The humiliation of Ahmed Mohamed

Last Monday’s detention of 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed in Texas—a bright young man who was arrested, cuffed, and taken to police headquarters for bringing a “device” to school, which turned out to be an electronic clock that was a science project—has aroused tremendous discussion throughout the U.S. A lot of this discussion centers on whether he was detained because he was a Muslim, and we need to have this discussion (see below). But largely neglected is another point: whether, in the U.S., we have created such a climate of fear that kids of all stripes are being humiliated and mistreated for “infractions” that are trivial and dumb. But let’s back up and discuss three questions:

Was it proper to detain Mohamed?  Clearly not; it was reprehensible. The kid was humiliated, taken out of the school, and put in handcuffs. Having been arrested, cuffed, and thrown in a paddy wagon for protesting apartheid at the South African Embassy, I know how frightening that is, and I knew it was coming. But imagine how much more humiliated Mohamed was to have been perp-marched to jail in front of his school peers. The photograph of the cuffed child is heartbreaking: it shows a kid who has suddenly come into conflict with society for reasons he can’t fathom—a kid who in a matter of minutes lost his innocence.

The school and cops could have done many other things that would not have scared and humiliated Mohamed. They could have, as Cenk Uygar notes in the video below, simply taken him to the principal’s office and waited until the “device” was inspected and cleared. Then they could have apologized for what they did to him. They have not.

But there are two silver linings that came from his arrest. The first is that he’s garnered tremendous support from Americans, including President Obama, has prospective employers contacting him (he plans to go to MIT), and, I suspect, has a bright future. The second is that it may allow us to reassess what we’re doing to our schoolchildren with these draconian regulations, as well to continue our discussion of “Islamophobia” and do some soul searching about how we treat Muslims.

Was his being a Muslim the main reason he was detained? This is not yet clear, and may never be. The school and police have said that Mohamed was treated like any other child, regardless of who they are, but I’m not so sure about that. The anti-Muslim accusations are apparently based on a single statement by a policeman who, arriving at the scene, said this: ““Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”  That’s suspicious. And although the school and rest of police haven’t said anything that implicates the boy’s religion in their behavior, we don’t know what went through their minds, or whether the school acted as they did because they knew he was a Muslim. As skeptics, we shouldn’t immediately assume that this is what happened.

Of course it’s not just Muslims who have been treated horribly by schools for innocuous behavior. Ken White, a first-amendment attorney who writes at Popehat, gives some other chilling examples:

In his head, Ahmed lives in an idealized world he learned about in robotics club: a world where individuality and curiosity and initiative are appreciated. Or at least he did. But this week he found out that he actually lives in a different world, a grim real world controlled by school administrators and cops who are deeply suspicious of individuality, if not openly hostile. Ahmed lives in a world where children’s lives are limited by the stupid, ineffectual fear of the petty and the ignorant. He lives in a world where school administrators strip-search thirteen-year-old girls to look for ibuprofin and suspend eight-year-olds for making pretend finger-guns while playing cops and robbers. He lives in a world where police arrest seven-year-olds for bringing a nerf gun to class and perp-walk twelve-year-olds in front of their peers for writing “I love my friends” on a desk with a marker.

. . . Did the putative adults pestering Ahmed do it because his name is Ahmed Mohamed and he’s brown? Maybe. “Yup. That’s who I thought it was,” said one officer mysteriously upon seeing him. But on the other hand, this is the era of zero tolerance and of institutionalized paranoia and of petty little people using fear to hold on to power. This is what our kids’ lives are like, and we’ve decided to accept it. Schools are safer now than before, but we’ve decided to feed on the fear the media feeds us and accept that they are more dangerous, justifying harsher treatment of kids. Kids are safer than ever, but we’ve consented to being constantly terrified about various menaces to them. Cops are safer, but we’ve decided to accept their narrative that they are the targets of an unprecedented war, and hand them the power they say they need.

We need to stop detaining any kid for innocuous behavior under these stupid “no tolerance” policies. As White points out, perhaps Mohamed’s detention would have happened regardless of his race or faith, or perhaps it’s a simple example of racism: because his skin is a different color than that of most other kids. Or perhaps it’s a true example of “Islamophobia”: what I consider the demonization of individual Muslims because of their faith—not the criticism of the religion. I doubt we’ll ever know the answer, and we certainly shouldn’t rush to judgment with cries of “Islamophobia!” As atheists, we’re supposed to rely on evidence rather than preference. But we still need to search our souls about whether we harbor overt or covert bigotry against Muslims. (More on this below.)

Was atheism responsible for the “climate of fear” or “fear of Muslims” that led to  Mohamed’s detention? Here I say, “I think that’s a dumb and irresponsible accusation.” Yet some people have pinned the detention of Mohamed on anti-Muslim sentiments aroused by atheists. In the Young Turks video below, for example, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss the incident, and Kasparin says this at 7:50:

“. . . [Mohamed is] a victim of the fear-mongering we’re talking about now, Cenk. The same atheists who spend all their time debating about which religion is the worst and coming to the conclusion that Muslims are the most violent and they should be the most feared and we should put all of our attention on them—okay, that’s the kind of fear-mongering that leads to an innocent 14-year-old being arrested for doing a science project.”

Now Kasparin’s statement is palpable nonsense for several reasons. (The rest of Uygur’s and Kasparin’s discussion seems quite reasonable). First, the teachers who called the cops and the cops who arrested the boy were almost certainly not atheists (this is Texas, remember?). They may have been bigoted against Muslims, or acted out of racist rather than antireligious motivations, but I doubt that any of them have even heard of Sam Harris or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. If they were anti-Muslim, that almost certainly came from the kind of bigotry that arises from Christianity or xenophobia. But let’s not pin it on unbelievers. That is “atheistphobia.”

This brings up the distinction between dislike of Islam and dislike of Muslims. The latter is often called “Islamophobia,” but I’d prefer to call it something like “Muslimophobia” to draw a distinction between bigotry against individuals and criticism of the harmful tenets of Islam.

It seems the most rational (and effective) course of action to criticize the tenets of religions while avoiding demonizing believers.  On this site I criticize Christianity far more often than Islam, although I consider Islam at present the more dangerous faith. This is because I’m more familiar with the excesses of Christianity, which come to my attention more frequently (often from readers). Further, Christianity is in the process of discarding its pernicious doctrines, while Islam retains many of them, including institutionalized discrimination against women and gays, and the belief by many that it’s proper to kill apostates or nonbelievers. But make no mistake about it: I dislike all forms of religion, which I see as superstitions. But let us not say that all faiths are exactly equal in how much hatred and discrimination they inspire.

And let us not discriminate against people simply because of their faith. That is true “Muslimophobia,” and is not becoming to atheists or secularists. If humans do something bad in the name of their faith, we can criticize them, arrest them, and so on. And if we think that religion makes people do bad things, by all means criticize that religion and its effects on the human psyche. But remember that there are plenty of good religious people, Muslims and non-Muslims, and they deserve the same individual treatment and respect as does everyone else.  So yes, I stand with Ahmed Mohamed, I stand against anti-Muslim bigotry, and I stand against the culture of fear that is making us suspect that any innocent child with an aspirin, a clock, or a nerf gun is a terrorist.

h/t: Robert D.

292 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    sub

    • rickflick
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      sub

      • Scientifik
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        What’s interesting Obama even invited the kid to the White House with his “invention,” but I have to wonder how the White House security would have reacted to a random person with a bomb-looking object nearing the area…

        • Posted September 23, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

          Maybe something like this?

          • Scientifik
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            I bet that’s more or less how it would look like. 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          (How is that a ‘reply’ to GBJames or are you just trying to queue-jump your late comment up to the head of the list?)

          I would hope the White House security would inspect the ‘object’, determine it was harmless, and react appropriately. Not everyone in security is a heavy-handed moron like the small-town Texas authorities were.

          cr

          • Scientifik
            Posted September 24, 2015 at 5:33 am | Permalink

            Maybe you should try doing a test yourself, attach some electronics to a briefcase, make sure that the White House security notices the “innards” of the briefcase, and start approaching them.

            Nah, I’m not really suggesting that, as it could end up far worse than in Ahmed Mohamed’s case.

    • Scientifik
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Does anybody on here think that it was foolish of the French police to close the access to the Eiffel Tower yesterday, because someone noticed three men “with backpacks” climbing the tower?

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eiffel-tower-terror-alert-prompted-by-three-men-with-backpacks-police-source-says-10510480.html

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Since the Tower had been named as an ISIS target, no I don’t think it was foolish. If the men had been intercepted (they weren’t) and their backpacks found to contain only base-jumping parachutes, at that point the security scare would be over.

        I note the Tower reopened at 2p.m., i.e. it was closed for 5 hours, it didn’t take the authorities 3 days to decide there was no threat.

        cr

        • Scientifik
          Posted September 22, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

          Hasn’t the entire West been named (repeatedly) an ISIS target?

    • Bince
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      So… more details came out;

      1 – Ahmed only repackaged an old RadioShack clock in a pencil case that looks like a briefcase: http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/2015/09/17/reverse-engineering-ahmed-mohameds-clock-and-ourselves/

      2 – Ahmed, who NEVER thought it would look like a movie bomb says he made sure to close the case with string so that it does not look suspicious.

      3 – Ahmed NEVER said it was anything other than a clock, but sources at the school say he was evasive about the reasons he brought it with him. (especially since he did not in fact build it…)

      4 – Ahmed father is a political activist for better protection against Muslim discrimination.

      So… color me jaded by the world, but does this not look like a manufactured outrage by the father to raise a stink about the exact thing he is campaign against? Send the kid with a movie-bomb-looking little project and yell RACIST as loud as you can when the kid is accused of bomb-hoaxing?

      • tomh
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

        “does this not look like a manufactured outrage by the father”

        No, it doesn’t.

        • Scientifik
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          What other purpose this sort of “invention” could have?

        • GBJames
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:47 am | Permalink

          It seems difficult for some people to understand that taking things apart and messing around with them to get an idea of how they work is intellectually stimulating and inherently interesting to many people. Myself included.

          But, then this is pretty scary. There are wires!

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink

            Oooh, I must remember to watch out for the scary wires (he says, happily fitting a new motherboard into an old tower case). Even if it’s only assembling ready-made components, there’s something very satisfying with putting something together and making it work.

            cr

          • Scientifik
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:07 am | Permalink

            It seems difficult for some people to understand that the kid’s father is a political activist against “discrimination of Muslims,” and connect the dots… the whole story has political provocation written all over it.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:11 am | Permalink

              If all it takes is some wires and the circuit board from a clock to “provoke” a response, then one must wonder about the intellectual maturity of the people provoked.

              No matter how you slice it, this is a story about the incompetence of the adults running the school and the police force. Because they’re the ones scared of wires.

              • Scientifik
                Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

                The more details come out, the story is more and more about a cheap political provocation, and the inability of the public to see through it.

            • Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

              “the whole story has political provocation written all over it.”

              Again I think it’s rather silly to imagine this was some sort of evil plan concocted by Ahmed’s father, but I think it does speak to Ahmed’s sensitivity to these issues, and adds to the likelihood that, by his own admission as well, he was well aware of the potential reaction his “invention” would provoke. He isn’t, as he’s been portrayed, some innocent kid who was entirely oblivious to what might happen.

      • Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        “does this not look like a manufactured outrage by the father”

        I have to agree with tomh, no it doesn’t, but if his father is a political activist for better protection against Muslim discrimination it seems more obvious than ever that this kid wasn’t some naive innocent who was oblivious to the reaction his “invention” would receive, and that is his only defense.

      • Scientifik
        Posted September 22, 2015 at 7:38 am | Permalink

        Oh, that electronics-filled briefcase absolutely does not look like any kind of a bomb. Next time you see a Muslim boarding the subway with a similar contraption, just keep calm — It’s evidently just a DIY clock.

  2. Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Or, as simply put by Schneier on Security: “kid arrested because adults are stupid”.

    • eric
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Guess we have to add “engineering while brown” to the list of crimes in the US.

      • Delphin
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        There’s no reason to see this as specific that way. These kinds of things happen to all kinds of kids daily. Soave over at Reason.com has a list of similar cases.

        • eric
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          I think there’s a fair bit of coincidental evidence supporting seeing this ‘that way.’ But you’re right, its not certain. And as you allude to, there are many cases of administrators overreacting out of scientific or even just general ignorance that don’t have any racial or religious component to them. This does not comfort me.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        This isn’t engineering, eric.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          Granting that perhaps it isn’t engineering, what ought one call it? Tinkering? Intellectual curiosity? An interest in something other than fatuous pop culture?

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

            Putting a 1970s clock into a box.
            http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/2015/09/17/reverse-engineering-ahmed-mohameds-clock-and-ourselves/
            Also, powering it up in class. These things don’t beep on their own.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              Nor do cellphones ring on their own, but as we all know that never happens in a meeting…

              • Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

                Not equivalent. Someone else calls on the cell phone.

            • tomh
              Posted September 21, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

              “Also, powering it up in class.”

              I guess you mean plugging it in. That sounds like a good reason to interrogate him for hours, arrest him, and haul him off in handcuffs.

              • Posted September 21, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

                Didn’t I say I opposed that treatment?

  3. Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    OK, I’d like to buy one of the Kid’s clocks, Let’s say ahh, $10.00. If enough of us buy a clock he should have no worries about attending Stamford or MIT and my guess is that he can knock one out every hour or so and even employ a couple of helpers. T.

  4. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Cenk Uygur, who denied the Armenian genocide happened, is worried about fear mongering and hate speech? Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Did he really say that? I find it hard to believe!

      • EvolvedDutchie
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        He wrote a piece about it as a student. He has refused to comment on it ever since. The Turkish government doesn’t say a genocide happened either.

        In june 2014, a monument for the Armenians was placed in the small town of Almelo in the Netherlands. About 5000 Turks protested against it. The Turks are simply too nationalistic and too proud to acknowledge their country did anything wrong.

        In my experience it’s actually very rare to meet a Turk who does acknowledge the genocide happened.

        • Brendan
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          For what it’s worth, as a TYT member I heard a “post game” show about 2 years ago where Conk indicated he had changed his mind and now accepts it, but doesn’t like to talk about it. I wish he would publicly address it. I suspect he still has reservations about it or doesn’t want to piss off his family who are still denies.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      IICR, he had a problem with Sam Harris.

  5. gluonspring
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare. Ignorant people who think “wires=bomb”. I do not doubt in the slightest that his Muslim name contributed to their paranoia, but underlying that is a general ignorance about the world that renders electronics as another kind of alien Other to be terrified of.

    I would not encourage anyone, regardless of race or religion, to carry around a briefcase full of electronics unless they want to be harassed by the first authority figure they come across. At an airport, or if your name is Muslim sounding, unless you want your harassment to include arrest.

    So I expect it’s about equal parts institutionalized paranoia… treat every kid as a potential school shooter… generic fear of things they don’t understand… the kids unfortunate choice of a briefcase-like box for the gadget (playing into TV-tropes), and his Muslim name and dark skin.

    • JoanL
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      If they thought it was a bomb, wouldn’t they evacuate the school? So far as I know, they kept it right with them in the office.

      • gluonspring
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        Good point, and kind of bizarre. If they thought it was a bomb, they should have left it wherever it was, evacuated the school, and called the bomb squad. That they didn’t strongly argues that they didn’t think it was a bomb. And if they didn’t think it was a bomb, and he didn’t make any verbal threats, or leave it somewhere in some threatening looking manner (e.g duct taped under a table, say), there should have been a short conversation in the office to establish this and that should been the end of it.

        Well, maybe it was just be plain old harassment of the foreign kid with the terrorist name. Or just an example of the criminalization of campuses, which is evident everywhere. Maybe everyone really thought this was neither a bomb nor a threat, but they are programmed to go through the motions of acting like it’s a serious threat.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          Well clearly nobody was actually thinking about what was happening at the time. They were following through with a kind of script written by the culture at large. The mayor doesn’t think about the effects of social paranoia, the police only follow training, the teachers only panic due to alarmist meetings they’ve attended, etc.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Damn. That never thought he had a bomb.

      • Graham
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think they ever thought it was a bomb. I think they thought it was a hoax bomb. But perhaps I’m being to kind. Whatever they thought, it was outrageous behaviour on the part of the authorities.

        • Graham
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

          *too

  6. jay
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Circuits are nont bombs. Any copetent science teacher could have seen there was NO explosive charge. Do not the poice

    • jay
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      first, my apologies for the above gibberish. My connection went screwy while I was trying to type.

      Anyhow, it seems that anyone with half a brain in tech issues could see there is no explosive charge (are there not science teachers and technicians at the police department?)

      Why the HELL did they ASSUME it was a bomb? There are billions of circuit boards, hobbyists use them all the time. What possible reason to assume the most unlikely of all? That case, unfortunately, does seem to indicate unreasonable prejudice.

      But there is another angle to this which makes the point that the administration supports law enforcement policies which are not so different from this action.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/18/obama-says-he-supports-ahmed-mohamed-but-his-policies-dont/

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

        The average teacher and principal will not think that. They see a box with mysterious wiring and they will not know what it is, and if they think ‘bomb’, or even just ‘fake bomb’ (no cylinder marked TNT) they will go into high gear b/c of their 0 tolerance policy. Like we have heard, the folks who run public schools can react this way with an obviously toy gun, simply b/c it is 0 tolerance.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          ” . . . the folks who run public schools . . . .”

          As opposed to private schools?

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Beat me to it. To have a bomb, you need something that will explode, like gunpowder, TNT, C4, etc. Without an explosive charge, you are just left with a countdown timer…

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

        Do you know exactly, in all cases, what enough C4 (or similar, pretty easy to make at home) to kill a person looks like or could be inside of?

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

          C4 easy to make at home? How?

          • Jim Knight
            Posted September 19, 2015 at 5:22 am | Permalink

            Data probably available on the Internet, but it might raise the eyebrows of Homeland Security surveillance. Sadly, it is easy to make an effective “field expedient” substitute of C-4, but chatting about it on the Internet is probably not the place to discuss the recipe.

  7. Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    What’s astounding to me, beyond the likely racism and religious discrimination, is the amazing ignorance of the school staff and cops in not being able to understand what they were looking at. It’s a digital clock! Clearly, and simply. Those administrators and teachers were apparently too ignorant and stupid to see this. It obviously has an AC plug attached — perhaps they could have plugged it in?

    It’s good he’s finding another school — perhaps there his teachers might have knowledge past their own third-grade educations.

    Edmund

    • eric
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      What’s astounding to me, beyond the likely racism and religious discrimination, is the amazing ignorance of the school staff

      Yes it reminds me of an analogous (but incomparably less important) event that happened to me. I transferred into my HS from an overseas school. When I went in to the guidance counselor for class placement, I made sure to bring not only my transcript but also the catalog describing each class I took. She proceeded to place me into the lowest level remedial math and science classes available for a junior because she didn’t understand the terms and words used in the descriptions of the classes I took. Fortunately, the head of the math department happened to be walking by and heard us discussing it. Popped his head in, looked at the course book for about 20 seconds, and said “that’s precalculus. Put him in calculus. Put him in honors everything else.”

      Thank goodness for him. And what an amazingly ignorant counselor. Imagine; your entire job is supposed to be helping kids with class placement and college entry, and you don’t understand the verbal descriptions of upper level high school math and science courses.

      A few years later my sister got assigned the same counselor. Both me and my parents advised her to ask for a switch, and if she couldn’t get it, ignore the counselor altogether and just discuss ‘guidance’ questions with her regular teachers.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Indeed; did they not have a physics or electronics or what not instructor at the school who might be able to tell?

      Of course they are ignorant in other ways too – the “I don’t know what it is, so it must be dangerous” attitude is also ignorance.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        Well there was the ‘engineering’ teacher that he showed it to first. The one who apparently told him not to let any of the other teachers see it. With hindsight, the error was in not powering it off so it couldn’t beep in his English class.

        Just why the ‘engineering’ teacher wasn’t consulted, I couldn’t guess. Surely Ahmed would have given him as a reference when they started interrogating him.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      You would know, looking at that device, that it was, without a whisper of a doubt that it was a digital clock? Not a timer? Not a digital thermometer? Not a digital pressure sensor? You could read the FW in the ASIC by looking at its outside case? I’m skeptical of that claim.

  8. Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Believing Pew polls which show that Islam, on an international basis, is more radicalized than Christianity is exactly the same thing as being responsible for Texas officials throwing a kid with a Muslim name in jail for bringing a science project into school.

    That’s some trenchant analysis right there, by gum!

    Between C.J. Werleman, Vridar’s post of 9/14:

    [ http://vridar.org/2015/09/14/new-atheism-versus-old-atheism-and-what-is-a-cult/ ]

    and now this, I formally declare Open Season on New Atheists has officially started!

  9. frankschmidtmissouri
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Linus Pauling wrote of his childhood journeys to the local drug store where he was able to buy various chemicals, including cyanide salts, for his experiments. He bemoaned the fact that young people interested in science wouldn’t have been able to do anything of the sort today, due to the current safety culture.

    Not that I necessarily want children to play with cyanide (unless I know that they are going to grow up to be the greatest chemist of the century), but curtailing the curiosity of our future scientists and engineers is a prescription for decline, if I ever heard one.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      This! I think the attempt to close down creativity, curiosity, and apparently attempts to fulfill a dream (“… with dreams of becoming an engineer, he wanted to show his teacher…”) is the worst outcome, if not the worst crime, here.

    • jay
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Was just reading this the other day. I grew up in the 60s (and carried my pocket knife to school with full knowledge of the teachers) and I don’t know, I can’t imagine what hell young people go through today.

      http://fff.org/explore-freedom/article/public-school-students-are-the-new-inmates-in-the-american-police-state/

      • Filippo
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        I understand what you’re saying. However, what do teachers go through, especially at the middle and high school levels? How many times would it take for you to be cussed out by a student before you began contemplating another career? (The NY Times editorial board considers this a “garden variety” infraction, not warranting suspension.)

        I’ve had a middle schooler say to me, “Get out of my face, bitch!” Earlier this week, while monitoring a school cafeteria, a kindergartner (possibly, but no older than, a first grader) called me over to inform me that another student directly across from him had said to the effect, “Look at that fat-ass man,” the man in question being me. Now, I admit to not being a “no-arse wonder,” but I have to wonder where this youngster hears such talk – certainly not from public school teachers.

  10. Keith
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I find it hard to buy the school’s story that they thought it was a bomb when no one was evacuated, and from reports I’ve seen, the device wasn’t handled and transported as if it were a bomb. Sure looks like they just targeted this poor kid.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      The school never thought it was a bomb. They accused him of a hoax bomb, that’s why no evacuation. It may well be an example of profiling, but it’s just as likely or as much the fault of the foolish, zero tolerance polices to which students are subjected. Things as innocuous as bottle openers and toe-nail clippers are, in some school districts, to be construed as a weapon of found int he possession of a student.
      http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/index.ssf/2011/12/weapons_policies_zero_toleranc.html

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:24 am | Permalink

        I shouldn’t say they never thought it was a bomb, that’s probably not accurate, but he was arrested after it was determined to be a harmless clock, hence no evac.

      • jay
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        But the school says they acted out of an ‘abundance of caution’ which suggests they DID suspect a danger. If there was no danger, their excuse is BS

        • Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but that could also be interpreted as the reason for draconian enforcement of a zero tolerance policy.
          This is obviously a failure on many levels and I certainly am not dismissing the idea that profiling played a role in this shameful incident, but I can’t just assume, based on what I know at the moment that this entire fiasco is a ruse to harass a Muslim student. To me, it reads like a failure of common sense, compassion and competency all at the same time.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          An abundance of caution would have required the immediate evacuation of the school…

          • rickflick
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            An abundance of caution would be home schooling for everyone.

            • JohnnieCanuck
              Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:01 am | Permalink

              I thought most accidents occurred in the home. That’s what they’ve been saying for decades now.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted September 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          …an abundance of BS.

      • eric
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        The police interrogated him for an hour and a half without allowing him a phone call when he explicitly asked for one. Not only is that blatantly illegal, but it makes no sense at all if the police are claiming they thought it was a hoax.

        Nor is there any reason to put someone in handcuffs and perp walk them out of the school for bringing what you think is a hoax bomb in to school. By saying it’s a hoax, you are explicitly acknowledging that this person is not a violent offender.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

          That’s what I thought too.

          Hand cuffing a child in almost any circumstance, except maybe violence, is reprehensible.

          It this kind of behavior that speaks to the character and mentality of the police.

        • Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          I agree that it makes no sense. But the fact is, he was arrested for a hoax device.

  11. cherrybombsim
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    As usual, people who have zero direct knowledge of the situation are jumping up and down, screaming with virtuous certainty about the moral implications. As someone local near the scene, I would just appreciate it if everyone would take a deep breath and relax until more info comes out. Some things about this are a bit murky.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Such as. . . ?

      • jay
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Exactly. There was no bomb, and there was no apology.

    • tomh
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      There is nothing murky about it,it’s been reported from every available angle. What possible justification can you offer for the actions of the school?

      • eric
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        Well it was a brown kid wearing a NASA shirt instead of a sports team shirt. So he was obviously a thief in addition to everything else.
        [/sarcasm]

      • gluonspring
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        I don’t share your confidence in contemporary reporting. My experience has been that reporting has devolved into something very sloppy. It’s not hard at all for me to imagine that there could be more to the story than we know or has been reported so far.

        For example, contra all the reporting I saw yesterday, it seems like the clock is probably an old Radio Shack clock taken out of it’s original case and put into a pencil case. If correct, This strains the idea that he invented/designed/made the clock in any meaningful sense. Whether or not it is the specific Radio Shack model cited, I concur with the analysis at the link that this is clearly a manufactured special purpose clock board. It’s not an Arduino, breadboard, or any similar general purpose platform that would be the usual starting place for such a project these days. It’s a clock that was taken out of it’s original case and put into a pencil case that looks like a tiny briefcase. Any decent news agency would have found someone to do this analysis for them, but instead it falls to some random guy on the Internet, probably someone with an ax to grind (I don’t know), to do it instead.

        Now, there is little accounting for what kids think or say or why. It’s no crime to claim you invented/designed/built a clock when you merely gutted and repackaged an existing clock, but that does make the kid’s story a little less pristine. It is not beyond my imagining that the kid did build it just to get a rise out of his classmates and/or teachers, knowing it’d look like a TV-prop bomb and that as the Muslim kid he’d get a big reaction. Maybe he is the kind who thought it’d be funny to walk around acting coy “it’s just a clock”, while others got nervous (I might have when I was his age). Or maybe he did so at the urging of his parents in order specifically to trigger an overreaction for the PR for the plight of Muslims in the U.S., or some such thing. These are possible scenarios that I couldn’t rule out from the “reporting” that I’ve seen so far.

        Personally, I have no idea. Such possibilities don’t justify what still seems like an overreaction on the part of the school and police, but I think it’s important to keep in mind the actual limits of our knowledge.

    • Steve McCraw
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Seems like hypocritical advice to me. If school officials had taken a deep breath and relaxed, perhaps they would have exercised common sense, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      “Some things about this are a bit murky.”

      One thing I found a bit murky was a that in a police press conference they stated that when Ahmed was asked by them why he had brought it to school he wouldn’t answer, or was evasive. I think that’s why it went as far as it did. They suspected he had brought it as some sort of bad joke.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I wanted to add what Irving police Chief Larry Boyd specifically said, and that was that when school officials questioned him asking him his intentions and why he brought the device to school. He would only say it was a clock, but was not forthcoming at that time with any other details.
        Sure he might have been frightened, but it would not have been unreasonable in my opinion for school officials to think he might have done it as a misguided joke.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

          So this is what qualifies as a reasonable response to misguided jokes by responsible adults?

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            “So this is what qualifies as a reasonable response to misguided jokes by responsible adults?”

            If it was in fact a misguided joke it’s a bomb hoax. With potential criminal penalties. So you tell me what’s a reasonable response to a bomb hoax?

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

              “Bomb hoax” and “misguided joke” don’t seem like the same thing to me.

              In any case, there is no evidence that this was either one except in the heads of irresponsible adults.

              Ahmed has said he was quite clear about that all along. He told the Dallas Morning News that when he showed his English teacher the clock, she suggested it looked like a bomb.

              “I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me,'” Ahmed said.

              In a meeting with the principal, school staff continued to question the ninth-grader. “They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?'” Ahmed told the newspaper.

              “I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

              “He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

                ““Bomb hoax” and “misguided joke” don’t seem like the same thing to me.”

                They do to me. When I say joke I mean, as I thought was obvious, the intent to scare. like yelling boo at someone and causing them to jump is a joke. In this context it isn’t funny. though a kid might think it is.

                “In any case, there is no evidence that this was either one except in the heads of irresponsible adults.”

                School officials said he wouldn’t answer their questions about his intent in bringing it to school. While not evidence per se that it was a bomb hoax it’s certainly fishy, and reason enough for the school to notify police.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

                He’s a scared kid. He brings something to school that he’s proud of and gets treated like a terrorist. And you’re surprised he didn’t answer in a way you approve of?

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

                “He’s a scared kid. He brings something to school that he’s proud of and gets treated like a terrorist. And you’re surprised he didn’t answer in a way you approve of?”

                I think I said he might have just been scared. but if you’re going to have the zero=tolerance policies we have in schools these days, which I don’t approve of by the way, you ere on the side of caution. Let the cops sort it out.

        • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

          One more point. That might have been the kind of stupid thing I would have done when I was a kid. Particularly under the circumstances. As in let’s bring this clock to school and see how many people think it’s a crazy Muslim with a bomb. Not realizing how seriously people would take it.

          • Filippo
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            Well, if that was the young gentleman’s intention, he should not have intended it.

        • tomh
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          “I wanted to add what Irving police Chief Larry Boyd specifically said…”

          That sounds like the police chief just trying to rationalize his outrageous behavior. The kid is handcuffed, hauled away, not allowed to speak to his parents because he brought a science project to school – you think maybe he was scared and not able to articulate everything? Maybe they should have talked to the science teacher he showed it to, or maybe they should have called his parents. Now the chief is just trying to justify himself and his underlings.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

            “That sounds like the police chief just trying to rationalize his outrageous behavior.”

            Perhaps, but I didn’t get the impression he mentioned that to justify his behavior, nor how it would exactly. If anything it seems like justification for the schools decision to contact police.

  12. jay
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    There was a similar case a few years ago. Before flashing LED jackets became a brief fad and were sold in Walmart, a student at MIT made her own. She was hauled off at GUNPOINT in Boston airport for having a bomb. When that was shown to be just a bunch of flashing lights, TSA and Boston police did not back down, and charged her with the felony of creating a fake bomb.

    • jay
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Do people not realize that any ACTUAL bomb is NOT going to have flashing lights and visible wires? It will look like a book, or a computer, or a phone, or a box of Kleenex.

      • gluonspring
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        The Wikipedia article on the 2007 Boston bomb scare claims that city officials never stopped calling it a “Bomb hoax”.

        I saw an article recently that argued that our swelling prison population can be attributed as much to prosecutorial zeal as any change in law, that prosecutors have, since the late 1970’s, charged more and more people with felonies who would before then have been charged with lesser crimes. All of this seems possibly connected somehow, a societal zeal for over-the-top law enforcement. Strange for a country that uses the word “freedom” so liberally.

        • jay
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

          One should expect that ‘hoax’ should require some evidence of intent. Not intent, no hoax.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

            Wait, you’re saying that everyone seen driving a fertilizer truck around isn’t trying to pull a bomb hoax? Who woulda thunk it?

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          The land of the already locked up or highest likelihood of soon becoming locked up.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. Anyone who wanted to take a real bomb anywhere these days would make sure it just looked like an ordinary parcel. They certainly wouldn’t put a digital display on it.

        (When I was younger, in the 80’s, and home computers had just become popular, kids and not-so-young geeks used to wander round all the time with boxes of electronics with wires dangling out of them. Most of them were guilty of being nerds. Nobody ever thought to arrest them, though).

        cr

        • Filippo
          Posted September 19, 2015 at 5:47 am | Permalink

          ” . . . kids and not-so-young geeks used to wander round all the time with boxes of electronics with wires dangling out of them. Most of them were guilty of being nerds.”

          I wonder what jocks would have to carry around so as to be accused/guilty of being jocks. 😉

    • Filippo
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Makes me wonder if there is such a thing as a fake fake bomb.

  13. Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Yeah… being smart while brown… poor kid, he really looks scared. The good news is the outpour of support, offers for internships and tours etc.

    @Keith, yeah I was wondering about that too. They apparently knew that the device was harmless and yet they called in the police and have him detained! Would they have done the same thing with a white kid? I somehow doubt it. *sigh*

    This story made the news in Germany, too.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      The bad news is that the outpour of support, offers for internships and tours etc. is highly selective to just this one guy.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      It made the news in NZ too.

  14. Kevin
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Having taught high school science I can competently say that most of the science teachers I worked with would not have been able to discern a bomb from a clock.

    This is a sad realization of American education.

    Ahmed Mohamed is likely going to come out stronger because of this; that appears to be the good news. (If I was any dean of admissions at any college, he would already be on my acceptance list.)

  15. Posted September 18, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Watching his interviews, I think he has it together. The humiliation rets with his school. Also, I have a bit more respect for Governor Greg Abbott.

  16. loren russell
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Other wonderful tidbits: It appears that the school officials and/or police were browbeating Ahmed to sign a confession that the clock was a “Hoax Bomb” [capitalization semms mandatory in Irving]. The alternative to confessing was being arrested, which of course took place.

    This without parents, lawyer or faculty advocate in the room. It says a lot that the kid had the guts to refuse to take the easy way out.

    Numerous news reports mention that the kid’s father has been a candidate for president of Sudan for a party advocating more civil liberties, including an end to the laws against apostasy/conversion. My impression is that the family came to the US as political refugees.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      I suspect it was an hoax bomb: it was just a clock taken out and put into a very unusual pencil box. It certainly looks like it was intentionally made to appear like a hoax bomb. Whether the kid’s actions were stupidity or willful provocation are uncertain. Maybe his father could be behind this.

      I see no reason for Obama to have taken any notice of this. I suspect Islamophilia (or at the very least, Muslimophilia). I don’t stand with Ahmed Mohamed, but I don’t stand with the people who arrested him, either.

    • colnago80
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

      This without parents, lawyer or faculty advocate in the room.

      This is what I find most interesting. In most jurisdictions, the police are prohibited from question a minor without a parent or guardian being present.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Many police departments have a policy of allowing the parent of a minor to be present during custodial questioning following an arrest. That policy is not a constitutional requirement, and it does not apply to non-custodial question (or, of course, to questioning by non-police school personnel).

    • Filippo
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      “This without parents, lawyer or faculty advocate in the room. It says a lot that the kid had the guts to refuse to take the easy way out.”

      Which in my view somewhat/significantly undermines the notion that he was all that scared. Therefore, seems he could have earlier simply answered the officer’s question as to why he brought it to school, which would be simply to respond that it was a science/engineering class project. They probably would have come after him in any event, but did the student think his declining to answer that question would put an end to the matter?

      That said, bloody unconscionable for gang of adults to press him to sign the “Hoax Bomb” document. What is proof of a “hoax” bomb? Seems it can only possibly be intent (how is that determined – by Vulcan mind meld?) or statements witnessed/recorded by one or (ideally) more others. All they could do was try to force him to sign a statement. Someone had to step around and get that typed up in a timely manner. Unless they already had it formatted on the computer.)

      So, since they couldn’t force his signature, and if there’s a law against hoax bombs, are the authorities going to try to take him to court and present EVIDENCE to PROVE it?

  17. Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    It happened in Texas. ‘Nuff said.

  18. Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    My son’s junior high science teacher told him — with reference to a homework assignment — that snakes do not have bones.

    Just an example of what passes for a qualified teacher.

    Another young kid has been expelled for the school year for bringing a Japanese maple leaf to school.

    And of course, there was the Lite Brite fiasco a few years ago.

    • jay
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      In many places, particularly cites with strong teacher unions, it’s almost impossible to get rid of an unqualified teacher–the process can take years while the salary is still being paid. Wind’s up being cheaper to keep them.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      “Just an example of what passes for a qualified teacher.”

      So, are you making a general statement and, if so, how general?

      Who do you propose should submit to entering the teaching profession?

  19. mordacious1
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    The President invited this kid to the White House. I hope he realizes that if this kid tried to go through White House security with this thing in his backpack, he would have been treated the same as he was in Texas.

    Also, they interviewed the Chief of Police on CNN this morning and he stated that the school resource officer said, “Oh, that’s not who I thought it was”. Which I find credible. The guy walks in and expects it to be one of the usual suspects and instead sees one of the “good kids” and is surprised. I think Ahmed may have misheard what was said. I’m sure there were other witnesses to this statement and the truth will come out either way.

    Could this have been a hoax bomb or a bomb component? Of course. Was the English teacher doing the right thing by calling other staff to check it out. I think so. We wouldn’t want her to take it lightly if there was bad intent and she isn’t qualified to determine what it was…being an English teacher. The one area where criticism of this event is totally justified, is not calling a parent immediately after it was determined that the device was not an immediate threat.

    As much as the police and staff are being accused of overreacting because the kid was Muslim, the people criticizing the police and staff are also overreacting for the same reason.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      “The guy walks in and expects it to be one of the usual suspects and instead sees one of the “good kids” and is surprised.”

      And so he proceeds to arrest the kid and interrogate him without his parents present.

      Perfectly reasonable interpretation in some alternate universe, I suppose.

      • mordacious1
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes, as I stated, this is the one area where the police policy is open for criticism. Interview the student with his parents present, get his side, if it sounds like the most likely scenario, cut him loose. It is okay, imo, to question him about an unusual device.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          “What is it?”

          “It is a clock.”

          End of questioning.

          Any halfwit understands that bombs require explosives to be bombs. Equating a bunch of electronics with a bomb is a measure of profund stupidity. If we start acting like this every time we encounter something we are unfamilar with we are insane beyond recovery.

          I am dismayed to see people trying to argue that this is anything but a profoundly stupid display of adult incompetence.

          • mordacious1
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

            I can walk through TSA at the airport with a cell phone or a watch. No problem. Do you think you could get on a plane without question carrying the thing Ahmed made? Easy to replicate, so go ahead and try it. And those people are more trained than the English teacher, I’m thinking.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              I am further dismayed that some people confuse airports with middle schools.

              I don’t think your last two words apply.

              • mordacious1
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

                …because no one would do harm to a middle school. You’re right, I’m sure.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

                Because science projects are dangers to schools. Let’s play it safe and just not have any more of those hazardous things. Let’s get the TSA to start screening kids going to school. Because SOMEBODY might want to do harm to a middle school.

                Everything in this story points to adult incompetence. And you want to pretend that this kid’s electronics project is JUST LIKE a potential terrorist at an airport.

                Get a grip.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

            “What is it?”

            “It is a clock.”

            End of questioning.

            ——————————-

            You have a lot more confidence in the honesty of teen-aged boys than I do.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

              No, I just have higher expectations for the intelligence of adults in positions of authority.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

                Well, I think it’s important to consider the other side of it.

                In the case where a teen-aged boy brought a dangerous device to school with malice in his mind, and you asked what it was, how might he respond?

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

                Teach the controversy, right?

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                Humans never act badly, maliciously, or foolishly?

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                They obviously act badly, maliciously (possibly), and foolishly. As shown clearly by the adults in this case.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

            Well said, GB.

            cr

            • Filippo
              Posted September 19, 2015 at 5:55 am | Permalink

              I recently replaced the malfunctioning circuit board of my clothes dryer. I’ve contemplated taking it to school as a “show-and-tell” STEM-education item. I’m now contemplating not doing so.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:16 am | Permalink

                I can understand your reluctance. The absurdity is, circuit boards are everywhere. (I just saw an ad for a family car that says “more computing power than the Space Shuttle” – which is probably true). And a circuit board, on its own, is completely harmless. Heck, you could take the firing circuit for a nuclear warhead and, without the warhead or detonators, it’s no more inherently dangerous than my cellphone.

                It’s galling to have to take into account the possible over-reactions of paranoid ignoramuses.

                cr

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted September 19, 2015 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

                I recently replaced the malfunctioning circuit board of my clothes dryer.

                I’m impressed. I’m still trying to figure out what the “permanent press” and “delicate” settings are for.

              • Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

                “I’m impressed. I’m still trying to figure out what the “permanent press” and “delicate” settings are for.”

                I’m really impressed. I struggle turning it on. “trigger warning” That’s what I have a wife for.

              • rickflick
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:17 am | Permalink

                I always thought “delicate” meant no underwear. “Permanent press” – no clue.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

                ‘“Permanent press” – no clue.’

                It is a reference to the news people in Washington. Still…. no clue. 😉

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:35 am | Permalink

            Your right. The whole thing is a joke. Not the good kind.

            A bomb does need some kind of explosives.

            Not just fire-crackers either, but which were enough to send T y T’s into a frenzy when some guy changing homes had some knives and forks and fireworks in a backpack, stopped off at an abortion clinic looking for a job.
            Security picked up on it but there was nothing to it. Except TYT, trying to even the Muslim Christian terrorist count. Went on and on about it.
            TyT is disingenuous and can not be relied on for unbiased reporting.

    • jay
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      ANYTHING COULD be a bomb or bomb component. You can talke a walk through Walmart or Home Depot and bring back hundreds of absolutely legal items which COULD be bomb components. There was ZERO reason why this generic item should have been viewed any differently. No more reason than to assume another student’s cellphone, or another student’s gym sneakers are possible bombs (both can theoretically be bombs).

      This absurdity needs to stop. Judgement (and reasonable respect) are necessary.

      I wonder if the rise in ‘zero tolerance’ mindset is a by product of discrimination lawsuits? If an official uses any kind of judgement, one way or another, someone could accuse him of discrimination. Hence we have a culture of mindless bureaucratic thugs.

      • mordacious1
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        Just wear sneakers with wires coming out of them at an airport sometime and see what happens. I think that the question here is, would the blue-eyed, white kid be treated similarly? I’m thinking he would and this kid just happened to be Muslim…schools overreact to everything nowadays. One of my kids made a stone-aged ax for a project and I walked the thing (in a bag) into the office and had an adult deliver it to the teacher. I didn’t want my daughter walking around school with something that could easily crush a skull. The point is, if you know how the school will react, act accordingly.

        • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          You did the right thing with the replica ax. You told the people in charge about it and handled it perfectly.

          How would you react if some boy secreted into school? How would you know, for sure, that such an act was innocent? That this kid didn’t actually harbor a desire to brain some one he didn’t like?

      • Posted September 21, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        This is related to some overzealous “chemical warnings” places. X is refused sale because it could be used to synthesize a street drug. But how indirect is that policy? Should one not sell charcoal, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen because with enough work those make countless compounds that are harmful or worse?

    • eric
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Could this have been a hoax bomb or a bomb component?

      Could your laptop or cell phone be a hoax bomb or a bomb component? Of course. So when TSA takes you aside next time you fly, locks you in a room for 90 minutes, interrogates you, and refuses to let you call a lawyer, that will be okay with you, right?

      • mordacious1
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        *sigh* I already addressed that issue in my original comment and once again in a reply to GB.

  20. Doris Fromage
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The speculations about his “bright future” have me wondering if he’s being considered or contacted by one of our intelligence/security agencies. What better way to groom a future infiltrator? “Oh, see how he was attacked for being ‘an outsider’ while he was yet a child!” And couldn’t someone who has the skills to make an innocuous household object look like a bomb conceivably make a bomb look like an innocuous household object? A bright future indeed O_O

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      And your speculation has me wondering if you might not be the next Tom Clancy …

  21. Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the young man was treated shabbily and that this treatment may well have been at least partly driven by racism and/or fear of Muslims. I don’t think he should have been arrested or handcuffed (I fail to see what either of these was supposed to accomplish, in reality). Held in the Principal’s office until whatever it is is figured out maybe.

    However, I don’t fault school for acting with a lot of caution (in the days of frequent school shootings, etc.) If someone brought an unidentified electronic device I might well stop them as well. (I have been in situations where I’ve been responsible for the safety of a group of children — this is a heavy responsibility.)

    I don’t think anyone has comprehensive knowledge of what a small bomb might look like. I certainly do not. The bomb that brought down PanAm 103 (Lockerbie) would have fit in a plastic sandwich keeper. I would not feel so confident of being to easily ID any sort of bomb. (Even the pros have to work hard at it.)

    How much plastic explosive does it take to kill one person? Not much. It would probably fit in a writing pen pretty easily.

    I wouldn’t have too much confidence in being able to ferret out any device like that that someone might come up with.

    It’s easy in hindsight to say, oh yeah, they were so foolish to think it was a bomb. If I were in a position of having to protect the students and staff of a school (and not being a munitions expert) I think I too would err on the side of great caution.

    Yeah, I loved having the freedom to play with dangerous chemistry when I was a youth too. And we started several (luckily quickly extinguished) grass fires — in residential areas. A friend of my brother’s wasn’t so lucky: He blew his left hand off (at about age 13). Another friend of mine blew a big chuck of his thumb off, right in front of me. Teen-aged boys are not known for their forethought, judgement, or caution.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I agree with everything you’re saying here. It’s good to err on the side of caution. The problem arises when it’s been confirmed that the threat was non-existent and then the kid is still punished for doing something that could be perceived as a threat. There are weapons that can be concealed in devices that look like pens. Imagine if one of these were ever used in a school. The hysteric reaction in this climate would likely involve something along the lines of providing students with pre-approved writing utensils and seizing upon any child who brings his or her own pens and pencils to school. It’s absurdity. We’re well beyond the line for personal privacy invasion when we expect people to have the mind-reading abilities to figure out what any other person may perceive to be a threat. The focus should be on whether there was a threat in reality, and when it’s confirmed that there wasn’t, that should be the end of it.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I agree with your analysis. My first statement was that it wasn’t handled well.

        I’m just glad I’m not in a position to have to make such calls.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Who do we expect to take on such responsibility? In some (if not all) states omniscient legislators impose “in loco parentis” responsibility on teachers/administrators. Of course they get paid the big bucks to justify that.

    • eric
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think anyone has comprehensive knowledge of what a small bomb might look like.

      Then you have no reason for accusing someone of having one.

      Seriously, greater ignorance should not be a reason to leap to highly improbable conclusions; the reverse should be true. The more ignorant you are of what a bomb looks like, the less willing you should be to call something a bomb.

      The position you’re stating is equivalent to this: if you’re not a doctor and you hear a cough, its okay to accuse the cougher of having smallpox. Because hey, as a non-expert how could you know it wasn’t that? That’s just crazy. The sane and rational position to take is: if you’re not a doctor, don’t diagnose rare diseases.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        You have a great deal of confidence in being about to positively and conclusively identify any unidentified electronic device.

        There is no implied right to bring whatever the heck you want to to school. Especially without telling anyone or clearing it through the office.

        As I noted, one of my brothers friends, a kid I knew well, blew his hand off. He didn’t try to or want to. Kids are not good judges of how to handle dangerous things.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

          “Kids are not good judges of how to handle dangerous things.”

          This statement is correct. That is why we rely on adults to exercise common sense to help bring kids up.

          In this case the kid was a perfectly good judge. The adults failed.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      “I don’t think anyone has comprehensive knowledge of what a small bomb might look like. I certainly do not. The bomb that brought down PanAm 103 (Lockerbie) would have fit in a plastic sandwich keeper.”

      Well I guess we need to start calling the police whenever a kid walks into a school with a lunchbox. You never know what might be inside!

      You said:

      “If someone brought an unidentified electronic device I might well stop them as well.”

      Well fine. Stop them. Invite the engineering teacher to come look at this scary spider thing. Ask some questions, like “What is it?” and “How does it work?”.

      Incompetent adults acted stupidly. Calling the police was completely unnecessary. The police acted stupidly, arresting and handcuffing and interrogating the kid without parents was stupid.

      We better stop allowing kids to go to school wearing shoes. They might put a bomb in one.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        “Incompetent adults acted stupidly. Calling the police was completely unnecessary. The police acted stupidly, arresting and handcuffing and interrogating the kid without parents was stupid.”

        I agree.

        But that is not about being very cautious.

        As I said in my original comment: They acted badly.

        But I can’t fault them for preventing him (at least initially, until it was shown what it was) from carrying an unidentified, home-made, electronic device into the school.

        I am not as confident as you are in being able to immediately and conclusively identify threats.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          You must be in favor of scanning every lunch bag coming into school, too. And every backpack an jacket.

          There is no end to the absurdities if you allow not being able to “immediately and conclusively identify threats”. It is an impossible goal and a pathetic excuse for adult irresponsibility. Or worse.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            You may put words into my mouth to your hearts’ content.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

              I’m not putting words in your mouth, I’m expressing the logical consequence of your argument.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say lunch bag, or tennis shoe, or tupperware.

            I have been referring to, the entire time, to home-made, unidentified, electronic devices (the case in question).

            Specifically, do you think it would have been OK for the school to confiscate the device and hold it until it’s proved to not be dangerous?

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

              What makes you think there isn’t a home-made, unidentified, electronic device inside the lunch bag?

              And since when does “electronic device” translate to “danger”? I think it only does in the minds of people who are very ignorant about what a circuit board looks like. In 2015 that is remarkable.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                So you won’t answer?

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

                You know the FW inside the ASIC by looking at the outside of its case?

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

                I don’t usually answer rhetorical questions, which is what I took that to be.

                It is reasonable for a officials to take a look at things coming into schools. It is not reasonable to confuse a bit of electronics with a bomb. And, I might note, they didn’t. Had they seriously thought there was a bomb, they would have immediately evacuated the building.

                There is no excuse, IMO, for the level of paranoid caution that that you seem to be advocating.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

                “You know the FW inside the ASIC by looking at the outside of its case?”

                This conversation has descended to absurd depths. Get a grip.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

                Well, then, I think we are in agreement, actually:

                It’s good to screen for harmful devices that students (or staff) might bring into the school.

                The specific school handled this specific case very badly: By calling the cops, having the kid arrested, handcuffing him, giving him the perp walk (as it seems they did).

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                ” “You know the FW inside the ASIC by looking at the outside of its case?”

                This conversation has descended to absurd depths. Get a grip. “You know the FW inside the ASIC by looking at the outside of its case?”

                This conversation has descended to absurd depths. Get a grip.”

                I disagree (as someone who designs and tests electronic devices).

                The key elements in an electronic device are the IC and the FW running on it. Unless you know these, or can test the function of the device, you don’t know what it is intended to do. These are not readily discernible by human visual inspection.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                We are not in agreement. This was not a harmful device.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                “We are not in agreement. This was not a harmful device.”

                Easy to say in hindsight, after the facts have been turned up.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

                I’m perfectly aware of how firmware works.

                But you seem to be saying we need to prevent any electronic device into a school unless the administrators and local police department has analyzed the firmware. Srsly?

                I repeat. Get a grip.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                “But you seem to be saying we need to prevent any electronic device into a school unless the administrators and local police department has analyzed the firmware. Srsly?”

                Wrong.

                I said, and I repeat, home-made, unidentified electronic device (never mind the order of the adjectives). And yes, I think it’s perfectly sane to confiscate such until they are shown to be — whatever they are.

                You seem to be claiming that by glancing at the PCB, you can discern the function of device. That is incorrect. That was the point of mentioning the IC and FW. You don’t know.

                I have a proposal. If you request, I will post some design drawings (or photos if you prefer) for real, fielded, functioning PCBs. I’ll even show every component on the hybrid circuit. I’ll even provide the code for every conductor on the IC(s). Then you explain to all what those circuits do.

                How about it?

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

                “I’ll even show every component on the hybrid circuit.”

                That would be rather pointless, wouldn’t it?

                Unless you are suggesting that such diagrams should be provided to school administrators for use in cases like this. Srsly?

                The fact that non-engineers are not savvy to the internals of firmware is, frankly, a rather silly point.

                These adults were not behaving in a mature and responsible way. Why you insist on defending their behavior with obscure arguments about firmware is one of life’s profound, but minor, mysteries.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

                No, I am explaining how it’s not possible to glance at a PCB and tell the function of the device. You seem to be claiming otherwise. Hence the claim that the people in the school were so foolish for suspecting the clock.

                As noted several times, I agree that they should not have treated the boy as they did.

                I think it’s perfectly OK to confiscate a home-made, unidentified electronic device at least until it is identified clearly. (Note that I did not say cell phone, ipod, lunch bag, etc. I am sticking to the case in hand: An unidentified, home-made electronic device.)

                Your claim appears to be: Any homemade electronic device that any child brings to school is either: Safe by default or can be immediately determined to be safe by random staff in any school or simply by the student (any student who might bring such a device) saying so.

                I am highly skeptical of such a claim. (I’m not saying this is your claim, I’m saying that that appears to be your claim. Please clarify.)

                Do you think it is wrong to prevent students from bringing unidentified, home-made electronic devices into a school without inspecting them and clearly ascertaining their function?

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

                “I think it only does in the minds of people who are very ignorant about what a circuit board looks like.”

                You are claiming (it seems to me) that it’s easy to tell what an electronic device does by looking at it. I am claiming that it’s not easy. (Hence the entire discussion about ICs and FW, etc.)

                (Or maybe you are claiming all electronic devices are safe, full stop, or that any electronic device possessed by persons below a certain age is safe, full stop.)

                In order to prove your claim (as I see it: That it’s easy to tell the function of an electronic device by looking at it), you can take up my suggestion of you identifying the function of some actual, real-world circuits, with much more information about them than the (almost certainly non-technical) staff of a school might have if presented with an unidentified, home-made electronic device.

                I think I’ve made my point as clearly as I can. We may just have to remain in disagreement on this issue.

                Cheers.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

                All I’m claiming is that there is a level of common sense that is required to get through life. And responsible adults need to be able to excercise common sense. There is nothing in this story that indicates that the adults involved exercised the least bit of common sense, from detaining the kid to arresting him and suspending him. This is shameful behavior by people who ought to be better able to manage a school than seems to be the case. And defending them on the basis of not knowing the specifics of firmware in hardware devices is quite simply bizarre.

              • W.Benson
                Posted September 18, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

                Remember to check the kids for white powders too. It could be anthraX!!!

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

                The commentary above about electronic circuit boards not being inherently safe, because of possible issues with firmware (FW) and application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are ill-informed. No one can write FW that is physically dangerous, or equivalently construct an ASIC that is physically dangerous. The only way these things can be physically dangerous is by controlling some other objects in the physical world, for example objects comprising reactive chemicals. I say this as an experienced electronic engineer, but it is firmly within the realm of common-sense.

              • Michael Waterhouse
                Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:56 am | Permalink

                Most printed circuit boards with basic components are self evidently harmless.

                A large electrolytic may make a small bang if connected the wrong way, with a biggish battery but ‘circuitry’ unless it is connected to something significant, is harmless.
                Which is why we are all allowed to wander round with our devices.

    • Scientifik
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      “It’s easy in hindsight to say, oh yeah, they were so foolish to think it was a bomb. If I were in a position of having to protect the students and staff of a school (and not being a munitions expert) I think I too would err on the side of great caution.”

      I agree. Today we can say that it was foolish to react this way, but if the contraption turned out to be a real bomb causing real damage, we would be hearing voices lambasting the teachers for allowing the kid to parade through the school with a bomb and doing nothing.

      • tomh
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Except that it wasn’t “in hindsight” that they realized that it wasn’t a bomb, they knew it wasn’t a bomb the first time they looked at it. The teacher who was so worried took it and kept it in her desk, for crying out loud. If they wanted to “err on the side of great caution” they could have called the bomb squad and evacuated the school. The only thing being done in hindsight is making up phony justifications for their behavior.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          I agree. The first thing they do in the event of a suspicious item is evacuate the building.

          (There was a bomb scare where I worked ~30 years ago. An unidentified leather case was spotted under a desk. The building was evacuated and the Civil Defence Officer was walking around muttering about an “unidentified device” (much more impressive than ‘box’) which made it sound as if someone had peeped inside and seen wires and mechanical bits. The bomb squad blew the lock off without much damaging the four lawn bowls balls inside. The owner of the balls was pissed off – someone had returned them and since he was away, just left the case under his desk.)

          cr

  22. Posted September 18, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine posted this article from reason.com.

    I agreed with a lot of what it was saying, which are the same points Jerry brings up, however, I feel like this whole issue is being framed as a false dichotomy in the media. While it states that it’s “plausible” that bigotry had something to do with this, we can’t say that’s been “definitively proven.”

    Definitively proven? We can’t definitively prove it was insane zero tolerance either. It could have been pure bigotry, it could have been purely zero tolerance insanity, or as I suspect, both and who really knows in what proportion. The problem seems to be that people are too quick to dismiss the bigotry explanation in favor of bad policy or point out people are focusing too much on the fact the boy is Muslim.

    This is Texas, a place known for it’s hardline Christianity and a town with a mayor who seems a little bit skewed towards over the top patriotism and American exceptionalism. Definitive proof? That’s not going to be forthcoming. But reason to believe a Muslim kid named Ahmed Mohammed was discriminated against (of course by other religious people) in Texas? This is not far fetched by any stretch of the imagination.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Word.

  23. eric
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Update; this afternoon the father said Ahmed would not be returning to that school. They are still deciding whether to find another school in the area or have him go elsewhere.

    Nice going, MacArthur HS. If your goal was to make the school whiter and dumber, you just succeeded.

  24. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Very well said Jerry and I think we are all victims of fear mongering.

    Parents are afraid to let their children walk around the block to school because they think crime is up when evidence shows that we are living in the most peaceful time.

    Seeing a brown boy with a clock freaks out staff at a school!

    Police wear body armour all the time (even campus cops on my campus) as if they are going to war!

    It’s easy to freak out when seeing violence. I had my front passenger side window smashed out of my car yesterday. I started thinking about how someone could have harmed me because this person, in an attempt, I presume, to steal the car or things in it, walked all the way up a dark, long driveway to do so. My dog barked & scared him away before he could do any more damage. I actually said out loud to people, “I know statistically I shouldn’t freak out. I should trust statistics.” I said the same thing when a toddler was found dead after a family friend murdered her father then abducted & murdered her. “It is unusual for a family friend to plot to kill you & your family.” I told myself.

    This is where science is comforting. If it weren’t for statistics & the scientific method, I would be in a real state of panic.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      The clock.

      Do you think they would have reacted the same way if he had brought in a wind-up alarm clock or an antique cuckoo clock?

      • GBJames
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        And do you know that a wind-up clock can be used to trigger a bomb? And that antique cuckoo clocks would make excellent containers for home-made bombs?

        • Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          Is that a yes or a no?

          • GBJames
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

            It makes no difference if I think they would have or not. They should not have responded to this situation they way they did regardless of how they might have responded to him walking in with an Apple Watch on his wrist.

            • Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              “They should not have responded to this situation they way they did”

              Agreed. They behaved badly in the way they treated this kid.

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted September 19, 2015 at 2:00 am | Permalink

          Yep, they were better because of actual mechanical connections.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      Not to burst your bubble, but some fear in a situation like that is warranted. When someone is actively trying to break into your property, statistics about the likelihood of being robbed go out the window. All things equal, it’s unlikely, but that no longer applies when the rare event is actually occuring. Of course, you can still take comfort in the fact that most thieves are after valuables, but were a thief to enter my household, all that would go out the window too and I sure as hell would err on the side of caution that he may be a lunatic willing to harm me.

      Just as it’s silly to worry on a daily basis about being struck by lightning, it’s not silly to avoid standing at the highest point in the area with a lightning rod in your hand during the peak of a thunderstorm.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you, Diana. Too much institutionalised paranoia these days, not helped by sensationalist reporting. Who can watch the news with its carefully collected crime stories without getting that “it could happen to me” feeling? (Well, it could, but the odds are it probably never will).

      I’ve always found it comforting that in the vast majority of murders, the killer was known to the victim. Which means that, since I can’t imagine any of my close acquaintances doing away with me for any reason, I’m probably fairly safe.

      cr

  25. frankschmidtmissouri
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I hope his parents sue the pants off those idiots.

    • Scientifik
      Posted September 21, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      They should sue the Muslim extremists spreading terror and fear throughout the world…

  26. Anonymous
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    After all was said and done, the police were satisfied and no charges filed, I don’t understand why the school felt it necessary to suspend the boy for three days. I haven’t seen what there justification is for that.

    • tomh
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, that shouldn’t have posted as anonymous.

  27. tomh
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    After all was said and done, the police were satisfied and no charges filed, I don’t understand why the school felt it necessary to suspend the boy for three days. I haven’t seen what there justification is for that.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      For causing them to collectively act like assholes and bring down public derision on themselves?

      cr

  28. John Crisp
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Excuse me for the frivolous intervention, but is it not time that the US formed a NCA (national clock association) to combat the unreasonable power of the NRA. In the light of the high risk of clocks in schools and other public places, every student, teacher and public servant should be entitled to carry their own clock in order to protect themselves from the risk of criminal clock carrying. Of course, there is a danger of escalation, the thin end of the wedge: one child comes into school carrying an egg timer, and before you know it you’re onto cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, open carry wristwatches, concealed pocket watches, digital timing devices concealed in mobile phones, an eventually… the nuclear option, an atomic clock, considerably manufactured in Iran through the illegal processing of caesium.

  29. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m bugged by TYT blaming New Atheists for the attitude to this poor kid. Tens of millions of conservative Christians are suspicious of ALL Muslims, while NAs speak against Islam to a greater or lesser extent in a more general way, but somehow this is the fault of NAs, and in Texas, a bastion of right-wing conspiracy theorists.

    I also don’t agree with his support of religious tribunals, whatever the religion. Women and the socially powerless are frequently victims of these. They do not have a choice whether they use them, as he seems to think. Secular justice is, in principle at least, blind, and we should not be sanctioning other forms of justice if they cannot guarantee to operate on the same basis.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      I noticed the same irksome comments. I am not copacetic with any religious “counseling”, even though it is not against any law. He says it’s fine for Priests to resolve issues between Catholics. But, what they are enforcing is a 2000 year old rule book with no oversight. If your spouse beats you until you turn black and blue, that’s just something you need to get used to since divorce is not allowed. Fortunately, modern ethics and law have reduced the influence of the churches, but that’s no reason to lose interest in their idiocy.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

        Exactly! And a lot of people don’t really have a choice in those situations, especially women – they can’t escape and have no protection. In some communities, such as if they were born into a cult, they may not even know they have rights under the law.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      “I’m bugged by TYT blaming New Atheists for the attitude to this poor kid.”

      Doesn’t surprise me in the least. Cenk, and Anna worship at the alter of Glenn Greenwald, and C who shall not be named. They are simply echoing their rhetoric.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        There’s a certain website that is calling New Atheism a cult now too. They also worship at the altar of those you refer to.

        • Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          I’m actually grateful to TYT. Up until very recently I was an almost dogmatic liberal. If TYT said it, or Huffpo printed it I accepted it as fact.
          Seeing how dishonest they were in their mischaracterizations of Sam Harris following the Ben Affleck incident made me question more of what they had to say. I soon discovered they were little better than Fox news in their willingness to distort reality to suit their agenda. Which caused me to reconsider many of my long held opinions. I haven’t changed many, but I don’t see things nearly as black, and white as I did.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

            Yeah – actually, a lot of this seems to have started with the Affleck incident. Before that I considered TYTs gnus.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

            The Harris incident definitely knocked my opinion of TYT down a few notches as well. I still do appreciate a lot of their commentary though. But, yes, bravo on the reassessing your ideas. We should all do that more often. To try to divide the plethora of issues in the world into liberal and conservative camps is just silly to begin with. Everyone on each side is supposed to agree on all the issues? It’s absurd and one of the numerous reasons the current political climate in the United States disgusts me. I try to avoid the terms conservative and liberal altogether when describing a position. It subtly implies that the group dictates the thinking rather than reason.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted September 19, 2015 at 5:13 am | Permalink

              What’s TYT?

              • JohnnieCanuck
                Posted September 19, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

                The Young Turks, started as an online news show on YouTube, then moved to Current TV. Cenk Uygur, Jimmy Dore, Ana Kasparian and Jimmy Dore

              • Posted September 19, 2015 at 11:35 am | Permalink

                “Cenk Uygur, Jimmy Dore, Ana Kasparian and Jimmy Dore”

                Jimmy Dore didn’t need to be mentioned twice, once was already too many.

              • JohnnieCanuck
                Posted September 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

                That’s what I get for cutting and pasting from the media without proof reading. I got it from their own TYT Network page on the CNN GOP debate.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:20 am | Permalink

                Thanks

                cr

  30. Posted September 18, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I am unhappy with the apparent assumption that Ahmed is a Muslim. Do we assume someone named John Smith is a Christian?

    • tomh
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      The original CNN story identified him as a Muslim.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        Okay, but do we know that they didn’t jump to a lazy conclusion?

        • tomh
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

          We don’t, though I think it would have been corrected by now. Of course, none of it may be true. They may have made the whole thing up.

          • W.Benson
            Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

            Touché!

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

            Actually I don’t think it would have been corrected by now. The normal convention is to simply assume people inherit their religion from their parents. This is only because religion is normalised. I think we should challenge this normalisation. Being religious means believing seriously irrational things. Nobody should be labeled that way unless they explicitly put their hand up and admit that yes, they’ve thought about it and decided that (for whatever crazy reason) they’re buying into the madness. Especially so for children.

            • tomh
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

              I agree that we shouldn’t assume a religion because of a name, and children shouldn’t be automatically assigned their parents’ religion, though, of course, they are. In this specific case, though, there is no doubt the family and the kid are Muslim. The family lawyer is quoted, “He’s just a bright, 14-year-old, American-Muslim kid, and all he did was a science project for his school.” Ahmed himself said that in middle school he had been called “bombmaker” and a “terrorist.” “Just because of my race and my religion.”

              Apparently there is a growing Muslim population in Irving, and a history of difficult relations.

              • Posted September 18, 2015 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

                Okay, thanks for that. I hadn’t seen the quote in which Ahmed declares that he is religious.

      • Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        “The original CNN story identified him as a Muslim.”

        I don’t see how it matters. He’s dark skinned, and named Mohamed. If there is bigotry involved it’s anti-Muslim bigotry.

        That being said I don’t know that there is. What I’m fairly certain of though is if his name were John Smith, this wouldn’t be making national news, he wouldn’t be getting support from across the country, and he wouldn’t be visiting the white house any time soon.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          And the chances are small that they would have hauled him off in handcuffs from school.

          • Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

            “And the chances are small that they would have hauled him off in handcuffs from school.”

            You seem so sure of that. Historically it’s white kids who are doing mass violence in schools. If this kid was white, and had long stringy hair they probably would have tackled him while visions of columbine danced in their heads, the moment he opened the box.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

              As reasonably sure as you are that John Smith wouldn’t be visiting the White House.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Richard Dawkins laments calling children by the religion of their parents. Ask him again when he’s 18 or 20.

  31. Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    When the dust settles he may want to thank those responsible.

  32. Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    You ask: “Was his being a Muslim the main reason he was detained?”

    But is that known? He might be the son of Muslim parents but I don’t think we even know that. It’s possible they could be non believers with Arabic names. But in any case we shouldn’t label kids with the religion of their parents.

    • Posted September 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, I tried to make the same point, but you highlight the key issue better.

  33. Posted September 18, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I did some digging, and data is pretty hard to come by, but I did find this FBI report. The document mentions an incident with a pipe bomb outside a dorm room in 1993, another incident involving a firebomb in a dorm in 1981, and a third incident involving a 41 year old man setting off two pipe bombs on a campus in 1999.

    Thus, we have a span of over three decades with three confirmed cases of bombs on college campuses. A rate of 1 incident per decade out of the tens of thousands of college campuses in America is, needless to say, an exceedingly rare event. One would think that it would be even more rare in primary school, where not as many students would possess the know-how to put together a device and would also be under closer watch from adult supervisors in general.

    Now, given that just about any electronic device can be made into a makeshift bomb (or at least a detonator for a bomb), it is immensely irrational to consider any kind of electronic that a kid has is at all likely to be a bomb. And, if there is reason to believe it is a bomb, the way Ahmed Mohammed’s device was handling qualifies as complete incompetence if there was any reason to believe the thing would explode.

    As far as things we should spend time worrying about, the likelihood of a school-aged kid bringing a home-made bomb onto campus should rate somewhere between being struck in the head by an asteroid and being electrocuted by your iPhone.

  34. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    “Kids are safer than ever” – quote from Popehat.

    Demonstrably not.

    (I guess it depends how you define ‘safety’).

    cr

  35. tomh
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Even after determining that the clock was just a science project, the school suspended Ahmed of three days and sent out this letter to all parents. It implies that Ahmed violated the Student Code of Conduct when it says,

    “I recommend using this opportunity to talk with your child about the Student Code of Conduct and specifically not bringing items to school that are prohibited.”

    Apparently this is the reason for the suspension.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Well, I’ve not seen the school’s policies list. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and bet a few bucks that there isn’t a prohibition on bringing de-constructed or home-made electronic clocks to school.

      I could be wrong, of course.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      That sort of official fuckwittery (is that a word? Well it is now) makes my blood boil.
      “Suspicious-looking item”, “ongoing police investigation”, “student code of conduct” – self-justifying bullshit.

      It predictably follows every display of spectacularly heavy-handed official incompetence. I’m waiting (without much hope) to see the first ever official who promptly admits “we screwed up”. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime.

      cr

      • tomh
        Posted September 18, 2015 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely right. Self-serving bs, same as the police statement.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:38 am | Permalink

      In my substitute teaching adventures, I try to arrive at a school earlier rather than later, and try to leave home earlier to compensate for likely heavy traffic. Sometimes there’s not much traffic, and I arrive with a fair chunk of time to spare. But, there is apparently such a thing as arriving too early.

      One day I arrived early at a school (at which I had previously substituted several times, but I don’t presume to consider myself so special that they should necessarily remember my radiant countenance).

      As had been my occasional habit upon arriving early at a school, I opened the back of my van and sat on the back bumper, playing my modest little classical guitar and composing myself for the day. A real cause for concern, eh? (There were no wires hanging out of it; perhaps there shoulda been? 😉 ) I think the average reasonable observer would say that I was not skulking about or otherwise acting suspiciously. (I clean up purty good and was wearing a tie and could easily pass for a school principal. I looked quite like the bloody archetypical conventional WASP.)

      About 12-15 minutes passed, and two staff members (at least one an administrator) sporting walkie-talkies came up to me and asked if they could help me. (Apparently I had made an arriving teacher nervous. I wonder if she would have been equally nervous had I been reading the newspaper, sitting either at the back of the van or in the driver’s seat?) I replied to the effect that I was there to substitute (I specifically named the teacher) and had arrived earlier than I expected and had a few minutes to chill my heels.

      They were satisfied with that explanation, but I haven’t played my guitar in such circumstances since. Not pleasant being approached/questioned like that. Regarding all such school-related matters, I try to have “the circumspection of a Baptist minister.” (I forget where I heard that quote.) If staff are that worried, maybe they should open and inspect my guitar case, and shine a light inside the guitar, every time I enter a school, eh?

      • rickflick
        Posted September 19, 2015 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Then, on the other hand(there’s always another hand to consider), if someone had shone a light into Timothy McVeigh’s van…

  36. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    For another suitably sarcastic account see Lowering the Bar
    http://www.loweringthebar.net/2015/09/texas-police-wont-charge-for-clock.html

    I think it’s just an example of the ‘safety culture’ gone toxic and embracing the slippery slope fallacy. “An issue has been raised and we have to be seen to be taking it seriously. Next time it might be a real bomb hoax and if we ignore this one, we could be accused of facilitating terrorism. Therefore, we have to take every possible procedural step to deal with this incident”.

    That’s the way the (paranoid) official mind works.

    cr

    • GBJames
      Posted September 18, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      Although it might distress you, I agree.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t distress me at all, though I find it unusual – maybe somewhat disconcerting 😉

        But I’ve been following this thread and I agree with your comments 100%.

        cr

  37. Jeffery
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    The other day I stopped my van by the main bus stop in our city and set several items on on of the benches with, “free” tags on them- one was a black doll (rather a nice one) and one was a little black CD carrying case. I have been doing this for years with everything from shoes to backpacks so the “financially-challenged” people that have to use the buses get a chance to get some freebies; the stuff always vanishes instantly.

    I drove the ten blocks to my apartment house and, as I made a turn onto my street, I noticed a cop following closely behind me. I thought, “Did I not signal? Did I not come to a complete stop?- I thought I did…” As I pulled into my driveway he pulled up to the curb, so he definitely was interested in me (he had not activated his lights, though). I stopped and opened my door asking, “What’s the problem, officer?” as he walked up. He asked, “Were you just down at 8th and Jersey?” I said, “Yes”. He asked, “Did you drop something off down there?” I said, “Yes, a doll and a CD case.” He said, “Were you dropping them off FOR someone?” I said, “No”, and went on to explain to him that I’ve done this sort of thing for years and donate items to many different charities in town (most of which I find in dumpsters). He asked, “Do they KNOW that you do this?” I laughed and said I doubted that all of the several hundred people who regularly ride the bus do- it’s an, “anonymous” thing; first come; first served.

    As we talked, I could see him relax, and he began to get apologetic: “OK; That’s all right- it’s just that, you know, someone thought it looked ‘suspicious'”….and sort of trailed off. I’m aware that the police HAVE to respond to any call, and didn’t blame the officer, but I wonder of the person who was so scared that such a simple act would motivate them to put in a call on me (it was broad daylight; I made no attempt to hurry or hide my identity; the police station is half a block up the street). I thought to myself, “The terrorists have won.”

  38. Posted September 19, 2015 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Can’t read all the comments as on bus from Kraków to Praha.

    The most devastating for me is the comment – “He wasn’t treated differently from any other child.”

  39. JohnnieCanuck
    Posted September 19, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Today’s Classic Doonesbury from Sept. 19, 1985 has an overlap with this post. Could this have been the date on which PCC was arrested? I wasn’t paying enough attention to remember now just how long the protests went on for. – Days, Years?

  40. Posted September 19, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    one thing that truly disturbs me is how everyone calls him a “Muslim kid”. Has he ever read Quran and Hadith? Does he subscribe to Islamic teachings? If yes, which one of them? Nobody asks him these questions. But everyone continues to call him “Muslim”.

    No one seems to be raising the issue that this bright kid maybe,just maybe, doesn’t want to remain a Muslim when he grows up and understands the tenets of the faith completely.

    • tomh
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Well, he claims to be Muslim, shall we grill him on that too?

      • Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        My point is how he can even claim that he is a Muslim at that age? In the God Delusion, Dawkins quite correctly argues that the greatest crime of the church is not allowing some of its members to abuse children but to sanction mass indoctrination of children. I always thought this was a very important but rather neglected point.

        A 14 year old Daesh executioner claims to be a Muslim too. Should we take him at his word then?

        • tomh
          Posted September 19, 2015 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

          foxer writes:
          “My point is how he can even claim that he is a Muslim at that age?”

          You’re talking about an ideal world, where children are not brought up with religion, but with reason, then make intelligent choices when they come of age. In the real world, probably 9 out of 10 (or more) parents raise their children in the a religious environment, the parents’ religion. In that context, of course a 14 year old from a Muslim family, who, by the way, self-identifies as a Muslim, will be described as Muslim by the media. Anything else would be ridiculous.

          “A 14 year old Daesh executioner claims to be a Muslim too. Should we take him at his word then?”

          Yes.

          • Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:52 am | Permalink

            “Yes”.

            Actually, no. From a moral standpoint, I believe we have a duty to save and rehabilitate them. A 14 year old does not have the mental faculties to make that choice. The ones who force him to do so are criminals and have to be prosecuted.

            But maybe you are right. I am too idealistic. It is easier to kill them all from above by drones and pretend that’s war on terror.

            • GBJames
              Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:35 am | Permalink

              Wow. Talk about non sequitur.

        • Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:31 am | Permalink

          “Anything else would be ridiculous.”

          Why? He is of North African ethnicity. He could have been referred to as such. I just wonder why would we even call someone Muslim when we don’t have any idea how devout they are in their faith?

          The media should either determine what kind of Muslim he is or stop calling him so altogether. Maybe that’s idealistic. But I just think that is fair and honest journalism.

    • Filippo
      Posted September 19, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      “No one seems to be raising the issue that this bright kid maybe,just maybe, doesn’t want to remain a Muslim when he grows up and understands the tenets of the faith completely.”

      Who should/shall ask/press him, now, for answers to such questions, for publication in the media? He may be secretly advancing toward skepticism, but may want to keep that secret until he gets out from under his father’s roof and no longer beholden to him, financially or otherwise. (Of course, “otherwise” is the rub, what with the penalty for blasphemy being what it is in certain Islamic circles.)

      • Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

        I am not advocating actually pressing the kid. I am just saying why the media is so eager to call him a 14 year old Muslim boy, instead of just a 14 year old boy? And why nobody is protesting that?
        What is happening is that he is being rewarded for just being a Muslim, and that’s disturbing and unjust.

        • Posted September 19, 2015 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

          “I am not advocating actually pressing the kid. I am just saying why the media is so eager to call him a 14 year old Muslim boy, instead of just a 14 year old boy?”

          We’re talking about a country where the media accepts the idea of trying 12 year olds as adults. In that context a 14 year old is clearly able to choose his religion.

          • Posted September 20, 2015 at 1:35 am | Permalink

            So, if his Muslimhood is of any importance, then by God, we need to instantly determine what kind of Muslim he is! If he is a Muslim, then his knack for invention and electronics has to take a backseat. Deash suicide vest designers are perhaps good at electronics too! But no one commends them for that.

            If his religion is not Important, then why call him that all the time, thus rewarding his Muslimhood equally as(if not more than) his talent?

        • tomh
          Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:18 am | Permalink

          “What is happening is that he is being rewarded for just being a Muslim”

          How is he being rewarded for a being a Muslim? The fact that he is Muslim is the most likely reason for the overreaction of the police, the interrogation, arrest, handcuffs, etc.

          • Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:06 am | Permalink

            And now he is getting offers from MIT and Harvard, among others.

            Are they offering him these positions because he invented something? (which he didn’t) Or is he being rewarded just for being arrested?

            I don’t even know if his arrest was a wrongful one. Even so, how does it merit an admission from top schools in the country?

            The social media court has tried and exonerated Ahmed and then has paid him damages too! Still, his story is full of holes. For the sake of all minorities in the US (not just Muslims), I wish he hasn’t lied or made up any part of it.

          • Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:23 am | Permalink

            To clarify, I am not trying to attack the poor kid here. He is just a kid and most probably is innocent in all the mess the media have created around this affair.

            On Bill Maher’s Real Time, Mark Cuban said he had it on second hand authority that the kid had shown his clock to six teachers and it got to the point they got worried and nervous. In any case, the police and the school officials are not giving their side of the story because of legal limitations.

            But if it’s true or the kid has shown any kind of eccentric behavior,he maybe in need of immediate help. The media are not doing any good by making a martyr out of him.

            • Filippo
              Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:52 am | Permalink

              “Mark Cuban said he had it on second hand authority that the kid had shown his clock to six teachers and it got to the point they got worried and nervous . . . .”

              Kids like to show off their stuff. What if he showed it to only four teachers? Or three?

              Yep, that business about trying to force him to sign a statement admitting to a hoax bomb. Perhaps someone should press school authorities/police to sign a statement admitting to borderline abusing the student for not pressing that statement on him with his parents present. (Good chance one would get charged with “harassment”?)

              On the day my grandfather died, I cleared out his effects at the nursing home. I then decided to go to the nearby national park to chill my heels, commune with nature, contemplate life – even lie down on The Good Earth and play my guitar.

              Well, to lie down and play the guitar within sight of other people apparently makes one look suspicious, as presently a park ranger came by,in a few minutes a backup ranger arriving and assuming the standard crossed arms and feet firmly planted-posture.

              The first said to me, “Did I see you throw something in there (my van)?”

              (He was obviously trying to provoke me and legitimize what I assume was his intent to search my van, no doubt thinking that I had thrown some sort of drug paraphernalia in amongst my grandfather’s effects, which of course I didn’t do. No doubt I looked a bit worse for the wear, in the aftermath of my grandfather’s death, and not having performed my daily ablutions and restorations.)

              I felt a great urge to take a stab at directing a Hitchenesque dart at him, but I forbore so as to as quickly and quietly as possible resolve the situation. I replied,”No sir, I did not.” He said, “Are you sure I didn’t see you throw something?” I replied, “Sir, you are welcome to search this van as you see fit.”

              That took the wind out of his sails. He looked inside the van and apparently decided he didn’t want to trouble himself to wade in vain in the semi-disarray there. He said nothing else and they both left. Nothing in the way of apology for imposing themselves on me.

              Lesson (I guess): Don’t act suspiciously (assuming one can figure out what activates anothers suspicion, eh?)

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

                I am member of a minority myself in the US and though I haven’t had any run-ins with the law, the news about police use of force worries me. I can’t stop worrying about being profiled and harassed by the police and I know it’s not even their fault. The policies, the procedures and the lack of training is a major cause of all these problems.

                If it was up to me, I would have hired the best lawyers for Ahmed to represent him in a wrongful arrest lawsuit against Texas. The publicity and the final verdict of such a case might have actually helped people.

                Giving this poor kid admissions and falsely calling him an inventor does not even help the kid and may very well make him miserable in near future.

              • tomh
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

                Why do you think a final verdict would have been in his favor? Have you ever been in Texas? And no one has given him “admissions” anywhere. People have commiserated with him on his treatment, Microsoft gave him a bunch of tech stuff, other tech companies have invited him to visit. Why this would make him miserable, I have no idea.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                You are right. There is no admission. Although, an MIT professor told him he was the kind of student they wanted there, so MIT will have a bit of explaining to do if in the future they decide he is not that kind of student after all! For all I know, this could have really been a high school prank that got out of hand.

                Here’s the list of offers he has been getting:
                http://money.cnn.com/2015/09/17/news/ahmed-mohamed-twitter-mit/

                I don’t believe he deserves these offers for doing what he did. This sends the wrong message to the kids who push themselves to the extreme and in the end don’t even get so much as a prize in a local competition.

                And I am not sure about the verdict. I am just saying a meaningful change should happen in the legal system and police training and procedures. Maybe he loses that lawsuit, maybe not. At least, it will be a meaningful fight for the rights of minorities and against unjust profiling. That’s where we should focus and spend our energies, not the so-called talent of a kid in disassembling an old electronic clock.

              • tomh
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

                “For all I know, this could have really been a high school prank that got out of hand.”

                Why do you think that? It doesn’t look like a prank, it looks like just what he says it is. A kid took an old clock and made it fit in a small pencil case, made it entirely battery powered, made an electronic circuit board for it, etc., etc., then brought it in to show his science teacher. What makes you think it is anything different?

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                “Why do you think that? It doesn’t look like a prank, it looks like just what he says it is.”

                Why do you think it wasn’t? We’ve got a Muslim kid who by all accounts isn’t stupid, bringing an electronic device to school (a clock that could as easily be a timer), who when asked by school officials what were his intentions when he brought it, would say nothing more than “it’s a clock”.
                Certainly if they felt he was being evasive they had reason to contact police, and the police had reason to take it seriously. Was handcuffing him a bit much? I suppose in this day and age yes, but when I was about 16 I was at a local park with some friends drinking, and the cops handcuffed me put me in the back of the police car, and drove me home. It didn’t cause me any trauma, and my parents thanked them.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

                I wanted to add when my kid was younger than 14 she knew better than to talk about being an atheist in school here in Alabama. I find it difficult to believe a Muslim kid living in Texas doesn’t know what people might think if he shows up at school with something that could be mistaken for a bomb.
                Maybe he honestly didn’t but again it’s not unreasonable to suspect he did. Add the perceived evasiveness to the mix, and why wouldn’t someone think it was an intentional prank? It seems more likely than not as I see it.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

                http://blogs.artvoice.com/techvoice/2015/09/17/reverse-engineering-ahmed-mohameds-clock-and-ourselves/

                This is a good analysis of the situation.

                And he didn’t show it just to the science teacher. Six teachers noticed the clock and asked him to put it away. We don’t know why he didn’t. Maybe he was shy. Maybe he thought they weren’t appreciating it enough. Maybe he was just being stubborn like some kids are. Maybe he lacks communications skills. Maybe the teachers picked up on him because of his skin color or his “Muslim” family. We simply don’t know. We can conjure up all kinds of theories. It doesn’t make any difference. Like I said, Ahmed was tried, exonerated and was paid damages by the court of social media, no matter what the truth of the matter is.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

                Just watched a video on youtube where the kid says “I closed it with a cable, so… because, I didn’t want to lock it to make it seem like a threat so I just used simple cable…. so it won’t look that much suspicious”.
                So this wasn’t some completely oblivious kid who had no idea how his clock might be perceived, he knew it looked suspicious. and brought it to school anyway.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                A friend of mine had an argument with her estranged husband. The next day police came to her workplace and arrested her. They handcuffed her in front of her coworkers and took her. Apparently, the husband had gone to the police and claimed that she had tried to “kill” him. No bruises, no injury, not even a photo, just a claim! She tried to explain to the police that it was actually the husband who has been constantly abusing her (verbally). But the police officers told her that it was “procedure” and their hands were tied. So they handcuffed her and took her away. Upon arriving at police stations, she fainted and was taken to the hospital, where she spent the night chained to a bed.

                I don’t want to go further into the story. My friend’s case is probably not even the worst one out there. An arrest is not a procedure to be taken lightly and employed by the police for any reason. Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. They prefer to “err on the side of caution”. This is a big problem with no easy solution. But instead of having a serious dialog about the shortcomings of a system clearly not suitable for today’s hyper-connected world, we are all busy coaxing Ahmed and praising him for his non-invention, blaming our “Islamophobia” in the process just at the same time Daesh is turning kids his age to executioners in the name of the very Islam! Maybe it shouldn’t, but this all seems absurd to me beyond belief.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                People are overcompensating here, no doubt. But they are overcompensating for a an example of paranoid incompetence on the part of adults running the school and police called to the scene.

                “14 years old kid + Muslim + circuit boards” should not, in a reasonable world, result in arrest and interrogation.

                I find it weird to see people bending over backwards to find some explanation that involves nefarious behavior on the part of this kid. It makes no sense.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                “14 years old kid + Muslim + circuit boards” should not, in a reasonable world, result in arrest and interrogation.”

                In my opinion 14 year old kid + suspicious looking electronic device (that even the kid admits knowing looked suspicious) should result in interrogation. And if as a result of that they were convinced he knew (as he admits) it might be perceived as a bomb, he should be arrested. I think his being a Muslim might have more to do with why he did it than why he was arrested.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                “I think his being a Muslim might have more to do with why he did it than why he was arrested.”

                I imagine you do.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                “I imagine you do.”

                So insults now huh? For people who haven’t followed along I meant in the same sense that an known atheist might bring a baby doll to school in a bag labeled lunch.

              • GBJames
                Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

                That qualifies as insult?

                A grip needs to be gotten.

              • Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

                “That qualifies as insult?”

                You thought it was too subtle to be noticed?
                Unless your actual meaning alludes me it was rather like me saying “hey your car was just stolen”, and you replying “I bet it was a black guy”, and me responding “you would think that. Again if you weren’t implying I was a bigot then I apologize for the misunderstanding.

              • Posted September 21, 2015 at 4:23 am | Permalink

                Knock off the bickering here, okay?

    • Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Yeah–no surprise that nobody wants to touch this one. Dawkins shows his colors as a bigot and there’s nothing but crickets here….

      • Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Don’t feel qualified to comment. Thought it was interesting, however.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 21, 2015 at 3:27 am | Permalink

        I will. I read that HuffPo column – looks like HuffPo doing the best to fan the flames.

        Dawkins doesn’t believe repackaging a circuit counts as an ‘invention’ (obviously he hasn’t seen Apple’s patent for rounded corners on a phone) but nowhere does he suggest that Ahmed should have been treated the way he was.

        Frankly, I wish Richard wouldn’t tweet since inevitably someone will interpret what he says in the worst possible light. Or HuffPo will selectively quote his tweets and use him for clickbait.

        But calling him a bigot on the strength of those tweets is bullshit.

        cr

        • Posted September 21, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

          “Frankly, I wish Richard wouldn’t tweet since inevitably someone will interpret what he says in the worst possible light.”

          Dawkins really should stop tweeting. If he had said what he said with friends in private someone would have pointed out that the kid is 14, and probably doesn’t even understand the implications of the word invention, and didn’t have perpetrating some fraud in mind when he called the junk he threw in the box one.
          On that note I had this idea for a comic based on this. So Ahmed goes to the bathroom, and says to his teachers “come look at my invention in the toilet”. The teachers come in, look, and start yelling “chemical weapons attack”. Next thing you know Ahmed is invited to the white house, he’s being offered scholarships to prestigious universities, and his “invention” has been nominated for a nobel prize in chemistry. :p

      • Posted September 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        “Dawkins shows his colors as a bigot and there’s nothing but crickets here….”

        Just noticed this comment. I think it was a stupid comment because the kid probably has no idea what the word invention implies, and it’s unlikely his intent was fraud, but how does it amount to Dawkins being a bigot?

  41. tomh
    Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Mike Paps wrote:
    “when I was about 16 I was at a local park with some friends drinking”

    Because 16 year old kids drinking in a public park is just the same as a 14 year old nerdy kid tinkering with a clock. Right. And when asked what it was, he said it was a clock. Because it was a clock. And nobody, except possibly one dumb English teacher, mistook it for a bomb. Not the school officials, not the police, nobody. Unless you think they’re so incompetent that they just sat in a room with what they thought was a bomb while they interrogated him, and the police, thinking it was a bomb, just tossed it in a squad car when they carted the kid off. No bomb squad, no evacuation, nothing. But since he was Muslim, according to you, he should have known he’d be arrested for bringing a clock to school that no one could mistake for a bomb.

    And now the post hoc justification for so much official incompetence has evolved into “it must have been a prank.” Or even better, it must have been a nefarious plot by this Muslim to get all sorts of rewards. Each rationale that sufaces is sillier than the last.

    • Posted September 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      “Because 16 year old kids drinking in a public park is just the same as a 14 year old nerdy kid tinkering with a clock. Right.”

      No because a 14yo bringing a hoax bomb, if that is in fact what he did, is far more serious. He even admits in a youtube video that he knew it would look suspicious. The more I look into this the more convinced I am that making people think it was a bomb was his intention. He didn’t want it to look so much like a bomb that there was no doubt about his intention (which he was initially evasive about), but enough so that he could put a bit of a scare into his teachers, have a good laugh about it.

      • tomh
        Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        “The more I look into this the more convinced I am that making people think it was a bomb was his intention.”

        I guess you’ve looked into it more deeply than the Irving police, whose Chief said, “The follow-up investigation revealed the device apparently was a homemade experiment, and there’s no evidence to support the perception he intended to create alarm.” His fellow students said he has a reputation as a tinkerer and creator. He made small robotics, fixed people’s phones and assembled a remote that could turn on projectors at school. “He was just one of those kids that created stuff.” But, of course, since he’s Muslim that probably means he wants to create a bomb.

        • Posted September 20, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

          “I guess you’ve looked into it more deeply than the Irving police”

          I imagine they quickly wrapped up their investigation once half the country, and the president came out in support of Ahmed. I doubt they were aware of the fact that this “invention” was nothing more than a commercial clock in a pencil box in pieces. I doubt they heard him admit he knew it would be seen as suspicious. Also the school suspended him for 3 days.
          Look maybe he was perfectly innocent. But I don’t think it’s such a slam dunk that he should be made out to be a hero. and that this should be touted as a obvious case of bigotry.

          • tomh
            Posted September 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

            They didn’t quickly wrap up the investigation, they spent three days trying to find some justification so they wouldn’t look like idiots. They couldn’t, so they do.

            “this “invention” was nothing more than a commercial clock in a pencil box in pieces.”

            You do know that’s what tinkerers do, don’t you? Take stuff apart, put it back together in different configurations, especially kids. And you seem to think this is some one-room schoolhouse. Irving Independent School District oversees 35,000+ students, and this school has award-winning STEM programs. They knew exactly what it was. This effort, and you’re not the only one, to belittle this kid because his clock wasn’t sophisticated enough, is kind of sad.

            • Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

              “This effort, and you’re not the only one, to belittle this kid because his clock wasn’t sophisticated enough, is kind of sad.”

              My point isn’t to belittle him, my point was taking a clock out of it’s case, and simply putting it back in a pencil case looks more like a prank than anything he seriously expected kudos for. In any other circumstances, where I believed he actually thought he had done something cool, I would have patronized him, and said good job Ahmed.

        • Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          I was a tinkerer myself. I was making crystal radios. and gunpowder with my chemistry set, and had my own darkroom where I would develope photographs, long before I was his age. At 12 I wouldn’t have expected anyone to think my taking a clock apart, and putting it in a pencil case was anything special. People are just patronizing him because they are convinced he was the victim of discrimination.

    • Posted September 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      “And now the post hoc justification for so much official incompetence has evolved into “it must have been a prank.”

      I think people are thinking with their emotions. Cute little kid in handcuffs “poor Ahmed”. None of us has a clue what his school history is like. He might well be just the type of kid who would pull a prank like this and school officials knew it. My experience with 14yo kids is that more often than not they are punks at that age, and that largely immunizes me from the instant sympathy reaction I see.

      • Posted September 20, 2015 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        Mike Paps, I absolutely agree with you.
        There are a bunch of probabilities at this point and we might never know the truth:

        1-His intention was to impress his engineering teacher. But after he failed to do so, he set the clock to go off in every other class to create nuisance and draw attention.

        2- His intention was to pull a prank at school.

        3- His intention was to impress his teachers, but he forgot to turn off the clock.

        4- His intention was to frighten everyone a few days after 9/11.

        5- His intention was to impress his teacher. But he got afraid once in the principal office and couldn’t explain himself because of shyness or lack of communication skills.

        And as to how the school officials/the police treated the subject:

        1- They were closet-racists and picked out on the Muslim North African kid.

        2- They thought there was something off with the kid.

        3- They were just being cautious and didn’t sincerely think their acts bordered on racism.

        etc,etc

        Who knows? But out of this absurd situation people are drawing political conclusions left and right, some are praising the kid as an “inventor” and some are bashing him as “stupid”! Even POTUS has taken a stand in this holy social media war.

        And all this is not happening in some Dystopian movie. Apparently, this is the world we live in now.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] title of this article deliberately mirrors that of Dr. Jerry Coyne’s article at Why Evolution Is True. I agree with Dr. Coyne that we have created a society in which “infractions” that […]

  2. […] commenter put this link on Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True website this morning on a post about the kid in Texas who got arrested when he brought a clock he’d made to school, because […]

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