Evil by the numbers–I don’t want to write today, fuck you

I don’t want to write today. Fuck you.

Joan and I had a small tiff last evening. I went to bed without saying “good night.” I awoke this morning in pain. I had slept on my right side. The right ear covered with shingles hurt like a spook in the night had used a Bic® to set it ablaze. The medication had worn off, and the pain had returned. This morning, early, I swallowed, gulped really, the pills and prayed (ironic choice of words) for the pain to recede.

My consciousness last night and this morning filled with the slaughter in Charleston. The TV had brought me video of the inside of the sanctuary. How beautiful it was. But, there, in all that beauty with specters of black slaves floating in the air, a white man had sat for an hour with a small prayer group. I’m not sure what the prayer group was discussing, but I know all the group, save for the single white man, were gentle souls. Lambs almost. And then the evil white man slaughtered nine of them. I wonder if they screamed like lambs do when a butcher cuts their throats. The imagined scene in that beautiful place is pornographic. A snuff film plays endlessly in my mind.


I am consumed by the thought of evil. I don’t want to write today, but I have already said that. So, what? Fuck you. I don’t want to write because that causes me think of evil. I can’t get it out of my mind. I am mad at Joan, you, the reader, and the world. I hurt like a son-of-bitch. Call me Judge Job.

Evil is all around us. About 2 percent of any population is evil (psychopathic) with another 10 or 15 percent falling into the grey area. See, e.g., Roderick Tweedy, The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte, Taylor and the Myth of Creation, pp. 158-159  Karnac Books (January 4, 2013) (citations omitted). That means evil is around us in huge numbers. By the way, I equate “evil” with the word “psychopath”–a violent person with no empathy. See, e.g.William HirsteinWhat Is a Psychopath?, Psychology Today (January 30, 2013).

Take the two percent figure and multiply it by America’s population of 320 million. The Google calculator will spit out the number 64,000 6.4 million. If you consider the “grey area” and reduce the low number of 10 percent to 5 percent just to be safe and multiply that against 320 million the Google calculator will spit out 160,000 16 million. In short, the number of evil, psychopathic, people in our country is staggering.

I don’t want to write today. Fuck you.


52 responses

  1. Uh… Apparently you don’t want to math today either, Judge. Your numbers are 2 orders of magnitude low.

  2. I don’t want to get started on an argument. I’ve been in enough foul moods myself. But, and qualifying this by noting that I’m no statistician (my wife and my older son are the ones in the family with the knowledge of stats), you’re putting all defined psychopaths into the violent psychopath category. ‘Taint so.

    Regardless of the statistical frequency of defined (even per the Psych Today piece you link) psychopathy, there’s simply no evidence that all of those folks – or even a majority, or even more than a small percentage – are also violent.

    Whether even they are “evil” is a question I’m not going to take on here.

    And please, make up with Joan. You’ll feel better.

  3. Judge, despite the earlier comments on your math and your definition of evil, I think we can all agree there is way, way way too much evil in the world. Well said, feel better (physically and emotionally)

  4. Evil is certainly all around us. I read today that the shooter almost didn’t go through with it since everyone in the church “was so nice to him.” While that brief sentiment, that flash of humanity, was overridden by extreme hatred, callousness and unbelievable depravity, I choose (probably out of a need to avoid looking long into an abyss that might also look into me) to focus on the force for good that church represents, on the outpouring of support I’ve seen thus far, and how these deaths will likely lead to the opposite of what the shooter intended, and, at least hopefully, lead to productive conversations and actions to reduce the racism and hatred this event sharply placed into focus.

    I just finished The Men Who Stare at Goats (the book is much better and different than the film) and it gave me hope. It describes the Army’s fear that the great majority of humans, even in battle and after training, have a very difficult time killing another human being and likely shot to miss, unconsciously, as almost all humans aren’t wired to kill other humans. The Army’s attempts to remedy this are deeply depressing, hopeful and darkly hilarious. They’re also mostly secret and highly classified; however the book’s premise, that the army is worried that we are- almost all of us, hard wired for love and not violence, is reason for hope I think.

    Mr. Rogers carried a quote that “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” Most would excoriate me if I tried to apply that to this killer, and I’m not. But I am saying that, however tragic this story is, there is also great potential for this example of extreme violence and hatred to become a catalyst to turn the long term story of this tragedy into one of overcoming hate with love, of lessening racism and violence after witnessing such an extreme example of it.

    Let’s hope so anyway. It’s all we can do I guess.


  5. I’m sorry that you are suffering, your honor, and I hope that things get better for you both physically and personally.

    The world is a strange place: People have such a capacity to do horrible things to each other but also a tremendous capacity for love and selflessness. The history of that church sort of encapsulates this in a way for me: burned down, closed by the government, destroyed by an earthquake, and now a site of another massacre. But through it all, this church has remained a place for people to seek God as a community and to provide solace, hope, and healing to each other. I don’t think that I will ever understand evil or why it exists, but I think trying to hold onto the good in the world, and try to help others to find it, is all we can ever really do.

  6. Amen. Well said. Maybe we all need to just rededicate ourselves to doing good and loving one another.

  7. RGK,
    “He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” -Nietzsche

    Don’t forget to blink and turn away sometimes. It’s a scary world out there, and your job brings you closer to the abyss than most, so things like this hurt more.

    Also, don’t forget to apologize to your wife, especially if you were right and she was wrong. I’ve found married life works better that way.

    Back to bar prep. Stay strong!


  8. Anonymous,

    I made the change. Check it out, and tell (via a comment) me if I am correct now. I too fucking old to be sure!

    All the best.


  9. SLS,

    I both love and hate Nietzsche.

    Good luck on the bar prep. You will do fine. I look forward to hearing your story as you journey through life as a lawyer.

    All the best.


  10. To put that 2 percent number in context, that means that for every home game there should be 1,820 evil people inside Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium.

    Even assuming for the sack of discussion only that people at a Nebraska football game are representative of the whole population, that number looks way, way too high to me.

  11. If you both love and hate Nietzsche you might simple love Max Stirner, whose magnum opus, The Only One and His Own, was published decades before Nietzsche’s, in 1845. Stirner has all of Nietzsche’s insight and eloquence, and little of his incoherence. I particularly appreciate Stirner as distilled by Ernst Juenger in his own magnum opus, Eumeswil (available on Scribd):

    First of all: The Superman recognizes the world as the will to power; “there is nothing else.” Even art is a will to power. The Superman joins in the rivalries of the world while the Only One is content to watch the spectacle. He does not strive for power; he dashes neither after nor ahead of it, because he possesses it and enjoys it in his self-awareness. This recalls Far Eastern empires of images.

    Secondly: the famous “God is dead.” By then, Old Gunpowderhead was forcing an open door. A universal awareness was unveiled. That explains the sensation he caused. The Only One, on the other hand: “God … is none of my business.” That leaves all doors open: the Only One can depose or impose God or let the matter rest – whichever he likes. He can show him the door or “form an association” with him. As with the Silesian mystic, “God cannot be without me.” Like the Biblical Jacob, the Only One can wrestle for power until dawn. That alone is the message in the history of God’s redemption plan.

  12. Pingback: Interrupted By Evil | Snakes in the Grass

  13. Judge,

    I’m concerned about you. I mean I’m really concerned.

    So, after giving this some thought, I think there is only one way to help you snap out of this funk.

    I want you to go to Youtube, type in, and then watch: George Carlin’s “Exposing the American government.” Follow up with his “10 Commandments,” and then “On Airlines and Flying.” And if you’re up to it and have time, watch George Carlin’s, “the Death Penalty.” Its free. You should do this immediately.

    It won’t make yesterday’s tragedy any less real, or the shingles go away– but you’ll laugh like h—, and feel a little better.

    At least that’s what I did this morning.

  14. Judge. As to Joan, I’m sure you were wrong. Better grovel so she doesn’t flush your pain meds down the (secret golden) toilet.

  15. davidtarrel,

    Interesting that you should write:

    I just finished The Men Who Stare at Goats (the book is much better and different than the film) and it gave me hope. It describes the Army’s fear that the great majority of humans, even in battle and after training, have a very difficult time killing another human being and likely shot to miss, unconsciously, as almost all humans aren’t wired to kill other humans. The Army’s attempts to remedy this are deeply depressing, hopeful and darkly hilarious. They’re also mostly secret and highly classified; however the book’s premise, that the army is worried that we are- almost all of us, hard wired for love and not violence, is reason for hope I think.

    Roderick Tweedy, in the The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte, Taylor and the Myth of Creation, cited in the post recounts that during WWII 15 percent of the soldiers would not fire their weapons at another human. Those soldiers were otherwise brave and good. For example, you might find them running into the battlefield to bring back a wounded soldier. On the other hand, he cites Army statistics showing that 2% of the soldiers seemed to have no trouble at all killing others and that was true through battle after battle. In fact, those two percent accounted for a large number of total kills, much greater than their percentage of the whole. Army psychologists concluded that these men were probably psychopaths in civilian life.


  16. HA! I live over in the Hawkeye state and I’m betting that there are quite a few Hawks over here who believe that your stated percentage figure in Memorial Stadium is far, far too low. The “evil Big Red” is hated by many. 🙂

  17. 1st clerk,

    You always sided with her. That said, I groveled this morning after the post and she patted me on the head and sent me off to work with a cherry,”Bite me, Rich.”

    All the best.


  18. Anon.,

    Me too, regarding the high number. Make it a half of one percent, and it is still a terrifying high number.

    All the best.


  19. My cousin from Oklahoma is visiting, and he says that your estimate is too low by several orders of magnitude. 🙂

  20. Jeff,

    Even if you cut the number to a half of one percent the result will make you foul your pants in fear.

    All the best.


  21. Herein is a complete list of issues which justify having a fight with your wife:

    Hope you feel better soon, Judge K. 🙂

  22. Anonymous,

    I have to take a plea and do some other things. When I am done this afternoon, I will dial up George Carlin, bless his departed soul. Just thinking about him, and your comment, made me feel better. Thank you.

    All the best.


  23. And yet, and even having likely known and represented a couple, I don’t. And I’m not particularly brave.

    Rather, what I know is that whatever the numbers, we who were fortunate enough to be born white and have been fortunate enough to not be poor and to have earned our wrinkles and white hair are remarkably unlikely to be victimized by one. It’s not impossible, but damned unlikely.

    Indeed, I’m far more likely (and here I’m delving into the world of statistics about which, once again, I have very little insight) to be a victim of identity theft or of a low-rent Bernie Madoff than I am to be victimized by the hoards of violent psychopaths among us.

    (I’m avoiding snarky not-quite jokes about how many of them become police officers and soldiers (enlisted or of fortune).

  24. The Charleston Post and Courier newspaper reported the Bible study group had been examining passages from the Gospel according to Mark.

    P.S. Keep your restless dreams and calculations about evil to yourself before you become a born again Christian or start mumbling to yourself in public about which came first “evil or the murderer?”.

    Enough with the attempts to define and quantify “evil” already. What next a new law that incorporates a direct correlation with supernatural forces so that everyone can be clear that murder is evil? There is plenty of murdering going on everyday across the planet and no one really even seems to notice.

    How about fuck people that murder and double fuck people that want to package and sell “evil” as a means to simplify and rationalize their own constructs of humanity and behavior including murder.

    Enough with trying to layer excuses, reasons, and or gradients of enlightenment on the top of “killing in the name of ___________________ (Fill in the blank)”.

  25. I’m surprised that a man of your experience and perspective would let anything like this drive you into such a funk, Your Honor.

    I maintain that everyone has the capacity for “evil,” myself included. History reveals that man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man is an unalterable constant, and the most abominable atrocities occur when “the Other” is successfully dehumanized. “Der Juden.” “Gooks.” “[N-bomb].” Choose your pejorative. And ever since there was One True God, people have been killing in His Name.

    Two conditions make “evil” possible: Power and powerlessness. When you are able to dehumanize your adversary, it is easy to kill. If something made Mr. Roof (always presuming innocence!) do this, it did. I don’t think I have it in me personally, but if you pushed me hard enough, I suspect that I could.

    It is a particular concern to men like you, because of the frightening power you possess, and the lack of accountability you are saddled with. It is an enormous weight we place on your shoulders. While you seem to have acquired the perspective to exercise restraint, as Judge Gertner fairly lamented here, more than a few of your colleagues could say that “if you can’t afford civil justice, you don’t deserve it” with a straight face.

    To respect the humanity of your fellow-men is a constant struggle. When I see a panhandler on the street, I fight to remind myself that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” And in cases like that of Mr. Roof and Jared Loughner, even I might fail.

    I drink to you, Sir. You are a good man. Not a perfect man, but a good one. And as all of us who are married understand implicitly, you have a better woman. I certainly do, and I really don’t deserve her. 😉

    Get well soon.

  26. Judge:
    I cannot get the image of these decent people out of my mind. They had peacefully gathered in their house of worship and (this is the part the really gets to me) HAD INVITED THIS MAN INTO THEIR MIDST! And he returned their kindness by turning their sacred space into a charnel house. The slaughter of innocents is never easy to consider because it causes men and women of conscience to question our very existence. I can only retreat into the belief that tragedies like this are the exception rather than the rule. It isn’t much but it’s something…

  27. Robert,

    You write that: “I can only retreat into the belief that tragedies like this are the exception rather than the rule.” I am tempted to agree but then I remember the Holocaust. All the best.


  28. Anonymous,

    More mathy is good! Thanks.

    All the best.


    PS Why is it that I understand, sorta, what a coefficient of reproducibility is but I can’t place the decimal in the right place when I simply multiply? It is a puzzle.

  29. Perhaps you are just being paid back by the universe for the negative karma you banked when you would yell from the top of the stairs down into the basement:

    “KELLER!!!!!!! GET YOUR ASS UP HERE!!!!”

    And scare the shit out of at least one 16 year old innocently playing video games and being too afraid to call girls that had told us to call them; only for said 16 year old to later find out that when Keller went upstairs, you simply said something like: “We are having hamburgers for supper. Your friends are welcome to stay for dinner.”

  30. Might I suggest, your Honor, that this was not your most thought-over post. Hey, we all have our moments and the general sentiment is certainly understandable. Perhaps the internet is not the place for a judge to turn for catharsis. But if it must be so, so be it. Anyway, I hope you feel better and am glad you are out of the matrimonial doghouse.

    PS – Please do not confuse plain ol’ fashioned crazy with “evil,” especially as a judge. It belittles the victims and encourages the truly “evil” to grander aspirations.

  31. Does this even qualify as a “first world problem?” I mean, it seems both the scared 16 year old and Keller had video games, a basement, and hamburgers, not to mention someone who cared enough about them both to not only be there, but provide the basement, the video games and the burgers. I’m just not sure we have a Gitmo situation here, but, hey, I wasn’t there…I was in our game room getting yelled at for whatever youthful shit I was doing…and somehow, I survived and, AHEM, grew up.

  32. Nate,

    Yes, Karma has bit me in the ass once again. But you both (and others) ate the fucking burgers without seeming emotional damage. So, I would say Karma is a bitch who is over reacting to my unusual parenting skills.

    All the best.


    PS Keller is looking for jobs in the states. If you hear of a biology opening at UNK, call me please assuming you aren’t too busy making obscence amounts of money.

  33. Oliver W.T.F.Holmes,

    Good advice.

    But one caveat: Evil is no longer something the elites talk about in the criminal justice context, but since I believe in legal realism and I have seen evil I believe the issue is important. For example, it is very important to distinghuish evil from crazy. All the best.


  34. Storm. McVeigh. Jared Holmes. Loughner. The Nazis. The Star-Chamber. To me, there is a difference between madness and evil.

    Madness usually acts alone. Evil acts in concert.

    Madness wears a blank stare. Evil wears a uniform (and yes, even a black robe).

    Madness is a child of mental illness. Evil is the product of a thirst for power.

    Madness is heedless of the law. Evil perverts the law.

    Madness almost always only acts once. Evil acts methodically.

    “I need to be able to rape your daughter with impunity, so that I can better protect her from being raped.” This is the logic of immunity, brought to us by the Star Chamber. If that is not evil, I don’t know what is.

  35. One of the best parts of not being sentenced to Nebraska is in having the freedom to be candid in both my criticism and my praise. I won’t say that you are not above criticism, but the praise is fair.

  36. Pingback: Judge Kopf admits he looks zombie – and the rest of the Federal Judiciary? | zombielaw

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