Terrorism

When in Doubt (or in Boston), Blow It Up

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If you accept the premise that colorful light boards displaying cartoon characters should be blown up because they might be bombs, this one seems like a no-brainer: Today police in Boston—the only city that was thrown into a panic by a marketing tactic that was taken in stride, if not completely ignored, in nine others—blew up a "suspicious package" chained to a parking sign. The local Fox affiliate reports that it might have been a device used by the transportation department to count passing vehicles. But you can't be too careful.

Police in Santa Fe seem to agree. Last week, apparently confusing the F-bomb with a literal one, they blew up two of three CD players that had been set to play "foul language" and "pornographic messages" during Ash Wednesday services at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. They kept the third possible bomb intact, A.P. reports, "to test for fingerprints or DNA and trace its components."

[Thanks to Thomas Paine's Goiter for the links.]

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  1. “”foul language” and “pornographic messages” during Ash Wednesday services at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.”

    You mean the content of the service?

  2. So you don’t know anything about the package they blew up in Boston, but you know it was silly of them to do so.

    OK.

  3. I wish the police would blow up some of their own big brother cameras and radar detectors.

  4. joe

    maybe its worth considering that cops blow things up to justify their existence the same way scientists want to scare us with end-of-world scenarios to do the same, the same way politicians see child-threats in every media, the same way Y2K tech consultants pushed the idea of computer meltdown…ad infinitum.

    i think it’s generally wrong to always give everyone the benefit of the doubt in all cases. they are things that do have to be looked at more closely, as you point out. But given the recent history, it’s noteworthy, and reasonable to be skeptical.

    jg

  5. joe,
    Help me out here. I can’t find the word silly or a synonym for it in Sullum’s post. Is there a hidden secrest part of the post?

  6. The local Fox affiliate reports that it might have been a device used by the transportation department to count passing vehicles. But you can’t be too careful.

    Never back down. Never admit you’re wrong. Especially when you are wrong.

    Denny Crane.

  7. to count passing vehicles

    Don’t count your vehicles before you hatch.

  8. No, highnumber, I’m not going to help you. Nobody else seems to be having any trouble with realizing this isn’t an ode to the wisdom of Boston’s finest.

  9. Boston’s finest don’t wear badges. They have real jobs.

  10. I would just die laughing if it turned out that one government agency blew up a device planted by a government agency.

    joe: You might want to consider Boston’s recent record here. I’m wondering if there have been any noteworthy examples of bombers chaining their devices to something, myself.

  11. joe,
    I didn’t really need your help anyway.
    He doesn’t have to say that it’s silly. It is silly on the face of it. I was teasing you for taking it so goll-dern seriously.

  12. C’mon, joe, you know that if this happened in Kansas you’d be loving it as much as the rest of us. Just because it took place in Boston doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. Watch the video and tell me that poor solar-powered car-counter deserved its fate.

  13. So does this mean the transportation department has to reimburse the police for their time? Maybe with an extra penalty payment devoted to the general public safety fund? How about threats of legal action, and a humiliating public apology? It just isn’t a proper ridiculous bomb scare otherwise, you know.

  14. I’m more amused by the Santa Fe incident. Which– I don’t know for sure, of course– sounds like the sort of in-your-face sort of stunt gay activists would pull off.

    They’re obviously CD players. The staff had already removed them from underneath the pews and took them to the basement. The cops blow up two of them, but leave the third alone because it ‘might contain evidence’. What kind of logic is that?

    Welcome to the whole country being treated like an airport screening line.

  15. Gay activists pull off and cops blow? Seems like a little “joint” cooperation would have satisfied everyone.

  16. Given my own experiences in Boston, I find it not all improbably that one city bureaucracy managed to not know what another bureaucracy was doing and do something like this.

    I was living on Beacon Hill when they decided to change the direction of Church St. overnight. No warning.

    Of course, since Somebody Else had jurisdiction over the lights at the traffic circle at the end of the Longfellow bridge, this meant that there was an entire 30 seconds where a green light was shining down Church street, in which direction nobody came because they had flipped the traffic pattern.

    That traffic light cycle remained unchanged at least for the next 2 years, after which I left Boston.

  17. That traffic light cycle remained unchanged at least for the next 2 years, after which I left Boston

    Successfully, right? On wheels, right? Unimpeded, right? Ya see, da system woiks!

  18. grumpy realist,

    The goddamned right hand had no idea what I had done.

  19. Don’t count your vehicles before you hatch.

    Or we blow you up.

  20. So…if I understand this, the police in Santa Fe blew up two devices because they were deemed to be bombs, but the third one, chosen at random, was safe to take back to the police station.

    As for Boston, you don’t want to stand too still in that town. The police might decide you’re a bomb and blow you up.

  21. I don’t know about Boston, but with the Santa Fe incident, the cops were right to be worried.

    During the celebration of a key religions event in a widely-reviled religious group, in a place where large numbers of worshippers were assembled, several devices “duct-taped to the bottoms of the pews” start making noise. The police get called, and they suspect a bomb. This is not beyond the range of possibility, because the religious group in question has a lot of enemies, some of these enemies being known to have a thing for blowing stuff up.

    Imagine the incident had taken place at a synagogue during Purim services (comparable in solemnity and importance to Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church). Suppose the devices duct-taped underneath the pews started broadcasting messages like “death to Israel!” Should the police be concerned? Yes!

    Just because it’s a Catholic Church instead of a synagogue shouldn’t affect the analysis. Both Jews and Catholics have been targeted by Islamic bombers.

  22. Another example:

    Say people start getting letters in the mail reading “Death to Israel!” and a white powder. Police investigate, suspecting some kind of terrorist attack, and they burn some of the letters. Bloggers make fun of the police for “overreacting” to “an obvious prank.” This scenario is similar to the antrax attacks, in which people *died.*

  23. Bottom line: There’s no civil-liberties violation when police investigate devices left in a church, and the church itself has invited the police to investigate.

  24. During the celebration of a key religions event in a widely-reviled religious group, in a place where large numbers of worshippers were assembled, several devices “duct-taped to the bottoms of the pews” start making noise. The police get called, and they suspect a bomb. This is not beyond the range of possibility, because the religious group in question has a lot of enemies, some of these enemies being known to have a thing for blowing stuff up.

    Max…the devices were done making noise. They were turned off and taken to the basement by the church staff.

  25. @MadMax – I guess you missed the obvious here.

    If you think you have three bombs, you blow them all up. If you leave one — at random — unblownup, then you apparently didn’t really think it was a bomb, and you shouldn’t have blown any of them up.

    Everything else is beside the point. Yes?

  26. Evolution In Action, also Hustling Money For the Sole and Express Purpose of Getting High

    So Boston, is the retarded police state getting you down? I understand the feeling. In fact, all of Massachusetts, however progressive and enlightened they like to think they are, the entire state is in the power of a cartel of retarded bureaucrats. I go to Northeastern University. I have a free ride at the robot factory with free room and board. I am so disgusted with this entire SITUATION that I am dropping out of school. I can not bear to study Brainwashing, also known conventionally as PSYCHOLOGY. I believe that you need to think for yourself, question authority, make your own decisions and run your own autonomous life. This will more than likely involve a symbiotic relationship with MANY other human beings. This is a suggestion on how to organize the city of Boston.

    I am submitting this to Reason Magazine because they are the most biologically advanced human beings participating in the public discourse. The people at Daily Kos are going to call me a nazi for saying that but I don’t give a shit, they are about to enslave everyone with their RETARDED “universal healthcare system”. Libertarians of all varieties belong to the cult of Ayn Rand in the sense that they recognize the power of the fiat currency and consciously participate in the economic system. While we are talking about the evolution of the human species, we can talk about seizing the media of the city that controls the old guard of the Democratic Party.

    I don’t know if ya’ll are familiar with the LaRouche political cult? They are an obnoxious club of statists that are hawking some retarded scheme about building a giant land bridge across Eurasia? Very obviously a stupid idea. FDR was Lyndon LaRouche’s primary influence, and look where that put us. I don’t need to tell you we live in an ill society. I am confident that Zebbler’s court date will clear up any misunderstanding about the mooninite fiasco, you are probably well aware if you keep up to date with Reason Magazine. Libertarians make the best political journalists because they know that both parties lie and cheat and steal equally. That’s why its called Free Minds and Free Markets, and if they don’t print this vital information they are teh fucking HYPOCRITS.

    So I saw this group on facebook called Students Against LaRouchebags with a picture of hippies on it. I was puzzled. My conversation with the LaRouche zeitgeist ended when I established the foundation of their values, namely that they worship Johannes Kepler because they think he invented gravity or something, and they have a choir in which they sing Bach, because that is the “most scientifically advanced music” invented by human civilization. I realized eventually the association came from the fact that they annoy Northeastern students on their way to class and tell them they should drop out of school and join the LaRouche Youth Movement. Now if someone asked me for advice about changing the wider world I would tell them that they should worry about their own physical and mental wellbeing before worrying about the wider world, and probably advise them to drop out of Northeastern University for the sake of their own mental wellbeing and inner peace. It is interesting that LaRouche, along with Shawn Fanning and the guy that founded undergroundhiphop.com, are all Northeastern dropouts. That’s my advice, but I try not to push my trip on other people too much. Northeastern has a very individualistic populations and I am trying to speak to that type of person.

    So I told them, damn you had better come up with something better than singing Bach for college students to do if you want them to forget their previous life and drop out of school. In fact I know that the best thing to provoke exactly that reaction is psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. I brought a drum to their bullshit table and started playing. They asked if I go to school, I told them I was too busy studying. Studying what, you say? Studying the use of psilocybin in the treatment of various mental illnesses such as obssesive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, major depression, and bipolar disorder, all of which except ODD I have been diagnosed with professionally. I think that professional shrinks brainwash you, and that you need to help yourself. This is me telling you to think for yourself here in this article, judge what I have to say and give it right back to me ruthlessly. The ODD actually runs in my mom’s side of the family along with the other shit. I also have a friend in the Drug WarRant community who uses minuscule amounts of psilocybin to treat his cluster headaches.

    So I played drums for about 2 hours and made about ten bucks. Not bad, I was almost making minimum wage. LaRouchebags think that people who get high are “destroying civilization”. I told them that their ideology is destroying civilization as well as the global environment, because any state that they pave with good intentions will eventually be taken over by belligerent retards because of that whole entropy thing, and it is starting to seriously fuck with the Earth. But it doesn’t matter, because the civilization they are trying to save is retarded anyway, so I told them I don’t give a fuck about the people going to class at Northeastern, because they are almost definitely making enough money to get high at the end of the day.

    Oh yes, the best thing you can do for the environment is to smoke cannabis and advocate for the legalization of hemp. The fact of the matter is that THEY don’t give a shit if we get high, they just want to make paper out of trees and devour the Earth for profit. I told people walking by that I didn’t want them to join my cult, I just wanted their spare change so I could go get high. I was inspired by the canvassers who work for PIRG or Greenpeace, asking for money on the street to stop “Global Warming” of all the things. Really what they are saying is, “Will you give me money so I can be paid to stand here and ask you for money?” This is retarded and should not be considered legitimate activism, although I hold no grudge against individuals who are able to support themselves with this hustle. If you want to advocate on behalf of the global environment here is some news: the Earth has a self-aware intelligence that communicates with individual human beings through psilocybin mushrooms and a painting called Gaia that is housed in the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors in New York City.

    In case you hadn’t realized, we are now experiencing a rebirth and awakening that will surpass the one that happened in San Fransisco in the 1960s. We have had forty years to adjust, it is time to move on. Timothy Leary said that the internet was the LSD of the 1990s, and those on the inside of the psychedelic revival will understand that the ability to harness the power of internet discourse will be key to the promotion of your personal art and ideas. On the same day that the Beyond Broadcast conference was going on, I participated in an open discussion on the future of visionary culture at the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors with Alex Grey and Daniel Pinchbeck. Neither of them advocate the medicinal use of psychedelic sacraments for the treatment of modern “disorders”, and this is because they have real lives. They can not afford to be targeted by the authorities. Timothy Leary spent 15 years in prison for a trivial amount of cannabis because of his ideas. These ideas are more important than Lyndon LaRouche’s ideas, and even if you are not going to drop out I suggest that you read them. I would start with How To Operate Your Brain and The Declaration of Evolution.

    A respectably informed “hippie” will first and foremost recognize that it is best to live directly off of the land without interference from the State in your personal economic life. They will recognize that the word “hippie” was invented by the corporate media to slander people like them, and they will use a different word. Perhaps “head” or “mooninite”. They will recognize the wisdom of the indigenous cultures of the American continent. They will recognize the necessity of organizing for the purpose of liberating their fellow human beings in other parts of the country. The best way to do this is to continue your lives and live publicly as an example. Show people the way, and they will follow. We are already trying to do this in New Hampshire, so just one city of geniuses being oppressed by a bunch of RETARDS shouldn’t be too difficult. Think about the last time a bunch of white people dressed up like indians and pulled a stunt to piss off the authorities, we could call it the new Boston Tea Party. Yes, just to be clear, I do think that the American Revolution was provoked by the colonial hippie population of Boston. I think it is painfully obvious.

    Notice that I said we need to seize the MEDIA and not the government. Government is institutionalized violence and I am bringing a message that is against violence. For our new society I would suggest familiarity with The Fountainhead and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Also, I think we should have a consensus based society. Everyone gets to talk and say their peace. We will figure it out eventually. One thing though, and I am afraid this needs to be an exception. The use of sacramental medicine outside of a movement to somehow stop the global war in progress is an unforgivable sin. I am speaking from the authority of an individual who was chemically brainwashed by the police state and was liberated by the divine medicine LSD, and also from the authority of the warning of Aldous Huxley that he made in a speech at Berkeley:

    “And it seems to me perfectly in the cards that there will be within the next generation or so a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing ? a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda, brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods.”

    I want everyone who reads Reason Magazine to know about the underground “Velada”, which is a ceremony for partaking in the sacred mushrooms, that will be happening soon at MIT. This way we can have our say and due influence before this seminal event takes place. The negative energy and retarded propaganda and actual physical violence precipitated by the 1960s incident was completely unacceptable, and I am doing my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The public needs to know unequivocally that yes, these substances are sacred and yes, their sole purpose is, as my friend (and your friend) Alex Grey put it, to “offer up any energy generated for the benefit of all beings”.

    So here is, without further ado, the HOWTO file for the second American Revoution. The eventual goal will be to join the psychedelic counterculture with the Free Software Movement, completing the totally independent society taking its sustenance and energy directly from the Earth. Here is a TO DO list for the the genius cartels at Reason and MIT:

    1.Legalize medical CANNABIS in Massachusetts. Marijuana is a racist propaganda term. The magic trick is that once it is recognized as “medicine”, according to their brainwashing the statists must find a way to supply it for free to everybody. This is part of a larger effort to adopt a sound currency in the United States. We know the fiat currency is bullshit, but the gold standard is just as bad. If you think gold has intrinsic value because it’s shiny, you are a retard. Sorry. Hell, we could be trading electronic calorie credits already.
    2.Police the police NONVIOLENTLY. There have been multiple incidents in which cops have ARRESTED people for taking pictures and videos of the cops doing illegal things. This is completely fucking unacceptable. The government will not monitor itself. We have to do this. Why don’t you make an army of mini-helicopters to take videos of the retarded cops with total impunity. Stealth technology and/or deflector shield technology will be necessary because we know they will try to blow them up if they see them. How will this Gaian panopticon work, you ask? That brings us to number three:
    3.Advocate politically for free municipal wifi. This will only happen if we are loud and insistent, and it is necessary if we want to police the police. This is a cause we can all agree on, and a good way to cut our teeth politically. It would be best to learn from Daily Kos, who put Howard Dean in the Chairmanship of the Democratic Party.

    That is all the pontificating I can do for now. I would like any mooninites reading this to give me a “ping” if anything to prove to the people in Washington that I am not just bullshitting them and that this is really happening. You probably don’t even know about the party yet, so I am telling you that in order to ensure that this goes well we need to work out our intentions ahead of time through discussion and consensus. They can not arrest us if we document our intentions publicly. There are too many of us. If you don’t have the balls to be a part of a public and revolutionary gathering, you don’t deserve to partake of the sacred mushroom. No need to use your real name here, and I’ll see you when I see you.

    P.S. Come and get me fascist spooks, I fucking dare you.

  27. I hope you can see this because I am doing it as hard as I can. The fuck you hiippy suicide balmers will be telling you all (IN PUBLIC) to get with the program really soon, you might be able to relate to the following internet fad. No, not the one about the Italian plumbers who eat mushrooms and go on an epic quest to defeat evil turtles, that was the pre-internet fad. I am referring the the one called, “All your base are belong to us”

    This is that fad brought up to date for the current city-wide situation:

    In A.D. 2007
    War was beginning.
    Captain: What happen ?
    Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
    Operator: We get signal.
    Captain: What !
    Operator: Main screen turn on.
    Captain: It’s you !!
    Gaia: How are you gentlemen !!
    Gaia: All your base are belong to us.
    Gaia: You are on the way to destruction.
    Captain: What you say !!
    Gaia: You have no chance to survive make your time.
    Gaia: Ha ha ha ha ….
    Operator: Captain !!
    Captain: Take off every ‘Zig’!!
    Captain: You know what you doing.
    Captain: Move ‘Zig’.
    Captain: For great justice.

    For you all to know, “Zig” is political and social authority also know as AUTHORITAH in the visionary television cartoon South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone took LSD at the Academy Awards. They also know, from the first south park episode release on cable TV, that cows are the most highly evolved life forms on the planet Earth.

    They understand that cows are a divine biological machine meant to turn the trace amounts of DMT found in grass into psilocybin mushrooms with the purpose of facilitating contact with the transdimensional race from the amazonian spirit world that is accessed by using DMT. Consider this blog entry to be inserting the alien probe into the ass of your beligerent fascist inner child. Know the mind of the Earth and move ZIG for the Great Justice of you own individual choosing.

    Surgeon General’s Warning: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!

  28. “Max…the devices were done making noise. They were turned off and taken to the basement by the church staff.”

    I can’t speak for the cops, but, if they overreacted, so what? Nobody’s liberties were violated. The key issue is that someone tried to disrupt a religious service – and this wasn’t some minor “viral marketing” stunt – they were obviously trying to cause alarm and disruption. The people who planted the devices should be the ones getting all the criticism.

    I have a strong suspicion that some people are making light of this because the Catholic Church was involved. I doubt they’d be so flippant if these devices playing “death to Israel” messages during a Purim services, or booming out Leviticus 18:22 and other “homophobic” quotes during a gay rights conference.

    “@MadMax – I guess you missed the obvious here.

    “If you think you have three bombs, you blow them all up. If you leave one — at random — unblownup, then you apparently didn’t really think it was a bomb, and you shouldn’t have blown any of them up.”

    I repeat that I can’t speak for the cops, but perhaps they were willing to take a risk with one device for the sake of preserving enough evidence to nail the perpetrators. If they were willing to take such a risk, more power to them, and I hope they find the disruptors.

    Incidentally (responding to another poster), why presume that the disruptors were gay? I’m willing to be more charitable to the gay-libbers than to assume without evidence that they’d pull something like this.

  29. Mad Max, referring to both of the situations, information needs to be free. The peacefull dissemination of information to the public is NOT TERRORISM. PERIOD.

  30. tros
    panties a little tight?

  31. Did I mention I am getting a bright green swastika tatooed to my forhead? That is a pwerful symbol that has been under a cloud of negative associations for far to long. Suffice to say that the media professionals in this country are lucky that this is a non-violent movement.

  32. Joe is right. Most of you here sound like the worst sort of idiotic Monday morning quarterbacks.

    In Baghdad, bombs of many types are used daily to kill lots and lots and lots of people. Many times these bombs are placed at places of worship, almost always mosques. In almost all cases these bombs are placed so as to kill and maim as many as possible, whether at a mosque or a Catholic church or a market.

    It is the job of the police to be cautious, and to prepare for the worst. We don’t live in Mayberry anymore.

  33. Disrupting a service is incredibly disrespectful. No one’s really defending them, but … how can you not tell the difference between a CD player and a bomb? For instance, the former can be effectively disarmed by popping out its batteries or, say, turning it off.

  34. Tros,

    When did you stop going by “Unabomber?”

  35. yes, terrorist bombs always play recorded messages for several minutes before blowing up. that’s how you know they’re terrorist bombs.

  36. It says something that liberal joe doesn’t knee-jerk criticize the police for blowing something up real good, yet others here continue to jerk away.

    Methinks if a real bomb ever goes off, then the same people here will be slamming the cops for eating donuts and “not doing their job”.

    And I don’t think it’s such a stretch to think some piece of shit is sick enough to bomb a church during Lent, since obviously someone is sick enough to disrupt a Mass (a sacred ritual)with pornography. Some of you might think this is hilarious, and that’s pretty fucking pathetic (speaking as a staunch ex-Catholic).

  37. “Bottom line: There’s no civil-liberties violation when police investigate devices left in a church, and the church itself has invited the police to investigate.”

    It’s not always about civil liberties on this blog. In this case it’s about officious bureacracy overracting to harmless (in the legal sense) stunts in order to justify their swelling Homeland Security budgets.

    Also, it’s about hypocrisy. How come when cops blow up traffic monitors they’re “just doing their jobs” but when I blow up a monitor, I get sent to Camp X-Ray?

  38. “how can you not tell the difference between a CD player and a bomb?”

    Dagny, I am searching my vast vocabulary for a word to gently call you dumb. That is the best I can do.

  39. Is joe (and others) now pushing the idea that the cops should blow up everything that they can’t confirm isn’t a bomb?

    Methinks if a real bomb ever goes off, then the same people here will be slamming the cops for eating donuts and “not doing their job”.

    And justifiably so. If the cops weren’t wasting their time on stupid shit like this, maybe they could focus on their real jobs.

  40. RC Dean,

    If the cops come into your bedroom and blow up your clock radio, then I will join your side of this argument. If you tape your clock radio to a column that supports a bridge that carries heavy rush hour traffic, then I will be on their side of the argument. It’s all about context.

  41. Oh, and I love it how people here pretend to have this keen understanding on how a terrorist would go about his business. How can a sane person truly know how a lunatic thinks?

    Perhaps it’s better to not have assumptions?

    Oh, but it’s so much easier criticizing after the fact with the crystal clarity of 20/20 hindsight. Okay.

  42. When did you stop going by “Unabomber?”

    January 31, 2007. NEVER FORGET the end of the SO CALLED “War On Terrorism”

  43. Wayne, you and Joe are all wet.

    If it’s perfectly reasonable for the police in Boston to blow up the property of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, there is ABSOLUTELY NO stationary object too prosaic for them to detonate in the name of “caution”.

    I’d like to hear if there is ANYTHING – ANYTHING AT ALL – the Boston police could blow up out of “caution” that would cause you to think they were stupid or overreacting. How about a mail box? A sunbather on the Common? The Ritz-Carlton? [It’s just sitting there very suspiciously and has been for some time now.]

  44. Fluffy,

    How about a cell phone lying by the road-side? How about a garage door opener in an ash tray near the entrance to city hall? How about a boom box left at the food court in a crowded mall?

    Those are all “innocent” things. Each of them (and more) is used every to detonate IEDs in Iraq and kill people. As I said before, it is all about context. I am willing to give most here a pass on this issue because I think most here are ignorant on the subject.

    It seems you want it both ways, i.e. you want a perfect outcome. If the cops blow up what turns out to be an innocent keyboard planted on a bridge column by a white guy in dreadlocks then the ridicule knows no bounds. If the keyboard turned out to be a detonator for a bomb that brought down the bridge then you would be crying about that as well.

  45. If you ask me, Mr. Sullum has overplayed his hand if this is supposed to be an example of how horrible government is.

  46. Well, it might be utter madness, but at least tros stays on message.

    Props for consistency, but I think you should lay off the cold medicine.

    One crackpot on the sharp end of the keyboard is not in a position to change foreign policies that are the result of hundreds of years of history. Sorry for feeding the troll.

    Also, there are new technologies that use a very small shaped charge with a magnesium penetrator to burn the explosive charge without detonating it, barely louder than an M80. Detonating in place is not that big of deal, but I disagree that it was correctly applied in this situation. I think the local authorities are trying to cover their overreaction with more overreactions. The emperor is naked, and scared to show it.

    Statistically, in the US you are much more likely to be killed in a car than a bomb, but guess which threat gets all the press?

  47. dude, daniel pinchbeck is fucking retarded. really. he doesn’t even know the different between mayan calendars and aztec deities. much less that the vaunted 2012 date isn’t even a big deal on the mayan calendar, but everyone’s got make a living, even if it’s mostly fraudulent.

  48. “If you ask me,”

    I didn’t, actually.

  49. If the keyboard turned out to be a detonator for a bomb that brought down the bridge then you would be crying about that as well.

    Just make sure he didn’t design the bridge but then the retards implemented it wrong then shit might get ugly HAW HAW HAW

  50. I can’t wait till they start shooting pepole holding soda cans that “look like bombs”

  51. Thanks mediageek, good to see people making the connections. As for Daniel Pinchbeck, I am not a fan of the work he has done so far, but I am confident that he will eventually come around. I view him primarily as a public utility for the visionary community. I met him in person, and I asked him the eternal question referring to the advanced tactical satire of Stephen Colbert…

    What is it that gives you the strength to do what you do? Is it Jesus Christ, or Pat Robertson’s protein shake?

  52. In Baghdad, bombs of many types are used daily to kill lots and lots and lots of people.

    OH NOES! SWEARZ KILLZ!

  53. In this case it’s about officious bureacracy overracting to harmless (in the legal sense) stunts in order to justify their swelling Homeland Security budgets.

    When BPD shuts down the city with lite brites that they are stupid enough to consider bombs, BPD needs a lawsuit because it was a terrorist act. Obviously

    WHen BPD shuts down the city because they are morons and don’t know what a monitoring device from their own government is, it’s good, solid police work….

    BA LOW ME.

  54. The terrorists have won by sowing suspicion.
    Leave your brown bag lunch in Grand Central and see what happens. Just be glad they aren’t calling in untraceable bomb threats to dozens and dozens of schools, hospitals, businesses, court houses, etc.

  55. I can’t wait till they start shooting pepole holding soda cans that “look like bombs”

    Soda cans? Shit. By Wayne’s reasoning every person carrying an IPOD is now subject to explosion by the authorities, and rightfully so.

    THIS is good reasoning and good policework.

  56. So, like, the headline couldn’t have been:

    “Blown (up) in Boston”

    hrumph.

    /trods off

  57. mediageek, that’s either one small pancake or one really big N.K. bunny. Either way, delightfully surreal. tros has been studying at the Cathy Young school of post length. Any way to put a jump cut in one of these posts? I shouldn’t need to hit page down four times to finish what you’re trying to say.

    wayne and Nice Guy, I see what you’re saying, I really do. Bombs come in all shapes and sizes. But don’t you see that a response that’s appropriate in a threat level like Ramadi, Haifa, or even the London Underground, is a bit excessive when you’re talking about 2/28/07 Boston? If people in Boston should treat unknown things like they’re in Baghdad, is it going to then be o.k. to fire warning shots at a driver coming up too fast on you on the Mass Pike? Do I get to have to try and shoot the swarthy nervous guy in the trenchcoat, who’s trying to get into the shopping mall?

    All I, and I think dagny and others, are saying is that the cops might want to use some sense of proportion. That’s all. And as soon as a bombing campaign starts here, I’ll probably exceed you in my paranoia and calls for security. But I don’t think we’re there yet here, and therefore behavior that we’re seeing from the Boston P.D. etc… is more indicative of ass-covering and hysteria, than a well-thoughtout plan for public safety.

  58. wayne:

    I think your arguments of “context” is not quite sinking through.

    Good try, though.

  59. What about cars? People just stop them in the middle of busy downtown areas with no explanation! Some of them are in buildings! Filled with volatile chemicals, no less!

  60. GG:

    Shame on you for offering an argument with non of the snark 🙂

    I will admit that the Bostonian police obviously look like boobs for blowing up lite-brites, and inter-departmental devices (though one should consider that miscommunication in a bureaucracy is a solid given).

    I’m in the mindset that it’s better to be overly-cautious, even if one is risking looking “silly”. The consequences of being overly-complacent are much more severe.

    And YES, the best place to be is in the middle. But again, I will argue is it easy for us to judge all these situations with our limited knowlege and 20/20 hindsight.

  61. Wayne –

    No, I wouldn’t be crying.

    I didn’t think there should be a 9/11 Commission because I knew exactly how nonsensical it would be, and what we could expect as a result.

    It is precisely because we have the false belief that it’s possible to prevent all terrorist attacks [it isn’t] that we get Kafkaesque behavior on the part of the police.

    I would have been perfectly content with a 1-sentence 9/11 report that said “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.” It’s because of the hysterical handwringing about how we “should have known” that a handful of Saudi nobodies were about to launch a terror attack that we now have police who can’t afford, in career terms, to refrain from blowing up the property of their own state government “just to be safe”.

  62. “I’m in the mindset that it’s better to be overly-cautious, even if one is risking looking “silly”. The consequences of being overly-complacent are much more severe.”

    Funny, that’s what I always say about the expansion of government power and contraction of freedom. And I think those big yellow school buses look like mobile chemical labs with human shields; let’s start blowing them up.

    Hysteria: the new patriotism.

  63. Fluffy,

    I am not sure how the 9/11 commission fits in here. I agree with you that hand wringing about missing the clues that might have led us to know that the Saudi 19 were about to commit a terrorist is useless.

    But that is not what we are talking about here. IEDs are the single largest killer of US soldiers in Iraq. Al Qaida in Iraq are heavily into the IED business. Muslim extremist groups are heavily into the IED business. It is not a large mental leap to see that those who make IEDs in the middle east will probably make them in the US as well. In fact, they already have done so.

    Another point that nobody here has mentioned that fleshes out the “context” argument is this: Many of the Military Police in Iraq are National Guard and Reserve forces, and in the states their normal day job is… police work. My point is that lots and lots of cops have recently been to Iraq. They have seen what IEDs do, and how they are detonated. Unlike all of you security experts, they are a little more tuned to the downside of all this.

    I realize it is all about “sales”, i.e. making the blog popular but I am a little disappointed in Sullum here.

  64. The whole Boston thing reminds me of how the IRA can gain independance for Ireland: Set off a SMALL car bomb in London’s financial district (lots of smoke and noise, but little real damage). Then 2 days later, steal a car and park it in one of the “No Parking” zones in the same area.

    The cops will be so freaked about the possibility of a bomb that they’ll shut down the district to deal with it (make them lock down some schools, too). Repeat as needed until London goes broke from not being able to do business. If they start to deal with the situation by NOT shutting down the whole area, explode a real bomb again to remind them.

    The terrorists must be laughing until they wet themselves every time Boston blows up a city traffic counter.

  65. What if they find a box of tea bags sitting there unattended, on a railing next to Boston Harbor?

  66. “It is precisely because we have the false belief that it’s possible to prevent all terrorist attacks [it isn’t] that we get Kafkaesque behavior on the part of the police.”

    Are you implying that the police should just pretend that terrorists are just a fiction?

    I am willing to bet that you look left and then right when you cross the street; and you have probably never been run down by a careless driver. Do you feel stupid (and Kafkaesque) when you are checking for oncoming traffic?

  67. “What if they find a box of tea bags sitting there unattended, on a railing next to Boston Harbor?”

    Then they should have a cup of tea.

    What if they find a Ryder truck with 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and a detonator rigged to a boombox? Maybe they should call Fluffy.

  68. t:

    Well, I know for sure they wouldn’t be getting drunk and dressing like Indians, since that would be offensive.

    ..at least they wouldn’t be dressing like Indians.

  69. But that is not what we are talking about here. IEDs are the single largest killer of US soldiers in Iraq. Al Qaida in Iraq are heavily into the IED business. Muslim extremist groups are heavily into the IED business. It is not a large mental leap to see that those who make IEDs in the middle east will probably make them in the US as well. In fact, they already have done so.

    So, Wayne, what you’re saying is that because of the complete and utter incompetence of police in this country, terrorists don’t even have to make IEDs. All they have to do is leave things that may or may not look like or may or may not resemble an IED lying all around our cities. Incompetent police will run around like chickens with their heads cut off and shut down all of our cities.

    Yeah – seems like we should be defending the polilce here.

  70. What if they find a Ryder truck with 10,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and a detonator rigged to a boombox? Maybe they should call Fluffy.

    Oh wait, so there was a Ryder truck outside of the church?

  71. ..and they wouldn’t be tossing the tea into the harbor, since the EPA would definitely go after them for caffienating the fish.

    So this goes back to them blowing the tea up.

    Happy?

  72. My point is that lots and lots of cops have recently been to Iraq. They have seen what IEDs do, and how they are detonated. Unlike all of you security experts, they are a little more tuned to the downside of all this.

    So then we should expect checkpoints for travel soon? And all vehicles should be inspected thoroughly in case they might be car or Chlorine bombs?

    Just because something happens in the middle of a war-torn country does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make it sensible to react the same way here.

    am willing to bet that you look left and then right when you cross the street; and you have probably never been run down by a careless driver.

    I would bet most people have almost been hit by a careless driver when going through a cross-walk. I have almost hit someone and almost been hit. But either way, that quite a leap from “looking before crossing the street” to blowing up any stationary object left in the public way. If you think those two acts are anywhere in the same neighborhood your judgment is suspect

  73. TPG,

    Except for the “incompetent police” part I think what you outline would be a fairly effective attack strategy. Throw in WSDave’s idea of occasional real bomb and the strategy would be even more effective.

    Obviously you have a better answer here. I am curious to hear it.

  74. CT,

    You think cops are blowing up every stationary object left in the public?

  75. I will posit that the Boston police could certainly use the services of Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok.

  76. I have a better answer:

    The police should always perform in a manner that will prove, in hindsight, to have been correct. There, problems solved.

  77. Just because something happens in the middle of a war-torn country does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make it sensible to react the same way here.

    IEDz! DEATHS! DISMEMBERMENTS!

  78. McBob: Hi, I’m Big Jim McBob!

    Hurok: And I’m Billy Sol Hurok.

    McBob/Hurok (together): And this is Boston Police Blow-up!

    McBob: And we’re here to talk about that Ted Turner thing with the lite-brites..

    Hurok: We happen to think the police responded appropriately, with the given circumstances and all..

    McBob: And they sure blew up that lite brite good!

    Hurok: They blew it up REAL good!

  79. “I view him primarily as a public utility for the visionary community.”

    oh dear are you poor people fucked.

  80. every person carrying an IPOD is now subject to explosion by the authorities

    I think even in Boston they will be safe, so long as they don’t lean up against a bridge support while tormenting their senses with hip hop.

  81. I think even in Boston they will be safe, so long as they don’t lean up against a bridge support while tormenting their senses with hip hop.

    They should also avoid carrying LEDs.

    LEDz MAKE IEDz! BOMBAMENTS!

  82. Grayghost,

    I understand your point, and I appreciate your civility. Still though, I don’t blame the police for acting the way they did when they found an electronic device taped to a bridge column.

    I think you are probably right that it will take a real IED detonated in a public place in the US before ordinary Americans worry much. Frankly, I am surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

    Remember the effect the DC snipers had a few years ago? I thought it was Al Qaida doing it, and I thought at the time that it was fairly brilliant: cheap to do, broad based in effect, little risk to the shooters. The fact that AQ did not pick up on that tells me that they really are not terribly bright, or they have a plan that does not need that effect yet.

  83. It’s all about context.

    Agreed.

    If only someone would tell the Boston cops before they blow up something innocuous that was somehow recognized as such, in context, by everyone else in the country.

  84. If only someone would tell the Boston cops before they blow up something innocuous that was somehow recognized as such, in context, by everyone else in the country.

    And was in place for WEEKS before they noticed the menacing device!

  85. “…it will take a real IED detonated in a public place in the US before ordinary Americans worry much.”

    And when that happens, my first assumption will be that some policeman has done it, in order to justify his fear, and to transmit that fear to the general populace.

  86. My point is that lots and lots of cops have recently been to Iraq. They have seen what IEDs do, and how they are detonated.

    And yet they spend their time destroying LiteBrites and CD players? I’m not quite seeing the logic here, unless it’s “anything could be a bomb; therefore, destroy anything”.

    Look, it’s a matter of false positives/false negatives here. The number of real bombs is pretty small, and the number of bombs cleverly disguised to look like LiteBrites is probably even smaller. The number of innocuous objects, however, is very high. Making the police more paranoid will probably not substantially increase the number of real bombs discovered. It will probably result in a lot of time and money wasted and random stuff getting destroyed, not to mention increasing people’s paranoia and making the police look dumb. That’s the problem.

    Personally, the lesson I’m taking away from all this is that no matter how much the bomb squads like to brag about their expertise and fancy equipment, they really have no idea what the fark they’re looking for.

  87. How long the thing was in place is irrelevant. When the cops discovered it, they had no knowledge of how long it had been there. Are you guys saying, seriously, that an electronic device attached to a bridge column is such a normal, everyday occurrence that it warrants no attention?

    I have an idea for the next ad campaign. Reason magazine can leave backpacks and briefcases in various public places (subway stations, malls, city hall, etc) across the US. When they are opened, a jack in the box kind of thing pops out and says, “it’s your lucky day, you have won a free subscription to Reason magazine. What did you expect, a bomb?”

  88. Wayne, the reason I brought up the 9/11 Commission is because you asserted that every person laughing at the Boston police would also criticize them if a real attack took place in Boston and they failed to present it.

    To show you that your assertion was false, I claimed that I would not do that, and used my reaction to the 9/11 Commission as an example of my not doing that.

    And if you think it’s appropriate for returning National Guardsmen to police Boston as though it were Baghdad, you’re a dangerous person. It’s that simple. When do the door kick-ins, arbitrary detentions, and the gang rapes start? Let me know in advance so I can make sure I’m not in Mass that week.

  89. Sorry, that should read “failed to PREVENT it”.

  90. “Personally, the lesson I’m taking away from all this is that no matter how much the bomb squads like to brag about their expertise and fancy equipment, they really have no idea what the fark they’re looking for.”

    I think you are probably right, to an extent. Some things would appear to me to have more bomb potential than other things. The key thing you have to have is a detonator of some kind. That argues for a timer, or a radio, or a sensor of some sort, i.e. electronics of some sort (probably). What would be criminally negligent would be to recognize something that has the clear potential to be a bomb and has no other clear and obvious explanation and to do nothing to counter it.

  91. Fluffy,

    I am not implying that the police should act as if Boston is Baghdad. I merely pointed out that these guys were probably quite sensitive to IED looking things.

    I also want to say shame on you for the, “When do the door kick-ins, arbitrary detentions, and the gang rapes start?” remark. You don’t deserve the safety you enjoy if you believe such a thing.

  92. Well that’s just ‘effing brilliant.

  93. If I were a bad guy trying to plant a bomb, I wouldn’t hide it in an object that is designed to attract attention. I’d make it as innocuous as possible.

    Hell, if I were a criminal of any sort I’d choose gear that blends in rather than gear that attracts attention.

  94. Hey, the gang rapes thing was a rhetorical cheap shot, but a pretty irresistible one.

    But I stand by the door kick-ins and arbitrary detentions part.

    I can accept, though, that you were saying that personnel returning to civilian police work might be ultra-sensitive to potential bombs on the roadside, and not saying that we should expect domestic police work to be completely militarized to the scale seen in Baghdad.

  95. Wayne:

    You act within the framework of your reality…or circumstances. Quick reminder: we’re not in Baghdad. For instance, if I were a soldier, at war in a dangerous urban environment, I’d move from place to place with extreme caution as if there were snipers about. But when I take my five-year-old to the park in my suburban neighborhood, I don’t move in the same way, get it?

    It is the job of the police to be cautious, and to prepare for the worst. We don’t live in Mayberry anymore.

    See above. If every ‘unknown object’ is treated like a bomb, the police-industrial complex will lose perspective on how to act when the device isn’t a bomb. Case in point, the police, more and more, now use high-intensity, no-knock SWAT raids for almost every situation. As a result, the police can no longer tell the difference between an unarmed teenager who might have swiped a PS3 from a derranged, heavily armed nutcase with hostages and bombs strapped around his waist.

    That is why police treating every unknown device as if it were a nuclear bomb is a Bad Thing(tm).

  96. “If every ‘unknown object’ is treated like a bomb,…”

    Paul,
    I am obviously not being clear, or you guys are so blinded by your own visions of the police as the gestapo that you are not reading what I say.

    I am not saying that the police should treat every unknown object as a bomb, nor do I think that they are doing so. It seems entirely reasonable to me though to treat an electronic device intentionally attached to a column that supports a bridge with some suspicion, especially since there was no apparent explanation for the device that was reasonable. The cops probably said to one another, “I am not gonna touch that thing, you get it down and figure out what it is…”. Maybe they should have called Reason magazine to send in the bomb experts from the H&R blog?

    “That is why police treating every unknown device as if it were a nuclear bomb is a Bad Thing(tm).” I agree. Having the police treat every unknown device that looks like a nuclear bomb as if it might be a nuclear bomb is a Good Thing, especially if it actually turns out to be a nuclear bomb.

    I am as opposed to no-knock SWAT raids as anybody here, so you can drop that line of obfuscation.

    Fluffy, kudos to you for disowning your remark.

  97. Wayne, I don’t think the problem is really one of the police turning into a gestapo.

    I think the problem is that we no longer seem able to rely on anyone demonstrating enough sense to say, “Guys, I don’t think we really need to blow up this pedestrian meter.”

    And I don’t think this is a result of police militance. I think it is because security has been elevated above sense.

    Not to bring up the 9/11 Commission again, but I think the continual scapegoating that has gone on since that time [“It’s the FBI’s fault! It’s the CIA’s fault! Bush kept reading ‘My Pet Goat’!” They should have all known!”] has contributed to an atmosphere where it’s safer for law enforcement personnel just to act as if every potential threat, no matter how absurd, is the real thing. Right now, the guy who blows up the DOT device isn’t going to get into career trouble, but the guy who doesn’t just might, because if it blows up later he’s going to be scapegoated even if the odds were millions to one against the object being anything dangerous. While this remains the case, police overreaction will remain the norm. And the more time that passes with this being the case, the worse it’s going to get, and the more intolerable for anyone who doesn’t find it pleasant to live in an open air prison.

  98. I agree that the tension level has increased. Twenty years ago it would be absurd to suspect a bomb if you notice a suitcase unattended in a public place. Today it is not so absurd.

    Probably 999 times out of 1000 it will turn out to be somebody’s dirty laundry, but in light of world events even ordinary people are suspicious. Cops are supposed to be suspicious.

  99. Wayne:

    I am not saying that the police should treat every unknown object as a bomb, nor do I think that they are doing so.

    No, wayne you didn’t literally say that, you merely alluded to it. From the original message to which I responded:

    In Baghdad, bombs of many types are used daily to kill lots and lots and lots of people. Many times these bombs are placed at places of worship, almost always mosques. In almost all cases these bombs are placed so as to kill and maim as many as possible, whether at a mosque or a Catholic church or a market.

    It is the job of the police to be cautious, and to prepare for the worst. We don’t live in Mayberry anymore.

    Both those statement, in relation to eachother can be reasonably interpreted to conflate the situation in Baghdad with what the Boston police were facing in their discovery of a lighted mooninite sign. Especially when adding the second part of your statement referring to “preparing for the worst”, I interpreted that as the police should treat every situation as if they were in…Baghdad. Therefore, my no-knock SWAT raid analogy fits like a glove and is not (as you suggest) obfuscation.

    The police use these no-knock raids with the clear and verbose justification that they’re “preparing for the worst.” The suggestion being, of course, that as they prepare to serve a warrant on a teenager who allegedly stole a Playstation 3 machine, that the worst case scenario is that the apartment is filled to the rafters with gun wielding ne’r-do-wells, prepared to sing with the choir invisibule, rather than be taken alive.

    The whole point being, that even when preparing for “the worst”, some amount of context must be taken into account. It’s precisely this lack of context, and lack of human intelligence being applied by police. I re-submit: every unknown object is a bomb, everyone a dangerous criminal waiting to kill a cop. It’s not making us safer, it’s just making everyone more paranoid.

  100. Twenty years ago it would be absurd to suspect a bomb if you notice a suitcase unattended in a public place.

    Not entirely true, Wayne. Perhaps you meant to say “100 years ago?”

    I remember at the ripe old age of sixteen years old while riding in the London tube, wondering why there were signs all over the place giving very clear instructions about what to do if you found unattended luggage. “Wow,” I thought, “these Londoners really care about when people lose some baggage, how polite they are here.”

    The year: 1984.

    Some people have lived with the constant threat of random bombs blowing up. You adjust, and you try to remain orderly about it.

    In fact, it’s not even that the Boston police were concerned it was a bomb, it was the entire charade that was the problem. Had the BP simply cordoned off an area relative to the realistic blast radius of such a small device and gone through the normal discovery process, we wouldn’t be talking about it.

    “Oh, so you’re a bomb expert”, I can already hear people saying. Well, no, I’m not (although I do have experience with some explosives), but apparently, the Boston Police are lacking that expertise as well. Maybe they should hire someone to avoid this situation in the future?

  101. “It seems entirely reasonable to me though to treat an electronic device intentionally attached to a column that supports a bridge with some suspicion, especially since there was no apparent explanation for the device that was reasonable.”

    Yes, the fact that the LED characters on the “suspicious objects” also happened to be plastered all over town on GIANT FUCKING BILLBOARDS with the [Adult Swim] logo certainly wouldn’t have given them a clue.

    Real bunch of Sherlock’s ya got there.

  102. “every unknown object”

    Ever look at newspaper vending machines? Many of them have enclosed bases that you can only look into when you open the machine to get a paper (they usually have cement blocks or bricks for ballast). Why aren’t the police blowing up these highly suspicious objects?

    Because it would be silly (and they probably don’t have enough explosive).

  103. Let nobody claim (not that anybody has) that Libertarians aren’t dumb as a post.

  104. “I remember at the ripe old age of sixteen years old while riding in the London tube, wondering why there were signs all over the place giving very clear instructions about what to do if you found unattended luggage. “Wow,” I thought, “these Londoners really care about when people lose some baggage, how polite they are here.”

    The year: 1984.”

    Paul, I was talking about the US twenty years ago, not Europe. I would like to say thanks for reinforcing my “context” argument though. London was in the middle of the IRA bombings at that point so Londoners were acutely aware of potential bombs… CONTEXT! You were a dumb 16 year old American with no exposure to bombs and were amazed at how polite Londoners are… CONTEXT!

    “Some people have lived with the constant threat of random bombs blowing up. You adjust, and you try to remain orderly about it.”

    Yeah, well said, I agree.

  105. “Especially when adding the second part of your statement referring to “preparing for the worst”, I interpreted that as the police should treat every situation as if they were in…Baghdad.”

    Paul,
    Your interpretation is wrong.

  106. “The police use these no-knock raids with the clear and verbose justification that they’re “preparing for the worst.” The suggestion being, of course, that as they prepare to serve a warrant on a teenager who allegedly stole a Playstation 3 machine, that the worst case scenario is that the apartment is filled to the rafters with gun wielding ne’r-do-wells, prepared to sing with the choir invisibule, rather than be taken alive.”

    I guess I will address this one time. No knock raids are almost entirely a bad idea because they are mostly unnecessary. It would be simpler, safer and more effective to make the needed arrests elsewhere. Police also apparently often ignore the context (there is that word again) when they conduct a no-knock raid, e.g. the Atlanta police bring in the swat team to raid the home of an 80 year old woman.

    Paul, now I have addressed the no-knock raid thing. We apparently agree on this, which makes me doubt that I am right on the issue. Anyway, let’s drop the no-knock raid thing as it is a waste of time in this discussion.

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