Sunday, April 21, 2013

Learning after last week.

This last week has been an intense news week in the United States. It quickly got to the point that we largely became oblivious to what was happening elsewhere in the world (Yes, and the obvious joke is, "And that's new?" ha ha). So, logically I would talk about what we've been missing (bombings in Iraq, Chinese earthquake, etc.). But no, I want to address what the US has been through this week.

So, Boston. Patriots Day turned terrifying in Boston. The two bombs placed near the finish lines, thankfully, did not kill more, but more than a hundred were cruelly injured; some lost limbs, and three died. As with any terror act, fear flittered through the city and on the news. And some news resources were eager to get out information, real, confirmed, or not. I have not seen a clear indication yet how many additional people spreading bad information or rumors endangered this week.

Then, slowly information, streamed out, the police and FBI narrowed down the threat, and the media was still too eager. Worse though pundits and talking heads couldn't resist starting fights and finding ways to push nonsensical agenda bullet-points.
  • We shouldn't put in background checks on guns, because of this.
  • We have to close our borders, because...foreigners.
Then we learned who the bombers were. Young men, two brothers, who immigrated from Chechnya and Russia with their families, who were also Muslim. And it ramps up.
  • We need guns!
  • See! We let these immigrants in and they are all terrorists!
  • We need to catch them and hand them over to the military!
And finally they were caught up to. One brother dead, the other fled. Finally the other was found and captured. Injured, he was taken to hospital. The decision, as of now, is to not mirandize him...yet.
  • He's an enemy combatant!
  • People "like this" should never be mirandized.
  • Muslims shouldn't be allowed to immigrate.
Now this is a complicated question to me, rights vs public safety. We have had a "public safety" rule for awhile now in the US. It allows for Miranda reading to be delayed, and extend holding people. What do I think of that?

Sigh...Miranda rights are important. And it was a hard right to get police to guarantee. Before it, many people had their constitutional rights abused. Many police abused the accused. And, many like the idea of rolling back Miranda, and have wanted to since it was established.

BUT. Public safety. The idea that law enforcement would delay the evidence taking process to determine risks seems acceptable; it depends though on if the fact it is pre-Miranda is respected. Sometimes their are abducted people to recover, a possible bomb threat, or shooter to find. If we are going to separate what is admissible in court from the public safety work, it makes sense. Public safety should trump a conviction.

BUT. But if the information being taken will be used as evidence, that is wrong. We need to respect out law and process; why else have them? As well, it does worry we a little. It's an exception to Miranda. Creating exceptions to basic critical legal rights is worrisome. Once you say their is a space where you can just hold people indefinitely, and can classify for the greater good, you have to be vigilant for abuse, or expansion of uses. We citizens need to be cognizant of what is going on and hold criminals and the systems accountable. It is one of our basic duties.

I hope we will soon see this guy mirandized, and then we can get to arraigning him. (At present, he is apparently awake and communicating. So we'll see.)

But it is curious this week how eager conservatives are to fight hard for the 2nd Amendment, while not particularly caring for the 5th. But I've seen a lot of contempt for plenty of the amendments (15th, 19th).

Veering over to immigration...I just wish it was surprising to see conservatives take any opportunity to demonize immigrants. Really digging deep into that dark place of human fear. I expect better, and seldom get it.

But there has been the good to. In the wake of those explosions, people were there for each other. Stopping bleeding, getting people to help, reaching out with compassion. It was heartening to see. It is a reminder of what we can and do do.

And the emergency services worked just as they are meant to. As one person put it, they are the people that run towards the screaming and explosions as a daily function. We out it to appreciate just what these government workers do and endure. Better than allowing them to be lambasted and belittled as unnecessary and wasteful. It is in times of disaster that we remember just why we rely on all of these people, and why people take these jobs, even when the pay isn't the best.

It was a very sad and painful week in Boston. But in the midst of it, we were shown some of the light that exists within our society.

And then their was Texas. A fertilizer plant exploding in West, Texas is...terrifying. The fact it was surrounded by a nursing home, school, park, housing, etc; that is something all the more shocking following the actual failure of the safety measures at the facility. Thankfully the worst case scenario did not play out and the deaths (known so far) are not as large as I could have imagined (See the before and after images.).

But what we've seen since is that inspections of this facility haven't been done in some time. But inspection and regulation are such a burden and such a hindrance I'm being distracted from hating regulation and inspection at the moment. If Texas wants to draw in new business and people, it might want to care about the safety of Texans and business not literally detonating on them.

And in the wake of this, we've seen Republicans, who have denounced federal funds, and others that have blocked federal aid to disasters make an about face. Gov. Perry now is eager to receive funds. And Sen. Cruz, who opposed aid to New York and New Jersey post-Hurricane sees a need to expedite aid to his state. It's funny. No, it isn't. It's predicable.

But this tragedy also was a moment where people around West were there to help people escape the damage, rest, and begin recovering.

To the people in Massachusetts and Texas who acted to help those in need. Thanks. To those struck by these tragedies. My sympathies. Plenty of lessons to take away from this week, as we mourn, heal, rebuild, and make tomorrow a better place.

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