Monday, April 15, 2013

More than a feeling...

Couple of thoughts re: today's news:

One of the most unpleasant things about human beings and the world in general is sitting down and trying to figure out "Who would do something like that?" and within about two minutes generating a list that begins with various groups of Muslims that we are effectively warring on, right-wing militia nuts, diehard Tamil separatists, rogue PIRA fanatics and ends up with the ever-popular "random nutter". Homo homini lupus, damn it. We are our own worst enemy.

I cannot express how grateful I am that I do not have to sit my little daughter down tonight and explain the bad thing that happened to her first grade teacher. I called the school and Mrs. Sammons' family has been in touch to let them know she's okay.

I cannot express how horrified I am that someone else is going to have to sit their little girl or boy down tonight and explain the bad thing that happened to their mommy, daddy, big sister, uncle, or their first-grade teacher...

We must be utterly fucking mad.


  1. Since the news broke I have been trying to contact my former neighbor, also a schoolteacher, who has run Boston every year for the past four. No luck so far. She has two children. I used to see her on the local bike/running trails pushing her youngest in one of those big-wheel jogging strollers. I am hoping her oldest was not there to watch her at the finish line.

  2. People who care about systemic resiliency need to consider the implications of the apparent collapse of the Boston cell phone network. Personal communication habits have changed dramatically since 2001.

  3. Ael: I was led to believe that the shutdown was deliberate, a sort of digital "no-fly" zone to prevent any communications between potential bad guys and/or remote detonation of additional devices. So this was, instead, the collapse of an overloaded cell network?

  4. I know that cell networks will get saturated if everyone wants to talk at once. I don't know exactly how much of the problem was deliberate and how much was simple overloading. I suspect the vast majority was overloading.

    You might *want* to to turn it off for a few minutes but what are the criteria to turn it back on. Do you wait until Boston has been evacuated? Till you have searched the entire route? plus hospitals? plus ...? In the meantime, *everyone* in the city needs to communicate urgently and shared channel radio communications isn't likely going to cut it.

  5. Chief,
    the power of violence or terrorism is the 6 degrees of separation theme.
    Eventually we all some one affected by these acts.

  6. jim

    You are absolutely correct that the power of terrorism is increased by the 6 degrees theme.

    The question is whether or not a society allows this to shape their behavior and/or policies. There is no doubt that GWB & Co used the fear of terrorist acts to not only shape the political agenda, but to make their "Tough on Terrorism" mantra a reelection tool. I shudder to think of the treasure, both human and financial, that 9/11 led us to squander.

    That said, terrorism is only successful when it evokes the desired response from the target population. We spent the years 2000-2003 studying in the UK. Bombs and boms threats to train stations were a constant affair. People did not live in fear, but simply checked in advance to see if the train station they were planning to use was open or if an alternate would be needed. We experienced three very calm and orderly evacuations of Kings Cross Station. Net result on the populace? Getting to your destination 45 mins late.

    Yup, a terrorist can, indeed, kill me or someone I know. So can a drunken driver. Over 10,000 people perished in drunk driving mishaps in 2010, yet we haven't seen a culture of fear over it nor spent trillions combating drunk driving, have we? Why American society seems to have a heightened fear of death is beyond my ability to explain, but having lived significant periods of time in other cultures, I can assure you that Yanks appear to be manipulative by the politics and tactics of fear.