Sunday, March 26, 2017

Rape at RHS

By now you know that there was a violent rape last week in the high school a few blocks from where I live, and you know at least one of the rapists was an "illegal immigrant," which is a loaded term used for undocumented foreign residents. It is not clear what the status of the other one is, but both have been in the country less than a year.

The Post has written about the response to the incident:
One caller threatened to burn down Rockville High School. Another vowed to show up to “shoot the illegals.” Hundreds more have weighed in with emails, calls or tweets bashing immigrant students, assailing school policies, demanding the ouster of the superintendent.

The anger and vitriol that flooded a suburban Maryland school system have not let up in the days since a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by two classmates who are undocumented immigrants, fueling the contentious national immigration debate. Threats and safety concerns follow Rockville High rape case
Photographs of the police report were circulated online, which I presume is not a fake though it could be -- I found it on the Twitter site @nia_4trump, charmingly titled "Nia RussianBot" -- and the rape as reported was indeed violent.

My kid went to that school, and he and his friends really can't imagine it -- they describe Rockville as being very safe. I remember back-to-school nights, and there were always a lot of Spanish-speaking parents there, they wanted to learn how to support their children's education in their new country; the school was recently rebuilt, it is a big, clean place, well organized and well run.

Montgomery County Police issue an annual report on crime; the latest year covered is 2015. You can read that report HERE. To put the Rockville High School rape in perspective, in 2015 the MoCo Popo received reports of 278 rapes, using a new FBI definition: "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." The number jumped from the year before because they changed the definition. There was also a category "sex offense - sex assault," with another 138 incidents reported.

That's about four hundred reported sexual assaults in a population of approximately a million people every year. Every one of those events was traumatic to some person -- a majority or rapes and sexual assaults are never reported, so this obviously underestimates the actual problem. The point, by the way, is not to trivialize or attempt to "justify" any particular incident.

But it leads to a question: assuming there are 400 reported rapes a year in Montgomery County, what is your opinion about the other 399 of them? There were hundreds of "emails, calls, and tweets bashing immigrant students" regarding this one -- where is the outrage when American citizens rape women in our county?

These are not people who are committed to opposing rape -- which, by the way, is a great cause and a very difficult problem to solve.

For these angry people the issue is that the perpetrators are foreign.

I wonder how many of those people tweeting and calling and sending angry emails have ever been to another country. It is a humbling experience to try to buy something when you don't know what it's called, or to try to figure out what to eat when you have no idea what the stuff on the menu is. And paying for something, you look at some strange bills and coins in your hand as the locals become impatient. When you travel you realize it's a big world out there and there are lots of ways for people to be, and our way is just one of them.

It is impossible for us to imagine growing up in a Central American country that is a theater for international violence, with murderous gangs supported and armed by one government or another as the world tries to maintain strategic advantage in the region -- you can't imagine that, random murder, random violence, arbitrary authority. When we use the word "immigrant" we are talking about someone who has decided to leave a culture they know, who has moved to a place where they have to look at the bills, the coins, and learn a new language, a new way to cross the street. Mainly these are people who left a dangerous place to establish a hopeful new life in America.

Our American immigrants cannot be typified as criminals. In fact, a few months ago the New York Times had an interesting story that said:
But several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime. Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes
The first of those links, a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, theorizes that "the process of migration selects individuals who either have lower criminal propensities or are more responsive to deterrent effects than the average native." The fact is, immigrants commit fewer crimes per person than native-born American citizens. By far.

Somebody that would rape a woman or girl is a bad hombre, no matter where he's from. It isn't something that happens accidentally, it doesn't come from a lack of judgment; one person decides to overpower another and violate their body in a humiliating and personally devastating way. This is what jails are for, someone who does this should be "taken off the streets." I see that the guy is saying he didn't do it, and okay, that's cool, this is America; bring your evidence, the state will bring theirs, and a jury of ordinary people will decide. I don't think the prison system works very well but there is one argument for it, and that is that some bad people need to be removed from public society because they are a danger to innocent people.

I would love to see a real movement spring up to end rape. Not something to blame people, not something that urges women to dress modestly and hide indoors at night, more than punishment after the fact, a movement that gets to the bottom of the kind of culture that results in thousands of rapes every year. And actually there is no chance of this happening, no chance that the United States is going to dig out the roots of rape when we have a President who brags about molesting women and presents himself in every way as the poster child for rape culture. Rape is a serious problem that requires hard analysis and strategic planning, and we are not very far along in taking it seriously.

It is human nature to prefer your own group. We are more comfortable around people who are similar to us, who share our way of talking, our sense of what's funny, what's interesting -- that's just how people are. And in a state of war people almost certainly demonize and dehumanize their enemy, "they" are at war with "us," and we support "us," so "they" are stupid, ugly, immoral, wrong. Doesn't matter which side you're on, both sides of any war do that.

It is pathological to demonize and dehumanize people just because they are different from you. Mature human beings should have the sense of self and the objectivity to recognize that the world is a big place and there are all kinds of people in it. There can be "us" and "them" without "them" being despicable in every way. This blog has been here now for more than twelve years, and if there is a single theme through it all, it is stated in this paragraph.

To be clear, the issue at RHS is rape, it is not immigration. A crime was committed, suspects were apprehended, and the criminal justice system is on the case. The people who are protesting, sending nasty emails, when Sean Spicer and Fox News talk about this case, they are not sympathizing with the young lady who was violently attacked. They are focusing on this case because an undocumented foreigner committed it. And the issue is not that undocumented foreigners are dangerous, or that they commit more crimes than "us" native-born citizens, because they don't; the issue is that foreigners are different from "us." The reaction to the Rockville rape is not rational, it is racist. People are seizing on this tragedy to reinforce a stereotype that is not accurate.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Sinking of the Titanic

Or, as the Washington Post put it:

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

That Wiretap Story Is Spinning Out of Control

Louise Mensch on being at the center of the wiretap story

Louise Mensch on being at the center of the wiretap story

Mensch: It's legit, it's a court of the United States. Contrary to rumor, people just can't go around wire tapping everybody and etc. What was interesting to me and I think probably many of the other journalists who later corroborated my story or at least reported the same thing, which includes the BBC and the Guardian, is that nobody that reported this warrant ever mentioned so much as a wire tap at all. We just reported the warrant that our sources told us existed and we all reported the same thing. So this, the only people that reported a wire tap at Trump Tower were Breitbart News. Nobody else! And if there's been some leaks, maybe Steve Bannon or some of these other ex-Breitbart staffers have got something to answer to.

FOX: Well, do you think it's that they have more information than you initially had or do you think it's a misunderstanding of what the FISA warrant is?

Mensch: Uh, it could be a little bit of both but after all, tweets came out from the President's own accounts. Now, I don't know, I don't even know for sure if he himself is making those tweets but somebody made those tweets under his name and they said he just found out about a wire tap just before the victory. Well that's fascinating to me 'cause I never reported it. Uh, so either the President has a terrific imagination or the President is receiving some solid information that somebody in his team has been caught up, like your correspondent Catherine Herridge, said in incidental collection and that's not very good for team Trump.

FOX: Well original sourcing and reporting on this you mentioned came from you, from the BBC, and the Guardian all say they've got sources as to these FISA warrants, or FISA warrant, singular. Now the former DNI Director James Clapper appeared on the Sunday shows yesterday. He says if it existed, he would know about it and he categorically denied it. What do you make of that?

Mensch: Well I don't know that he categorically denied what I reported which was a FISA warrant on communications between two Russian banks. He was being asked about the President's accusation that President Obama had targeted a warrant politically at him or at Team Trump and at Trump Tower. There's no such FISA warrant and it would be impossible to get one and indeed, I faithfully reported that the couple of times that Director Comey apparently went to the court and asked for a warrant that named Mr. Trump, he was turned down flat. So I think you heard DNI Clapper, former DNI Clapper denying that there was a politically motivated, targeted FISA warrant at Donald Trump. And I haven't reported that to my knowledge nor has anyone else.

FOX: Yeah, my remembrance of his discussion was that he was asked if there was such an order.

Mensch: Yes.

FOX: So but is it possible that the DNI wouldn't know about it?

Mensch: Um I don't know because I don't, honestly, I don... I try not to bluff when I don't know things.

FOX: Good for journalists, we should stick with what we know

Mensch: I believe he has, but such an order, does that mean no FISA warrant of any kind, which I think would be really hard for a DNI to deny or confirm. I think that would be kind of illegal even. But I think what he was saying is there's no order of a politically targeted FISA court warrant that was aiming directly at Trump Tower and the political campaign.

FOX: And you're confident in your sources and what you've reported and again it was dealing with banks that were communicating with each other and if Trump staffers or Trump campaign officials or people connected to him in any way were caught up in it, that would have been secondary.

Mensch: It gave permission, incidental permission, for people caught up in this secondary communication, incidental communication, it gave permission for the FBI to look at that but they were not the target. Communications between two Russian banks were the target my sources said.