Sunday, January 3, 2016

What's the criteria for calling somthing "activism" versus "terrorism"?

Reporting on how 150 armed "militiamen" have taken over a federal building in Oregon, the New York Times referred to them as activists and protesters.


It's not even the bogus cause -- the arsonists admitted what they did, and say that the "protests" do not represent them -- that really deserves our attention. It's the language. Because we're describing one hundred and fifty armed people occupying a federal building -- and, if the presence of ample firearms during their "protest" wasn't explicit threat enough, they made it clear what the purpose of those was:
However, in an interview with The Oregonian earlier on Saturday evening, Mr. Bundy and his brother said they would not rule out violence if law enforcement officers attempted to remove them from the building.
“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy told the newspaper. He said he planned to remain in the building for “years.”
And yet we're using terms like "demonstration." "Activist." We are reminded that this was a "peaceful protest" that led to occupation of the building.

Which leads me to the obvious question: in what sense can we describe a hundred and fifty armed people demanding to get their way -- or else they'll use their guns -- as peaceful, before or after they seize our property? Threatening armed mobs making demands, and peaceful protests, seem to be mutually exclusive concepts.

Unless, of course, you're white and conservative. Because if you're white and conservative, the word "terrorist" just doesn't get uttered. You can shoot up a women's health care facility like Robert Lewis Dear. You can stage an armed takeover of federal property. You can threaten to shoot law enforcement officers as during the Bundy ranch stand off. And you're a protester. A lone wolf. A militiaman. A patriot.

But if you're not some combination of white, Christian and conservative? You don't have to bring guns anywhere to be deemed a terrorist. Just ask Black Lives Matter, which has been likened to everything from terrorists to "garbage" to Nazis and white supremacists on Fox News.

Aggressive white liberals aren't exempt from the 't' word, either. When environmentalists protesting a mine in Wisconsin wrestled a camera from one of the mining company's personnel and stole it, conservatives rapidly denounced the incident as "terrorism," and crafted legislation to counter the "threat."

And, of course, it goes without saying that if a Muslim commits an act of violence, it's pretty much guaranteed that someone will be talking "terrorism" before the dust has settled -- and who to bomb, as soon as.

But as long as you're the right combination of conservative, white and Christian, it seems you can do pretty much anything without getting labeled a terrorist these days. Even assemble in large numbers, with lots of guns, seize federal land, and threaten to murder officers who try to enforce the law.

Because, you know, activism, and peaceful protests.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Fallout 4 merchant super bug exploit ... empty a shop in seconds

So I have not seen this exploit listed anywhere yet. I discovered it when playing with the well advertised ammo bug -- which it's similar to (the one where you buy ammo / sell back one round / sell back all / continue selling back the phantom round that remains). Similar, and it builds on it, but different. Way, way quicker...you can rack up thousands & thousands of bottle caps in seconds.

The video and steps follow.


Steps:
1. Go to a merchant that sells .50 cal ammo.
2. Select all of it from their inventory.
3. Sell back one round.
4. Sell back a few more (but not all) rounds.
5. Continue selling the remaining rounds, until the merchant owes you more bottlecaps than they have in store.
6. Browse their their inventory now. Purchase all the .50 cal ammo back again. Notice that even though you're buying from them, the game tracks it as money the merchant owes you.
7. Repeat until you have plenty of bottle caps.
8. Buy everything you want. Accept the trade.
9. Enjoy until Bethesda patches. :-)


Notes: I'm playing on PS4. I've found that this works most reliably with merchants who sell .50 cal ammo, but I have got it to work on other calibers sometimes. Also, I should note that I haven't yet started a new game to verify that I can reproduce the behavior on a fresh character, but my hunch is that it'll work as I can so consistently reproduce it w/this one (and similar exploits have proved consistently available).

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

So many problems with "We can't seem to pinpoint the problem"

I'm seeing a post pop up in my feed, and I can't seem to find where it originated; but it's been copied/pasted as a status by several people I know, and I see it showing up at various places online. It's a lengthy list of bad-things-by-Muslims, combined with a laughably fact-adverse section on how nobody-else-does-bad-things, leading to the inevitable implication that Muslims-are-scary-no-good-and-very-bad.

I've broken it into sections for evaluation (emphasis my own), but if you're into self-torture, the text in its entirety can be found at the bottom.

We Can't Seem To Pinpoint The Problem

The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
The Moscow Theater Attackers were Muslims
The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
The Kenyan US, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims

So, there you have it...a list of terrible things radical Muslims have done. (Take that, anyone arguing Islamic extremists don't commit crimes!!)


 Think of it:
Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
Confucians living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem
Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
Muslims living with Christians = Problem
Muslims living with Jews = Problem
Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem
Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
Muslims living with Atheists = Problem
MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM

You may have noticed that line I bolded. If not, if you got lost among all that BS, allow me to re-quote:
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
 Right. No problem. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

Other than, oh, I don't know.

  • The-fucking-Inquisition.
  • The lower-case "i" inquisitions that took place all over Europe
  • That time when Christians kicked Jews out of England
  • Those times when Christians persecuted Jews because of blood libels
  • The pogroms, persecutions and oppressions of Jewish people throughout both Western and Eastern Europe
  • The. Holocaust.

But, yeah, other than pretty much all of Christian history, "no problem" bro!

And let's look at how much of a "no problem" it's been for people of other faiths living among Christians. We could ask the thriving pagan communities of Europe, for instance.

Could, if they hadn't been forcibly converted or put to the sword. But, you know, "No problem!"

There's also a curious omission here. The author doesn't -- to his or her limited credit -- note that it's been "no problem" when Christians have lived with Christians. The fact that there is so much ALL-CAPS-EMPHASIS on the BIG PROBLEM that ensues when Muslims live together seems to imply a measure of uniqueness, though, so let's address that too.

Since pretty much the beginning of Christianity, literally, Christians have been having "BIG PROBLEM"s with other Christians. The Catholic / Protestant conflicts that ran Europe red weren't the half of it. Just ask the Arians. Or the Cathars.

Wait, you can't. They were wiped out. By other Christians. Point is, Christians have been massacring other Christians since early on. And that's for theological differences.

I haven't even mentioned how Christians have used their faith to justify racism. Or killing abortion doctors...in church, no less. Because, let's face it, some Christians can't even co-exist with women's health providers without getting murderous.

So to suggest that Muslim versus Muslim violence is unique to that religion is, well, bullshit. Pure and utter. Steaming loads of it.

But the author goes on:
 **********SO THIS LEADS TO *****************
They're not happy in Gaza
They're not happy in Egypt
They're not happy in Libya
They're not happy in Morocco
They're not happy in Iran
They're not happy in Iraq
They're not happy in Yemen
They're not happy in Afghanistan
They're not happy in Pakistan
They're not happy in Syria
They're not happy in Lebanon
They're not happy in Nigeria
They're not happy in Kenya
They're not happy in Sudan
Aside from the fact that people aren't happy in some of those countries because, well, we've been bombing them...it's worth pointing out that plenty of people are happy in those countries. Religious extremism may lead to discord, and may not sit well with the more enlightened elements of society, but it's not as if those populations are abandoning ship posthaste.

Which, as it happens, seems to be exactly what the author thinks is going on:

******** So, where are they happy? **********
They're happy in Australia
They're happy in England
They're happy in Belgium
They're happy in France
They're happy in Italy
They're happy in Germany
They're happy in Sweden
They're happy in the USA & Canada
They're happy in Norway & India
So immigrants to secular nations are happy in secular countries.
Reminds me of this story I heard once, about a country where people, tired of the unending religious bloodletting in Europe, tried to set up a secular nation with freedom of religion. They did it, and you know what? It worked out well; they were pretty happy. All of them. The religious ones. The irreligious ones.
They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame?
Not Islam...
Not their leadership...
Not themselves �
THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!!
And they want to change the countries they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy!
Aside from the fact that this is a peculiar definition of happiness that the author is using...imagine that. Religious people constantly wanting to tear down the freedoms around them to impose their own beliefs on everyone around them.

Damn. That's scary. I guess you're right. Islam must be singularly problematic.

Because you'd never see Christians doing that, would you?








=================================================================

Full text:


We Can't Seem To Pinpoint The Problem
The Shoe Bomber was a Muslim
The Beltway Snipers were Muslims
The Fort Hood Shooter was a Muslim
The underwear Bomber was a Muslim
The U-S.S. Cole Bombers were Muslims
The Madrid Train Bombers were Muslims
The Bali Nightclub Bombers were Muslims
The London Subway Bombers were Muslims
The Moscow Theater Attackers were Muslims
The Boston Marathon Bombers were Muslims
The Pan-Am flight #93 Bombers were Muslims
The Air France Entebbe Hijackers were Muslims
The Iranian Embassy Takeover, was by Muslims
The Beirut U.S. Embassy bombers were Muslims
The Libyan U.S. Embassy Attack was by Muslims
The Buenos Aires Suicide Bombers were Muslims
The Israeli Olympic Team Attackers were Muslims
The Kenyan US, Embassy Bombers were Muslims
The Saudi, Khobar Towers Bombers were Muslims
The Beirut Marine Barracks bombers were Muslims
The Besian Russian School Attackers were Muslims
The first World Trade Center Bombers were Muslims
The Bombay & Mumbai India Attackers were Muslims
The Achille Lauro Cruise Ship Hijackers were Muslims
The September 11th 2001 Airline Hijackers were Muslims
Think of it:
Buddhists living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Christians = No Problem
Hindus living with Jews = No Problem
Christians living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Confucians = No Problem
Confucians living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Sikhs = No Problem
Sikhs living with Hindus = No Problem
Hindus living with Baha'is = No Problem
Baha'is living with Christians = No Problem
Christians living with Jews = No Problem
Jews living with Buddhists = No Problem
Buddhists living with Shintos = No Problem
Shintos living with Atheists = No Problem
Atheists living with Confucians = No Problem
Confusians living with Hindus = No Problem
Muslims living with Hindus = Problem
Muslims living with Buddhists = Problem
Muslims living with Christians = Problem
Muslims living with Jews = Problem
Muslims living with Sikhs = Problem
Muslims living with Baha'is = Problem
Muslims living with Shintos = Problem
Muslims living with Atheists = Problem
MUSLIMS LIVING WITH MUSLIMS = BIG PROBLEM
**********SO THIS LEADS TO *****************
They're not happy in Gaza
They're not happy in Egypt
They're not happy in Libya
They're not happy in Morocco
They're not happy in Iran
They're not happy in Iraq
They're not happy in Yemen
They're not happy in Afghanistan
They're not happy in Pakistan
They're not happy in Syria
They're not happy in Lebanon
They're not happy in Nigeria
They're not happy in Kenya
They're not happy in Sudan
******** So, where are they happy? **********
They're happy in Australia
They're happy in England
They're happy in Belgium
They're happy in France
They're happy in Italy
They're happy in Germany
They're happy in Sweden
They're happy in the USA & Canada
They're happy in Norway & India
They're happy in almost every country that is not Islamic! And who do they blame?
Not Islam...
Not their leadership...
Not themselves �
THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN!!
And they want to change the countries they're happy in, to be like the countries they came from where they were unhappy!
******** So, What are their Major Organizations? **********
Islamic Jihad : AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
ISIS: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Qaeda: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Taliban: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Hamas: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Hezbollah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Boko Haram: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Nusra: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Abu Sayyaf: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Al-Badr: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Muslim Brotherhood: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Lashkar-e-Taiba: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Palestine Liberation Front: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Ansaru: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Jemaah Islamiyah: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
Abdullah Azzam Brigades: AN ISLAMIC TERROR ORGANIZATION
And we just can’t figure out who's causing the problem!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A few good rules does not a just moral system make

To many fundamentalist Christians (and believers of other stripes), morality is not a reasoned set of rules we've established for man's well-being, but rather a set of dictates from on high, presumably for man's well-being. Thus we see that, no matter how odious the outcome (robbing women of reproductive rights; robbing gay people of civil rights; etc.) and how devastating its impact on people, if you can convince believers that God wants it done, it is assumed right and just and pursued with a vengeance. You might be destroying and in some cases ending someone's life, but as long as God dictates it, somehow, perversely, it's the best thing for that person.

Believers will sometimes try to justify these monstrous acts, often with specious or downright monstrous reasoning of their own. Often enough, the reason comes down, in part or in whole, to the authority of God's moral code (as the believer defines it, at least). A rule is just because the believer assumes God supports it. Even if we cannot understand why, even if it appears harmful and monstrous, even if it is literally ruining people's lives, we just have to trust that it's for the best. Because God wouldn't give us a rule that wasn't good for us; and if we start to question the laws God has given, well, what basis for morality is there? As Ken Ham has charmingly wondered, if you don't believe in God's rules, what's stopping you from eating babies and raping animals? Sure, you may have secular moral codes; but without an authority figure handing down unimpeachable dictates, is anything ever really wrong? You might not like persecuting gay people, but if you won't obey God on that, why should we also stop murder?

Now, this kind of morality is less morality and more rule-following. In this worldview, humans aren't actually expected to exercise moral judgment, but rather to follow the rules given them; and, like a well-trained attack dog praised for his obedience, the believer is congratulated for following the rules closely, regardless of whose life he ruins in the process. The more closely he follows, the more moral he is (good boy!).

But not only is robotic obedience not demonstrative of deep moral thought, it's duplicitous to imply that because a code demands some morally justifiable behaviors all demanded behaviors are by extension morally justifiable. Furthermore, while observing a given rule may be morally justifiable in many cases, that does not in and of itself validate the reasons that led that to implementing that rule.

Perhaps the simplest way to explain my point is by way of demonstration. Let's suppose someone – a god, if you like – appeared, and offered up a set of rules. These were the Way of Convenience, and they go something like so:

1. Wasteful noise and inconvenience are loathsome in the sight of the Lord thy God. Thus sayeth the Lord:
2. Thou shalt not kill thine brother, nor shalt thou kill thine sister, or thine friend, or thine enemy. For killing is noisesome business, and the Lord finds it tiring.
3. Thou shalt not rob thine neighbor, for this creates unnecessary paperwork.
4. Thou shalt not commit adultery, for family drama vexes the Lord.

Now, these seem like pretty good end goals – something most people (and most moral or religious teachings, for that matter) can agree upon: don't kill, don't rob, don't cheat on your spouse.

But while we can agree that those are good goals, we also recognize that the reasons why are stupid. In other words, we implicitly acknowledge that decent ends are not validation of means. So the fact that, buried with a lot of odious and downright silly commandments, there are some solid principles in the Bible (or any religious text) is not validation of the Bible's moral authority, anymore than it is validation of the Way of Convenience. You have to actually demonstrate that there is a good reason to observe your set of rules, outside of the fact that there are a few agreeable dictates among there.

Now let's take this analogy further. Let's suppose, following all the nice-rules-for-silly-reasons, we get to a passage like this in the Way of Convenience:

843 And the Lord thy God spake, saying, People who sing in the shower are an abomination in the sight of the Lord thy God.
844 Forsaking the natural uses of bath time, they pursue musical endeavors which are neither fitting nor pleasing in the sight of God.
845 Let the shower singers be forever cut off from my people, and let their blood be upon them.

Even if all 842 prior verses were rosy and wonderful, and so it hadn't occurred to us to view them with a skeptical eye, this would be a really good time to start applying some of that skepticism.

Somehow, though, in our day and age people still look to a book that justifies owning people as slaves, regulates how a rapist can get away with his crime, prescribes the death penalty for disrespectful children; and a God who floods the entire world killing children, babies and fetuses along with everyone else (but is pro-life!); a God who metes out collective punishment for the actions of individuals; a God who punishes thought crimes while forgiving actual crimes (if the sinner repents!); a God who would allow the devil to torment a loyal follower just to prove his point; somehow, people insist that we must not only look to this book and this god without the least bit of skepticism, but actually derive our moral principles from a literal reading of it.

This isn't morality. This is just following orders, and assuming that you're not actually responsible for exercising moral judgment – because your particular orders came from the top man himself, the General in the Sky. You don't have to prove it, because you feel it's true. And, what's more, the rest of us have to follow those same orders too.

Because, my God, what's to stop us from eating babies and fucking animals if we don't rely on order-taking?!

Monday, July 13, 2015

It isn't “love” when you're hurting people...

Love is kind, love is patient...
love wants to take your rights?
After the SCOTUS decided that gay Americans are protected under the constitution too – and so deserve the same marriage rights as straight Americans – there's been a noticeable shift in the winds from some corners of the anti-LGBT Christian community. Not that minds have changed, of course, but rather that the tone being promoted by many has softened: it's a lot less “Westboro Baptist” and a lot more “concerned friend.”

There's always been the “hate the sin, love the sinner” nonsense, of course. But that's tended to focus a lot more on the hate, with the love being the caveat that (supposedly) makes it all better: hey, don't call me a bigot, man; I hate that you're gay, because that's disgusting, evil, and totally icky...but I totally love you!

After the initial impotent, sputtering indignation following the ruling, some thunderstruck conservative Christians seem to be trying to figure out a different approach. Unfortunately, they're attempting to figure out a new way to say exactly the same thing, in support of exactly the same positions: in short, a more palatable excuse for fighting to deprive gay Americans of equal protection under the Constitution.

And while some of the results have been so absurd as to border on self-parody, the tone softening deserves a closer look. Following the ruling, Ed Stetzer at Christianity Today, for instance, offered this exhortation to Christians bemoaning this “re-definition” of marriage:
As we live in a culture that has just defined marriage in a way contrary to what evangelicals and others believe, we must understand that, as Christians, we aren't the only ones who care about marriage. As a result, we must keep in mind that discussions surrounding the definition of marriage carry a lot of emotions and must be handled with care.

As evangelicals contend for the definition of marriage in spheres outside the law (that is settled now), we must keep in mind truth is often not heard if it's not communicated in love. If we want to be heard, we should communicate in a way worth hearing.

Mark Galli (also at Christianity Today) hoped Christians would take this defeat as an opportunity to re-engage LGBT people. The National Association of Evangelicals' statement mourned that “the legal definition of marriage...is now at variance with orthodox biblical faith as it has been affirmed across the centuries and as it is embraced today by nearly two billion Christians in every nation on earth” … but they encouraged

...Evangelicals and other followers of the Bible have a heightened opportunity to demonstrate the attractiveness of loving Christian marriages and families. Evangelicals should renew their commitment to the sacrificial love and covenantal faithfulness to which Jesus calls all husbands and wives.
As witnesses to the truth, evangelicals should be gracious and compassionate to those who do not share their views on marriage.
Bob Lepine at Family Life spent a good deal of space calling out the angry, hateful approach Christians have embraced toward homosexuality, and calls instead for Christians to “reach out with compassion” following the ruling. But, again, at no point are we talking bridge building and acceptance. As Lepine writes,
I believe in the months and years to come, there will be people who have either sampled or participated actively in homosexual activities who are going to be looking for a way to deal with their shame and their guilt. They are going to be looking for a way out of the lifestyle. Would these people even think to look to the church for help? Would they think of us as "kind people who really care about me" or as angry, hate-filled men and women who will only make them feel more ashamed of where they have been? Are we preparing ourselves as the church to be ready to provide help and hope to those who will be seeking a way out?
So the tone is definitely, in some quarters, shifting -- or, at least, we're seeing the gloves-on approach promoted more often. There are still the presidential candidates who are vocally advocating means of reviving marriage inequality (including Wisconsin's own Sarah Palin Scott Walker). There is still ample rage and hateful commentary to be found. But there's also a kinder, gentler face emerging. 

But is it really? Certainly, the rhetoric is being toned down. But is rhetoric the problem?

I don't think so. Language is important, but the fight over marriage equality wasn't a fight over how we talked about it. Conservatives' vitriol might have contributed to the change in public opinion by alienating people, but the problem wasn't that gay people were denied their rights in a hostile manner; the problem was that people were denied rights based on their sexual orientation. And that's the sort of thing a smile can't fix.

This gets really interesting when it's all put forth in a “we're doing it for your own good” framework. Bolstered by witnesses like these (the market for a “gay de-conversion” story is as strong as it ever was, I guess), I've seen this line more frequently these days. Like Bob Lepine argues, the Church has to be there to “help” gay people overcome their “lifestyle”.

It would be bad enough if the “help” conservative Christians had in mind was inflicting self-hate and shame on people – all for the sake of redeeming them, naturally! But as we've already seen, and as the Republican front-runners are keen to remind us, they're not just intent on inflicting emotional anguish. The rash of “religious freedom” bills we saw when conservatives began to realize they might lose on the marriage front is a good indicator that even if they accept, of necessity, that marriage equality is here to stay (a position that even now is disputed by many GOP presidential candidates), conservatives are going to fight tooth and nail to continue discriminating as long as possible.

Which brings me to the point of my title. Conservative Christians have been, are, and will likely continue for some time, fighting to make gay Americans' lives hell. Conservatives may tell themselves that it's all for a good cause, that they're just trying to save gay people from an eternity in hell, that this is just a brand of tough love, that they have to be cruel to be kind...but at the end of the day, if you work to ostracize, isolate, shame and persecute someone; if you try to legalize discrimination against a subset of your fellow Americans, and try to deprive them of equal protection and rights under the law; if you throw a tantrum when you can no longer legally control the behavior of other people; if you think you should be able to deprive someone of a consenting relationship, of a family, of legal benefits and general dignity; if you think you should be free to imply that a person's love for another consenting adult makes him or her a monster and a threat; that's not a manifestation of love. And insisting that you're only doing it because you love the person so very much is not just duplicitous, it's creepy as hell. It's the kind of rationalization an abuser offers, and with the same justification: none.

Because you don't hurt the people you love. And if you do, it's not love. No matter how many times that you insist it is, or how wide your smile as you say it...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sorry, it is a gun problem: "Cain killed Abel with a rock"

Inevitably, every time there's a(nother) prominent shooting, every time there's another senseless mass slaughter, the anti-gun control crowd predictably contributes to the conversation by screaming about how keeping guns out of the hands of killers isn't a viable solution to stopping killings.

There is one particularly stupid meme I've seen shared, in one form or another, after every mass shooting in the past few years (and, yes, the fact that I even have to write those words, the fact that we've become so acclimated to a world where mass killings are another facet of life -- and that the primary concern of so many is defending unlimited gun ownership rather than, I don't know, people --  makes me sick).

I don't know where this originated, but you can find it in lots of places.


Predictably, after the Charleston shooting, I've seen it showing up in my feed. The image, which reads, "Cain killed Abel with a rock. It's a HEART problem, not a gun problem" references Jeremiah 17:9.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
At which point, you're supposed to, apparently, throw your hands up in defeat. People have been killing each other since the days of myth, my friend; it's all part of God's mysterious plan, so don't be hating on the guns. It's all a byproduct of our fallen natures, so if you want to do something really productive, you won't waste your time preventing would-be killers from acquiring weapons that enable them to commit mass murder; you'll do something really useful, like push religion on people to address that "heart problem." (What religion? Well, damn it, your church's of course! After all, who knows the mind of God better than you and everyone who agrees with you?!)

Earlier, I called this a particularly stupid argument. Aside from the absurdity of trying to divine some sort of solution to a complex contemporary issue from a literary murder that was supposed to happen thousands of years ago, this is just a poor argument.

No one is suggesting that guns are the One Ring, that will corrupt the mind and turn a "Good Guy with a Gun" into a deranged killer. No one is suggesting that guns are the only tool with which someone intent on murder can go about realizing his ambitions. On the contrary, it's not that guns create killers, or that guns are the only tools killers have or could ever use, but that guns enable killers to do significantly more damage than they could do without guns. This isn't a difficult concept, but the image bypasses the actual issue at hand by implying a few strawmen arguments.

Like Don Quixote's windmills, the points this image addresses aren't real arguments. But those who share it seem to be convinced that they are, and that simply noting that people kill with other weapons too is enough to shut down a conversation on gun control.

Sorry, folks, it's not. We all get that some people snap, some people are evil, and some people are going to attempt -- and succeed at -- killing people. We get it. That's the reason we're having this conversation. And we get that guns are not inherently good or evil. They're just objects. We've got the concept.

But those inanimate objects, in the hands of people with "heart problems," are capable of inflicting a hell of a lot more damage than a rock would be. Which is, you know, why we're talking about keeping those tools of killing out of the hands of people who mean to misuse them.

It's really not that difficult of a concept. We recognize that the more damage a weapon is capable of inflicting, the more regulated it should be. No one in their right mind would argue that we should just let countries pursue nuclear programs, because, what the hell...it's a heart problem, dude, not a nuke problem! We're not crazy enough to advocate for civilian ownership of military weaponry because, hey, Cain killed Abel with a rock, man...it's not about Neighbor Bob's tank! We realize that when something empowers people to commit mass murder, it might be in our interests to regulate who has access, or at least keep them out of the hands of violent, crazy people.

Until we get to guns. Then, all of a sudden, our reasoning capabilities seem to go out the window, and we resort to, "But, dude, Cain used a rock!"

Sorry, people, it's a gun problem. It's a gun problem because we're making it incredibly easy for killers, those who suffer from "problems of the heart," to get guns, and those guns enable them to commit mass murder. That's the gun problem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Vesterheim museum, in Decorah Iowa

This past weekend I joined a group of folks from a rosemaling class I was taking for a field trip to the Vesterheim museum in Decorah Iowa. Wow.

So much history -- and beauty. Here are a few highlights from different sections of the museum.

Perhaps one of the most moving exhibits was this one, the translation of a poem written on a barn board by Halvor Langslet before leaving for America:
Here have I roamed many a day
in this wood, so green and fair,
but alas, my time is up,
ad I must bid this place adieu,
for I am off to America.
Farewell, ye birds, ye thousands
who for me have sung.
I fancy I'll here ne'er again come.
Farewell. Farewell.

- Halvor Langslet



 There was also a fascinating selection of items that accompanied Norwegians to the United States. Some of them were expected -- like spinning wheels, plates, etc. And then there were things like the following, which is a beautifully carved butter mold:


There were a number of fascinating pieces of furniture, including this one, that combined some impressive painting and carving.





The rosemaling was incredible, too.



Obviously, this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of everything that we saw...but hopefully it gives you an idea of the kinds of stuff there. If you're interested in rosemaling, or acanthus or chip carving, or immigrant history, etc., this is definitely a place to go!