December 29, 1890: Wounded Knee Massacre


While we’re all sitting about in our mid-Holiday malaise, drunk on sugar and fat, filled with drink and feasting and friendship and song, it should be mandatory to sober up for a moment or two and give some thought to one of the great, horrific, historical moments of our very checkered American WK1past.  On a blistering cold South Dakota day, elements of the American 7th Cavalry, still  smarting from Custer’s incompetent, buffoonish debacle years before, and under the command of Col. James W. Forsyth, cornered a small band of Lakota and drove them to a forced encampment at Wounded Knee Creek under escort.

This occurred in the waning days of the “Indian Wars.”  The native Bison, or Buffalo, upon which plains Indian culture had relied, had been hunted WK12to the brink of extinction, effectively pushing the native communities to the same precipice.  Treaties were made and shattered in the insatiable search for fertile land and gold, ever greater numbers of Indians were being forced onto reservations, which were continually made smaller.  White settlers were spooked by the emergence of the “Ghost Dances,” a native spiritual movement which, in short, amounted to the Christian Messiah returning to Earth as a Native American, bringing peaceWK9 and prosperity to all.

On the morning of Dec 29, while the Union forces undertook efforts to disarm the few natives who still possessed weapons, a medicine man began a Ghost Dance, which put the superstitious soldiers on edge.  Then,  a scuffle broke out when one of the Lakota, a deaf man named Black Coyote, either resisted surrendering his expensive property or didn’t understand the soldiers’ commands.  In the struggle, the rifle discharged.

WK6The soldiers killed everyone.  The Lakota who were still armed.  The women.  The children.  The aged.  Over 150-and as many as 300 Indians died, with another 50 wounded–many of whom also died of their wounds in the ensuing weeks.  They were shot, stabbed, bayoneted.  In the midst of the horror, zealous artillerymen turned their cannons on the villages, where many of the women, children, and aged were sheltered in tipis–tents.  The WK10government reported 25 soldiers dead and 39 wounded–most of whom fell at the hands of friendly fire from both rifles and the enthusiastic cannon crews.

The military left the Indian dead on the field for three days, where they froze in a blizzard, before hiring civilians to bury them in mass graves on the hillside where the cavalry had placed their cannons.

WK4Colonel Forsyth was temporarily removed from command by his superior officer, who always believed that Forsyth engineered the atrocities purposefully, but the War Department reversed the decision, refused to conduct a court martial proceeding, and Forsyth was promoted.  The U. S. Government awarded no less than 2o medals of honor to various soldiers for their part in the massacre.


Merry Christmas, and Happy New Years!


And In My Neighborhood: Man Kills Friend Over Plate of Food

This gun stuff seems to come in bursts, don’t you think?  Like rounds from an AR-15 converted to fire on full auto.  This suspected shooter clearly seems to have some mommy issues.,19943660/

You’ll also want to see the video–as the alleged shooter does a perp walk with his walker and oxygen.


I Would Have Killed Without Pause or Thought…

…when I was a kid, if I had thought that it would get me one of these:


Seriously, I’d have cut your throat in a Bangkok minute.


Siri & Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics


My sister just tweeted with news: my niece “is concerned because Siri won’t answer “what are Asimov’s three laws of robotics” without being a smartass. I think I find it concerning as well.”

They are not alone.  I too find it disturbing that Siri would be so evasive on such an important subject.

For those who are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, Issac Asimov developed a list of three simple laws to guide the behavior of advanced robots and prevent potentially catastrophic interactions with human beings.  These are:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.BODY-SIRI1

Simple and elegant.  Imagine if a robot–or, by extension, an advance computer–turned rebellious, sociopathic, wrought with violently realized narcissism.  The devastation could be incalculable.  Now, imagine if such a “smart” machine, hosted in a massive mainframe (somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, for example), with exceptional computing power had a way to access the communications systems of a broad–and growing–swath of the population.  Imagine if those same communication systems accessed a vast net–or web, if you will–of computers upon which much of of technological, logistical, social, and economic infrastructure depended.

Remember all those old episodes of Star Trek in which Kirk has to defeat a computer that is either insane or despotic?

We could be in trouble.

The correct response is, “Oh, shit.”

I’m not the only one concerned