The media wants a hate crime

December 1, 2023 • 9:00 am

You have surely heard that three young Palestinian-Americans, Kinnan Abdalhamid, Hisham Awartani, and Tahseen Ali Ahmad, were shot on November 25 in Burlington, Vermont. Two of the injured were American citizens; the other a legal resident.  The alleged shooter, Jason Eaton, was captured and appears to be mentally ill. From the NYT:

They were shot and wounded on Saturday by a white man with a handgun while they were walking near the University of Vermont, the police said. Two of the victims were wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs, a traditional headdress.

The young men told family members they were speaking a hybrid of English and Arabic before the man shot at them four times without saying anything before the attack, according to a family spokeswoman.

Two of the victims were in stable condition, the authorities said. The third sustained much more serious injuries.

The one with serious injuries was shot in the spine, and may never walk again. This is a terrible attack, and, while we can be grateful that nobody was killed, losing your ability to walk is horrible. The shooter has been charged with second-degree murder, and, if he’s guilty, which seems likely, will be spending a long time in either prison or a mental hospital.

So far the cops haven’t found any evidence that Eaton was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiments, and yet the media is full of pronouncements that it must have been a hate crime. After all, it was three Palestinians speaking Arabic and wearing kaffiyehs.

It’s not hard to imagine that both Palestinian-Americans and the mainstream media really want Eaton to have been “Islamophobic,” as this fits the desired narrative, which is that Muslims are widely subject to Islamophobia in America, and that has murderous consequences.

Of course there is bigotry in America, bigotry against both Muslims and Jews, but that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that any Jew or Muslim who is victim of a crime was a victim because of his or her religion. That has to be found out via investigation, which could lead to “hate crime” charges. (As I’ve said, I’m still conflicted about we should even have the category of “hate crime”, since many other motivations are reprehensible; but sussing out why a criminal did what he did is important if you think that punishment should involve rehabilitation.)

At any rate, I have seen nothing in the press decrying the rush to judgement against Eaton, who is being touted as a murderous Islamophobe without any evidence. Here’s some stuff from the news showing this rush:

From the NYT, in an editorial which is all about the likelihood that this was an anti-Muslim hate crime (my bolding)

tThe authorities have not yet added a hate-crime enhancement to the charges against Mr. Eaton, who moved to the neighborhood a few months ago and has struggled with depression, according to his mother. Still it’s hard to ignore the current atmosphere of tension and vitriol surrounding the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, which has led to clashes and hate incidents around the country.

Note the devious way that the author connects the shootings with the war, and presumably with “Islamophobia”.

From NBC News:

The mother of one of the Palestinian American college students shot on the street near the University of Vermont has no doubt that the men were targeted and says the shooting should absolutely be treated as a hate crime.

. . .“There is no doubt,” she said. “It just defies logic. Why else would it be? … If they were not wearing the kaffiyeh. … If they were not speaking Arabic.”

She said she would be disappointed if the violence were not treated as a hate crime. “It would be sorely disappointing only because the facts are so obvious,” Tamimi said.

From the BBC, the mother of another of the injured men:

The mother of Mr Awartani, who is the most seriously injured out of the three with a bullet lodged in his spine, told the BBC she believed the attack was a hate crime.

“This man did not accept people who were different from him. And he wanted to destroy that,” said Elizabeth Price, who headed back to Vermont after the shooting, from her home in the West Bank.

From the Associated Press:

“Based on the information that is available, it appears this crime might have been motivated by the victims’ identity and, if that is true, it would be appropriate to seek the hate crimes enhancement,” [ACLU of Vermont Advocacy Director Falko] Schilling said, adding that the motive behind the shooting will be critical in determining whether this is treated as a hate crime.

Still, Chittenden County State’s attorney Sarah George told reporters on Monday that the state doesn’t “yet have evidence to support a hate crime enhancement,” which under Vermont law must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“I do want to be clear that there is no question this was a hateful act,” she said.

This conflates a “hateful act” with a “hate crime”; George can’t resist implying that this may indeed have been a hate crime. But if the shooter was mentally ill, he may not have even been filled with hate, but with some twisted thoughts that we can’t fathom.

From Reuters:

Families of the victims issued a joint statement earlier in the day urging authorities to investigate the shooting as a hate crime, as did the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a U.S.-based advocacy group.

“The surge in anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian sentiment we are experiencing is unprecedented, and this is another example of that hate turning violent,” ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said.

Again, the ADC is assuming that the crime stemmed from hatred of Arabs and Palestinians. Thje tweet below that says the ADC had “reason to believe” it was a hate crime. Is that because the victims were wearing Palestinian scarves and speaking Arabic?

Here is a proper response (in Vox): a call to determine if it was indeed a hate crime:

CAIR [the council on American-Islamic Relations] is among the groups that have called on law enforcement to review whether bias played a role in the college students’ shootings in Vermont. “We encourage law enforcement to file state and federal hate crime charges if the evidence confirms that anti-Palestinian racism motivated this attack,” the organization’s executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

You can find many similar statements implying that this surely was a hate crime, but I’ll leave you to search.

Now it’s understandable that the mothers of the injured men would want to find a motive, as crimes without known motives are especially disturbing to friends and relatives of victims. But the mainstream media has a responsibility to be, well, responsible, and remind us all that there is as of yet no evidence that Eaton was motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry.  The search is on by both local police and the feds, but so far all we know is that Eaton has a history of depression and had been reported to the police for harassing an ex-girlfriend. If -he was Islamophobic, it seems that we would know by now.

It’s curious to me that the MSM has a narrative that seems to want this to be an Islamophobic hate crime. Wouldn’t it be better if it wasn’t one, so that we’d have less violent anti-Muslim bigotry than we thought? But we also know that the liberal MSM is pro-Palestinian, and it may be in their interest to push the idea of pervasive anti-Muslim bigotry in America. (It’s similar to when papers like the NYT credulously reported that a hospital was destroyed by an Israeli bomb when, in fact, it was hit by an Islamic Jihad rocket gone astray).

Let’s just wait, shall we, for the evidence about Eaton’s motives to come out, if it can be found.

Vis-à-vis hate crimes, I see four reasons to punish those who violate the law, as far as I can see

  1. Deterrence
  2. Sequestration: keeping bad guys off the streets
  3. Reformation of the criminal
  4. Retribution

I’m opposed to retributive punishment as it presupposes that the criminal had a choice, and I’m a hard determinist who doesn’t believe a criminal could have chosen not to commit the crime. Gregg Caruso, also a hard determinist, thinks that deterrence is not a valid reason for punishment, either, because it violates Kantian morality by using a person to affect others. (I disagree.) I

f someone is determined to have committed a crime out of racial or ethnic hatred, that would affect the way they should be reformed, but if having an extra-long sentence is supposed to deter others from bigotry, then we need to know if that deterrence really works. (We already have evidence that capital punishment does not deter murder.) I suspect that the “hate crime” charge does not deter bigots, either.

Right now, I’m thinking that juries or judges should determine whether hatred was a motive, but shouldn’t necessarily impose to longer sentences unless those longer sentences act as a deterrent. Thus finding out the motive is important in reforming a criminal, but not necessarily in deciding whether to give him a longer sentence.

Others may feel differently from me about hate crimes, and that’s fine: just weigh in in the comments below. But what’s not at issue is whether Eaton shot the men out of anti-Muslim hatred, for the answer to that is “we don’t know yet, and maybe never will.”

Bad acts against Palestinians in the U.S.

October 16, 2023 • 9:15 am

I want to make it clear that I deplore violence (I was a conscientious objector, sanctioning state violence only in the case of a “just war”, which Vietnam wasn’t). And I don’t favor personal violence unless it’s necessary for self-defense or to defend others against unwarranted attacks. (I was in a fight only once in my life, when a group of thugs in my high school called me a “dirty Jew”.) I see the Israeli attack as a just war—a war of self-defense, but of course there will be unjust incidents, as there are even in just wars (e.g., WWII, when there were several incidents in which American or Soviet soldiers shot P.O.W.s).

Sadly, we’ve had an incident of individual violence here in Chicago: the murder of a 6-year-old boy and wounding of his mother, apparently stabbed solely because they were Muslim.

The authorities in suburban Chicago accused a man of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old boy on Saturday and seriously wounding the boy’s mother because they were Muslim, an attack that officials tied to the violence in Israel and Gaza.

The killing in Illinois alarmed Muslim leaders, who called on American politicians and journalists to more fully reflect the humanity of Palestinian people as they address the conflict overseas.

“This was directly connected to dehumanizing of Palestinians,” said Abdelnasser Rashid, a Democratic Illinois state representative who is Palestinian American.

Investigators in Will County, Ill., southwest of Chicago, described a gory scene. They said a 71-year-old landlord turned on the boy and his mother, who were his tenants, at their home in Plainfield Township on Saturday morning, stabbing them repeatedly with a serrated knife that had a seven-inch blade.

The boy, identified as Wadea Al-Fayoume by a family member and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was stabbed 26 times and pronounced dead at a hospital, according to the sheriff’s office. The boy’s mother, 32, was in serious condition with more than a dozen stab wounds, officials said. Officials said she ran into a bathroom and continued fighting off the attacker as she dialed 911. Relatives said the family is Palestinian American.

They have a suspect, 71-year-old Joseph M. Czuba, and so far the evidence for a hate crime is this:

According to CAIR’s [Council on American-Islamic Relations] account of the text messages, the landlord knocked on the family’s door, and when the mother opened it he tried to choke her and attacked her with a knife, yelling, “You Muslims must die!”

Attacks on peaceful civilians like this are immoral and reprehensible, and what we see here is a mirror of what Hamas did: killing people because of their faith alone.  Here’s a photo of Adea Al-Fayoume from the NYT, a boy who will never get to grow up:

And while I’m condemning religiously motivated attacks, here’s one that’s not as serious but still unwarranted and reprehensible. Click to read:

This one’s especially bad because although it’s a Palestinian restaurant run by Palestinians, they welcomed Jews and Palestinians, who ate together amicably.

“I appreciate people coming here to eat good food and find peace,” said Ms. Masoud, who welcomes all.

Esther Smith, who is Jewish, stopped in for a quick bite this week with her husband. “It’s kind of ironic that we chose this place,” said Ms. Smith, 47. “It’s a good reminder that we really have to separate the politics from the people.”

But the war in Israel is testing the ties that bind Bay Ridge, and setting aside decades of complex and painful politics is not so simple. At Ayat, a mural overlooking the room shows Palestinian children imprisoned underneath the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem, guarded by Israeli soldiers.

After the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Ayat was suddenly flooded with dozens of one-star reviews online.

. . . Since Ayat opened, with its Palestinian flags and mural, the couple has been accused of antisemitism and of spreading hate and called terrorists on Instagram and other social media. They lost a few Jewish friends, who knew Ms. Masoud was Palestinian but became uncomfortable with their restaurant.

. . . After Ayat started racking up bad reviews, Mr. Elenani reported them and managed to get most of them taken down. Some reviews urged people to stay away from a Palestinian business. It did not work: There has been no drop-off in customers.

In the end, no damage done to the Masouds.  Good food is good food, and the owners seem fine.  Punishing them because they’re Palestinian is equivalent, in my view, to harassing Republicans dining in restaurants with their families, simply because they’re Republicans.

I’m not trying to say that “both sides are equal” in the war, of course (they’re not: Israel is far more morally justified), nor that comity will solve big political problems, for it won’t, at least in this war.  But neither will I let Americans get away with demonizing peaceful Palestinians because of factors that the Palestinians can’t control: their religion and national origin. Yes, Palestinian civilians will die in the coming ground assault, but they will not be deliberate targets, and that is surely not morally equivalent to the deliberate murder of Wadea Al-Fayoume.

As for the restaurant, if a Palestinian is going to serve me good food at a reasonable price, I’ll certainly eat there. Remember this scene in Seinfeld about the Palestinian chicken joint?

TRUMP INDICTED! Orange Man may wear Orange Uniform

June 9, 2023 • 5:49 am

I couldn’t believe it when I heard this news last night, but all signs were that it was impending. Here’s the headline from the NYT. If you click on it, I’ve linked it to the news story that someone archived:

An excerpt:

The Justice Department on Thursday took the legally and politically momentous step of lodging federal criminal charges against former President Donald J. Trump, accusing him of mishandling classified documents he kept upon leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to reclaim them.

Mr. Trump confirmed on his social media platform that he had been indicted. The charges against him include willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and a conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department made no comment on the indictment Thursday and did not immediately make the document public.

The indictment, handed up by a grand jury in Federal District Court in Miami, is the first time a former president has faced federal charges. It puts the nation in an extraordinary position, given Mr. Trump’s status not only as a onetime commander in chief but also as the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to face President Biden, whose administration will now be seeking to convict his potential rival of multiple felonies.

Mr. Trump is expected to surrender to the authorities on Tuesday, according to a person close to him and his own post on his social media platform, Truth Social.

“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been indicted,” Mr. Trump wrote, in one of several posts around 7 p.m. after he was notified of the charges.

The former president added that he was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Miami at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. In a video he released later on Truth Social, Mr. Trump declared: “I’m an innocent man. I’m an innocent person.”

The Washington Post gives the charges: seven of them:

Trump, who is again seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has been indicted on seven charges, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post, including willful retention of national defense secrets, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

Well, I haven’t had coffee yet, but I have to say that I’m pleased as punch. Not necessarily pleased that he’ll be punished—for that’s up to judges and juries—but chuffed that he’s going to have to publicly face the music, do a PERP WALK, and perhaps appear on the stand (that would be his downfall).

I haven’t read the news analysis, but surely this will affect next year’s Presidential election. It’s hard to believe that being an accused felon can win him votes, but you know the Republicans: they may see him as more of a martyr. Will they still run a candidate who’s under indictment? I bet so, since it’s legal and they won’t care if he may have to leave office if elected. Nothing can deter the GOP’s ardor for this narcissistic primate.

But if he’s convicted, he’s done for—an ex-President, singing with the choir primeval, longing for the pools of Mar-A-Lago. And, perhaps, there may be jail time. No ex-President has ever been indicted of a federal crime (Nixon was pardoned before he was ever charged), so we have an interesting political and legal season coming up.

Given Trump’s penchant for stalling, I doubt he’ll be tried before the November elections next year.

But I think most readers here will have a spring in their step today. I know I do!

Trump found liable for sexual abuse in civil suit, fined $5 million

May 9, 2023 • 2:31 pm

Hot off the presses: the jury in the civil suit by E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump found him culpable, meaning that the jury decided that it was more likely than not that Trump raped Carroll (the suit was for both battery and defamation) in a Manhattan department store about 30 years ago.

Trump was ordered to pay $5 million.

This isn’t a criminal case, of course, but now he’s been found by a jury of his peers likely to have committed sexual assault. I’m hoping this will be enough to seriously damage his chances of reelection, but remember that he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and nothing would happen to him. Let’s hope he was wrong.

Elizabeth Holmes to be locked up this month

April 12, 2023 • 10:00 am

For a while I’ve been writing about the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, who started up the “blood testing” company Theranos and, along with her business and romantic partner Sunny Balwani, was convicted of several counts of wire fraud.

She was sentenced to 11 years in prison but more likely will serve 9½ (federal crimes don’t allow you much time off for good behavior). Reader Simon just sent me a link to this BBC article noting that her request to the judge to remain free while she appeals—a process that could take years—has been rejected. She’ll go into a minimum-security federal prison this month.

Click to read:

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will report to prison at the end of the month after losing a bid to remain free while she appeals against her convictions.

Holmes was sentenced to over 11 years in prison for defrauding investors in her blood testing start-up.

A federal judge on Monday said Holmes failed to prove her appeals process would lead to a reversal of her case.

She is scheduled to go to prison on 27 April.

Holmes had said she would raise “substantial questions” that could warrant a new trial. Her attorneys also argued she should remain free to care for her two young children, including one who was born this year.

But in the Monday ruling, US District Judge Edward Davila said Holmes had not proven her appeal would result in a new trial.

“Contrary to her suggestion that accuracy and reliability were central issues to her convictions, Ms Holmes’s misrepresentations to Theranos investors involved more than just whether Theranos technology worked as promised,” he said.

I still think she’s going to take it on the lam: Holmes is entitled, narcissistic, and previously made one attempt to leave the U.S. while on trial:

Prosecutors, meanwhile, had argued Holmes was a flight risk because she had booked a one-way plane ticket to Mexico during her trial.

Homes’ attorneys said she and her partner Billy Evans were planning to attend a wedding and hoped she would be acquitted.

The ticket purchase was “ill-advised”, Judge Davila wrote in his ruling, though he added it did not constitute an attempt to flee.

“Booking international travel plans for a criminal defendant in anticipation of a complete defence victory is a bold move, and the failure to promptly cancel those plans after a guilty verdict is a perilously careless oversight,” he said.

If this was a trip to a wedding, why did they buy one-way tickets?  Nobody has explained that. I’m thinking that she can’t bear the idea of a decade in jail (she now has two infants) and will try to flee again. But that’s just a guess.

If you’re interested in this case, which is fascinating, read John Carreyrou’s book on the startup and downfall of Theranos, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupIt’s a page-turner. Carreyrou, at the time writing for the Wall Street Journal, broke the story and it was his reporting that ultimately got Holmes and Balwani indicted, tried, and convicted. A great read, you’ll see how charismatic Holmes was, managing to convince a gaggle of rich and famous people to give her startup money without having the device that was supposed to diagnose many diseases from a single drop of blood.

Another mass shooting in the U.S.

April 10, 2023 • 10:15 am

This seems to happen about twice a week, and the last incident was this morning in Louisville, Kentucky.

A mass shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday morning left five people dead inside the building and sent six people to a local hospital, police said.

The shooter is dead, police added.

The Louisville Metro Police said they responded to “an active aggressor” on the 300 block of East Main Street in downtown, adding “there are multiple casualties.” FBI Louisville described the incident as a shooting, and other officials urged residents to stay away from the area.

One of those shot was a police officer, according to preliminary information from a source with direct knowledge of the scene on the ground. The source said there were shots exchanged between the shooter and police during the incident.

I’ll be overseas as the details trickle in.

I see this as the inevitable result of lax gun laws, but of course others disagree. One friend tells me that the best solution to the problem is better mental health care. That seems risible to me because many shooters probably wouldn’t be diagnosed as mentally ill, or have no history of the condition that would keep them from getting a gun. Of course, if you define any mass shooter as mentally ill, the claim becomes a tautology.

The result of the “we can’t tighten gun laws” mentality is that this will keep up forever, with people wringing their hands and doing nothing but sending out “thoughts and prayers.”

NY grand jury indicts Trump!

March 30, 2023 • 4:49 pm

Well, it’s happened: our first President to get a criminal indictment.  The headline from the NYT (click to read; there  are live updates):

A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Donald J. Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to five people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges.

An indictment will likely be announced in the coming days. By then, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will have asked Mr. Trump to surrender and to face arraignment on charges that remain unknown for now.

Mr. Trump has for decades avoided criminal charges despite persistent scrutiny and repeated investigations, creating an aura of legal invincibility that the vote to indict now threatens to puncture.

While the charges remain a mystery, Mr. Trump is the first former or current president to be indicted. Nearly two weeks ago, he inaccurately predicted his own arrest. It is likely that the district attorney’s office will now seek to arrange his surrender.

It is unclear precisely when the grand jury vote criminally charging the former president was taken. Prosecutors walked into the office of the clerk in the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, where the paperwork for an indictment was filed only minutes before the office closed for the day. For weeks, the atmosphere outside the district attorney’s office had resembled a circus. But the fervor had cooled in recent days, and the environs of the office were emptier on Thursday than they had been in weeks.

This wasn’t supposed to happen this week, as the grand jury was taking a break to consider other stuff. But now Trump has to turn himself in and get photographed and fingerprinted.  And this cannot help his Presidential aspirations. Next: the trial!

Salman Rushdie attacked, stabbed while lecturing in New York

August 12, 2022 • 11:09 am

This is what we were all afraid of. It’s been 33 years since the fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, but the rancor remains.  He’s had a bodyguard, I think, but somehow the protection was bypassed. An AP report gives sketchy details about his attack in New York. It sounds serious, and the other photos at the AP are not heartening.

Some of the article:

Salman Rushdie, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was attacked Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York.

An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin punching or stabbing Rushdie as he was being introduced. The 75-year-old author was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.

Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest.

His condition was not immediately known.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.

A bounty of over $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.

Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.

Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward.

That year, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about the fatwa. The title came from the pseudonym Rushdie had used while in hiding.

Here’s a photo. We don’t know who the perpetrator was, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m hoping hard that he’ll survive.

(From AP): Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., about 75 miles (120 km) south of Buffalo. (AP Photo/Joshua Goodman)