The Showdown in Boston

Turn on the TV or the radio. Follow me on Twitter. I'll be RT-ing the best info. 

UPDATE: I've been glued to cable news shows and twitter all day. There's really nothing good to say yet. Like Tyler, I don't think we could have predicted this outcome, and we probably have no idea what's going to happen next. And like Tyler, I also think this doesn't bode well for immigration reform. 

UPDATE2: In the comments, af writes:

I am getting worried about what is going on in Boston – the kind of precedent it is setting for what we're willing to do in the case of a terrorist attack. It may be that the police are closer than it seems to tracking down the suspect (and I hope to God he's the actual criminal), but shutting down an entire, enormous city, keeping people in their homes, SWAT teams all over, preventing (from what I heard) news teams from getting access, as a means of finding one person, seems crazy. How long will this continue? What if it doesn't work?

I've also thought about this in terms of what we prioritize. Yes, this was a horrible, devastating event, and certainly qualifies as a terrorist attack based on everything I've heard. We have to make sure people do not expect to escape capture and persecution when they do these things. But according to Andrew Sullivan, "On an average day in America, 85 people are shot dead. There are now five dead in Boston, including one of the suspected bombers – over the course of five days." How much other crime – not just deaths but everything else – is going uninvestigated and unpunished in Boston this week?

This has to be the top priority, absolutely, but I'm worried.

 

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38 thoughts on “The Showdown in Boston

  1. I am getting worried about what is going on in Boston – the kind of precedent it is setting for what we’re willing to do in the case of a terrorist attack. It may be that the police are closer than it seems to tracking down the suspect (and I hope to God he’s the actual criminal), but shutting down an entire, enormous city, keeping people in their homes, SWAT teams all over, preventing (from what I heard) news teams from getting access, as a means of finding one person, seems crazy. How long will this continue? What if it doesn’t work?
    I’ve also thought about this in terms of what we prioritize. Yes, this was a horrible, devastating event, and certainly qualifies as a terrorist attack based on everything I’ve heard. We have to make sure people do not expect to escape capture and persecution when they do these things. But according to Andrew Sullivan, “On an average day in America, 85 people are shot dead. There are now five dead in Boston, including one of the suspected bombers – over the course of five days.” How much other crime – not just deaths but everything else – is going uninvestigated and unpunished in Boston this week?
    This has to be the top priority, absolutely, but I’m worried.

  2. What af said. Also, what will the authorities do if the suspect isn’t found in a day or so? You can’t keep an entire city locked down. People start to run out of food etc. All in all, it seems like a hysterical overreaction.

  3. Potentially an over reaction, but potentially not. I’m not in Boston, so don’t see the practical effects. But countries where terrorism and war deal with comparable shut downs, and society doesn’t completely break down. if they don’t find him soon, there will be a new normal, but the current precautions might not be unreasonable in the short term.

  4. To clarify, the NYT story says the elder Tsarnaev was denied citizenship because of the domestic violence case. The NYT story I cited doesn’t say that he could have been deported (although it seems not an unlikely conclusion to draw).

  5. Also, to be fair to the Boston police, it’s quite likely that a lot of garden variety criminals are taking the day off today. This is exactly the sort of day where the police shoots first and asks questions later.

  6. Haven’t been able to turn it off either – because I live in Dartmouth, teach at UMass Dartmouth, and taught the suspect (which is now apparently something that is widely know as Anonymous hacked his UMassD account and posted transcripts and classes online). Crazy times.

  7. I think it is wrong to talk about priorities today. There has been no prioritization. The authorities decided that the manhunt is literally the only thing that matters today. There are no other priorities – top, second, third, hundredth. I find it very hard not to see that as an overreaction.

  8. It’s not just local financial loss, either. At least one major science fiction convention has been canceled (or delayed, hoping they can find an open date at an appropriate venue). What else has been canceled, and what cannot be rescheduled?

  9. The US has jumped the shark on terrorism. I watched the whole thing and it was an exercise in mass hysteria. I don’t understand what’s going on in the US but that was nuts.

  10. Friends of friends lost limbs. Dozens of people will never recover.
    It was not nuts. I wish you all health and happiness.

  11. I actually think it was the right move – someone who plants a bomb in a crowd going uncaptured undermines public morale in a way that the average criminal at large does not – and the authorities had a very good idea of where he was, so had some chance of success. I have way more confidence in our governor and police force than I did last week.
    My office was closed and I’ll be working longer hours next week and won’t complain. I do worry about low-wage workers going a day without pay, but I hate to privilege economics and business needs over public safety and well being.
    And don’t worry too much about criminals running rampant elsewhere in Boston yesterday – reinforcements had come in from other cities and law enforcement was *everywhere* – not just Watertown and Cambridge.

  12. Has anyone considered that if there was no lockdown, he might have been found sooner? It was once the lockdown was semi-lifted that Dave Henneberry went outside and noticed something wrong with his boat.
    The kid’s face was all over the media. If he had tried to move about, thousands of eyes could have noticed him sooner.

  13. “The kid’s face was all over the media. If he had tried to move about, thousands of eyes could have noticed him sooner.”
    If the bombers had had a better exit strategy (i.e. any exit strategy at all), I think they could have got away. It was only the younger Tsarnaev’s hair that was at all unmistakable. If he’d gotten a short haircut, changed into a different style of dress, and gotten on a Greyhound bus to a part of the country with lots of olive-skinned residents, he could totally have gotten away.
    Having lived through the DC sniper thing in 2002 in Rockville, MD that went on for three terrible weeks of fear, I think it’s totally worth it if the police was able to kill or capture both Boston bombers before the week was out.

  14. Actually, now that I think of it, it took a long time before the police had a name or a photo other than the grainy, pixelly ones we saw on the news with baseball caps obscuring hair. The younger Tsarnaev might have been able to get away with skipping the haircut.

  15. I’m surprised anyone recognized them from the video stills. I would have described them as “some guys.” Their appearance would not have been unusual in the greater Boston area (other than the blood). The lockdown probably prevented shootings of people mistaken for the brothers.
    They had already carjacked a car once, and shot two police officers. Had the lockdown not been in place, the logical thing for him to do would have been to carjack another person. At the time of the lockdown, the bomb squads were dealing with the explosives thrown out of their car during an escape attempt. It is still not known if they had help. Three people were arrested in New Bedford.

  16. “The lockdown probably prevented shootings of people mistaken for the brothers.”
    Right–there was that recent California spree shooting case where the police accidentally shot innocent people in two separate incidents during their manhunt.
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/02/torrance-shootings.html
    “They had already carjacked a car once, and shot two police officers. Had the lockdown not been in place, the logical thing for him to do would have been to carjack another person.”
    Right.

  17. I can see the argument for the lockdown, especially in Watertown, but the scope of it was pretty remarkable. The Boston metropolitan area is huge. Since it worked, it seems like the right decision, but I think it’s worth thinking about how these choices are made and by whom (cities? states? National Guard?) now that it is thankfully over.

  18. The state shut down most business during a large snowstorm this winter. Many businesses and schools complied with the governor’s request not to open on the day of the forecast storm. Late in the afternoon, all travel on roads was forbidden.
    Such a state of emergency made it possible to clear the roads in an efficient fashion. Emergency crews and police did not need to rush off to rescue people who thought they could drive in white-out conditions.
    I’m not the person driving a snowplow at 4 am in a blizzard. I’m also not the policeman doing a house-to-house search for a cold-blooded killer who has nothing to lose. Being locked down would be an inconvenience for me.

  19. I agree that the one-day lockdown seems like a defensible decision in this circumstance, for all the reasons folks are outlining. I think one of the issues we face is when the paradigm needs to change (and when it doesn’t). There will be mistakes made. For example, I think the idea that we always “prioritize safety” over economics/business would be a flawed idea; we always need to strike a balance.
    An example of a changing paradigm is the new advice that if you can’t run, that charging/fighting an armed attacker (Newtown, Colorado, Arizona, . . .) might be the better way to go. In the article with the new advice, the story described the holocaust survivor (professor) who told his students to jump out the window and then tried to barricade the door (in Virginia Tech). He died. But the students survived. The 1st grade teacher did the same (after hiding her children). She died, too. But, the recognition is that those heroes can save others, contrary to old advice, which talked about diffusing the situation, trying to get the attacker to leave/change his mind.
    Lockdowns are un-American. But, we might need them anyway. And, unlike torture, which is morally indefensible, I don’t feel the same way about lockdowns. If we take morality out of it, the question is whether they are effective.
    (PS: We are out of the country right now, which has made the story surreal; we hear about it at a different time than when its happening, and, we are very distant from the reality)

  20. “An example of a changing paradigm is the new advice that if you can’t run, that charging/fighting an armed attacker (Newtown, Colorado, Arizona, . . .)”
    It probably depends on the personality and intent of the attacker. If it’s a determined killer (Adam Lanza or Breivik), you probably have no chance of talking them out of it, but I believe (although I can’t think of any examples at the moment) there have been many cases where less committed attackers were convinced to give themselves up. How to tell which type you’re dealing with is the problem.
    The recent Family Research Council shooting is an example of successful resistance to an armed assailant:
    “After Johnson [the building manager] asked for identification, prosecutors say, Corkins [the gunman] reached into his backpack, retrieved a handgun and leveled it at Johnson’s head.
    Johnson ducked and lunged at Corkins before he could fire a shot, according to prosecutors.
    As the two struggled, Corkins fired three times, hitting Johnson once in the arm, before the building manager was able to wrestle him to the ground, disarm him and hold him at gunpoint until police arrived.”
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/06/justice/dc-family-research-council-shooting
    I’m definitely convinced of the wisdom of the personal safety advice to never allow yourself to be threatened into a car, as it just makes things easier for them, which is not the idea.

  21. I don’t see where the lockdown “worked,” except in the sense that it prevented trigger-happy policemen from shooting at ordinary citizens. The fugitive was outside the area that was cordoned and searched house-to-house. He wasn’t traveling or trying to travel anywhere; he was hiding. He wasn’t found until after the lockdown was ended. Just because things ended well doesn’t vindicate the decisions made.

  22. I don’t have strong feelings either way. I do think that this is an interesting debate and one that will have strong implecations for the future. When do you shut down a city to find one guy? Right now, all cities are in the midst of major crime sprees. (A fact that hasn’t gotten enough attention in the major media.) Will events in Boston lead to similar lockdowns in the future?
    Another big debate that is spilling into real-life convesations is who feels sorry for the younger brother. Even my mom, a major FOX news type of person, feels sorry for him. What’s going to happen to him, after all of friends talked about him being a sweet, stoner dude?

  23. Right now, all cities are in the midst of major crime sprees.
    What do you mean by this? A very quick look doesn’t bring anything up, and it’s not the general trend, so I’d be curious to hear.

  24. “Really? There’s been a lot in the local media about the huge jump in crime in NYC, particularly rapes.”
    That’s odd. I thought NYC’s most pressing problems were over-sized sodas, salty restaurant food and formula-fed babies.

  25. What I’ve seen is that crime is still down in all major cities, in particular violent crime. See, for example, here:
    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/04/crime-down-los-angeles-and-everywhere-else-too
    As far as I can tell (not just from this but in other sources, too) the two-decade long crime drop in major cities is continuing at a good pace. I expect that what you’re seeing is either a small blip that will wash out over the year or else a distortion caused by media focus. The “local media” is usually one of the worst places to get good information on this sort of thing. They have all the wrong incentives for presenting trends correctly.

  26. “I thought NYC’s most pressing problems were over-sized sodas, salty restaurant food and formula-fed babies.”
    You forgot bike lanes. Or lack of bike lanes. It’s one or the other.

  27. True that without looking hard at the numbers, our perceptions of crime rate are skewed. Last year, our town had a lot of gun murders at the beginning of the year, including the ones that get to middle class residents (a father shot as he drove his kids home, caught in the crossfire, a mentally ill shooter in a cafe, a gun injury in a major tourist attraction). But the year ended with the average rate of murders.
    The perception of the numbers can be skewed, too, though. If the murder rate has increased in the neighborhoods I live in, but not overall, it still matters to me.
    Also, is there a spike of murders in Chicago right now? I heard some news reports that suggested there might be some kind of gang shake up going on, but haven’t looked at the numbers.

  28. huh. OK. Wonder where I picked up that info… Glad I didn’t write a blog post about it, though I would have probably (hopefully) checked my facts first.

  29. That’s mostly a good example of how paying attention to the NY Post and similar such places makes you _less_ well informed than before. “the 1st three months of this year compared to the 1st three months of last year” just isn’t a meaningful sort of comparison, among other things. It’s a sort of sensationalism, not a useful bit of knowledge. BJ’s point about very local perception is important, too, but might be the sort of thing that turns out to be random or not indicative of a trend in any real way. In the short-term it’s too hard to say, but places like the NY Post don’t care about that, because they are not in the business of making you better informed.

  30. The first three months of 2012 v first three months of 2011 was what had us freaked out here. In the first thre emonths of 2012 everyone was imagining what it meant if the rate continued for the rest of the year (which would have had us at a much higher murder rate). But, murders must have been less frequent in the last 3/4 of the year, because the annual murder rate wasn’t significantly different. Murder is rare enough here that numbers are very susceptible to random variation effects.

  31. “Even my mom, a major FOX news type of person, feels sorry for him. What’s going to happen to him, after all of friends talked about him being a sweet, stoner dude?”
    He’s way lot cuter than a number of our recent youthful mass murderers (Lanza, Loughner, etc.). I saw somebody online say that the young Tsarnaev looks like a member of a boy band, and somebody else said he looks like the young Bob Dylan (which might or might not have a subliminal effect on Laura’s mom, who is of that generation). As we were discussing earlier this week, pretty people get a lot of unfair breaks.

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