When the Sheepdogs Become the Sheep

What happens to crime fighters when the cost of the fight is too high? What happens when politicians find it in their best interests to ignore real crime, i.e., shootings, robberies, burglaries, and the like, and instead focus on violations of what we might call the Pandemic Penal Code?

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has taken it upon itself to crack down on so-called “super-spreader parties” taking place around the county as young people seek ways to socialize while bars and restaurants are shut down due to Covid-19 regulations. The department has deployed what some may consider an inordinate amount of resources to combat these parties.

Why inordinate? Like most big-city departments in the country, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department saw a drastic rise in homicides during 2020, logging 199 for the year compared to 145 the previous year. (Note that these numbers do not include statistics for the city of Los Angeles, which had 343 homicides as of Dec. 26.) On the list of priorities for any law enforcement agency, one would expect to find reduction in homicides placed somewhere above eradication of underground parties.

Dangerous desperadoes.

And, while the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t ordinarily take enforcement action within the city limits of Los Angeles, where the LAPD has responsibility, deputies have repeatedly broken up parties in LAPD territory. Some might applaud this expenditure of resources as valuable in the fight against Covid but, again, shouldn’t it be a question of priorities?

If the Sheriff’s Department is so keen on attacking problems within the jurisdiction of the LAPD, perhaps they should devote some of those party-hunters to the LAPD’s Southeast Division, which covers Watts and the surrounding areas of South L.A., and where the number of shooting victims is up 3,700 percent during the most recent four-week reporting period compared to the same period a year ago.

I single out the L.A. Sheriff’s Department only because I live in the Los Angeles media market, where anyone who watches the local news can’t help but be aware of stories like this one and this one, with scenes of docile party-goers herded about like so many sheep to the shearers.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials continued to crack down on coronavirus “super-spreader” events and underground parties over the weekend as COVID-19 cases soar, the agency announced Sunday.

The operation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Super-Spreader Task Force busted an underground event at 600 Block of West Manchester Avenue in South L.A. Saturday night and approximately 167 adults were cited for violating county health orders and released, sheriff’s officials said.

Another 50 people received warnings and were advised about the order, as well as COVID-19 health and safety measures, the agency said. Videos released by the agency Sunday showed dozens of masked people lined up against a wall outside a commercial building as officers escorted dozens more out of a building. Authorities did not elaborate on the event or whether any of the people they cited were arrested.

But the misplaced priorities are hardly unique to Los Angeles, or even to the United States. In Chicago, for example, where shootings and murders rose by 50 percent in 2020, politicians find it easier to enforce Covid-19 restrictions on otherwise law abiding people than to crack down on those responsible for all the violence. And in London, England, where crime has been rising steadily for five years, the Metropolitan Police recently mustered a large number of officers, a police dog, and a helicopter to raid a party being held in what they described as a “flagrant breach of Covid regulations.”

But perhaps nowhere have the police been as zealous in enforcing Covid restrictions as in Australia, where, according to Human Rights Watch, a pregnant woman was charged with “incitement” and arrested in front of her children for organizing an anti-lockdown protest on Facebook, another pregnant woman was forbidden from resting on a park bench during her government-allowed hour of outdoor exercise, and a woman with cerebral palsy was prevented from resting while out for a walk with her 70-year-old mother.

One may laugh at these excesses and think such deprivations could never happen here, in the Land of the Free, but recall that in the early days of the lockdown in California we saw a surfer fined $1,000 for daring to enter the water on an otherwise empty beach, people ticketed for sitting in their cars watching the sunset, and,  in what may still be the most farcical display of all, a lone paddleboarder off the coast of Malibu chased down and arrested with the help of not just one but two patrol boats.

It was during that early lockdown period that I happened to drive from Malibu to downtown Los Angeles, a journey that opened my eyes to the misplaced priorities among some in local law enforcement. The drive took me past miles and miles of beaches under sheriff’s department guard against the possibility someone might set foot on the sand or dip his toes in the Pacific.

But when I arrived in downtown Los Angeles I found things much as they have been for years, with homeless encampments lining the streets, their denizens free to mill about and do as they please, which in most cases is to indulge their various addictions and to deposit their various excretions in whatever public space they happen to occupy when the urge strikes.

Some lives matter.

But you see, enforcing the law against homeless people is difficult, as the “unhoused community” have become something like pets among Los Angeles politicos, few if any of whom are burdened with these encampments near their own homes. Surfers, paddleboarders, sunset watchers? They have no political patrons and must be brought to heel, for the good of all, of course.

During the summer’s riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when rioters in cities across the country were excused from following the Covid precautions expected of the rest of us, we witnessed the display of police officers “taking a knee” in demonstrations of solidarity with the protesters, with one Massachusetts police chief taking the self-abasement to a humiliating level when, at the urging of the crowd, he lay face down on the steps outside his police station.

No super-spreading here.

Such political gestures won a measure of cheap grace from the crowds but did little to abate the violence, as there was little overlap between the peaceful protesters and those who busied themselves looting and burning. Worse, the kneeling and groveling reflected the division in police departments between the cops on the front lines battling rioters, those who would sooner take a bullet than a knee, and those in administrative posts who find value in theatrical gestures.

Sadly, it is the kneelers who run most police departments, reflecting the politics of those in the municipal governments they serve. They can’t make the others kneel (though some tried), but they can dictate their enforcement efforts. When fighting real crime becomes politically risky, they can justify their positions by enforcing lockdowns and related restrictions on ordinary people who for nearly a year have been conditioned to submit.

When the last of the sheepdogs have been turned into sheep, expect the wolves to rejoice and act accordingly.

The Thin Blue Line is Under Attack

And now it’s Philadelphia, which joins Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Kenosha, Wisc. on the list of cities where routine police encounters have gone violently wrong, leading to days of rioting and chaos on the streets, all of which, we are endlessly assured by our sophisticated betters in the media, meets the ever more capacious definition of “mostly peaceful protests.”

On its face, the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. in Philadelphia should not be controversial. Police were called to Wallace’s home for a domestic disturbance, and when he defied orders to drop the knife he was holding and advanced on two police officers – who had already retreated from the sidewalk into the street – they opened fire, an outcome to be expected in a rational world. But this is not a rational world, and in no milieu is it less so than in the realm of police encounters with black men.

There has arisen in certain quarters the preposterous notion that someone facing arrest has the right to resist an officer’s efforts – even to the point of assaulting him with a deadly weapon – and still expect an injury-free apprehension. Wallace appears to have shared this notion, as do the people “protesting” his death. Even Joe Biden, proving he can be just as uninformed about police work as he has been about everything else for 47 years, thinks police officers can shoot an attacker in the leg and somehow expect to survive the encounter.

Old-fashioned detective work may soon be a lost art.

How long can this continue? How long can we ask police officers to venture into America’s inner cities and combat crime while placing upon them these unreasonable expectations? And finally, who wants to be a police officer at all under these circumstances?

Raymond Chandler, the creator of the fictional detective Philip Marlowe, said it best: 

But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it.

Whenever some heinous crime occurs, one that rises above the ordinary daily American mayhem to shock the nation’s conscience, we remain anxious and unsettled until an arrest is made, even if we have no direct connection to the victim. Last July, for example, who could help but be horrified by the video of Anthony Robinson being gunned down while walking hand-in-hand with his seven-year-old daughter on a Bronx street corner?

We take it on faith that the perpetrators of such crimes will be identified and arrested, and indeed we found some measure of comfort when, less than two weeks later, three men were arrested and charged with Robinson’s murder. But what if there came a time when we could not have that faith, a time when we had no choice but to resign ourselves to seeing this kind of savagery go unpunished?

That day is coming, and soon.

The Robinson shooting was captured on video, which quite naturally raised public expectations that the killers would be apprehended. The police would find the car shown in the video, it was assumed, then they would find the killers. Easy, right? Just like on television.

The reality was not so simple. Finding the killers required the practice of what soon may be a lost art: old-fashioned detective work. And detective work in its turn demands the mastery of a number of interrelated fields, including forensic science and video technology. But far more than technical knowledge, detective work requires talents much less easily conveyed in a classroom or a textbook.

The presence of DNA at a crime scene and video of the crime as it occurred are powerful evidence, certainly, but in the overall scheme of a criminal investigation they are all but useless until they can be woven into the fabric of the case by a skilled detective. And any criminal case, even one buttressed by the strongest forensic evidence, can collapse in the absence of someone adept at the most overlooked skill in police work: talking to people.

There might be a hundred witnesses to a murder, there might be video of the crime as it occurred, there might be every type of circumstantial evidence tying a given suspect to the crime, but to secure a conviction it all must be tied together by a detective who can walk into an interview room and elicit the truth from people who in many cases would prefer to keep it hidden.

And that same detective, after having assembled the case and secured a criminal filing, must then be able to take the witness stand and persuade a jury that the man seated over there in the defendant’s chair is guilty as charged.

Tough even without a gun.

But where do we find such detectives? They come from the ranks of street cops, of course, men and women who learn, while riding in a radio car or walking a foot beat, how to talk to the parties involved in crimes – victims, witnesses, and suspects – according to each the appropriate level of skepticism, which may approach but never reaches zero.

It has been my experience, after nearly 40 years in the trade, that the best cops, those who do most of the heavy lifting in any police department, would have found equal success in any other field they might have chosen, but they were drawn to police work not merely as a job or even a career, but rather as a vocation. Today that vocation is threatened by the corrosive politics of the Left, which would hold that the police are not a remedy to crime and disorder but rather the very cause of it.

The undermining of law enforcement has been a goal of the Left for decades, and the campaign has achieved varying levels of success over the years. But with the death of George Floyd last May, the assault on police legitimacy has accelerated beyond anything seen before. A February 2020 article at City Journal lamented what was already a police recruiting crisis, but that crisis has now grown even more dire. Worse than a lack of candidates applying for the job is the accelerated flight of tenured officers from some police departments. In Seattle, for example, the problem is finely drawn: more officers left the city’s police force in the first nine months of this year than did all of last year or in 2018.

Not coincidentally, as the number of police officers decreases, and as those who remain on the job grow more apprehensive about making arrests lest they find themselves fired or prosecuted should an incident go awry, crime has increased across the country. Violent crime has risen in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Baltimore, and most other cities you can name, including, yes, Philadelphia, where homicides are up 44 percent from the same time last year. Sadly, few people with the authority to do anything about it seem willing to speak honestly about the problem, as evidenced by Joe Biden's fatuous instruction that cops shoot attackers in the legs.

The world needs people like those Raymond Chandler described, but it may soon find them in short supply. Someday, when the carnage has not been abated by the legions of social workers now proposed, when the bloodshed has grown intolerable even to those who today ignore or rationalize it, people will once again look to the police to solve the problem. But when that day comes, the pool of accumulated wisdom that has been passed from generation to generation of street cops and detectives will have evaporated for lack of use. “Please,” some mayor will implore his police chief, “do something about the crime.”

And the chief will shrug his shoulders and say, “We don’t know how.”

When Science is the Servant of Politics

Last week I embarked on a piece about how some scientists were making science the servant of their political opinions. Servant is perhaps too kind and vague a term; a better one might be ventriloquist’s dummy. When I started writing it, my expectation was that I would be making this argument about a range of scientific topics. Only the first would be medical science.

But some doctors forced medical science into so many political contortions in that week’s news that I never really managed to get onto other scientific disciplines. The money quote from a statement of 1200 medical professionals connected with the University of Washington’s Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was as follows:

[W]e wanted to present a narrative that prioritizes opposition to racism as vital to the public health, including the epidemic response. We believe that the way forward is not to suppress protests in the name of public health but to respond to protesters demands in the name of public health, thereby addressing multiple public health crises.

And in the last seven days, this argument—that Black Lives Matter protests are uniquely aimed at improving public health, damaged as it is by racism-- has spread to Britain where large crowds turned out for BLM rallies accommodated by the police who were otherwise fining people for meeting in “crowds” of more than six—and to partisan politics in the U.S. where public health professionals were critical of the GOP for pushing ahead with plans for a Republican Convention while tamely hoping that BLM protesters will wear marks.

The public reaction to these medical self-contradictions has been stronger in Britain than in America, partly because the lockdown regulations have been more stringent and more toughly enforced (with police handing out thousands of fines) than in the U.S. Allowing some people to protest and (not incidentally) to indulge in violent rioting in a self-righteous frame of mind, but fining others for attending a parent’s funeral has created a lot of free-floating anger. And one side-effect is a rise in skepticism towards other claims of both medical scientists and their brethren in other disciplines.

Take the Covid-19 claims first.

Britain’s media and opposition have been strongly critical of the handling of the Covid-19 crisis by the Boris Johnson government, suggesting that Ministers had ignored the advice of its SAGE committee of scientists and demanding that the minutes of SAGE now be published. Well, the minutes have now been published, and they show that Ministers followed the advice of SAGE more or less to the letter. If mistakes were made, they were scientists’ mistakes more than ministerial ones (though Ministers have to take responsibility for them on the proper constitutional grounds that “advisors advise, ministers decide.”) Well and good.

One example of this advice was particularly spicy, however. ICI’s Professor Neil Ferguson earlier in the week suggested that the lockdown had been imposed one week too late with the possible result that as many as 20,000 people had died needlessly. But when the SAGE records were released, they showed that the committee, including Ferguson, had voted unanimously for the previous policy because a lockdown would guarantee a second spike of the disease in the Fall.

When that policy changed, it did so in response to Ferguson’s own computer projections showing that Covid-19 was likely to spread very quickly and overwhelm the National Health Service. And as Dan Hodges in the Daily Mail points out, at the time he had pronounced the timing of the lockdown imposition to be about right. Ferguson’s computer projections, however, have since been subjected to savage criticism by information scientists who claim that it is worse than useless. Ferguson himself has changed his informal guesstimates of the course of the virus more than once. Other groups of scientists specializing in the field of infectious diseases have reached very different conclusions. And it’s in the nature of science that they can’t all be right.

We should all admit our own ignorance in these matters, of course. My own judgment—based on previous pandemics but shared apparently by many epidemiologists—is that we won’t know the full destructiveness of Covid-19 for another year at least. Today’s news from Beijing that a serious new outbreak of the disease has occurred and all the local food markets have been closed warn us that some of the early apparent treatments may prove temporary All the scientists’ projections are interesting, and some may prove accurate. But it is the progress of the actual virus in the world that will tell us which ones are right and which wrong.

That’s a highly significant conclusion because some areas of science are highly speculative and others over-reliant on computer projections. That’s true in particular for climate science where almost all of the claims of climate “emergencies” and the need for “urgency” to “combat” them come to us from computer projections that we must now treat skeptically.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation exists to test forecasts against reality on the ground. The IPCC is usually at the soft end of climate alarmism but it has been part of the skeptic camp on the question of weather extremes and if they are caused by global warming. This last week the GWPF published a study by the phyicist Ralph Alexander: which reached the following conclusion:

If there is any trend at all in extreme weather, it’s downward rather than upward. Our most extreme weather, be it heat wave, drought, flood, hurricane or tornado, occurred many years ago, long before the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere began to climb at its present rate. The recent atmospheric heat waves in western Europe pale in comparison with the soaring temperatures of the 1930s, a period when three of the seven continents and 32 of the 50 US states set all-time high temperature records, which still stand today.

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Professor Alexander lays out the evidence for the good news. We can examine it. It happened in the real world not in a virtual reality of guesstimates piled on guesstimates. Nor in a world of utopian politics and well-intentioned authoritarianism.

We have to get back to doing that more of the time.

Why the Wuhan Flu Turned Violent

After a week of violent rioting -- aka, "largely peaceful protests" -- over the death of a man nobody had ever heard of a fortnight ago, the rationale behind the continuing home imprisonment of law-abiding citizens over the phantom menace of the Wuhan Flu no longer make any sense, if it ever did. Trading the economic and social health of nations indefinitely for a variant of the seasonal flu was always a bad bargain, but now that the doctors' scheme has been revealed as purely political, it's time to stop.

The great Covid-19 pandemic was always a #NursingHomeDisease. It disproportionately struck the elderly who also had underlying health problems (comorbidities) that were exacerbated by the opportunistic Chinese bug. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world:

The Most Important Coronavirus Statistic: 42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population

According to an analysis that Gregg Girvan and I [Avik Roy] conducted for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, as of May 22, in the 43 states that currently report such figures, an astounding 42% of all COVID-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Let that sink in: 42% of all COVID-19 deaths are taking place in facilities that house 0.62% of the U.S. population.

And 42% could be an undercount. States like New York exclude from their nursing home death tallies those who die in a hospital, even if they were originally infected in a long-term care facility. Outside of New York, more than half of all deaths from COVID-19 are of residents in long-term care facilities.

This is astounding. The Forbes piece goes on to note that in Ohio, a full 70 percent of the deaths attributed to the virus occured in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; in Minnesota, the figure is 81 percent. Most of the damage, however, has been in the New York City metropolitan area, with tentacles as far south as Virginia and reaching north up into New England.

Another way to cut the data is to look at nursing home and assisted living facility deaths as a share of the population that lives in those facilities. On that basis, three states stand out in the negative direction: New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

In Massachusetts and Connecticut, COVID deaths per 10,000 nursing home and assisted living facility residents were 703 and 827, respectively. In New Jersey, nearly 10 percent of all long-term care facility residents—954 in 10,000—have died from the novel coronavirus.

The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be this way. On March 17, as the pandemic was just beginning to accelerate, Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis warned that “even some so-called mild or common-cold-type coronaviruses have been known for decades [to] have case fatality rates as high as 8% when they infect people in nursing homes.” Ioannidis was ignored.

Instead, of course, states such as New York deliberately forced the disease-incubating nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients, with results we now all can see. Combine this with the deliberate cruelty of restricting access to the dying, and you have a hell on earth that only a Democrat could have created.

The bogus excuse for the lockdowns, now strikingly apparent in retrospect, was that we didn't want hospitals overwhelmed with the millions of patients and half a million deaths in Britain alone that "experts" like Professor Pantsdown of the Imperial College in London had predicted.  Nor did we see the deaths linked to "climate change" and air pollution that Harvard experts were forced to walk back. No wonder Dr. Fauci barely shows his face any more.

In short, nearly everything they told us about the second coming of the Black Death turned out to be wrong. And for this, our betters ravaged the economies of the West, bullied the honest citizenry, and suspended the Bill of Rights -- and then when the riots came, excused them on the non-medical grounds that "racism" (a neologism in common usage only since about 1970) is a worse health threat than, well, Covid-19. [What follows is not a parody.]

Public Health Experts Say the Pandemic Is Exactly Why Protests Must Continue

There has been a lot of concern on how the protests over the past several days may produce a wave of coronavirus cases. This discussion is often framed as though the pandemic and protests in support of black lives are wholly separate issues, and tackling one requires neglecting the other. But some public health experts are pushing people to understand the deep connection between the two.

Facing a slew of media requests asking about how protests might be a risk for COVID-19 transmission, a group of infectious disease experts at the University of Washington, with input from other colleagues, drafted a collective response. In an open letter published Sunday, they write that “protests against systemic racism, which fosters the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on Black communities and also perpetuates police violence, must be supported.”

This is pure neo-Marxist bunkum, of course, a collectivist bit of agitprop that might have come from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Indeed, the hive mind behind this tripe argue that the protesters are actually performing a public service by their selfless willingness to act as guinea pigs who can test the limits of the unconstitutional lockdowns for the greater good.

The letter and the experts who signed it make a case for viewing the protests not primarily as something that could add to cases of coronavirus (though they might) but as a tool to promote public health in and of themselves. Protests address “the paramount public health problem of pervasive racism,” the letter notes. “We express solidarity and gratitude toward demonstrators who have already taken on enormous personal risk to advocate for their own health, the health of their communities, and the public health of the United States.”

The real reason, though, is propaganda, as this Slate story eventually gets around to admitting:

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,000 epidemiologists, doctors, social workers, medical students, and other health experts had signed the letter. The creators had to close a Google Sheet with signatures to the public after alt-right messages popped up, but they plan to publish a final list soon, says Rachel Bender Ignacio, an infectious disease specialist and one of the letter’s creators. The hopes for the letter are twofold. The first goal is to help public health workers formulate anti-racist responses to media questions about the health implications. The second is to generate press to address a general public that may be concerned about protests spreading the virus.

There is a linkage between the coronavirus hoax and the riots -- it's just not what they say it is. From the moment Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, the Left has been determined to destroy not only the Trump presidency but also the very country that allowed such an enormity to occur. They -- the DNC, the big media, academe -- have thrown everything they have into the fight, and that they have now turned to outright violence in its late stages ought to tell you something, both about the "resistance's" history, and the future it has planned for you.