal. Alarms and deadbolts alone don't completely prevent burglary, after all, but they're part of the answer.

Posted by American, a resident of Danville,
on Apr 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Thanks Tom ...,If they rerun last weeks 60 minutes story on dogs you should check it out. I know my Golden Retriever who we got from Golden Retriever Rescue loved it!

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