Some random thoughts on a couple of current events seem in order today.
I can’t imaging – literally, I can’t conjure up in my head – what it must have been like Monday at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I felt really sad and empty when I saw all that senseless carnage. Sometimes I wish it was a little more difficult for news to reach the masses.
The initial shock was bad enough and it only got worse when the victims were identified and you saw pictures of them in happy times with their families.
It’s just truly tragic.
The FBI says the bombers are brothers Tamerlan, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, Kyrgyzstan refugees who have Chechen roots.
According to the Associated Press, Chechnya is in the North Caucasus and is a republic of Russia. Chechnya endured two wars in the 1990s.
An insurgency after the second war turned into a near-civil war that became increasingly Islamist.
Because of all the conflict, many Chechens moved to nearby places like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The Tsarnaev family seems to have lived for some years in Kazakhstan before coming to the United States and Dzhokhar  appears to have been born in Kyrgyzstan.
During an interview on CNN, I heard one of the alleged bomber’s aunts identify herself as Chechan. That makes sense, since so many Chechens were displaced by all the conflict in Chechnya.
So we seem to have a handle on the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “how” of bomb attack.
The only thing left to know is “why” a couple of brothers – one still in his teens – would want to kill innocent Americans.
Maybe they thought the U.S. didn’t do enough to help Chechnya in its struggle against Russia. Lots of Bosnians felt like the U.S. waited too long to help them out.
Maybe these guys knew people who traveled to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban as many Chechens have. Maybe they were radical Islamists.
Time will tell, or maybe it won’t. We may never truly know.
My fondest hope is that the way this played out will deter anyone from trying something like this again.
What I mean is, anyone trying to cause maximum carnage has to show up somewhere where a lot of people congregate. Chances are, a place like that is going to have tons of surveillance cameras all over the place.
In addition, almost every human being now has a video camera in his or her pocket or purse.
Note to terrorists: You can’t get away with this stuff. Escape is not possible.
Although, if you’re a sociopath – which you must be to do something like this – you probably don’t care if you get caught or killed.
One more observation. With regard to the reporting of this incident, I think the media really need to reassess their practices.
First of all – and somewhat trivially – I never want to hear either of the phrases “at the end of the day” or “on the ground” again.
Secondly, and more importantly, I really wish network news types would wait to confirm things before they report them as facts.
We went from “suspect identified” to “suspect arrested” to “oh, never mind, there is no suspect,” in the span of about 20 minutes.
There were literally dozens of things reported that turned out be inaccurate.
That’s just unacceptable journalism. I know we are in the instant information age. I know news organizations are stumbling all over themselves to get the story.
But the bottom line is, it’s more important to be accurate than it is to be first.
It’s simple. You get make sure it’s a fact before you report it as a fact.
*****
If you need evidence of this nation’s shift away from a constitutional republic as a form of governance, look no further than the U.S. Senate’s vote on background checks for gun buyers.
Polls show background checks for gun buyers were favored by 90 percent of Americans. People who know about polling will tell you that when you reach 90 percent, that’s essentially a concensus level.
You can comfortably say, “Everybody agrees with background checks for gun buyers.”
Nonetheless, the U.S. Senate voted the measure down. Five Democrats voting along with 41 Republicans voted no – including Indiana’s Dan Coats. The yes votes were 54, but 60 votes were needed to pass. I won’t go into the reasons why. That’s not really what’s important to discuss here in my view.
What’s important is that in a constitutional republic – what this nation allegedly is – elected officials are supposed to do the bidding of their constituents.
We elect them. They are supposed to have our best interest in mind and have their finger on our political pulses. Lawmakers from conservative districts should vote more conservatively and lawmakers from liberal districts should vote more liberally.
Frankly, with the Internet and myriad polling data at their fingertips, it should be easier now than ever for an elected official to guage the will of any given district and vote accordingly.
But do they?
Not even close.
The gun bill? Eighty percent in favor. The vote? No.
Problem is, that’s not the exception, it’s the rule.
Name an issue – immigration, energy, campaign finance, economy – lawmakers virtually never vote the will of their constituents.
Everybody thinks outsourcing jobs is bad right? Congress votes to make it easier to outsource jobs.
Everybody thinks there’s too much money in politics, right? Congress passes laws and each election cycle we break a record for money in politics.
Everybody’s against deficit spending, right?
You get the picture.
America has become a corporate oligarchy. The will of the people is ignored. The oligarchs set the policy by buying politicians.
Why do you suppose there is a huge and growing disparity between the average worker’s wage and the wages of the CEO?
I am a devoted free-market capitalist, but this is no free market. This is a market tilted toward corporate (or union) boardrooms by rules and regulations passed at the behest of corporate (or union) lobbyists.
How else could wages stagnate while corporate profits soar?
I don’t blame the corporations. All they do is follow the rules. Certainly, their lobbying efforts must be considered unseemly if not unethical, but in the end, they follow the rules.
Congress makes the rules.
Elected officials don’t vote their conscience or the wishes of their constituents.
They vote to fill their campaign warchests.