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.

A lack of ability in the upper echelons

PZ has frequently written about how sexism affects the number of women taking degrees in certain fields, and the smaller percentage of degree takers who go on to the next level of academic activity (a higher degree, a research fellowship, a teaching position, etc.). While you inevitably have a large number of men insisting that meritocracy has everything to do with this, on the face of it such hypotheses are very hard to justify. After all, if women are graduating with the same degrees and the same grades, why shouldn’t the same percentage be welcomed into the next stage of professional development. One popular theory has been, and continues to be, the idea that men have more variability – the bell curve of merit is flatter for men than for women, with larger numbers of truly incompetent and large numbers of genius men compared to incompetent and genius women. PZ has been tackling this myth for a long time.

And yet, the disparity exists. So it’s worth taking the time to attack the problem when another report comes out to verify its persistence. That Pharyngula post I linked showed that the disparity in entering science professions is cultural rather than genetic (in large part by showing that the disparity is stable and reproducibly consistent over time, institution, and location within a country, but varies widely when crossing over a border into a different country). So cultural factors are driving this … but which cultural factors?

It can’t be said enough that you can’t predict the psychology or motivations or life circumstances of a single individual from aggregate data, but quantitative research can still be informative. With all that in mind, I bring up the most recent bit of research to tackle one aspect of the enduring myth that men deserve their science positions and women just … don’t. It comes from ScienceMag.org. Study investigator Lauren Aycock and her peers gave a questionaire about sexualization and sexual harassment in academic spaces to 455 undergraduate women physics students. 74.3% (338/455)
reported behaviors that form core aspects of sexual harassment. THREE IN FOUR.

Now, it must be said that for something to meet the definition and to have the effects we normally describe as sexual harassment the behavior must repeat. The authors do not gloss over this, but instead make a strong case that most if not quite all of these 338 respondents are experiencing sexual harassment as defined in the case law surrounding Title IX. Read the entire journal article yourself and you will understand just how serious and compelling this research is – far more serious and compelling, and far different qualitatively, than asking students if anyone has ever called them pretty. I bring this up because many sexist jerks use the fact that the full effects of sexual harassment cannot be understood without putting the rare assaults in the contest of quotidian sexualizing and sexist behaviors. When a single report addresses both, as they are justified in doing and likely to do, the defenders of the harassing status quo will strip individual sexualizing comments from the context of harassment and insist that they didn’t know it was wrong to compliment women on their appearances. The work from Aycock, et. al. is exactly of the kind and quality we need to keep up the pressure on institutions to create academic, research, and professional pipelines open to all qualified persons.

I am pleased to note that the publishers of the Aycock, et. al. paper (Physical Review: Physics Education Research) publish an editorial comment as well. That comment is written by a woman scientist at Michigan State University, Julie Libarkin. While I mention her name merely because she deserves credit for her writing and her advocacy, I mention her affiliation because MSU is where I majored in physics … for a year and a half. Although the reasons for leaving MSU were complicated and had a lot to do with my personal history that included abuse experienced years before college, it also had quite a lot to do with the atmosphere of sexism and general gender rigidity that made it difficult for me as a closeted trans* woman to find community or a sense of belonging. Aycock’s paper itself addresses sense of belonging and imposter syndrome as important factors in why people discontinue work – either in the middle of a degree, as I did, or when considering whether or not to take the next step after completing a degree or fellowship.

I’m glad to know that Libarkin is at MSU today and using her voice for the betterment of physics education, but the problem has persisted for too long already. Too many people that might once have chosen to be scientists made other choices because of changeable conditions of cultural climate.

And that’s why we have to ask if the people at the top of the science education pyramid, the tenured professors, the department chairs, the university presidents, actually have the ability to lead. When I reported harassment, lack of belonging, and imposter syndrome at MSU, I was sent to student counseling, as if my psychology was the only problem. And yes, while there I talked about other things, things that made me uniquely vulnerable. I was diagnosed with depression (not for the first time) and with PTSD (also not for the first time). But here’s the thing: the presence of those things made it less likely that I would be able to overcome the hostile cultural climate at MSU, but they did not render the cultural climate magically irrelevant. It’s possible that even a wounded child could, with the right support, start and finish university in one go. Sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, and ableism combined to make what I told the MSU physics department meaningless. As affected as I am and was and have been by mental illness, I’m not without insight into the human condition or the ability to express it.

And so I wonder, do the people we place in positions of academic power really have upper-echelon ability to lead an educational department? Let me answer that question with another question: Do we graduate fewer people and do more of the people we graduate avoid certain sciences, certain departments because of ongoing oppression? I think that answer is clearly yes. It was yes when I left MSU and Aycock, et. al. make a convincing case that the same is true today. I know MSU had this information in 1990 – I know because I told them. But it’s certain that they had this information decades before that. And if I didn’t personally inform professors or ombuds in other universities around the world, I don’t doubt that they, too, had the same information available on roughly the same timeframe. In fact, many disciplines have done a better job rooting out gender bias than physics and some other sciences have.

And so the truth is this: while we’ve disproved the idea that women are underrepresented in science faculties because women are simply underrepresented in the upper ranks of ability, I believe that the evidence is also sufficient to prove that women are underrepresented in physics programs and faculties in significant part because physics department chairs are underrepresented in the upper ranks of educational ability.

Someone needs to start kicking out the people who have been tolerating the harassment of 3/8ths of humanity in the hope that somehow we’ll get better science from 4/8ths.

Presented Without Comment: “I Thought I Was Going To Die”

Content Note for, like, almost everything.

And to be clear, it’s not that I don’t want to comment, it’s simply that i don’t know what to say about setting someone’s hair on fire:

A 13-year-old girl is recovering after a classmate set her hair on fire, while other kids looked on laughing.

The incident happened while she was waiting at a bus stop, two blocks from the Gompers School, last Tuesday. Eighth-grader Nevaeh Robinson says a fellow classmate used a lighter to set her hair on fire.

“When it happened, I panicked real fast, because I thought I was going to die because it burned my hair so fast,” she said.

Don’t think that everything is okay except for this one minor “lighting another kid on fire” incident either:

Two years ago, a classmate broke Nevaeh’s thumb at another school.

I’ll let Nevaeh’s mom say a few words:

Robinson wants to see the bully kicked out of school.

“I want expulsion if you’re setting kids on fire,” said Robinson.

Ya think?

 

 

The Incivility Spreads

As you probably know, the staff of Maryland-based Capital Gazette were victims of a shooting attack, not to say mass murder or even terrorism (we much prefer “targeted attack”). CNN’s Anderson Cooper had two of the surviving victims on his show 360, both Gazette journalists, one named Selene San Felice the other Phil Davis. Both made important statements, but in response to the myriad thoughts and prayers sent in the direction of her and her surviving colleagues, the man and the woman who had just witnessed someone killed before their eyes had some pretty uncivil things to say:

Selene San Felice: I’ve heard that President Trump sends his prayers. … We need more than prayers. I appreciate the prayers. I was praying the entire time I was under that desk. I want your prayers but I want something else.

Phil Davis: … I was praying when he started reloading that shotgun that there weren’t going to be more bodies. And you know what? If we’re going to have a position in society where all we can offer each other is prayer then where are we?

San Felice: This is going to be a story for how many days? Less than a week? People will forget about us after a week unless, y’known, we keep tweeting. I don’t really care about tweeting right now. … I don’t know what I want right now, right? but I’m gunna need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers. Because it’s…. Our whole lives have been shattered. And so, thanks for your prayers but I couldn’t give a f*ck about them if there’s nothing else.

While Fox News and conservatives generally are going to give San Felice and Davis a lecture about how their incivility caused their colleagues murders in yet another proof of the dictum pre hoc ergo propter hoc, lets give San Felice and Davis something different than blame, something better than lectures, something more than just thoughts and prayers.

If you’re a US citizen living anywhere or anyone living legally in the US, call your House Rep and your Senators and express yourself on what you think are appropriate government (and especially legislative) responses to mass murder.

 

 

Gah, NO! Peter Fonda What Is Wrong With You?

ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS, for Freud’s sake.

Peter Fonda is outraged at the injustice done by Trump’s policy and of the horrible suffering inflicted upon children being used as a political weapon to influence the policy choices of others. So, naturally, he suggests that Donald and Melania Trump’s child Barron should be caged and raped to encourage Trump to reformulate DOJ & DHS policies:

“We should rip Barron Trump from his mother’s arms and put him in a cage with pedophiles and see if mother will will (sic) stand up against the giant asshole she is married to,” Fonda wrote, in all caps.

This story was broken by right-wing websites who don’t deserve the links, but Holy Freuding Freud, Batman, Peter Fonda must face condemnation for this.

How moronic do you have to be to fail to realize that kidnapping and rape threats are not a path to justice?

 

These Are The Children: A Child Raped By Law Enforcement

This is intended to be a a first look at how undocumented immigrants with children come to the attention of ICE. This new series is not limited to documenting only children and parents who are separated from each other, and cannot guarantee that separation occurred for all the families mentioned. Instead, this series seeks only to illustrate how many families come to the attention of ICE and what a child-isolation policy might mean in those contexts.


I was struck by a particularly horrifying story today. It’s not unique. They’re never unique. But it’s one human example of how a woman and her child came to the attention of ICE.

A 47-year-old deputy with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office was arrested Sunday on allegations he repeatedly raped the 4-year-old daughter of an undocumented immigrant, threatening to deport her if she dared report him to the authorities.

It is not clear how long the mother was aware of the rapes, ….

Investigators say the deputy may have been raping the girl for months, if not years.

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Fascist Policing: Sacramento Edition II

Today I’d like to talk about the story of a man who wasn’t beaten by the cops, wasn’t arrested by them (at least in this encounter), wasn’t even searched by them. I want to talk about his story because it goes to the heart of the Black encounter with fascist policing today: the everyday, relentless, low-level harassment of Black residents of the US.

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Great American Satan Too Quick On The Draw: Valve Just Killed Good Faith, Again

So our dear colleague Great American Satan just put up a post on the failures of Valve to police its content and its vendors, creating headaches for its customers and sometimes even permitting scammers and/or abusive sellers to make customers feel worse than that. Go read, if you’re so inclined.

But, oh, the post was put up just hours too soon. PCGamer is reporting that the new Valve game to be sold through its Steam portal is getting calls for removal before it has been officially released. What kind of game could do that? Active Shooter, a game that, as far as I can tell, is Castle Wolfenstein where you get to choose to be the allies or the Nazis. There are two options for game play. In one, you’re a cop chasing down active shooters. In the other, the enemies are (on at least one level) fellow students in your imaginary high school and the cops that come to help rescue them. It looks like there may be additional, outside-of-school levels as well where your targets would not necessarily include high school students but would still include cops trying to do their jobs.

Yes, this is imaginary. Yes, there is a constitutional right in the US to design and attempt to sell such games. But no, people who create this type of content don’t get to be free from criticism, and the same right that protects the ability of dumb sociopaths to produce such a game also protects the rights of the rest of us to not only decline to buy the game, but also use our free expression to persuade other not to buy the game and even to persuade Valve/Steam to end their business relationship with the stupid-ass company (Acid) that produced this. Interestingly, even in places where speech is decidedly less free than the US, opposition is strong and vocal: PCGamer’s article leads with the news that a non-profit in the UK is calling for Valve to deep-six the game.

Despite correctly pointing out that other terrible games also exist, Acid deserves to take a major hit to its bottom line over this game, and if Valve continues to facilitate its wide release and to sell other games that encourage players to role-play malicious violence that simulates real-life situations, Valve deserves to lose money as well.