Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year?

It's 2016.

Around the world, folks celebrated the new year.

In Sydney

In Moscow

In Dubai 

In London

In New York

Of course, it wasn't all fireworks.  Some places had their own customs.

In Saudi Arabia 

Ben Hubbard in the Times.
Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution on Saturday, putting to death dozens of militants linked to Al Qaeda as well as a prominent cleric who had criticized the government’s treatment of the country’s Shiite minority.
The Saudis killed 47 in their mass executions. Though I haven't been entirely fair with the picture I chose. Some of the 47 were killed by firing squad. The others, well yeah. But
Most of the executions on Saturday were by beheading; they were not public, unlike most Saudi executions.
January is (or perhaps is not) named after Janus.  The Roman god of transitions.  

Janus is routinely depicted with two faces because he looks, at once, both to the past and the future. So looking to the past for some context is appropriate. 
The last mass execution of similar scale in Saudi Arabia was in 1980, when 63 jihadists were put to death after they seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
That 63, a third again as many. Still, 47 is a hell of a start to the year.  It suggests that this year is likely to top last, which itself saw a dramatic rise from the year before.
The executions of at least 157 people in 2015, a year that began with the inauguration of a new monarch, King Salman, were a sharp increase from the 90 people put to death in 2014.
Ah yes.  The new King thing.  You know the routine.
The King is dead.  
Long live the King.
The 157?  
Saudi officials have said that the increase reflects a backlog of death sentences that had built up in the final years of the previous monarch, King Abdullah.
Wimpy, that Abdullah guy.

Of course, this was the new year.

Back in 1862, we did it on Boxing Day, December 26, the day after Christmas.  38 Santee Sioux were hanged on a single scaffold - a single drop - in Mankato, Minnesota.

Some 1500 soldiers were in place to hold back the thousands of spectators.

There were actually 303 sentenced to die for their part in the Great Sioux War of 1862.  It was, they say, more than Lincoln could stomach. He decided, apparently, that there was sufficient evidence to kill only 38. Lincoln knew that commuting sentences for the rest would be unpopular. Still, he did it. Some he pardoned, some died in prison.
I could not afford to hang men for votes.
But as he saved 265, he signed off on the death of the 38. Who were killed in a single mass execution from a single gallows platform. 

Well, except for the oopsie.  It seems that only 37 of the 38 were killed. One, whose sentence had been commuted, was inserted into the lot and was killed in the place of one who was supposed to be. 

So 37 executions of the guilty and one execution of a wrong guy.

Hey, shit happens.

It's not that I'm suggesting equivalence.  But we here in the US of A, we do our share.
It's 2016. 

Happy New Year!  Thanks for stopping by.


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