S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Questions remain:

"Police and university authorities faced pressure on Tuesday to explain how a gunman apparently evaded detection after killing two people and then went on to kill 30 others two hours later in America's worst shooting rampage," reports Reuters. As is often the case, law enforcement did not do what they might have if they had known what constituted the bigger picture. Judgement was imperfect and intra-campus communication was imperfect. Large institutions are inevitably going to react imperfectly in the face of a determined deranged person, bent on who knows what, with big guns and lots of ammo. That is because none of us can make sense of it, at the time or even later.
Awful gruesome records - After the reports began coming in that it was much worse than we first thought, reporters began to say, "It is the worst . . .". TV's carried one of the many stories of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech University. To quote,
  • Story Highlights:
  • At least two professors among the dead in Virginia Tech massacre
  • Police have preliminary identification of campus gunman
  • University officials say 33 dead, including gunman
  • Attacks mark deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history

In Washington, the House and Senate observed moments of silence for the victims and President Bush said the nation was "shocked and saddened" by news of the tragedy.
. . . Before Monday, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States occurred in 1991, when George Hennard drove a pickup truck into a Killeen, Texas, cafeteria and fatally shot 23 people, before shooting and killing himself.
Before this the worst shootings happened in Texas and Colorado. Now Virginia is added to that awful list of states having records of students out of control. The dismay was apparent on the faces of Virginia Senators Warner and Webb as they came to the floor of the Senate to offer grim condolences to their constituents. For all of us living in these states it is "too close to home." According to a Reuters side bar story, from which I quote:
Until Monday's rampage, the worst school shooting incident in the United States was at the University of Texas campus in Austin on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman went to the top of a tower and opened fire. He killed 15 people, including his mother and wife the night before, and wounded 31 others.

Sensible and sensitive Senate decision - Fortunately Senator Leahy delayed the hearing to feature Alberto Gonzales. "Senate Delays Gonzales Testimony on Firings," according to the Washington Post - Quoting from the (4/17/07) Dan Eggen and Paul Kane WaPo article that summarizes the Gonzales story to date,
After Slayings at College, Judiciary Panel Moves Session on Prosecutors to Thursday -
The Senate Judiciary Committee canceled testimony scheduled for today from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales after concluding that the hearing would be inappropriate in the wake of yesterday's mass slayings at Virginia Tech.

Watching in horror - One of the New York Times stories focused on the style of TV coverage of the shootings, headlining it "Deadly Rampage and No Loss for Words." It was an excellent article on the media, written by Allessandra Stanley. To quote from the piece,
Television anchors said over and over that the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech was the deadliest in American history, but that was not the only shocking aspect of yesterday’s continual coverage.
The amazing thing is how familiar campus shootings have become. For viewers, initial disbelief is quickly folded into a methodical ritual of breaking bad news. News trucks race to the scene, witnesses upload images recorded on cellphones and video cameras, students on the scene calmly and patiently recount their impressions in front of news cameras. One student was taped soberly expressing shock — and cognizance. “This is like a college Columbine,” he said on MSNBC. “Really sad.”
South by Southwest will be occasionally dormant during the next month due to my travel plans. As is always the case when I take this annual trip, I will be dependent on the largesse of small town local libraries for access to the Internet. My home state is not widely wired, but it is beautiful. It will soon be spring there and the lilacs will bloom. And then I will feel like a child again. So long for now.
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