Shelter Island: Use a clean knife

Having read the Boston Dig’s article Shelter Island about the homeless shelter on Boston Harbor’s Long Island, I found myself recognizing some of the details the author, Bill Hayduke, mentioned in his piece. 

However, a few small matters are off:  

The widely sold and bartered drug is Suboxone® – called johnnies, not “jimmies.”  This medication is prescribed for heroin addiction; I have no need nor want of it.  A mixture of buprenorphine and naloxone, the people I’ve tried to speak with while they were on it seemed incoherent.  

Lights out time is 9pm, not 10pm.  Yes, the noise often continues all night long, even the sound of some inconsiderate jerk eating potato chips and rustling the bag at two in the morning.  There are roaches.  

Most of the staff, most of the time, really care, despite thankless neglect and sometimes malicious abuse from clients, and racism appears in unexpected forms.  Over a year ago, I watched as a client, a middle-aged black man, sarcastically asked a Chinese-American woman, a staff counselor, “Didn’t I kill some of your people in Vietnam?”  She was stunned with humiliation.  The man was summoned to the shelter office.  After he left the dining room – this was during dinner – some of the other clients and I apologized to the woman, as if we had insulted her.  But we could have done nothing to stop him.  Hours later that evening, I overheard her speaking in disbelief to another counselor:  “They only gave him seven days, after he said that to me.”  She was referring to the length of the man’s bar – a punishment – from the island.  

Sanitation in the kitchen is the worst I’ve seen in any institution.  One horizontal surface, the top of the milk dispenser, is used as a convenient resting spot for a plastic serrated knife.  That knife is used, repeatedly and at intervals of several hours without cleaning between uses, for cutting of the sealed plastic tubes on boxes of milk.  

Perhaps you have seen multi-gallon boxes of milk, and their refrigerator-dispensers?  That institutional food apparatus is in use on Long Island.  The boxes have poly-plastic bladders inside, full of milk, with a white plastic tube, heat-sealed at the end, that extends downward through a simple valve, held closed by a metal arm.  The box of milk is stored inside a stainless steel refrigerator with that valve mounted at the bottom.  You lift the end of the arm, opening the valve, and the milk rushes out.  Lower the arm, the valve closes, and the milk stops.  But only if the heat-sealed tip to the tube is cut off.  

Common sense:  Use a clean knife to cut the tube.  


I grabbed a napkin and wet it with hot water.  Wiping the top of the milk dispenser, where the knife is – the same knife that is already dirty from previous cuttings of previous milk tubes – this grime is what I collected.  Every time a tube on a box of milk is cut open, the tube is contaminated with this grime, as well as the spoiled milk from all previous tubes cut open in this way with the same dirty knife.  The contamination is probably both inside the tube, and out.  Some of the grime is then flushed out of the inside of the tube into clients’ cups of milk as each cup is filled.  

Occasionally, a client will allow the tube to dip into his/her cup of milk.  This transfers any grime clinging to the outside of the tube into the cup of milk.  

to be continued… 

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Unanswered questions regarding the Boston bombing

The May 9, 2013 House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the Boston Marathon terrorist attack was a melodrama of diversionary discourse.  From former Senator Joseph Lieberman’s attempts to blame the FBI and Russian Federation for incomplete sharing of information to Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis’ focus on response rather than prevention to Professor Erroll G. Souther’s denunciation of thoughtcrime, there was a concerted effort to avoid the most important questions, those being: 

Where were all the human surveillance operatives in the minutes before the bombs exploded, assuming the operatives were active? 

The casual reader may question the existence of plainclothes surveillance operatives, as distinct from undercover police officers.  The FBI has its Special Surveillance Group, unarmed employees without powers of arrest whose operations were revealed in some detail after the Robert Hanssen affair went public.   

The Boston Police Department has its Field Operations Group as the likely locus of spookery.  What intelligence division would be complete without its very own FOG?

I’m personally ambivalent about these organizations, because they are useful for variously motivated harassment.  Boston deploys them in summertime on creepy photographer patrol to ensure this stuffy city does not deviate from its prudish Puritan and Irish-Catholic traditions.   

They are also used for ground level human surveillance of parks and public squares to suppress the drug trade.  The drug gangs in northern Mexico even field their own operatives on the plazas and street-corners of Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa – as young as thirteen, called panteras y halcones – to identify and report opposition drug gangs moving into contested territory.  
So, let’s accept without FOIA-generated documents that these human surveillance operatives exist, are not unicorns or phantasms, and operate for different purposes and at varying degrees of professionalism…  Where and what were Boston’s human surveillance operatives doing on April 15, 2013 between 2:34 and 2:49 pm? 

What, if anything could human surveillance operatives have done to: 

1. Recognize the Tsarnaevs as suspicious actors before they dropped their bomb-laden rucksacks – without prior intelligence?
2. Recognize the rucksacks as suspicious after they had been dropped and the Tsarnaevs had moved on?
3. Clear the area around the suspicious rucksacks?
4. Remove or dispose of the suspicious rucksacks after they had been dropped but before they exploded? 
5. Were the human surveillance operatives reduced or released shortly before the rucksacks, now known to have contained bombs, were dropped and detonated? 

And regarding the behavior of the Tsarnaevs themselves: 

6. (If the answer to #5 is yes,) did Tamerlan Tsarnaev, sufficiently skilled in counter-surveillance after his visit to Chechnya to recognize a lifting of the security presence, take that as his cue to proceed with the bombing?

7. Why did the Tsarnaevs postpone the bomb detonations until very late in the marathon instead earlier, when a more crowded finish line would have ensured more victims? 
- Did they procrastinate? 
- Did they desire to target a crowd composed mostly of U.S. citizens instead of a more international crowd? 

A useful postmortem investigation should begin from an unpleasant premise: The proximate cause of the Tsarnaev’s attack wasn’t a lack of intelligence-sharing months earlier, but a lapse or series of lapses between the moment the Tsarnaevs first started walking through the crowd and the moment the first bomb detonated.