As 2018 Mercifully Draws To Its Close, Let Us Not Forget The Garbage People Who Made North Texas A Worse Place This Year.

Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Last Judgment, a masterful evocation of Christian grace and condemnation, resides in the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Tourists, and locals with a passion for art and history visit the centuries-old academy to study this piece, and other important works, with bright-eyed interest.

The reverent calm of the room containing The Last Judgment is broken one day when The Year 2018 arrives, its every step punctuated by the dull thwack of its flip-flops against the aged parquet floor.

The Year 2018 shows its indifference to the experiences of others by nudging patrons aside and forcing its way before Bosch’s painting. Its attention is almost immediately drawn to the panel depicting Hell. The Year 2018 scrutinizes the frank horror of the scene, the many tortures perpetrated by ghastly demonic figures, the misery of the punished, the brutal sense of irrationality, and appreciates how even the heavy shadows and broken earth reveal a place where madness and pain have devoured hope.

As The Year 2018 concludes its study of this searing image of true damnation, it breaks the silence of the room again with two words: “BIG MOOD.”

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The last 12 months were not kind.

Our executive branch again proved itself incapable of managing any task that isn’t a human rights violation; we continue to live under the threat of mass shootings; increasingly destructive natural disasters have set upon us, and may be the heralds of apocalyptic climate change.

These are problems on a national scale, but our annual list of the Metroplex’s preeminent asshats can confirm 2018 was also terrible on a local scale.

Generating this list forces us to consider a difficult question: What, exactly, defines an asshat? A straightforward list of the worst people might be nice, but it can lack perspective. So think instead of this piece as a way of tracing the constellation of woe that hangs over 2018. In other words: A true asshat is someone whose rotten character and deeds best define this awful year.

Before we plunge into our latest rundown of the gruesome bastards who befouled our community, we should, as always, take a moment to reflect on the people and things making our skyline burn just a little bit brighter these days.

Musicians and artists continue to thrive, and help sustain the city’s culture.

Tasty food and cheap drinks are abundant.

Luka Doncic is helping Mavs Fever spread like a mumps outbreak among non-vaccinated children.

We even managed to dodge a few potential catastrophes this year! We didn’t lose Lone Star beer, and Dallas Comedy House survived a dispute with a new landlord by planning a move across the street.

So, as unbelievable as it might seem, things actually could have been worse, we guess?

Yeesh. What a terrible thought.

Onto the list!

Christopher “Dr. Death” Duntsch

Notorious former surgeon Christopher Duntsch exhibited a frightening lack of skill in his field. A combination of ineptitude and arrogance compelled him to keep operating on patients — even as he maimed many and killed two. His actions were egregious, the stuff of nightmares.

I mean, Duntsch becomes “Dunce” so easily, right? Dude must’ve cultivated a truly harrowing reputation to move the nickname needle all the way to “Death.”

Well, yeah.

If you listened to the Dr. Death podcast earlier this year, you already know that Duntsch was able to prolong his bloody career thanks to baffling inaction on the part of our healthcare system.

Another thing you can learn from the podcast is that Duntsch was actually arrested before 2018, which means his actions maybe keep him from being technically eligible for inclusion on our list. Well, phooey — we’re keeping him.

Consider Duntsch’s special mention a nod to the Dr. Death podcast, which earned national accolades this year with its compelling presentation of the man and his grievous misdeeds.

Amber Guyger

Botham Jean was murdered in his home by an armed intruder – no one is disputing this, but doubt hangs over the case nonetheless, and for no other reason except for the fact that his killer, Amber Guyger, was a cop.

Jean’s murder was a senseless, maddening, heartbreaking act. Guyger wasn’t even on duty when it happened, but her now-former career may derail the path to justice for Jean in the court system. While former officer Roy Oliver was found guilty this year of murder for the unjust killing of Jordan Edwards, police officers and former police officers in the area have frequently enjoyed a galling lack of consequences in cases where they shot and killed an unarmed person.

There’s no debating this, though: Amber Guyger walked into Jean’s apartment and killed him.

Most recently, a grand jury elected to prosecute Guyger on charges of murder and not manslaughter, which the public applauded — although there are still concerns that a guilty verdict for murder will be out of reach.

Reed O’Connor

Is it really fair to begrudge Judge O’Connor for his ruling in the recent Affordable Care Act lawsuit? The United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas heard the case, and he made his decision based on his interpretation of the law. That’s just how the system works! The system 100 percent says Attorney General Ken Paxton can go out of his way to put politically divisive cases before O’Connor, whose rulings consistently reflect his conservative positions.

In this case, O’Connor’s ruling happened to line up along those yet again, arguing that trying to give millions of Americans easier access to healthcare is somehow unconstitutional. Does that really seem so strange? O’Connor already ruled against the ACA in a previous case and, no bid deal, but his most recent ruling goes against the insights of legal scholars, who scoffed at the merits of this latest challenge.

All of that sounds very normal and correct, we think.

Is it weird he announced his ruling on a Friday night, which just happened to be the night before the deadline for enrollment?

Of course, it’s not weird —  who would even suggest such a thing?

O’Connor, by the way, is a contributor to the Federalist Society, a group that feels liberals are politicizing the law, and responds to that by (wait for it) organizing around the promotion of their shared conservative principles.

That is definitely an OK thing that no one should worry about, probably!

In addition to potentially yanking healthcare away from countless vulnerable Americans, O’Connor previously stopped the Obama administration’s efforts to block states from passing the “bathroom bills” that started cropping up in the past few years. O’Connor’s ruling, in short, meant states could continue to pursue the creation of laws that would torment and criminalize transgender individuals. Which is totally… actually, fuck this pretense, and fuck this guy!

(By the way, O’Connor’s ruling is almost certainly going to be appealed, and shouldn’t have an effect on access to insurance as of this writing.)

Ken Paxton

I regret to inform you that Attorney General Paxton has been busy this year.

He took charge of the latest effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act through the courts. He also filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio because he’s worried that city is being too kind to immigrants. And while he’s managed to avoid a trial over the criminal fraud charges against him, that’s only because a dispute over the payments made to the special prosecutors in his case spiraled into a separate legal saga.

Listen: I’m not saying I think Paxton’s an unctuous, sneering creep who cares about nothing but himself and the spoils of his position. I’s just saying I assume there’s no asbestos lobby in our state — because, if there was, Paxton would likely be banging on a courtroom door right now, shouting about how he should have the legal right to force feed it to children and puppies.

For years, Paxton’s been using the attorney general’s office to attack people in perilous situations – remember, in addition to attacking same-sex marriage as a concept, he also led an effort to disqualify a specific couple’s marriage.

For a guy who likes to tout his professional support of Christianity, he seems awfully committed to making life worse for the kind of vulnerable people Jesus would actually defend.

I want to call that ironic, but I think the technical term is “conservative Texas politics.”

Kelcy Warren

This year, the perpetually awful Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners — led by CEO Kelcy Warren — filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace, Earth First and BankTrack over their roles in protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The lawsuit demands $1 billion from these defendants — a sum so large it could only seem reasonable to an industry that’s so lucrative that it seduces its executives into rolling the dice on that whole “looming climate change” thing, which – as a recent study warned us – will for sure wreak global havoc in the relatively near future if we don’t make big changes now.

As is, anyone with any investment in environmental causes already receives the words “Dakota Access pipeline” like a gut punch. Just a few years ago, nationally recognized protests over the pipeline called attention to the threat it posed to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s water supply. But despite vigorous court challenges, and groups of people willing to risk their safety to block construction, the pipeline happened, and the oil has now been churning for more than a year.

While there have been no reported problems of significance, it is concerning that the Army Corps of Engineers seems to be keeping details about the pipeline under wraps.

Is Energy Transfer’s lawsuit just a vindictive effort to hurt the people who briefly inconvenienced them? Is it a calculated move to scare future activists into complacency?

We’re close to the point of no return when it comes to climate change, and oil and gas companies have played a big part in pushing us so close to the ledge. Energy Transfer’s decision to so ferociously attack the people who try to hold them accountable for their actions feels like an especially worrying development at an especially worrying time in history.

Jason Lee Van Dyke

Van Dyke enjoyed a truly pitiful run as the leader of the Proud Boys — a collection of aggressive, hateful adult boys who refuse to masturbate, probably because deep down they know they don’t deserve the brief pleasure of sexual release.

Or maybe they’re just too grossed out by their own tragic wieners to do it? Who knows.

After the Proud Boys committed so many hate crimes that law enforcement officials had to concede they might be a hate group, original leader Gavin McInnis decided the threat of federal charges sucked the fun out of ruling a group of right-wing cretins. His departure gave Van Dyke control of the group, and he truly lived down to the reputation of the Proud Boys by doing nothing more than eat ladles of shit during his brief reign.

Even according to Van Dyke’s own account, his run lasted no more than 36 hours.

His leadership position was announced on November 21, and his ouster was announced November 29. During whatever time he spent in charge, he managed to expose the other leaders of the group because he couldn’t figure out how to redact a document. Immediately after that, the Proud Boys – a group of furious nobodies who suffered one of the most spectacular online self-owns of all time – thought they were better off without Van Dyke.

Which is a bummer for him, we suppose. But, hey, at least he can masturbate again.

Richard Spencer

Spencer is at least a full year removed from the period where journalists swooned over his sartorial choices and focused too much on his cheap veneer of sophistication to properly acknowledge the raw sewage of racist rhetoric spewing from his cadaverous lips. He spent this year reeling from the catastrophe that was last year’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, and doing a hilariously bad job distancing himself from racist murderer James Fields, Jr.

Because Spencer grew up in Dallas, he earns a spot on our list of our city’s truly foul people.

Because he can’t change where he grew up — and we would really appreciate it if he somehow could — we suppose he will continue earning a spot on this every year, barring him finding some way to atone for his reprehensible history of racist agitation.

Spencer: You look like the mascot for gangrene, and I hope you never taste food that wasn’t sabotaged by the cook’s most unspeakable secretions.

See you next year, you utter waste of human skin, bones and organs.

Thomas Rousseau

Thomas Rousseau is a fresh-faced fascist from Coppell, a lad of 19 with a head full of hate and an empty, mold-caked cavity where his soul should be.

Between Rousseau and Spencer, we now have two active white nationalist figures with roots in the DFW area, which fucking sucks, and really drives home the degree to which 2018, on the whole, was a trash-fire of a year.

Rousseau leads a group called Patriot Front, which tries to put a patriotic spin on typical white supremacist tripe — the type of frothing, blighted rhetoric so dumb and cruel your brain would have to be half-eaten by rabies to fall for it. The group is known locally for those sinister, deliberately vague flyers it likes to sneak into businesses and schools.

Like Spencer, Rousseau was at last year’s Charlottesville rally and protests, then as a member of the group Vanguard America. He took his first stabs at spreading his racist drivel while writing for his high school newspaper, a factoid so deflating I could actually feel several of my hairs turn gray when I learned it.

Right-wing domestic terror attacks have been an enduring problem, but the threat is gaining more mainstream attention, which should lead to broader scrutiny. Hopefully, this increased focus keeps Rousseau and his band of halfwit mutants too scared to expand their efforts. If they step up from sneakily distributing flyers to sneakily distributing tri-fold brochures, we’ll let you know.

Jacob Anderson

Jacob Anderson faced a potential 20-year sentence after being charged with rape, but the former Baylor fraternity president was offered a plea deal that wiped away any prison time and replaced it with a three-year deferred adjudication probation over a lesser charge.

Because the judge and the prosecutors in the case were comfortable letting Anderson avoid jail time for a violent assault, he was free to return to school, which meant he would return to us in North Texas, as the Garland-raised Anderson enrolled as a student at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The school, to its credit, promptly banned Anderson from their campus, a decision that followed closely behind the creation of an online petition to have him removed.

We can hope Anderson’s ban from UTD keeps him out of our city at large, but even if it does, that just means he goes somewhere else. When the system cares more about maintaining someone’s privilege than pursuing justice, all of us are left with the nauseating consequences.

The choice between “Anderson is in Dallas” and “Anderson goes somewhere else” is like finding black mold in your walls and knowing your only way to avoid getting sick is to convince someone to sublet your apartment.

Yes, I’m suggesting Anderson is the human embodiment of black mold. And no, that analogy doesn’t make me feel better.

Carlos Pinto

Pinto, the owner of a Carmine’s Pizzeria in North Dallas, was caught on camera using racial slurs while shouting at two patrons.

“Treat every interaction like you’re being filmed” is good advice in our modern age.

Here’s some even better advice: Don’t use racial slurs. Like, ever. There’s no situation where you should do that, and if you’re trying to think of an exception, your time would be better spent smashing your head against whatever screen you’re using to read this article.

The fallout of Pinto’s actions were heavy, and actually forced other Italian restaurants named Carmine’s Pizzeria to clarify that they had nothing to do with the man or his establishment.

The Southlake HS Students Who Thought It Was a Good Idea to Record Themselves Repeating the Same Indefensible Word Over and Over Again

If you read that title and thought this might be anything other than exactly what it sounds like, I guess I appreciate your optimism. Unfortunately, this is exactly what it sounds like: A group of Southlake HS students recorded a video where they just repeatedly used the n-word.

Yes, seriously.

Southlake’s school district issued a statement addressing the video and said the students would face some sort of consequences, although the details of those consequences were never shared.

Dallas’ Teenage Serial Rapist

In November, Dallas police arrested the person they believed to be responsible for a series of break-ins and rapes, and who may also be responsible for a recent murder.

They aren’t releasing his name, though, because the person they apprehended is only 15 years old.

Listen: I try to avoid creating a sense of relative scale among the people I include on this list — because, frankly, the moral authority to do so feels beyond me. For what it’s worth, though, the story of a minor committing violent crimes, potentially ruining strangers’ lives and terrorizing the city feels to me like the absolute bleakest possible entry we could have here. But this shit really happened, and the terror and damages resulting from these crimes affected communities within this city — and they’re without a doubt part of why this year’s low points felt so despairingly low.

Lest it’s not abundantly clear, this list is an effort to provide at least a little catharsis for us all as we reflect on the year’s worst moments. But I just don’t think that’s possible in this instance. Assuming the right person was apprehended, Dallas communities are safer for the arrest being made.

Dorrie O’Brien

Islamophobia creeps into our culture with frightening regularity. We compiled some of the area’s most notable offenders in 2017, and we addressed Plano city council member Tom Harrison’s decision to share a meme on Facebook suggesting Trump should “ban Islam” in public schools earlier this year.

Tracking incidents of anti-Muslim prejudice in this country can feel Sisyphean, but even among the many competitors in that contemptible field, Dorrie O’Brien’s obsession over Islam is stunning to behold.

O’Brien, a precinct chair for the Tarrant County Republican Party, jumped headfirst into a campaign to block Dr. Shahid Shadi from taking his position as Vice Chair of that group. And, yes, there was reason to suspect O’Brien wanted to block the placement because of Shadi’s faith – after all, she’s connected to the Islamophobic group ACT for America, and she’s also the author of this insane-sounding book about Islam.

Another reason to suspect her efforts were motivated by Shadi’s faith? Oh, just that it’s the only reason she gave. She’s actually unhinged to the point where she no longer bothers to re-hinge herself in public. The Facebook rant that she wrote in defense (?) of herself is still up as of this writing, if you’re curious.

Glenn Halfin

Back in July, Glenn Halfin pleaded guilty to an effort to intimidate his African-American neighbors by placing a noose around the neck of a black baby doll and hanging it in front of their apartment.

Racism in every form is vile, but there’s something especially grim about the degree of work this particular act demanded. Halfin had to go out and buy a baby doll, then tie a noose to drape around its neck. It’s hard to imagine the mindset it takes to carry out a task so pitiful, yet so ugly.

In the end, Halfin was sentenced to a year in prison for his crime.

Without a doubt, 2018 was a long year for all of us. But I hope it looks puny compared to the upcoming year that Halfin spends behind bars.

The Samurai Sword Guy Whose Mom Shot Him In the Leg

In 2018, the levers of karma snapped like dry twigs, and justice was elusive as the wind. People were their most monstrous selves, and many faced no consequences.

The weather’s turning hostile, and half of all websites are either trying to brainwash you or steal your personal information. Sunlight feels like a lie, shadows feel like a threat and each new day arrives like a brick crashing through your windshield.

But, holy shit, some guy in Fort Worth threatened his mom with a samurai sword — and then she shot him in the leg.

Forget what Mister Rogers said about looking for the helpers when a tragedy strikes. Look for those truly special asshats, and watch them ruin their lives in the most wonderful and least sympathetic ways imaginable! And then rejoice!

All the reports surrounding this story left out the names of the mother and son, and also the cause of the conflict, so in the absence of pertinent details, I just recounted what we know through the filter of Talking Heads lyrics:

This was not his beautiful house. (I’m assuming it was his mom’s house, and that they lived together, but I can’t prove it.)

This was not his beautiful wife. (It was his mom.)

My god, what has he done? (He threatened his mom with a samurai sword, then got shot in the leg by his mom, whom he had just threatened with his sword.)

Honestly, the whole incident is a work of art, and we think its unanswered questions only add to its beauty. Did the son carry the samurai sword with him? Or did he leave the argument to retrieve it? Does his mom always keep her piece on her when she’s at home?

For the most part, 2018 was a thief of joy. And this particular story — this absurd and ridiculous tale of hubris and, impossibly enough, swordplay — feels like the right note upon which to bid this year adieu.

* * * * *

Here’s looking forward to 2019, a year in which nothing could possibly go wrong.

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