Lynching Without Punishment

Jesus fuck.

Other people will say that I should be fucking heartened by this:

On May 7th, 2020, the GBI arrested Gregory McMichael, age 64, and Travis McMichael, age 34, for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. They were both charged with murder and aggravated assault. The McMichaels were taken into custody and will be booked into the Glynn County Jail.
But I’m not. Read further:

I am not heartened.

Yes, I read what it said. I understand what it said. But I also read further:

On May 5th, 2020, District Attorney Tom Durden formally requested the GBI investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery. The Kingsland Office initiated an investigation on May 6th, 2020.

and I am not heartened.

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Overused Statistic #738: Mental Illness and Violent Victimization

So there’s a particular bit of overused truth whose use I want to challenge. Again, it’s not that it’s not true. AND it’s not that we shouldn’t be telling people that it’s true, BUT it seems to only ever be used in contexts where it doesn’t mean what people think it means.

Persons with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be perpetrators of violent crime. This is true.

Persons without mental illness are also more likely to be victims of violent crime than to be perpetrators of violent crime. This is also true.

But wait! How is that possible?

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Congregation Chabad: The Blood of Our Children, Perhaps Our First Born

There is yet another mass shooting at a place of worship. The details aren’t out yet, but we know that at least four people have been shot at the Congregation Chabad northeast of San Diego during a regular shabbat service on a special shabbat: the 8th day of Passover. As four victims is often taking as the number that defines a mass shooting, whatever news comes next, we know this qualifies.

The good news, such as it is, is that local law enforcement apparently has the shooter in custody. The shooting is, for the moment, likely over. While not as extensive or as lethal as the recent attacks in Sri Lanka or New Zealand or Pittsburgh, it’s certain that this attack has commonalities with all of these, and has more direct connections at least with Pittsburgh (today is exactly 6 months after the Pittsburgh attack), but also likely with New Zealand.

I’ll be updating this as more comes in. The notes will not necessarily be cohesive in the sense of the larger post, but I hope to provide updated information as I get it, and I hope I can at least make sense within the updates.


As both of my readers know, I have a weird and idiosyncratic religious history, with a childhood more Christian, but an adulthood that was Jewish when it wasn’t either vaguely spiritual or, later, entirely non-religious. I have most of the general cultural knowledge of others raised Jewish, but rarely have the same level of emotional attachment to shared jewish traditions and customs. While there have been many atheist Jews over the centuries, the emotional distance I feel makes me even more uncomfortable with being taken for a representative of jewishness than other atheist jews. Nonetheless, the group affiliation is there. There are definitions of jew that include me, and I’m not prepared to give them up.

The weird thing is that this sometimes creates very complicated emotional consequences for me: The Chabadi would, I’m sure, quickly disavow any possibility I might be in the same category of jewishness as they. And I can’t say I feel some close kinship with Chabadim as fellow travelers on the same road. The congregation where I made my adult home was small and unaffiliated, but leaned much more toward Reconstructionist judaism than any other flavor. I’ve never even been to services at a Chabadi synagogue, though obviously some features of services would be readily familiar to me. I imagine going to a Chabadi service would be something like a Mormon going to a Catholic service, or a Unitarian Universalist going to a 7th Day Adventist service.

And yet, weirdly, this almost-closeness interrupts my thoughts about this tragedy in a way that my clear distance from Sri Lankan communities or muslim communities in New Zealand does not. In those cases, I don’t feel any expectation to speak knowledgeably about Islam’s failings or Sri Lanka’s long and multi-faction history of violence. I can simply say that it doesn’t matter what the history is, the violence was unjustified and tragic. Yet in the case of the attack on Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha in Pittsburgh or (now) Congregation Chabad, I feel that I’m somehow supposed to speak about, and speak knowledgeably about, everything from the history of the Lubivitchers (of which I know little) to the distinctions between Reform and Reconstructionist judaisms (where I’m more knowledgeable but no expert) to my seemingly contradictory position that I’m not entirely opposed to Israel keeping occupied territory in the Golan while I thoroughly and utterly oppose the occupation of Gaza.

But I don’t have to explain those things, as much as my brain might pester me with sharp pokes. Because the same is true here as is true in other mass shootings: The violence is unjustified. This violence can never be justified. This violence must end.


Looking at the pictures of the police tape around the synagogue I was struck with the idea that this created a twisted mockery of an eruv.


Newer reports are putting the total shots fired around 10, and one report is listing a single person dead in addition to the four people wounded whose conditions were reported earlier.


And now reports are saying that rather than one murder in addition to the 4 injuries that were reported, there were a total of only 4 people hit, with 1 person killed and 3 injured. Although I’m no longer sure which is correct, I think this makes it very likely that the number of persons shot is unlikely to increase with new reports.

The one person killed is said to be an older woman.


In entirely not-shocking news, the shooter has been determined to be a young adult man. Who would have thought?

In slightly more shocking news, the mayor of Poway, the city where Congregation Chabad is located, has declared this a hate crime. It’s not at all surprising that it’s a hate crime (the only other plausible possibility given what we knew was domestic violence turned public), but it is somewhat surprising to me to hear the Mayor say that this early. It seems likely, then, that the shooter has been making statements about his anti-semitic motives to law enforcement, with the information then further communicated to the Mayor. This last is speculation of course, but I think it will prove true.


Trump has offered “thoughts and prayers”. Anti-semitic scumbags offering their selfish thoughts and bigoted prayers are worse than useless. I hope people take this opportunity to call Trump out again for his Nazi sympathies and general awfulness.


And… it has now been pointed out to me that I missed a story from earlier this week where a Christian guy, also in California,

deliberately drove into a group of pedestrians because he thought some of the people were Muslim

Also of note? He was on his way to a Christian bible study meeting at the time he chose to run these folks over. While the DA isn’t formally alleging any violation of hate crime provisions, prosecutors are still investigating and have not decided against those charges. For the moment, he’s been charged with eight counts of attempted murder.


A former Assistant Secretary of State (Joel Rubin) was on Fox News to discuss the rise of anti-semitism in relation to the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha shooting 6 months ago and the Congregation Chabad shooting yesterday. After Rubin pointed out that there’s been substantial growth in public anti-semitism and mentioned the Charlottesville horror, he then made the point that Trump had “essentially said [the Charlottesville Nazis] were fair”. As soon as Trump was mentioned, Fox cut to commercial and came back from break pretending nothing unusual happened.

Joe Biden See No Boundaries

Much discussed in certain circles of the internet the past month or two has been Democratic presidential nomination candidate Joe Biden’s long history of zooming past boundaries without even acknowledging that they might be there. The debate has been weirdly complicated by some people who insist that, since they themselves would have gladly consented to the touching Biden initiated with them without asking that somehow never asking is a reasonable choice on his part. “If I wanted a back rub,” their argument begins, “but other people don’t want a back rub, how in the world is Biden supposed to know who wants him to walk up behind them and rub their shoulders and who doesn’t?”

How indeed.

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Not a Metaphor: Minneapolis School Explodes

Again with Minneapolis and a dramatic and deadly failure of infrastructure. In this case, a high school suffered an explosion that entirely removed an adjoining section between two wings architecturally engineered to be structurally independent. Those wings are still fully standing in pictures from after the event. Though not much is known, at the moment it appears the explosion was caused by a “gas leak” – one presumes they mean “natural gas” aka methane.

Look to the Star Tribune for ongoing coverage: you can start with this article. Most reports say there is one confirmed death, though other reports say that there is one strongly presumed death that has not yet been confirmed. The ST article is quite clear that emergency services reported one death as “confirmed” but then downgraded that to “unconfirmed” about 15 minutes later, thus the confusion. There are consistent reports that more than one person is still missing or trapped, in some (at least one?) cases an individual has managed to communicate to emergency services despite being currently unrescuable. The number missing, however, is small. As the ST article is continually updated, the latest news I have is that the number is down to two. Crews are working to clear debris to reach these persons and find any missing ones. However, and let me say this strongly: All coverage I’ve read (4 independent sources so far) says that the students are all safe, all located, all evacuated. Injuries are limited to adults.

A number of years ago, there was a school shooting at a high school significant to my own youth. At the time, a friend was working for the school district and had worked at the high school during part of her employment with the district. Though we are important to each other, I hadn’t kept up with her very well and it had been 10 months since we had spoken, so I wasn’t sure where she might be. It didn’t take long to figure out that she wasn’t hurt (or even present) at the shooting, but there were those agonizing hours when even though I knew it was unlikely she was present or injured, I just didn’t know. For any in the community in a similar position, I offer you my sympathy.

However, the occurrence of this tragedy can’t be seen only through a personal lens. When Minneapolis suffered a freeway collapse, there were many individual tragedies for people killed, injured and traumatized as well as for those who lost someone they loved. Nonetheless, we had a very significant (and still unfinished) discussion about aging infrastructure in the USA. This explosion is likely to provoke similar conversations, perhaps even overlapping ones if part of the explosion’s cause is attributed to an aging and/or poorly maintained facility. If you wish to comment on the causes found and any implications you might derive from those identified causes, please feel free to do so, but also write with some awareness that you never know whether or not someone else reading the comments here might be personally affected.