What a Boris and Clyde long weekend that was! Welcome to Beth Israel Hospital, Dzhokhar. Peace be upon you.
So is this what it's come to? On the next census or medical form, when I check off "Caucasian," does that immediately turn me into a "person of interest" -- and not in a good way? When does that designation start to make you feel slightly uncomfortable? You know, the "C" word?
Having had the dubious foresight to relocate only twice in our lives -- first from Southern Connecticut to Boston, and then from Boston to Texas, you might say we hit the tri-fecta, and as a result have been going through kind of a rough patch the past couple of months.
Look, I have no idea what valuable "intel" this Tsarnaev character has been tscribbling now that he's recovering from tsurgery. But as to motive, based on our last Golden Globes ceremony, I think we can safely rule out "To impress Jody Foster." Hilary Swank, maybe, but not Jodie Foster. (Y'see, a couple of years ago Hilary took a little trip to Grozny -- I think to check out the schools? -- alright, if I have to explain it to you, then this isn't worth the trip either.)
On the other hand, maybe disconsolation over that now official coming out could have been so great as to finally push this young man over the edge. "OMG! What? She's an actor, and she's GAY? How could something like that be possible?" Since Bonnie and Clyde down here, it's pretty much cherchez la femme.
Now if you'll permit me a brief -- and frankly rare -- interlude of sincerity, with regard to that distant, Foster-inspired unpleasantness, here's something our state's congressional delegation might consider as they parse the events of last week for a convenient opportunity to put the skids on immigration reform. My wife's immediate family in Falls Church, Virginia were close friends and neighbors of one of the four principal doctors on the trauma team at GW University Hospital who operated on President Reagan that March afternoon. Every single one of those doctors was a naturalized American citizen.
Our Dallas connection, of course, is that the alleged perp, one John Hinckley the younger, was not only reared and schooled right next door here in prosperous Highland Park, but was elected president of his class --- TWICE! Only in this great land of opportunity could a young man elected class president on two separate occasions, then grow up to shoot one.
And yet, down here, on our Top 10 Assassins List, the guy understandable barely draws dishonorable mention. Go figure. BTW, are you, like me, thinking that for the past 32 years, the Hinckley parents have probably been kicking themselves for not having been able to think of another name besides "Junior?"
Digressing even further, let me share an even more recent true brush with presidential hospital history. Just under a year ago, a regular text message from our daughter, also currently a hospital physician, involved some grumbling lamentation as to heading into her weeklong 24-hr. straight "on call" shift. The kind, given a choice, at the end of which you'd probably prefer not to be the last patient requiring a difficult emergency procedure.
Late the following day, another brief text, "OMG, I just shook hands with President Obama!"
Did I mention it was the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, following an unfortunately eventful midnight screening of the Batman sequel The Dark Night Returns at the local multiplex? Wondering why everybody but the patient and one other physician had suddenly been shoed out of the room, working 22 hours, you hadn't even heard the POTUS was in Denver.
My first reaction was, the only bad thing about being a doctor is you have to wash your hands, instead of fully savoring the moment a bit longer like everybody else.
If I recall, wasn't there also a character named The Dzhokhar in the Batman sextology? Jack Nicholson? Heath Ledger? Pow! Caesar Romero in the TV series? Mark Hamill in animation? Coincidence? Was it all Islamic radicalism, or could related schoolyard taunts have helped to push our current Dzhokhar in question postal? We'll leave it up to you and Glen Beck to decide.
OK, let's get back on topic by first acknowledging that, without a doubt, the law enforcement work last week was beyond superb in "neutralizing" (to use, I believe, their terminology) those zany Tsarnaev Brothers -- which still sounds so uncomfortably like a family of Soviet circus tumblers that I am going instead with the more Dostoyevskian Brothers Tsarnaev. Or would that be "Dzhostoyevsky?"
A manhunt so impressive and professional, as an ex-Bostonian, I even stopped looking for landmarks (much less a Ford Bronco) and almost began to feel like personally apologizing to every member of the FBI and even Ben Stein for the entire second half of the 1960s.
But here's the thing in this unofficial debriefing diary. We've got to ask where did law enforcement first go wrong in failing to have stopped the actual Marathon bombings in the first place?
We were all privy to the first error in communication between agencies. Early on, From Yahoo News and presumably others:
"The mayhem began at approximately 10:20 p.m. Thursday when police said the bombing suspects robbed a 7-Eleven store in Cambridge. (Diarist's note: oddly enough 7-11 are also the odds virtually any convenience store will be held up on any given evening.)Minutes later, police said, the men shot and killed an MIT campus officer responding to the robbery call. The terror suspects then carjacked a Mercedes-Benz with the driver inside and fled, eventually letting the driver go. They were then spotted in Watertown where they exchanged dozens of rounds of gunfire with patrol officers."Now clearly, since by then we had long been shown photos of the two suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar -- who, actually by definition, could not possibly have been more Caucasian -- the MIT chatter may not have been entirely reliable. But it certainly explains why we understand Cambridge police immediately rushed out and re-arrested Henry Louis Gates. The initial erroneous supposition may have been based on someone thinking he heard something in the chatter as having had something to do with "Chechen and Waffles." Because, unfortunately at MIT, not everything is rocket science.
At the same time, they were still posting:
"According to audio of MIT police dispatch radio chatter posted online, an officer described the suspected shooter as a black male wearing black clothing and weighing approximately 120 pounds."
You might start out with not continuing to follow up after having been given a heads up by the Russians and then witnessing for themselves that, at least that Tamerlan fella, was suddenly morphing kind of dicey.
But I think the Sunday talk shows have pretty much put that to rest; if you arrested or even dogged every alienated American with a personality disorder, we'd have no Donald Trump, Celebrity Apprentices, or Real Housewives ensembles.
No my friends, the ultimate law enforcement anti-terror faux pas was not sticking to the business plan. For some unexplained reason, the New England Feds (and perhaps their southern counterparts --the Sudafeds ) starting to allow our domestic terrorists to construct their own bombs and implement their bomb plots entirely on their own -- methamphysically speaking.
You know the business plan. Our good guys, posing as some kind of terror tutors, befriend some easily misled poor slob of Islamic extraction, who shows some promise but, to date, no record of actual terrorist activity. That is of course, with the possible exception of an inordinate amount of internet time glued to anything in addition to pornography -- especially in a foreign language.
As the plan clearly states --and I wish I could find my copy, so as to read it to you verbatim --the exercise generally has one of two purposes.
One would be to keep the young man worked up in jihadist jitters until he finally connects with some real domestic jihadist heavy hitters -- to wax poetic. At which point authorities can start following those guys.
The other would be to find somebody who may already be of board-certified fanatic sociopathy, and gradually walk him through all the steps necessary to produce and place a dummy explosive device at some nice soft target --before the lad decides on that course of action byhimself in a less controlled scenario with the real deal.
I'm telling you, especially in this economy the government would never pour some money into anything without a sound business plan. You remember how badly we got burned with that Solyndra thingy.
That's how they handled the currently incarcerated 19 year-old Jordanian national Hosam Maher Husein Smadi here in Dallas a few years ago. Convincing him it would be a capital idea to install a cell phone-detonated explosive device in a truck parked in the underground garage of our 60 story Fountain Place office building. Word has it they actually also may have goaded him into it with taunts like, "Smadi, smadiyou chicken?" Or possibly, "Whatsamattayou, Chechen?" It would be irresponsible of me here to speculate which.
To be fair, for whatever reason, it's possible, with the best of intentions, Smadi, who had chosen to reside at a considerable distance, one county over in the agrarian town of Italy, Texas (pronounced IT-lee, because, well, why not), may have assumed his faux-cohorts intended the office building to take off like a rocket with a payload of chechen-fried steak for the Russian International Space Station (see photo).
Even if not, I'm almost certain, had he gone to Italy public schools and had it drilled into him that Italy, Texas was the childhood home of Dale Evans, he would have chosen the right happy trail and never even gotten into trouble in the first place.
In either case you know the next act. The accomplice, who goes with the poor guy either to plant the bogus bomb or detonate same with the cell phone they gave him, is actually one of the four FBI agents he's been socializing with for the past three months -- at least two swarthy enough to be totally convincing, not that it would be necessary. That couple pushing the baby carriage with the listening device in it turn out to be ATF. Over there tossing the Frisbee --obviously TSA. Fella you've just been punked.
The final shot in the TV news coverage: poor Smadi in handcuffs, escorted into a building for booking and questioning, with a numb expression on his face, nevertheless still able to project, "I don't know what possibly could have gone wrong?"
Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber they say was subdued by American Airlines passengers on a flight to Miami? Well that might have been the case; but do you really think the guy in this picture thought that up all by his ownself? Everyone knows the only thing you put in a shoe in Miami is either your foot or your wallet in a sneaker under the beach blanket, when you go for a dip.
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian underwear bomber, same deal. Who was the mastermind there? Yes I know they tried to pin the training and motivational encouragement on either that Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, or maybe it was Tony Roberts, I forget now? But how many radical jihadists do you know with that good a sense of humor? (No it's not an explosive device officer, I'm just glad ta see ya'.)
That's what I believe -- at least for purposes of this bit. None of this calling an option. Stick with the playbook and it's like fish in a barrel. So what happened in Boston? Well you can only hang with so many of these types and you have to pick your candidates. Sure, computer rage, but nothing there imminent enough by "To Catch a Predator" standards. So it's,
"Nice talking with you Mrs. Tsarnaev; and you, Tamerlan, start keeping your nose clean and hanging with a better crowd."
That is not to say there are no conspiracy theories still floating around. Even accounting for a mother's unconditional love and that the latest video seems to suggest a rather understandable unstable emotional state, one would have to put pretty much most of his paranoia paraphernalia up on eBay if he weren't a least slightly intrigued by her original Russia Today interview claiming the Chechenjammer kids had been "set up." Especially when offered from Dagestan -- a considerable distance in time and space from anybody who even remotely resembles Johnny Cochran.
But more pertinently, since you've been enraptured by my own irresponsible ramblings so far, you already know the real problem leading to this tragedy is more likely that they should have been set up, but weren't-- at least under the guidelines of the standard playbook identified above.
By established anarchist standards that leaves a big conspiracy void to be filled to carry us at least to trial. So,
Just a minute. I am now receiving breaking information that there may be more to the story of the surviving bomb suspect, 19 yr.-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and that boat they captured him alive hiding in Friday night. It appears the lad may have been closer to actually evading the police dragnet than originally thought.TOO SOON?
Sources tell us they now believe he had actually been attempting to make it only half a block more up, to the Cruise Ahoy booking agency at 34 Franklin Street in Watertown, where Tsarnaev had already apparently booked a seabourn escape (go ahead Google that company). This is entirely consistent with the Boston tradition of mandating a land-based getaway if there had been initially only one rogue bomber, but, if two, then by sea.
It's no coincidence that that Longfellow fella also lived in Cambridge, through which his popular account sent Paul Revere, on the way to Concord -- carefully avoiding Watertown, incidentally, which could also have been a viable option, at least based upon the current location of the Concord Turnpike. (And you thought this was too much of a stretch so far, did you?)
The interrogation team now theorizes that, after learning Cruise Ahoy had booked him on the Carnival Cruise Line ship Triumph, the suspect is said to have informed agency staff, "I'd rather take my chances in the dinghy."
In addition, we are now being told that, with the two bombing suspects now accounted for, the FBI has enhanced its search for a distant cousin, Ghengis Tsarnaev, who, like the aforementioned Tamerlan, remains a person of interest entirely on the basis of his rather martial appellation.
Back to you, Brad.
OK, here's the other thing that's probably gnawing at you. How does even a lousy would-be satirist know when it's not too soon to leave all decency behind and start amusing at least himself in the wake of tragedy? You don't have to be told it would have been, extremely bad form 148 years ago this month to inquire, "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you like the play?"
But after an ill-defined interval, it became acceptable to posit that fanciful conversation to others less directly impacted -- like, oh say, a late night talk show audience? In fact, we now know that at some point it had to brush from acceptable straight through amusing to utilitarian, before arriving at it's final destination "hackneyed" as a no longer creative way to make a popular rhetorical point.
It's like, "How late can you get someplace without having to surrender your first responder credentials?" IE is the designation strictly vocational or do there remain several lingering critical temporal provisions? The occupants of your "News Chopper Ones" and "SkyEye 11s" arrive on scene in West, Texas while the vast majority of actual first responders are still bottled up in I-35 rescue traffic. Does that get them in under the wire as at least "second responders" -- alongside the American Red Cross, utility shutdown crews, and quite possibly even Gloria Allred?
Would an acceptable window of opportunity for any attempted mirth whatsoever open up as early as the semi-closure achieved early last week when the massive forensic effort quickly moved a couple of unsubs up in the ranks to full-fledged subs? Or maybe the exalting release of tension upon that unexpected sudden and fortuitous end to the manhunt Friday evening? They weren't dancing in the streets just over finally being allowed to go back outside.
Did the chorus of "Sweet Caroline," wafting over Yankee Stadium provide the necessary green light? (Incidentally, likely the most seminal event in Northeast anti-terror musical history since Cat Stevens got diverted to Bangor on the no fly list.) Sing it with me, now:
"I'm bein' followed by an air marshall. Air marshall, air marshall." (Or because we never throw away old material, "Bangor? No time, it was just a brief layover.)
Surely what I'm calling the "Won-Win" situation of realizing that, after a week of hoping they'd catch this pair dead or alive, we see both of those wishes have been effectively granted?
So many questions in Boston remain. Not the least of which should be why aren't video sales and rentals of Jeff Bridges' 1994 "Blown Away" already flying off the shelves? You'll remember, that's the one with its own Copley Square terrorist mad bomber of foreign extraction (Tommy Lee Jones / Northern Ireland). C'mon people -- spoiler alert --the good guys eventually win there too.So for our answer, to the satire primacy-recency question, let's just build on Mark Twain's inspired opening to his "The Diary of Adam and Eve." ("Monday"). How about "Wednesday?"
And while we're at it, have Bed Bath & Beyond's pressure cooker sales slumped to any measurable extent if only out of circumspection? Aren't those suckers dangerous enough without explosives? BTW, if we really want to know if any terrorist organizations were behind all this, maybe we should forget about Col. Gaddafi and take another close look at one Colonel Harlan Sanders. What was in those 11 herbs and spices, black powder and ball bearings? Come to think of it, there are actually at least two ways a pressure cooker can kill you, quickly with an explosion, and slowly through coronary artery disease. Just sayin'.
AS TO THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THE CITYWIDE LOCKDOWN
Well this true personal anecdote may shed some light. Like every other recent college graduates in Greater Boston, we were virtually required by law to rent our first apartment in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood -- approximately a mile-and-a-half from the Watertown shootout locations if you don't take the surface roads. In fact, we lived there TWICE. Moving a couple of blocks to the second floor of a traditional three-decker we used to walk by, hoping we'd never have to live in a place like that.
Since it was only a few blocks, I rented a U-Haul van from a Brighton service station, enlisting the assistance of three college friends, by then a lawyer and two Ph.D. candidates, with the traditional rallying cry, "We got beer!"
With more than a dozen years of post-graduate educational experience, we immediately succeeded in wedging our refrigerator between the wall and banister, a mere 3 or 4 steps up, where the tight stairway made its curve. The following morning, a single burley gentleman from the moving company I had to engaged for the final 10 steps, strapped the refrigerator to his back with nothing more than his GED, and without any other assistance, waddled it up to the second floor.
While the fridge was immobilized the prior evening, I determined it would be prudent to at least return the U-Haul after hours, to avoid another day's rental. The station owner said to just slip the ignition key under the door.
The following day, the station owner called to remind us the van was due back. Puzzled, I related where we had parked in his lot and how we had shoved the key under the door as instructed.
"So where's the key?" As the proprietor was looking again for both van and key, we turned on the TV morning news. There in the lead, we observed what apparently was our U-Haul -- full of bullet holes.
Someone had apparently observed the return, realized the vehicle would not be missed until the following morning, somehow fished the key from under the door, and employed the services of said vehicle to rob a bank in the Copley Square area near the site of last week's Marathon finish. Having been alerted, probably by bank alarm, Boston police quickly gave chase, shot out the tires and apprehended the perps precisely half way across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge toward Cambridge on the other side.
There are probably two lessons here.
1) Contrary to conventional wisdom, on rare occasions it may be worth actually springing for the rental car insurance.
2)In an extremely compact geographical area, you have a far better chance of apprehending your suspect without collateral human damage -- before the streets get congested. I'll take that rare trade-off.