Ahmed’s clock

If there was ever an incident that deserves the well-worn “galactically-stupid” tag, this is it.

For those who have not heard the story by now, it made CNN. A student named Ahmed Mohamed brought a clock he had made himself to school to show off. Apparently, to one of his teachers, it “looked like a bomb.” I’m not sure where the teacher got this idea, or if the teacher even knows what a real bomb looks like. The story ends with Ahmed getting arrested for a violation of the hoax bomb law, Texas Penal Code 46.08. (The charges were later dropped, but Ahmed still got suspended from school.)

Except that there’s no violation of that law here. I don’t think the school authorities or the police ever thought this was a bomb, and certainly Ahmed had no intent to make anyone believe this was anything but an electronic time measuring device (i.e. clock). That’s what he told the cops, and they refused to believe him:

Irving Police spokesman Officer James McLellan told the station, “We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock.”

The teenager did that because, well, it was a clock, he said.

Gee whiz, guys, what else did you want him to say? And yet you arrested him anyway. Shame on you, Irving PD.

I don’t think the cops ever thought Ahmed had a bomb, even a so-called “hoax bomb.” None of the usual protocol and precautions used to handle this so-called “bomb” were taken with this device. The school wasn’t evacuated, the bomb squad was not called, and in general this device was handled as though it was harmless (i.e. definitely not handled like it was a bomb).They even took pictures of it. Sure, the pictures show wires hanging out, but that’s going to be the same with any electronic device. I certainly don’t see anything in those pictures that looks like it could be an explosive. It doesn’t look much different than most of the other prototype-level electronics projects I’ve seen.

Their only “suspicion,” if you can call it that, was the student’s name and race. In other words, in an act of flagrant racism, he was arrested and later suspended from school for little other reason than he was of Middle Eastern descent. Completely un-American, and certainly un-Texan. And apparently I’m not the only one to come to this conclusion.

Among other things that have happened since, President Obama invited Ahmed to the White House to show off his clock. Thankfully, we have a sane president; I don’t want to think about how McCain or Romney might have handled this incident. The fact that this got as far as Ahmed actually being arrested is scary enough.

A tweet linked from the CNN story shows a (white) student building a nuclear fusion reactor, which was actually backed by his school, and contrasting this with what happened to Ahmed. Granted, the former story is out of the UK, and it remains to be seen whether or not that would fly in the US. The sad thing is, apparently the race of the student might matter… and here I am thinking we have made actual progress eradicating racism in the US.

Now, I’m saying to myself, “Shit, we’ve still got a real racism problem.” How are we going to fix it, America?

Artist’s fake bombs made from carrots cause uproar

You really can’t make this stuff up.

The BBC reported on an art project in Sweden that turned into a bomb scare. Or maybe, that was the idea from the beginning. You be the judge. (There is also a Radio Sweden article about the event for those that desire a perspective closer to the events.)

[Artist Conny Blom] taped bunches of carrots together with black tape and attached blue and red wires and a clock to them.

Police received worried calls from members of the public who thought they were real bombs. Mr Blom was forced to remove his art – and may face charges.

The article goes on to say that Mr. Blom describes the event as a “harmless stunt.” The police agencies involved may describe the event a bit differently; Blom may face charges.

The article I found lacked a picture of the actual carrot bombs themselves, opting instead for just a generic picture of a bunch of carrots. UPDATE: Nina from Sweden commented with a link to pictures on the artist’s site.

As much as I despise the use of intent to distinguish between criminal and non-criminal conduct, that may be the only thing that makes sense here.

If Blom was making genuine hoax bombs (which are illegal here in Texas, USA) and disguising the carrots to appear more like real dynamite sticks, then I can see pursuing criminal charges. But, if it’s obvious enough they are just a bunch of carrots made into “a caricature of a bomb” I don’t see why there is so much fuss. Given that Blom was working at the request of a local art gallery, I doubt there was much intent to have the bombs look convincing to all but the dumbest and most gullible passers-by. Of course, the quote from P.T. Barnum may be proven right yet again: “You’ll never go broke overestimating the stupidity of the general public.”

This event does speak volumes for how hyper-sensitive we have become to terrorism, across the entire planet. Prior to 2001, this may well have gone over as “oh, look, someone made a fake bomb out of a bunch of carrots, some wires, and a cheap alarm clock, how cute.”

One last semi-topical aside: I am reminded of a TV news report I saw once on a local station when I was a kid. A bum snuck onto a bus, whereupon the passengers in the back shouted “there’s a bum on the bus.” By the time the driver heard it, it had changed into “there’s a bomb on the bus.” When the report aired, this was kind of funny. I have a feeling it would not be nearly as funny today.