A history of violence

Here we go again. Another murderous rampage: a gunman murdered his neighbors, then went driving through town, shooting at will. He attacked an elementary school, shot some children, and wandered around looking for more targets before he was killed himself. As usual, there’s something in this guy’s history that isn’t association with an Islamic terrorist group, or being black, or being crazy. He had a history of threatening, abusive behavior.

Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said the shooter was facing charges of assaulting one of the feuding neighbors in January and that she had a restraining order against him.

Johnston did not comment on the shooter’s access to firearms.

Johnston declined to identify the shooter until his relatives were notified, but he confirmed the gunman was charged with assault in January and had a restraining order placed against him.

OK, this seems to be an obvious rule to me: if you can’t play nicely with your toys, they get taken away from you.

Someone beats their spouse, threatens to kill their neighbors, waves a gun around to intimidate someone, engages in stalking, gets a restraining order against them, the first thing the police ought to do is show up at their house with a list of their registered weapons (and all of their weapons will, of course, be registered) and tell the abuser that they have to surrender them until they learn to be nice. The privilege of owning a dangerous tool that can kill people is suspended when you demonstrate an inclination to use it for violence. Zip zoom bam, it’s automatic and swift and is just part of the process of keeping the peace.

Notice: if you’re one of those lawful gun owners we hear about, there’s no problem for you. You’ve got a handgun that you own under the illusion that it will help defend your home, you have a few rifles that you use for duck and deer hunting, there’s no concern that you’ll lose them, unless you’re the kind of assdumpling who likes to threaten people when you get drunk, or thinks smacking around your wife and kids is a right of your manhood. You get in fights? You can’t be trusted with a deadly weapon.

I expect responsible gun owners will gladly support more severe laws requiring confiscation of weapons from individuals with a history of irresponsible gun use and violence against their fellow citizens. Right? Right? The NRA is probably drafting legislation for this simple improvement in our laws right now.

A self-reflection exercise

I’ve been thinking about the recent surge of awareness of harassment, and wondering if I’ve been as flawed as the people being accused. There’s been a bit of introspection going on here.

And my conclusion is no, I’ve not taken advantage of women…or anyone, for that matter. I’ve never casually fondled anyone, I’ve never tried to pressure anyone into sex, I’ve never threatened anyone into serving my whims, I’ve sure as hell never raped anyone. I’m not saying this to pretend to be some paragon — I think I’m pretty ordinary, and I suspect most guys consider respect for others’ autonomy to be the norm. But I also say this as someone who was born in the 1950s, so forget that bogus “oh, that’s just the way we were back then” excuse. I’ll also point out that, for example, when Roy Moore was haunting the Gadsden Mall, most people seemed to think that 30 year olds trying to pick up teenagers was awfully skeevy.

The common, petty failing was not participating in such behavior, but looking the other way. There was too much deference to male authority, which was given by default, and preserved an imbalance of power. We didn’t do the kinds of things these horrible people have done, but we were at worst made uncomfortable about them, and our only action was to avoid confronting those people. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t confront the harasser, and don’t meet the eyes of the woman who is being mistreated.

I remember my sins of omission. I was in the locker room when the high school jocks were bragging about the things they did to their girlfriends and casual hookups, and I just got dressed and left as quickly as I could. But I knew the people they were talking about, and I liked them as people, and I did not defend them. So that talk flourished.

I’ve been oblivious. There have been several occasions where I blithely suggest that my wife just do some particular thing, and she looks at me like I’m insane, and explains that I can’t possibly expect her to walk alone in that dark parking garage late at night. There are many behaviors I take for granted as normal and safe that are exercises in reasonable fear for women. That’s a lack of empathy, an ongoing insensitivity that hinders my ability to see how the world works for others.

I’ve been cavalier about some situations — I’ve been light-hearted and tried to be amusing about common sexual situations that, for men, are just opportunities for fun, but for women, are opportunities to be harmed. It’s taken too long for me to realize that that little chuckle wasn’t about my nice joke, but more an attempt to defuse a situation, or to conceal what they were really thinking, which was “what an ass.” I can at least say that I’ve been getting better — I’m sure 20 year old me was even worse — and that I’m aware that I can be better still.

I think, though, that the biggest sign of progress and the best hope we have is that increasingly we are acknowledging that it’s not enough to not do bad things, we also have to openly oppose others who do bad things. We also have to listen when we are criticized.

This poster ought to be grounds for impeachment

Here’s the state of the American government:

Louie Gohmert displayed that on the floor of congress — an uninterpretable tangle of lines and random words and odd logos, all with the intent of somehow indicting Hillary Clinton in a non-scandal. This is where we’re at. Louie Gohmert, in the running for the dumbest person in congress. A bullshit chart. A ridiculous conspiracy theory. And we’re helpless — we have no mechanism for prying the reins of power out of the hands of dangerous idiots.

Just another company boss

Trouble for Tesla and Elon Musk: workers are complaining about racist coworkers, and agitating for a union.

Jose Moran—who claimed to be an employee at the Fremont factory—wrote a scathing critique of the facility and his employer, alleging “excessive mandatory overtime” and low wages. He said that he and other employees were considering unionizing and had reached out to UAW for help.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk told our sister site Gizmodo that Moran was paid by UAW “to join Tesla and agitate for the union.”

And what is wrong with that? If conditions are unjust, then rallying workers to form a union is exactly the right thing to do (also, even if conditions are relatively just, forming a union to give workers a voice is also exactly the right thing to do. You are never wrong to form a workers’ union.)

But now the story going around is that Musk has fired some of those rabble-rousers for urging unionizing. That makes him a 19th century villain in my book.

But worse…you know those complaints about coworkers freely throwing around racial slurs? Musk has a suggestion for dealing with that, too.

Part of not being a huge jerk is considering how someone might feel who is part of [a] historically less represented group, Musk wrote in the email. Sometimes these things happen unintentionally, in which case you should apologize. In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology.


Different suggestion: if you discover that you’ve got racists working for you who are disrupting the other workers, fire the racists. It’s that simple. If you’re able to fire people for union activities, you must have the power to fire people for naked bigotry. Why aren’t you?

Quick report on the Genesis movie

As promised, I saw this crappy movie last night. I’ve got a pile of notes, and will provide a more thorough review this weekend, but just to quickly summarize:

  • There’s no story here. It’s built around the 6-day creation myth with a deep-voiced sonorous slow-talker telling the story of Genesis 1, but it’s almost like an afterthought. It’s a framing device that isn’t actually used effectively as a narrative structure.

  • The real story is that they interviewed a bunch of creationists, who sit alone in different rooms and who rant at the camera, saying stupid, familiarly tiresome things. They then sliced up these interviews into tiny snippets, interleaved them with each other and with some CGI, and then tossed them in a large mixing bowl with some vinaigrette. This is called “editing”.

  • The CGI is terrible. Seriously cheap. Everything from dinosaurs to humans has a kind of rubbery, plasticky surface in shades of brown — although Adam is a notably pale shade of brown.
    It’s very low rez, too. There are a couple of scenes where they’re showing off hominid skulls for comparison, and the detail is pathetic — they look like the kind of cheap plastic skulls you’d pick up from the Walmart Halloween decorating section.

  • They had a dodge for when the CGI was egregiously bad: defocus! They were constantly blurring everything, which I suppose they thought was artsy, but was clearly to hide the fact that they couldn’t render convincing detail worth a crap. They also did this with the creationist interviews: they’d occasionally blur the person, or slowly move the camera around, and then you’d end up with this segment of the interview where the subject was drifting off to the right side of the screen.

  • One of the reasons they’d move the subject out of the center was that they had these cheesy, 3-D animated titles that would rotate and also drift — so you’d start with camera on the subject, then you’d see these bronzey metallic letters appear on the left, like “ENCE”, let’s say, and you’d be wondering what that was about, and the camera would wander over to the floating keyword as the speaker was ignored, so that you could finally figure out that the magic word was “EVIDENCE” or whatever. It was painfully gimmicky.

I’ll go through some of the actual content this weekend, but for now, let it suffice to say that there was nothing new here, they were creationists making the same old tired assertions from ignorance that they’ve been saying since the 1960s — dating methods are circular, there are no genetic mechanisms for increasing the amount of information in an organism, we can explain all of geology with the Great Flood catastrophe, if you don’t accept Genesis then you’ll reject the Gospels and burn in Hell, you know, the stuff you can get in a Chick tract. It was nothing but old creationist arguments presented in a particularly incoherent manner with irrelevant computer graphics.

Oh, and it ends with so much Jesus. All the interview subjects babble on at length about salvation and God and Our Lord Jesus Christ and how God clothed himself in flesh in order to redeem our sins by dying a horrible, painful death, and that shit never makes any sense.

Post-modern neo-Marxist cultural Marxists are coming to get you!

Jordan Peterson is a colossal ass — an ignoramus who has become a professor of psychology and uses his tiny sliver of specific knowledge to grant him the authority to pontificate on every other field, about which he knows nothing. He’s putting together a website that will tell you how wrong, as determined by him, your college classes are.

They can use the website to distinguish between people who are credible and people who aren’t and maybe we can drop the damn enrollment in those horrible courses by 75% over the next three years … it’s in their best interest both, I would say, spiritually and economically to avoid those courses and those disciplines like the plague and then maybe we can get the disciplines that have become entirely corrupt and the ones that started that way to put themselves back together before they run themselves out of existence completely, and I might as well name a few of the disciplines that i think are particularly reprehensible to begin with … So, as I said already, women’s studies, and all the ethnic studies and racial studies, studies groups, man, those things have to go and the faster they go the better. It would have been better if they had never been part of the university to begin with as far as I can tell. Sociology, that’s corrupt. Anthropology, that’s corrupt. English literature, that’s corrupt. Maybe the worse offenders are the faculties of education.

I’ve got some rather awkward news for him: there are biologists (I’m not one of them) who think psychology is worthless and corrupt. There are physicists who think biology is trivial and useless — “stamp collecting”, I think they called it. A good scholar recognizes that there are domains of knowledge in which we lack expertise, and that our ignorance is not an indictment of the field.

And look at what he wants to get rid of! Women’s, ethnic, and racial studies — does he think that those groups don’t have unique problems and perspectives? Does he believe that White Man is the standard by which all should be measured?

Sociology, anthropology, and English literature have to go? Is he insane? These are rigorous disciplines in important subjects. That they are too difficult for Jordan Peterson to understand does not mean they are invalid.

And my god, he despises education faculty? He’s got a job at the University of Toronto. He is supposed to be an educator. Part of his responsibility is teaching, and teaching well, or he’s got no right to be a member of a distinguished university. His only pedagogical technique seems to involve standing up and stammering out bigotry at an audience — an audience of like-minded assholes who applaud in contempt of genuine academic disciplines, by the way.

I’m just trying to imagine an institution of higher learning where he got his way. At my university, we expect students to acquire some breadth of knowledge. We require students to take courses in literature, history, sociology, the arts, even — I know, it’s hard to believe — psychology, a discipline that must be corrupt if it tolerates this jerkwad. If we demolished all those other disciplines that are so essential to developing our students as well-rounded, comprehensive citizens of the world, they’d be reduced to inane Jordan Peterson clones and the kind of people who write for the Morris North Star (I notice they don’t care much for sociology, either).

Let’s call Peterson what he is: an anti-intellectual. He’s stupid and proud of it, and he’d like everyone else to be as stupid as he is, which is why he wants to destroy so many worthy and important academic disciplines. He’s a neurasthenic Rush Limbaugh, and about as well informed. I wouldn’t even trust him in his own field of psychology.

But he’s part of a rising wave of anti-intellectual barbarism, and he’s profiting well from it. He’s making half a million dollars a year from his gullible alt-right fans!

This is an effective strategy, though: create a boogeyman populated with shadowy figures out of your audience’s paranoid imaginations, and convince them to throw money at you for batting them away. We saw the same thing with the bullshit specter of “cultural Marxism”, a non-existent movement that was conjured from whole cloth by right-wing know-nothings.

Oh god, the Morris North Star

They’ve come out with another issue of their dreadful alternative campus newspaper. Although I fear that disclosing these facts may harm the reputation of our students, I must, in the interest of openness and transparency, reveal that some of our students seem to lack basic skills in logic, reason, grammar, and spelling, as well as being politically regressive and lacking in empathy for others.

I blame the high schools. Or possibly the home schools. I have this dream that a four year education in a public liberal arts college might fix some of these problems.

However, in response to an accusation that their previous issue exhibited a poor understanding of biology and sociology, they offer this embarrassing defense.

I can assure you that with many biology majors contributing to the paper, we are more than well equipped in the biology department and they ask you to remember that personal thoughts and opinions don’t contribute to scientific evidence. As for sociology, we dont have anyone currently on staff with a background in brainwashed jargon.

So I guess UMM biologists are partly to blame. We’ll try to do better in the future.

If you want to see the depth of the ignorance we’re working against, here’s one example: an article that attempts to vindicate Christopher Columbus and salvage his reputation. I won’t include the whole thing because I’ve already dealt myself a savage dent in my forehead with just these short excerpts.

Here’s one argument that Columbus wasn’t really so bad — he didn’t actually murder any Americans, you know, indigenous people who lived within the modern boundaries of the United States of America, which is the only True America, and the only America that counts.

First, contrary to popular belief, Christopher Columbus didn’t discover America and never harmed a single Native American. Columbus actually spent most of his time sailing around islands that make up the modern day South America like modern day Haiti and Dominican Republic. While it is true that Columbus and his crew slaughtered the island’s native people, his captain’s log and maps documenting his travels prove he never entered the modern day United States and therefore never harmed a Native American.

I just want to point out that America includes North, Central, and South America. Even Canada is part of the North American continent, and that “Native Americans” refers to people who live all over the Western Hemisphere.

Do only people who live in one specific region of one specific continent count as “people”? That admission that Columbus and his crew slaughtered the island’s native people, while excusing it because they didn’t live within our current borders, sounds so…Republican.

The tribes were also far behind the entire world in terms of technology, shockingly enough the wheal was still not used until England colonized it.

Yes. He misspelled “wheel”.

America was not built on genocide like some people would like you to believe. The tribes were hostile towards them because of their pale skin and attacked them. Eventually tribes warmed up to the pale faces and started trading with them, one of the most popular trade items were guns. The tribes that had guns would then kill rival tribes that only had stone tomahawks and take their land. Most native americans didn’t even die of war but from diseases.

Truly, a remarkable bit of projection. Indians were the bigoted ones who attacked blameless Europeans for the color of their skins. Then white people generously traded with the natives, who chose to get guns and kill each other. Disease wiped out the rest. Europeans didn’t kill Indians, it was all a result of Indian on Indian crime!

You’re going to have to trust me on this. Most of our students aren’t this terrible.

I know I’m going to regret this

But I’m going to The Genesis Movie tonight. I figure this is my only chance before it is relegated to church basements around the country. I’ll be at the Parkwood 18 theater in Waite Park if anyone wants to join me in misery.

Just so you know, though, I do follow the Prime Directive in these events — no interference with the primitive, crude, barbaric civilizations that put on these ignorant demonstrations. I’m there to observe; I might ask questions of citizens who are open to that sort of thing, but otherwise, only respectful behavior while I take notes on the foolishness on display. If your intent is disruption, no no no, stay away from me.
There is a good chance I’ll get thrown out even if I’m quiet and polite, so I don’t need need any assistance from rowdy compatriots.

Do not underestimate the military strength of the human navel

After the success of Wonder Woman, you may be wondering whether the upcoming Justice League movie will continue to correct the dismal, depressing failure of the DC comic hero franchise. Have no fear! They’ll find a way to fuck it up.

One sign that they will is…costuming. Wonder Woman’s Amazons wore practical, reasonable armor that were less about fan-service and more about warriors not wanting their guts stirred with a sharp piece of metal. In Justice League, though, the Amazons are ditching the uncuddly, relatively unrevealing metal plates for soft leather bikinis, because, apparently, belly buttons are more ferocious and intimidating.

Perhaps the US Army should ask Zack Snyder to design their uniforms?