Separating fact from fiction for the Boston and Texas tragedies

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famous image of Police going into action after Boston Marathon bombing
Police go into action after Boston Marathon bombing

It was a rough week for a lot people last week. Two bombs were set off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. A fertilizer plant blew up in Texas on Wednesday. The manhunt for the Boston bombing suspects heated up early Friday morning then concluded with the final suspect captured Friday evening. It is still early in these events and we don’t have all the information but I wanted to share some thoughts on the week where the known facts don’t match what is being said by other people.

Boston Bombing

*Note* The bombings just happened on Monday 4/15/2013 and these thoughts are being written after only a week. The information we know now could be different in the future so be advised the rest of these thoughts about this event could be moot at some point when and if a trial is held and the final facts come out.

This Boston bombing happened just after a proposed law to expand background checks on gun purchases was blocked by Republicans in the Senate. One talking point I hear from my gun loving conservative friends is a quote from Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president:

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

In the Boston terrorism incident there were plenty of good guys with guns yet they didn’t stop the bombings from happening and it took several days and one very long day to catch both suspects.

At the initial shoot-out Friday morning, it was reported that over 200 rounds of ammo was fired by both suspects and police and depending on the reports the shoot-out ended only when either the older suspect ran out of ammo or the police ran out of ammo. The older suspect was killed although it isn’t certain right now if he was killed from bullets or when he was said to be run over by the other suspect during his escape. The point is there were approximately 9000 good guys with guns in the area and at least a couple of dozen on the scene, and they didn’t stop the both suspects in the shoot-out. One suspect was killed and several police were injured.

The MIT police officer who died never drew his gun.

These were trained police officers and they didn’t stop the bad guys in that first shoot-out. How can anyone really claim that if everyone had a gun that any bad guy could be stopped. It seems more likely that one would do better playing the lottery than taking on a bad guy especially if he is armed.

Another thing highlighted by conservatives is that one or both suspects were “radical Muslims” and they try to say the bombing was part of some plot on the level of 9-11.

Just because someone is Muslim doesn’t mean they are automatically part of Al-Qaeda. The two suspects may have been radicalized or may just be acting out at a world that they didn’t think they fit into (like the Columbine shooters). I want to wait to see if we get any definitive information why the brothers did this.

Also when the bad guy is white like Eric Rudolph, who set off the Olympic Park bomb in 1996, people didn’t think all white people or pro-life or anti-gay supporters were terrorists. Bigotry is causing people to make the false leap that all Muslims are terrorists.

Look I don’t think Islam is any more valid as a religion as Christianity or Buddhism or other religions you can name, but I won’t support discrimination because a bad guy is part of a particular group or religion.

I’m sure that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and FOX “news” are glad the bombers don’t appear to be in their usual demographic – angry white males. Just don’t point out that the two suspects were born and family still live in The Caucasus – which is where we get the word for white people – Caucasian. But we know bigots like Limbaugh consider people not born in the US and not from Europe as an enemy especially if they aren’t Christian.

I would like to see some answers about why the bombing happened. Experts say that one or both brothers had training since the bombs went off and it looks like they built more but on the other hand they stayed in the area as if they didn’t have a plan on what to do after the bombing. I think they planned to either set more off or had backups if the first bombs hadn’t gone off. Nothing I’ve seen leads me to conclude the Tsarnaev were part of some big conspiracy like what we saw in the Septemeber 11th attacks.

Naturally after these kind of events people in Congress want to point the finger and will claim President Obama and his administration didn’t stop the suspects before they set off the bombs. Hindsight is always 20/20.

One report that came to light this weekend is that Russia had the FBI question the older suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011. The Boston Globe made it sound like Russia told the FBI that Tamerlan was a follower of radical Islam:

Russian authorities warned the FBI in early 2011 that suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev may have been a follower of “radical Islam,” a revelation that raised new questions in Congress on Saturday about whether the Boston Marathon attacks that killed three and wounded more than 170 could have been prevented.

A senior congressional aide privy to the Boston Marathon terror investigation confirmed Saturday that the FBI received the warning after Tsarnaev’s apparently suspicious activities caught the attention of Russian authorities keeping close surveillance on militant Islamist groups in the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union.

The FBI acknowledged Friday that it had investigated Tsarnaev in 2011, even interviewing him and his family, but “did not find any terrorism activity,” either domestic or foreign.

“The FBI had this guy on the radar and somehow he fell off,” said the congressional aide, who said oversight committees on Capitol Hill are seeking answers from counterterrorism officials. “We heard for several days leading up to this there was no intelligence. Now we know there could have been intelligence.”

Russia alerted US about Tamerlan Tsarnaev

You can see an attempt to conflate this “tip” similar to what happened after the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. What is not pointed out in this article is that Tamerlan visited his family in the Caucasus for six months in 2012. Tamerlan is a Chechen and Russia and the Chechens have been fighting off and on since the break up of the USSR. If the Russians thought he was such a threat then why did they let him in the country after the FBI interview?

I think the Russians were concerned about a Chechen wanting to visit his homeland and had the FBI check him out before a visa was granted. I think that is all there was to it.

There were also concerns and complaints about the interfaith healing service held on Thursday that was attended by President Obama and other local and state government officials. Nontheists weren’t invited.

“We’re telling them we’re here and available to stand beside religious leaders at any interfaith event, so that these public responses can be representative of Bostonians of all ethical traditions. We seek to stand with our neighbors in showing compassion and resolve in the face of terrorism.

“This bombing has affected people of many different faiths and none. We’re doing all we can to give civic leaders the chance to make sure any interfaith event is truly inclusive.”

Local groups urge nontheist inclusion in interfaith response

I don’t have much use for interfaith anything but I wasn’t surprised the believers didn’t think nontheists needed healing or ignored that some nontheists were injured in the bombing or were family members of those injured or killed. I just don’t think that such church services should be given such official sanction especially if government officials attend in their official capacity. They shouldn’t attend any event that excludes people based on religious or lack of religious beliefs.

West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion

image showing Where the West, Texas fertilizer plant use to be
Where the West, Texas fertilizer plant use to be

A fertilizer plant in West, Texas caught on fire which led to an explosion that leveled the plant, destroyed a school and nursing home as well as many other homes, and killed at least 14 people.

I’ve seen some comments asking why they built a fertilizer plant so close to a school and nursing home. The fact is when the plant was built it was originally a mile north of town and the town grew to it. The mistake was building the school, nursing home, and other homes so close to the plant.

There was a report that the plant held excessive amounts of Ammonium nitrate which is not only a component of fertilizer but is also used in explosives. There was also a report that the plant hadn’t had a OSHA inspection since 1985 but there was a complaint in 2006 and OSHA cited the plant for improper storage of anhydrous ammonia. Yet it seems the government people who keep tabs on Ammonium nitrate didn’t know the plant existed until it blew up.

The event in Texas shows what can happen if the regulations we have aren’t enforced either through neglect or lack of funds. People must be aware of the potential danger of an industrial plant like the West, Texas fertilizer plant and put people’s lives above any cost of keeping those people safe.

I also believe that a business whose practices lead to or cause massive destruction and loss of life should have to pay for any clean up and support of those effected first before the government contributes. Some businesses won’t start doing the right thing unless they get hit in the wallet.

This past week was tough but we go on and live our lives the best we can.


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