Monday, March 30, 2015

The President and Vice-President arrive in Boston

There's a shuttle bus that runs between my hotel in Boston and the convention center where Experimental Biology takes place. I went down to the hotel lobby this morning to catch the shuttle bus. The first clue that something was amiss was the four policemen in their yellow jackets sitting in the lounge. Their big bikes were parked just outside. The second clue was a larger than normal number of people waiting for cabs and shuttle buses.

All of a sudden, the cops left and so did all the taxis and shuttles without any passengers. That was also a clue.

The hotel informed us that there would be no shuttles to the conference center this morning, no shuttles to the airport, and no taxis because the President of the United States and the Vice-President were arriving.1 This requires shutting down I90 for several hours.

I decided to eat breakfast in the restaurant and wait out the disruption. (There wasn't anything interesting going on at the meeting this morning anyway.) I watched the motorcade go by on the Interstate. There were about a dozen cars lit up like Christmas trees, including an ambulance with lights flashing. Most of the lights were blue but there was a pretty mixture of yellow, red, orange, and green.

Judging by the number of angry people in the lobby, I can understand why the President and Vice-President need so much protection.


1. They are attending the opening of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

22 comments :

  1. For the sake of their egos, I hope none of this morning's speakers will read your blog.

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    1. There were eight different sessions in my society (ASBMB) yesterday morning. I hope that all 40 speakers read my blog.

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  2. I would remind the good professor that 4 US presidents have been assassinated, that 2 others were shot but survived (Reagan and Jackson) and that an attempt was made on two others (Truman and Ford). Further, the current incumbent has been the subject of a record number of threats, far exceeding any other occupant of the office.

    Given this history, it is no wonder that the Secret Service takes extraordinary precautions. The motto of the head of the Secret Service is, "ain't going to happen on my shift".

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    1. That's 9% mortality while in office, despite all the protection.

      According to official stats (the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries), the most dangerous job in the USA is ---- the logging worker! with 127.8 fatal accidents per 100,000 full-time employees. But wait a moment... it's only 0.13%, two orders of magnitude behind the President.

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    2. Effective gun control laws would be a lot less disruptive.

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    3. It should be noted that 3 of the successful assassinations occurred before the level of protection seen today was implemented. Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley had only minimal protection. Kennedy was riding in an open limousine, something that wouldn't happen today.

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    4. Effective gun control laws would be a lot less disruptive.

      Depends what you mean by "disruptive," and I say that as someone who feels the lack of such laws, and of free/affordable health care, is as close to the notion of "sin" as I can think of (as an unbeliever).

      I think people unfortunately are conditioned to believe advertising in this country, and that includes political advertising. A significant number of hunters and those who own guns out of fear for their personal safety (ironic, eh?) now believe the Obama Administration are some combination of Nazis, Communists, and atheists, and they are laying in the guns and ammo so that the day the government comes for those weapons they can go out fighting. Yes, really. Just stop by any of the numerous sold-out gun shows being held everywhere in the country and have a look and listen.

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    5. And if you can't make it to a gunshow, just drop by one of the right wing websites such as Free Republic. I often drop in for a bit of reading, just to get my fill of crazy for the day.

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    6. ...and that an attempt was made on two others (Truman and Ford).

      Many more than just those two others, actually. And you should probably say "attempts" if you're mentioning Ford, because two people took a pop at him: Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and Sara Jane Moore, both of whom are featured in the Sondheim musical Assassins.

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    7. Re Nullifidian

      The attempts on Truman and Ford were more serious then the others mentioned because the putative assassin/assassins actually had the target in the bullseye. For instance, according to a book written by the head of the presidential protection unit, Truman looked out a window of the White House where one of the putative Puerto Rican assassins actually had him briefly in his sights. Fortunately, an agent was able to tackle the man before he could get a shot off. Ford, of course was actually confronted by putative assassins Squeaky Fromme and later Sarah Jane Moore, the latter actually getting a shot off before being tackled by an agent.

      Of course, there was an assassination attempt against Roosevelt before he was inaugurated which killed the mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak.

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  3. The president sometimes shuts down much of Oahu in rush hour traffic just to take the family out for shave ice. He's still pretty popular here.

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  4. Around 1980 the Queen and Mrs Thatcher, then Prime Minister, visited the University of Birmingham, where I then was, within about six weeks of one another. For the Queen's visit there was almost no visible security, and I could have stood two metres from her if I wished (I didn't). When Mrs Thatcher came the security was very obvious, and apart from invited and presumably vetted guests you couldn't get within 100 metres of her. When I commented on this at the time, someone asked "who would want to assassinate the Queen?"

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    1. At that time, I suppose the ready answer to who's want to assassinate the Queen would be the IRA. They'd done for her cousin 15 years or so earlier.

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    2. judmarc, if you're talking about Lord Mountbatten, that was in 1979, just a year or so before when Athel Cornish-Bowden is talking about, which makes the lack of security even more perplexing. Of course, Mountbatten died because he insisted on summering in Ireland and going out on an unguarded boat, despite the Garda's warnings, which naturally made him an easy target.

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  5. The first and only time I saw such a spectacle was next to Capitol building while I was at a conference in Washington. What a spectacular commotion! This was in the Bush/Cheney years. I remember being surprised because I thought (naively of course) that they would have moved such people across the city more furtively.

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  6. A slightly different take on the utility of assassination, from "Time Enough For Love" by Robert A. Heinlein:

    But the symptom that roused my worry was so null that it took ten years for me to notice it:

    During those ten years there was not one attempt to assassinate me.

    By the time Lazarus Long returned to Secundus for the purpose of dying this disturbing symptom had continued twenty years.

    This was ominous, and I realized it.

    A population of one billion-plus so contented, so uniform, so smug that not one determined assassin shows up in a double decade is seriously ill no matter how healthy it looks.

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    1. Please try not to remind me of anything Heinlein wrote after 1966. Or perhaps 1960 would be a better date. I have a sensitive stomach.

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    2. I have to agree but I grew up on his science fiction and as our religious friends know so well it's hard to beat childhood conditioning.

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    3. Negative reinforcement works. Try reading "Time Enough for Love" all the way through. Urk.

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  7. If you think this nonsense is excessive, just wait until you have dozens of major political figures all in your city for two weeks. I'm referring, of course, to the ridiculous exhibition that is a political convention. I grew up in San Diego, and was in high school when the Republican Party held their convention here. What I remember most vividly is that you couldn't get within twenty blocks of Downtown without encountering barricades, police, and on and on, for miles. Of course, all those police were funded by raiding the pensions of city workers to pay for overtime, turning us from a once solvent city into one known as "Enron by the Bay". Thanks, Bob Dole!

    I'm amazed that any city actually wants to host a political convention. If you actually were to rationally balance out the fiscal damage done and inconvenience against the economic blip of "tourism", political parties would be picking their candidates in cornfields, grasslands, deserts, and Alaskan tundra. And that would naturally lead to massive savings on security as well.

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  8. ...political parties would be picking their candidates in cornfields, grasslands, deserts, and Alaskan tundra. And that would naturally lead to massive savings on security as well.

    I'm pretty sure one major political party in the US already does pick their candidates from the cornfields, grasslands, deserts, and alaskan tundra. Can't say it leads to much of a saving for the taxpayer though, when it comes to national security matters. :-)

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  9. If politicians' jobs were to be a little physically insecure - say, on a par with the deadliest US job, commercial fisherman (>100 deaths/100K annually), it would probably be only for the better. It would reduce the number of sociopaths and shameless careerists trying to become rich by pretending that they serve the public. So I'd say make security detail paid by taxpayers only minimal (one-two bodyguards ought to be enough to make risk reasonably low).

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