A University of Minnesota student did that

The first words that caught my eye were the words “University of Minnesota student”. The second words were “pleads guilty to rape charges”. I read the story anyway and was horrified. It includes the full victim’s statement, and it was gut-rending. I can’t quite imagine the mind of Daniel Drill-Mellum — how can he do what he did to that woman? How can anyone cause that much pain to anyone?

Don’t read it. I regret having done so.

But there is one somewhat milder piece of the story that jumped out at me. The rapist was an acquaintance, as they often are, and a friend, the kind of friend you call after a traumatic experience, had praised the guy and acknowledged, after the fact, that Drill-Mellum had hurt other women before.

I remember stumbling out of the apartment and running in fear, thinking that he would surely come after me. That feeling still sticks with me to this day. I first texted a friend to come and get me, and then called another. The friend who, earlier in the day, told me, “I love Dan”. This friend answered the phone to me sobbing uncontrollably and said “don’t even say a word, I know what happened. He raped my friend too”. In the months to come, I would become angry about this statement, and the fact that this wasn’t the first time he had done this to someone, but at the time I was just happy that he had said “rape” so that I didn’t have to. I had no words for what I had just experienced, and I still don’t.

How do you do that, too? I hope this “friend” is also feeling some fraction of the guilt that ought to be wracking him right now.

Why would anyone shoot up a social services building?

I know the gun-fondlers are all cowards hiding behind their weapons, but charging in to kill 12 people at a building that provides assistance to developmentally disabled people? WHY? It’s as if they decided to target the weakest people in society needing the greatest help.

<insert vague and futile expression of hope that this tragic crime will finally motivate government to crack down on the folly, a hope that will never be fulfilled and will only produce more cynicism and despair>

Don’t go under Duntsch’s knife!

duntsch

If this man is your doctor, run away. Christopher Duntsch is terrifyingly incompetent.

Duntsch arrived in Dallas in 2010 to start a neurosurgery practice. In the course of the next three years he would work at several different hospitals, earning infamy for his haphazard surgical technique wherever he went, according to the Texas Observer. His colleagues described him in the harshest superlatives: “worst surgeon I’ve ever seen,” “sociopath.”

“I couldn’t believe a trained surgeon could do this,” Robert Henderson, another surgeon at Dallas Medical Center, where Duntsch performed several operations, told the Observer. “He just had no recognition of the proper anatomy. He had no idea what he was doing. At every step of the way, you would have to know the right thing to do so you could do the wrong thing, because he did all the wrong things.”

In one case, authorities allege, Duntsch operated on his roommate and friend after a night of using cocaine. The man emerged from the operation a quadriplegic. In another, he purposefully left a surgical sponge inside a man’s body. During that surgery, a fellow doctor forced Duntsch to stop operating because of his “unacceptable” technique, the Dallas Morning News reported, citing a search warrant affidavit.

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The Ferguson law enforcement system was worse than I ever imagined

I’ve been reading the Ferguson report. It’s a horror. Every page documents an appalling violation of the whole purpose of having a police force: these people weren’t there to serve and protect, they were there to skim off as much cream from the community as they could. This wasn’t a police department, it was a racist extortion racket, oozing corruption.

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Torture is bad science

Martin Robbins writes about how the US got suckered into playing torturer to the world. One reason is that we live in a culture that seems to celebrate torture: there sure are a lot of people wearing representations of an ancient torture device, where audiences will happily sit for hours watching torture porn in the guise of a religious movie, and where TV pretends that torture works every time as a way of getting results.

But here’s the thing: torture doesn’t work. Reason and evidence together ought to tell you that.

[Read more…]

This is where pure logic takes you

Read this letter.

We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.

Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son. He’d been shredded (the hospital’s word) by an Israeli missile attack – apparently using their fab new weapon, flechette bombs. You probably know what those are – hundreds of small steel darts packed around explosive which tear the flesh off humans. The boy was Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra. He was 4 years old.

I suddenly found myself thinking that it could have been one of my kids in that bag, and that thought upset me more than anything has for a long time.

Then I read that the UN had said that Israel might be guilty of war crimes in Gaza, and they wanted to launch a commission into that. America won’t sign up to it. 

We can stand aloof from the events and carry out thought exercises, and we can carefully weigh the pros and cons of war—this side did this horrible thing, that side did that horrible thing, this side has this worthy cause, that side has that worthy cause—and we can attempt to calculate who is slightly better and who is slightly worse, although even there it’s striking how often different people seem to come up with completely different sums, as if maybe, somehow human lives resist being reduced to simple numbers. Let us reason together, you say; if only we could get everyone to look at the situation logically, if only everyone would be a dispassionate observer like me, if only everyone would sit back and coldly analyze all possible actions to arrive at an optimal conclusion that maximizes idealized outcomes…

…and then we arrive at this moment where all the brilliant science and technology of our civilization culminates in this beautifully intricate weapon, designed, machined and assembled by highly educated teams of engineers and executives and politicians, aimed at a small child. One human being, persuaded by the moral calculus of their side that this action is a logical necessity, pushes a button and turns another innocent human being into shredded meat.

We don’t need any more logic. What we need now is more appreciation for the value of life.

What appalls me most is that the same people who use science and reason — principles I hold highly — as the supposed basis for a rational morality can somehow arrive at a justification for sowing injustice and death to achieve their more enlightened world. Shattered lives and stunted opportunities and a lifetime of oppression on one side of the balance can be weighed against greater wealth, happiness, and security on my side (strangely, this equation only works when it benefits my side), for a net gain in human well-being.

All it takes is for someone to pull the trigger on a child.

It’s the only logical thing to do.

Leveraging religion into money and death

The Korean ferry Sewol that abruptly capsized and sank last spring sank because of an act of god … that is, the depredations of a scummy Christian cult. A story in the NY Times today summarizes the causes. The company that ran the ferry was a front for a religious cult run by Yoo Byung-eun, called the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea. He had a whole network of enterprises, all funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of Yoo and his family. One of the ways they profited was by cutting corners on everything, including safety.

Scores of cabins and even an art gallery laden with marble were added to the ferry’s upper decks, making the ship top-heavy. So much extra cargo was crammed on board that there was sometimes no space to secure it properly with chains and lashings. And, prosecutors say, the ferry’s crucial ballast water, needed to balance all the additional weight, was deliberately drained so that the vessel would not sit too low — a telltale sign to inspectors that the ferry was dangerously overloaded to bring in more money.

“It was a miracle that the ship actually sailed as far as it did; it could have tipped over any time,” said Kim Woo-sook, dean of the graduate school at Mokpo National Maritime University. “For them, cargo was cash.”

The art gallery was there to feed Yoo’s monstrous ego — he fancied himself an artist, and with so much cash flowing through his hands, he spent millions to get his photographs displayed at the Louvre. He claimed to be just about everything.

Mr. Yoo, who in his guise as Ahae cultivated an air of mystery by only allowing himself to be photographed from behind or the side, is described by the website of Ahae Press as a sort of renaissance man: “an inventor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, environmental activist, martial artist, painter, sculptor, poet, and photographer.”

Con artist. Murderer. Ruthless exploiter. Christian. Or at least, someone who saw Christianity as another easy gimmick to prey on the rubes.

But hey, they spent some money on safety.

In one of their more damning findings, prosecutors say that so much money was being siphoned away from the ferry company to Mr. Yoo and his relatives that it was starved of funds and spent just $2 last year on safety training for the Sewol’s crew members. The money went to buy a paper copy of a certificate.

There is no justice, though. The elder Yoo’s rotting corpse was found in his garden, cause of death unknown. Most of his family (apparently one son is still on the run), who all profited from his schemes, have been arrested so at least there’s that.

So is that the new plan, Israel?

I’m now even more disgusted. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University made a statement about the ‘realities’ of their conflict.

“You have to understand the culture in which we live,” said Kedar. “The only thing that deters [Hamas leaders] is a threat to the connection between their heads and their shoulders.” When presenter Yossi Hadar asked if that “could filter down” the organization’s ranks, Kedar replied: “No, because lower down the considerations are entirely different. Terrorists like those who kidnapped the children and killed them — the only thing that deters them is if they know that their sister or their mother will be raped in the event that they are caught. What can you do, that’s the culture in which we live.”

When Hadar said, “We can’t take such steps, of course,” Kedar continued: “I’m not talking about what we should or shouldn’t do. I’m talking about the facts. The only thing that deters a suicide bomber is the knowledge that if he pulls the trigger or blows himself up, his sister will be raped. That’s all. That’s the only thing that will bring him back home, in order to preserve his sister’s honor.”

He isn’t actually saying they should start raping Palestinian women, but he just threw it out there as the only way to stop suicide bombers. It’s an actively evil proposition, and it doesn’t even make sense. Would raping their mothers and sisters suddenly reconcile Palestinians to Israeli occupation and oppression? There’s not much knowledge of human behavior there.