Just another old case of American terrorism

The burial site for the victims of the Mountain Meadows massacre has been discovered. That massacre was one of the heinous crimes of the 19th century: the Mormons ambushed and slaughtered a wagon train passing through Utah, killing about 120 people, and taking away a few children under 8 years old. It was very Biblical. To add cowardice and racism to their crime, the Mormons also tried to pin the blame on Indians.

It’s odd to me how the weight of history can add resonance to a location, and how so many of us are oblivious to it.

Bassett said he’s surprised that the burial sites weren’t discovered before now because the Army records are very accurate. The burial site for the women and children is within sight of Utah Highway 18, he said.

“Truckers were driving by honking at me,” Bassett said. “The location where the women and children were massacred is right in the middle of the highway, to some extent.”

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And then there were eleventy-seven


One down, one swarm of stupid to go. Scott Walker is no longer running for president, not that any of the other Republican candidates are better qualified. But I did like this summary of the Walker Experience.

The New York Times says Walker once was “seen as all but politically invincible,” which seems maybe a tad overstated in reference to a shrimpy, pallid, balding twerp with a face like mashed potatoes and the oratorical skills and personal charisma of a jellyfish. It’s true that he was regarded as something of a rising star of the right not so long ago, thanks to his proud and endless cruelty to and contempt for workers and vulnerable people. He all but killed Wisconsin’s public-sector unions with his “budget repair bill,” then pulled a hit on private-sector unions by signing a right-to-work law he’d denounced while campaigning; he needlessly turned away millions of dollars in federal food aid to his state’s poorest residents; he rammed through a (not-even-all-that-) crypto-racist voter ID law; he diverted state school funding from public schools that educate the poor to private ones that educate the wealthy; he tried to eliminate the weekend! This is how one becomes a darling of the right in the United States. Unfortunately for him, though, an elected official will never be as good an avatar for America’s hatred of the poor as a pure capitalist—if nothing else, settling for a governor’s salary implies less than total commitment to the cause—and so he found himself outflanked by both Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina (failed capitalists both!) on the only front he had.

Who’s next to go? I’m guessing it’ll be any of them that said God called them to run, because that old fart gets everything wrong.

Humanity is ridiculous


Once upon a time, I watched a bit of a British television show called Black Mirror — it was, I was told, a series of scary stories about a dystopian near-future. The one episode I watched in full was about a politician forced by a terrorist to have sex with a pig, and most of it was reaction shots of this guy as he was contemplating the horror of this act. I started to watch a second episode, and it was something about another contrived scenario of public humiliation, and I lost interest. I came to the conclusion that where an American scary story might involve getting chased by zombies or giant spiders or something equally life-threatening, a British scary story was about finding oneself in an embarrassing situation that hurt one’s dignity.

Little did we all know, my assessment was accurate, and the show was written by a psychic. The latest news that seems to be consuming the British public is that…well, here’s the calmest description I’ve seen.

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The evolution of the Ahmed Mohamed story

The shifting rationales in the story of the Texas kid who brought a jury-rigged digital clock have been amazing. There’s been a steady progression of new excuses brought up to excuse throwing him in jail.

Early on, it was that it was simply precaution — they had standard procedures for dealing with potential threats. That’s patent nonsense. A standard response to a potential bomb would not involve throwing the “bomb” into the police car with the “bomb maker”. The school and the police knew it wasn’t a bomb from the beginning.

Then the complaint was that he didn’t properly explain what the device was. Simply not true: he said over and over precisely what it was, and all it was: it was a clock. Demanding that he say that it was something more when it wasn’t is absurd.

Then the yahoos all came out of the closet and said it sure doesn’t look like no clock to me. Yep. It was a collection of components strung together with wires, it was ugly and not too practical, but functionally, all it was was a clock. Sorry you don’t know much about electronics.

Then there were the detailed deconstructions of the clock, from the few pictures we have of it. This bit came from here, that bit came from there, here’s a dangling wire that has no purpose, there’s a cable that could be used to tap into the signal output from the clock. A terrorist could use this to set off a bomb! Sure. But they could also buy a $5 travel alarm from Wal-Mart even more easily to do the same thing. Can we arrest Wal-Mart now?

Then there were the nay-sayers: the kid was lying. He didn’t invent anything. This is true: a lot of us tinkered with old electronic components when we were his age, and assembled basic gadgets. I built a crystal radio, and made electric motors (looping those thin copper wires around and around was tedious). There was nothing revolutionary and lot that was clumsy in the clock. He disassembled and reassembled a Radio Shack digital gadget, nothing more. But so what? He’s 14! It’s excellent that he’s curious and is experimenting with technology, and is also enthused about it. That’s how scientists and engineers get started.

And now, at last, that lunatic Sarah Palin weighs in:

Friends, consider the kids disciplined and/or kicked out of school for bringing squirt guns to school or taking bites out of a pop tart until it resembled (to some politically correct yahoo) a gun, Palin rambled. Or the student out deer hunting with his dad early one morning who forgot he had a box of ammo in his truck when he parked in the school’s lot later that day. Kids humiliated and intimidated for innocent actions like those real examples are often marked the rest of their lives and made to feel really rotten. Whereas Ahmed Muhammad, an evidently obstinate-answering student bringing in a homemade “clock” that obviously could be seen by conscientious teachers as a dangerous wired-up bomb-looking contraption (teachers who are told “if you see something, say something!”) gets invited to the White House.

I thought we’d reached Peak Paranoia with Palin, until I read the comments on her post.

Guys, can’t you see between the lines? This was nothing less then a dry run, to test school security, had no one noticed it, next time, it would be the real thing

This little Muzzie was practicing his bomb making skills not “inventing a clock”.

It was a dry run to see how far they could get. They use their kids to bomb all the time in their country. They don’t care if their child dies in the process.

So now the demented right wing is convinced that Ahmed was actually planning to make a suicide attack on the school.

I’d like to believe we’ve reached the limit on this evolving set of excuses, but I’m not going to shortchange the astonishing imaginations of the American people.

Maybe I’m just too cynical

Kevin Drum is being way too optimistic here.

But his latest howler at a town hall in New Hampshire—especially after his weak debate performance last night—might finally be his death knell. Note: the issue isn’t the questioner. There are lunatics in every crowd. This one declared, “We have a problem in this country: it’s called Muslims….They have training camps growing where they want to kill us.” Then he asked “When do we get rid of them?” Did he mean all the Muslims? Just the fantasy training camps? Who knows. But all Trump said was this: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.” No pushback, no nothing. I’m sure he’ll be walking this back soon, but it might be unwalkable. If there’s any justice, this might finally do him in.

Among all the stupid, bigoted, ridiculous things that Trump has said, why should having him agree to someone saying We have a problem in this country: it’s called Muslims be the one that does him in? We’ve had a presidency built around the Muslim threat that killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and Dick Cheney is still going on bragging about it. Has there ever been any substantial downside for people who want to denigrate Muslim lives?

After all, we have one dead famous atheist who advocated bombing Iran, and responded to pragmatic arguments that that would just create more terrorists by suggesting that the solution to that was to kill them all. And we’ve got another live famous atheist who could write this:

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

He still has swarms of defenders. And these are the supposed smart people.

I’m hoping the Trump balloon pops soon. I don’t have much confidence that his open pandering to bigotry will be the pin that does it.

Jesus. Bill Maher.

Bill Maher really went off on the case of Ahmed Mohamed and said maybe liberals should drop the political correctness and consider that maybe being cautious is a good thing.

Maher made it clear that of course the Texas teen deserves an apology for being arrested over a clock, but said there’s nothing wrong with being a little suspicious when there’s a young Muslim student with something that “looks exactly like a fucking bomb” and there are young Muslims “blowing shit up” all over the world.

The exact quote, in defending the Irving police “erring on the side of caution”, is this bit of blinkered bigotry:

For the last 30 years, it’s been one culture blowing shit up over and over again.

In case the reference is unclear, he’s not talking about the United States of America.

He also claimed that we put [arrested] a kid after school for a couple of hours. This is not the end of the world. No, it’s not, but way to go, minimizing injustice, Bill Maher and panel of three wealthy white guys!

I don’t expect Maher to lose his show after this long pattern of egregious bigotry, just as I don’t expect Trump to suddenly be shunned for one more incident. But it won’t even end the reverence the atheist community has for Maher.

Oh, jeez…the Republican candidates tried to pick their own code names

In the debate, the Republicans were asked what code names they wanted if they became president. The only appropriate response to such a stupid question is “What? Presidents don’t pick their code names.” There are also guidelines for the selection of such names.

According to established protocol, good codewords are unambiguous words that can be easily pronounced and readily understood by those who transmit and receive voice messages by radio or telephone regardless of their native language. Traditionally, all family members’ code names start with the same letter.

The codenames change over time for security purposes, but are often publicly known. For security, codenames are generally picked from a list of such ‘good’ words, but avoiding the use of common words which could likely be intended to mean their normal definitions.

They’re not grand statements about your dreams and ideals! So what did the candidates do? They picked ludicrously unusable thumpery.

Chris Christie: True Heart (Going for irony, I guess…something about corruption would be more appropriate)
John Kasich: Unit One (Just announce you’re a boring nonentity, already)
Carly Fiorina: Secretariat (She’s comparing herself to a horse?)
Scott Walker: Harley (Union Made in the USA!)
Jeb Bush: Ever-Ready (For what? )
Donald Trump: Humble (Derp.)
Ben Carson: One Nation (Simultaneously arrogant and incomprehensible. It’s perfect)
Ted Cruz: Cohiba (Speak English! And cigars are bad for you.)
Marco Rubio: Gator (McKlusky? Played by Burt Reynolds? I suddenly feel like this is an Archer episode)
duckhuntMike Huckabee: Duck Hunter (the resemblance is uncanny)
Rand Paul: Justice Never Sleeps (“Batman” would be shorter)

I give up. This election is going to be a circus.

I did not watch the Republican debate

It would be good to be politically informed, but I think the GOP and the media have colluded to produce noisy spectacle and pointless demagoguery, so I skipped the whole thing — we all have better things to do with 3 hours than watch out-of-touch prudes and bigots purse their lips and yell. Also, I knew I could get a better digest of what was said on the web today.

It turns out I was right, and didn’t miss anything important. I checked the big name news sites, too, and they’re pulling the same shit they always do: what are the rankings in the horse race? Who ‘won’ this debate? Who delivered the best zingers? I want to know what policies (they’re Republican, I can guess they’re all heinous) they’re pushing, not who got win, place, and show among the yahoos.

I did learn that Carly Fiorina’s magic solution to all problems is to increase the size of the military. And she was considered the ‘winner’.

Has the media no shame?

A terrible Rolling Stone interview of Trump really can’t get past the superficial crap: he’s rich. He’s number one in the polls. He’s gonna go all the way. The interviewer seems to have absorbed Trump’s perspective with all the exposure. It really needed a reporter who’d point out the problems with a political class defined by wealth, the media’s childish infatuation with poll position, and that coasting on gas and bluster isn’t substantive. But this is what we’ve got, and even in this tedious paint-by-numbers review, the full Trump ghastliness can’t help but erupt outwards.

When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump’s momentum, Trump’s expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. Look at that face! he cries. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?

No, we’re not serious. The fact that a loud, crass, profoundly stupid clown like Donald Trump is dominating the election news says that politics and the media in this country are not serious at all.