Regarding Covid-19, Public Policy v. Panic

Nothing has better demonstrated to me the impossible clash of true science -- the constant search for and the skeptical sifting and winnowing of empirical evidence -- with public policy than the worldwide response to the Covid-19 virus about which so little was known  when it first appeared.

Science, like the Western legal advocacy system, depends on proponents and opponents clashing and presenting their best relevant arguments for us to decide an issue, but the search in science on any issue must be ongoing, and in law and public policy there are practical and procedural time limits. It would be wonderful if there were some alternative responsible forum to quickly test the assumptions of policy makers (often contradictory and based on little or poor evidence), but there isn’t much leeway to my knowledge.

The Western court systems are generally a reasonable way to test the validity of fact but the timing problems make it almost impossible to do so rapidly enough to matter when it comes to this disease. Good public policy on scientific issues should be made with far greater humility than it presently is, and perhaps the only way to get around the normal strictures is to create a rapid response team of experts critical of the public policy gurus who can file affidavits in support of their findings and persuade courts to issue temporary injunctions pending full expedited hearings. Absent that, the only way to deal with this overreaching is resistance, and -- down the road -- the ballot box. When it's often too late.

The face of the medical bureaucracy: Rochelle Walensky

This week the  CDC announced new guidelines suggesting fully vaccinated people should again mask. Among other things,"It added a recommendation for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission."

The CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. Director Rochelle Walensky stated this week that “fully vaccinated people have just as much viral load as the unvaccinated, making it possible for them to spread the virus to others,” so school children should be masked. She should be ignored if it her claim is not supported by equally sound research -- and it isn't. It's based instead on data from a single study in India, where different vaccines were in use, and was so deficient it was rejected in peer review.

She’s not alone, however. There has been a drumbeat to reinstate some of the most loathsome and freedom-destroying diktats we’ve just come out from under. Organizations and businesses are demanding employees be fully vaccinated and some even requiring vaccinated persons to mask. How do these square with the feminist slogan, “my body, my choice,” and the concept of privacy of medical information in HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)? How are these requirements that you prove you’ve taken the vaccine even constitutional?

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On July 18  a U.S. District Court decided preliminarily the first test case I know of against the new restrictions, Klassen v. Trustees of Indiana University. Law Professor Eugene Volokh , a legal scholar worth respect, explains why the Court denied a preliminary injunction sought by the students against being forced to mask, social distance and  vaccinate or qualify for an exemption on religious or medical reasons. 

Under guiding principles of federalism, our Constitution preserves the power of the States, within constitutional limits, to adopt laws to provide for public health and safety. Twice the United States Supreme Court has upheld state authority to compel reasonable  vaccinations. [The court is referring here to Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905) and Zucht v. King (1922). -EV] The States don't have arbitrary power, but they have discretion to act reasonably in protecting the public's health.

Students at Indiana University have a significant liberty protected by the Constitution—refusing unwanted medical treatment based on bodily autonomy. The Fourteenth Amendment says no state may "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1. Given this due process protection of liberty, longstanding constitutional law prevents a public university—an arm of the State—from mandating a vaccine for its students unless it has rationally pursued a legitimate interest in public health for its campus community.

Does this mean that it’s constitutional for the university to issue such a mandate? Not exactly. The students sought injunctive relief, not a final decision on the merits. As Volokh notes, the injunctive relief “requires a strong showing that they will likely succeed on the merits of their claims, that they will sustain irreparable harm, and that the balance of harms and public interest favor such a remedy.”

You can always transfer, kids.

But the students have other options which the court had to balance -- they could apply for a medical deferral, take the semester off (the mandate applies only for the coming semester), attend another university or attend online. (In this respect the students have more options and may have had a weaker case for injunctive relief than might some other litigants covered by similar mandates.) And in a request for injunctive relief there is usually no opportunity to fully flesh out that these directives are unnecessary in the public interest, unreasonable, and therefore unconstitutional .

In a nutshell here’s the legal problem: testing the reasonableness of the state action would take a great deal of time, given the number of conflicting expert opinions on a scientific matter -- one on which we have so little empirical evidence  and where the evidence seems to be so quickly changing. Adding to that is that the mandates tend -- as here -- to be of short duration so that by the time the issue would be resolved it would likely be moot.

It would be wonderful if it were easier. It would be even more wonderful if the mass media and social media which combined in the Trusted News Initiative  to restrict information contrary to the official public health directives and the latter unable to hide behind the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to restrict diverse views on these mandates. More open discussion might improve state decisions and lessen the impact of scare accounts on judicial reviewers of those decisions. 

In any hearing on the merits here’s some of the evidence I expect the opponents of these mandates would produce;

  1. The mortality rate from Covid-19 in the U.S. has been low (affecting mostly the elderly and those with co-morbidities) and is now at the lowest point .Even the new bugaboo about cases from a new "delta" variant is overblown as the  “cases” are asymptomatic or very mild. Harvard Medical School Professor Martin Kulldorff pointed this out on Twitter, writing that “In [the] USA, COVID mortality is now the lowest since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.” He reports: "Far more people were dying from COVID-19 months ago as we were winding down restrictions than are dying today as some call to reinstate them." With mortality so low, it’s hard to argue that reinstatement of Covid restrictions is reasonable.
  2. Government restrictions ignore the fact that most of the U.S. has natural immunity to the virus. Some 80percent of American adults are immune to the virus: More than 64 percent have received at least one vaccine dose and, of those who haven’t, roughly half have natural immunity from prior infection. There’s ample scientific evidence that natural immunity is effective and durable, and public-health leaders should pay it heed. Only around 10 percent of Americans have had confirmed positive Covid tests, but four to six times as many have likely had the infection.
  3. At this point we know enough about treatment so that Covid 19 or its variants are easily treatable at home. It should be engaged in its early stages, not when hospitalization is required because no treatment has been received.
  4. Like every other drug or vaccine the Covid vaccinations are toxic at some level in some percent of people as Dr. Robert Malone, the inventor of the technology behind the mRNA gene therapy (the Covid vaccinations) indicates at the link.
  5.  There is already a cheap, effective, fast treatment in the early stages of Covid-19: Ivermectin.  “The statistically significant evidence suggests that it is safe and works both for treating and preventing the disease.”

So, on one hand we have reputable scientists confirming low Covid mortality, broad natural immunity to the virus, easy rapid treatability of the disease at home and seemingly deliberate  underreporting of vaccine toxicity by public health officials. The problem remains how to bring this information to judicial fora in time override the unconstitutional--because unnecessary and unreasonable -- restrictions on liberty.

   

At Every Level, Government Has Botched the Covid Response

One day, even Democrats will realize that government has not only botched the response to Covid-19 at every level, and at every step of the way, but that it's generated more harm for more Americans than virtually any other policy in modern American history. That’s not hyperbole.

How and why was the response so poor, and what can we do to halt this fiasco from happening again?

The “how” emanates from the “why,” and the “why” in entirely rooted in fear.  In the early days of the virus, we simply didn’t have enough information about what we were dealing with.  It was all rumor, stoked by the media to generate fear to generate clicks and eyeballs.

With fear as the root cause, and the media as its ally, politicians became terrified.

Because the top priority for any politician is to remain in office (power), their decisions are inexorably tied to that priority, with the exception of those relatively few conservatives and libertarians who actually have integrity.  No politician wants to be the one who's known for killing thousands of people, so it was much easier to take a draconian approach and kill everyone slowly over a number of months and years than risk killing them with the virus.  This kicks the can down the road.

That approach also protects them because, should scads of people die from the virus, it would generate a fierce emotional response from everyone, including Democrats.

CDC, meet NIH, meet NIAID...

Moreover, explaining how and why lockdowns had terrible systemic effects is an intellectual and complicated argument.  Because Democrats don’t understand economics in the first place, the chance of blowback was far less.  Indeed, just look at how Democrats focus on the emotional elements of everything about Covid and paid no attention at all to the collateral damage.

Some of the more skeptical citizens believe all of this to have been intentional on the part of policymakers.  That gives Democrats too much credit.  It overlooks a simpler and more elegant explanation: politicians are nothing special.  They are normal people who don't have any expertise in anything.  They relied on “experts,” who offered narrow perspectives that didn’t take holistic public health policy into account when providing parochial advice.

To an epidemiologist, every virus looks like a nuclear bomb.  To a public health doctor, every virus is a situation to be managed effectively and efficiently.  You see the distinction.

This, by the way, is all the more reason why governors Kristi Noem of South Dakota and Ron DeSantis of Florida are to be commended.  They have integrity.  They used their own minds and stuck to their principles and have been proven right.  As the studies over collateral damage are eventually concluded, expect to find far less drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide in those states.

That’s the “why.”  The “how” derived directly from this ever-present foundation of fear, which has undergirded every single Covid-19 policy decision at every level of government. The politicians need to show everyone that they are on top of the crisis, so they grasp at straws, and grasp the worst possible choice for a “test” to determine who has the virus and who doesn’t.

Another mask or two might have helped.

PCR testing was never intended as a diagnostic tool, according to its Nobel Prize-winning inventor.  The test shoves a swab up your nose and scrapes around for everything, and then the PCR procedure amplifies what’s in the background. As inventor Kary Mullis says, “It allows you to take a miniscule amount of anything and make it measureable and then talk about it.”

If the sample results are amplified 35 times, everyone would test negative.  If the sample results are amplified 60 times, everyone would test positive.

Thus, what nobody really knows or understands is that the number of positive cases are likely vastly over-reported.  Yet because the government proclaimed it the gold standard, it became the gold standard, because the government was so terrified of Covid that it had to lock onto something that gave it the feeling of control.  “Here’s a test!  Let’s go with it!” The result was an unreliable test that produced unreliable data that was presented as gospel.

Indeed, the data provided has never had any context.  All we get is raw "case" and death counts.  One must dig (a lot) to find how those cases distribute across age, location, comorbidity, and economic status.  Even then, we are not provided information regarding how many cases were asymptomatic or non-serious.

Suddenly, the news is all about “rising case and death counts,” not that 80 percent of deaths were in the elderly and 94 percent had at least one co-morbidity.

Without that context, the politicians decided that the entire country must be locked down, regardless of consequences.  Even worse, fearful politicians like Gov. Cuomo shoved the elderly who were sick right into nursing homes, turning them into death camps.

The terror prevented these politicians from making rational public health decisions, and the ignorant media took their lead.   There was never any public health campaign, and there is still not , to push the simple preventative measures that we know enhance immunity:  vitamin D, zinc, and quercetin.

We still don’t have clear answers as to why HCQ and ivermectin – cheap and widely available therapies – were demonized and thrown out instead of letting people making their own choices. Heck, they could have at least done the same clinical trials that the vaccines went through.

Why not?  Because government is reactionary, not pro-active.  Just as none of the pols wanted to be the guys who let millions die of Covid on their watch, none of them wanted to take the risk by advocating other measures, just in case they don’t work.

Government by its nature can only react with a one-size-fits-all approach, because government never considers the individual.  It sees a herd.

Our grand mistake as conservative Americans is that we gave them a herd.  Nobody stepped up to disobey.  Nobody chose to keep their business open.  Nobody chose to defy mask mandates, even in areas where law enforcement said it would not enforce such stupid mandates.

As a new round of mask mandates looms, we can’t let that happen again.

The Church of Global Warming Will Now Come to Order

Intercessional prayers at my local Anglican church never fail include asking for God’s help in tackling climate change. Suppose I was to ask those expressing concern about climate change whether their concern was related to increased water vapour in the atmosphere, caused by warming engendered by CO2 emissions from burning hydrocarbons fuels; and which, in turn, markedly multiplied the initial warming effect of CO2. If I were ever to ask this question, the odds are that I would get a blank look.

Understandably, people have little knowledge of climate science. And when I say people, I include most politicians, media commentators, Greta Thunberg, Prince Charles, David Attenborough even and, being brutally honest, me too.

Poor sods like me are easily bamboozled by science. The IPCC brigade know that. You might recall “the science is settled” catchcry being used to quell dissent among the hoi polloi. However, such a contradiction in terms proved to be too laughable to survive and it’s now never heard. Nevertheless, to put it mildly, debate is not encouraged. Scientists in institutional settings risk being cancelled for questioning any aspect of the received wisdom. Best to be retired before voicing a discordant opinion.

So we're all agreed then?

The problem is that climate science is no longer in the backroom; delving into esoterica remote from the everyday lives of people in the street. The catholic church stuck too long with Ptolemy’s geocentric theory of the solar system. But, really, did this matter much for trade and commerce? No, it didn’t. That doesn’t apply in this case. In this case, science is in process, through the agency of governments, of upturning the world. And we are told not to ask awkward questions.

After a while, I thought, let them have their theory. The important thing is what’s being done about it. If they would support nuclear energy, then let’s swallow hard and go along with it. For example, you can easily come away with that point of view from reading Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never. It is a grave mistake.

We are not dealing with rationale beings. For instance, consider AOC and her fellow supporters of the Green New Deal. To them, climate change is a gateway to a brave new world. And that’s not to a world of efficient, affordable, zero-emission nuclear energy. That’s anathema to them. They want to remake society into an inclusive (white men excepted), equitable, diverse, green, nirvana. In reality it would be a Marxist-like hellhole but, hey, they have the best of intentions. Hmm? I wonder. Did Stalin have good intentions?

Our calculations are irrefutable!

For us there is no option. We must go back to the beginning and do “violence” to their inviolable scientific premise. With this in mind, I was attracted to a recent essay I might otherwise have put into the too-hard basket. By Christopher Monckton, it was put up on the site Watts Up With That?

Albeit colourful, Monckton’s a clever guy. Saw him speak in Sydney maybe fifteen or so years ago. I believe, at the time, he described global warming as a monstrous hoax. I don’t think he’s changed his mind. But to his essay. I can’t warrant its worth. I can say, with approval, that it tackles the science. I found it interesting. This is his thesis in summary point form for easy digestion.

In a nutshell, Monckton’s claim is that all of the heat of the earth is complicit in generating feedback warming not just the 8.5 K down to greenhouse gasses. It would explain why model predictions have overegged anthropogenic warming and markedly overshot actual temperatures. Does he have a point? I might have mentioned. Science is not my forte. However, I do believe that science is the turf on which the battle must be reengaged and fought.

Global warming alarmism is like a deep-rooted infection. You’re not going to cure it by trying to make its manifestation more benign. As we speak, parasite upon parasite is gnawing on the supine body-politic of our peerless civilization.

That's the ticket!

Want evidence of these parasites? Look at gargantuan wind turbines, at massive solar farms, at electric cars, at zillions of lithium batteries, at pumped-hydro ventures, at green hydrogen escapades. And what about replacing gas for heating tens of millions of European homes with wind and solar driven electric heat pumps supplementing geo-thermal energy extracted, say, from flooded disused underground coal mines. What could be simpler?

Parasitical boondoggles one and all. Sucking on the taxpayer teat. None able to stand on its own two feet in the marketplace. They will enfeeble us and eventually may lead, one way or another, to our demise.

The received scientific wisdom is wrong. We know that because all of its predictions have been wrong. Normally that would have been sufficient to down the theory. Not this time. Vested interest is at play among institutional scientists, politicians and the aforementioned commercial parasites.

Vested interest is powerful. Some churchmen and papal-court astronomers kept Ptolemaic theory on life support. But it eventually succumbed. Got to keep on. Truth will out. And hopefully, before it is too late.

COVID-19's Stealth Pandemic

The Covid-19 virus did an exceptional job at killing elderly people with co-morbidities, but wasn’t terribly effective at killing anyone else. The real damage was done by our own government, whose foolish policies have and will continue to result in collateral damage that will vastly exceed the damage done by the virus itself. The lockdowns alone will prove to be the greatest unforced error in modern human history.

Data is still being collected, yet even from last April, there was already evidence that lockdowns were destroying the human psyche and humans along with it. These are real people, just as real as those who died from the virus, yet everyone who shouted that we must lock the world down will not be held accountable. We must make certain that they are, and that means being armed with data.

An April 28, 2020, study showed domestic violence increases of 10 percent in New York City, and 27 percent in Jefferson, Alabama. In February, The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ) reported an 8.1 percent overall increase in U.S. domestic violence. To put this in stark terms, there were 1,330 more domestic violence calls for service in just March and April of last year alone. 1,330 people calling for help because they were beating beaten, threatened, and God knows what else.

The bug made us do it.

In January, The NCCCJ also reported higher crime in the 34 American cities it examined, including a 30 percent higher homicide rate (that’s 1,268 more dead people), aggravated assault up 6 percent, gun assaults up 8 percent and car theft rose 13 percent. I suppose we can take solace that the lockdowns resulted in declines in burglary and drug offenses.

The maskholes who told everyone to “just stay home” didn’t bother to consider that many of those homes were not refuges, but cauldrons of frustration, depression, anxiety, and violence. They are as culpable as New York governor Andrew Cuomo consigning countless elderly people to death by forcing them into Covid-19 breeding grounds known as nursing homes. It’s not like this wasn’t already known, either.

These same individuals turned their backs on the women they claim to defend, counseling them to stay in their domestic situation, while the world failed to provide them the safety they needed. I guess when gender becomes a construct, that relieves people of obligations to any given gender.

When Leftist ninnies cheered our saviors in government and the media as they wagged their fingers, telling us to “mask up,” “remain socially distant,” and “shelter in place,” they never mentioned resources for those at risk.  Nice job.

The increase in violence comes as no surprise given the correlation with an increase in alcohol consumption. That’s what happens when people, especially men, are thrown out of work. Excessive drinking was already the third largest preventable cause of death in America. During Covid, Mental Health America reported a 14 percent increase in alcohol consumption across all demographics, including a 41 percent increase in women.

A University of Arizona study from April to September found an increase in hazardous alcohol use from 21 percent in April to 41 percent in September. Dependence rose from 8 percent to 29 percent. Increased use was higher among younger people.

Some things never change.

Mental health deteriorated across the board. Depression and anxiety were to be expected from prolonged lockdowns, yet the government didn’t care, nor did the media, nor the maskholes.

The Census Bureau reported an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression from 11 percent of Americans in the first half of 2019, to 42 percent in December of last year.

This CDC reported that “the proportion of mental health–related visits for children aged 5–11 years and adolescents aged 12–17 years increased approximately 24 percent and 31 percent.” In this case, the youth of America is the most vulnerable, particularly if living alone. Their rates were twice those of those over age 65. Those already in poor health were three times more likely to have symptoms compared to those in very good or excellent health.

Our young women are in dire straits. Average weekly visits to emergency rooms for suspected suicide attempts in girls aged 12 to 17 rose 51 percent in February and March compared to the previous year. This is likely under-reported because, thanks again to the media, people were too afraid to even go to the ER for fear of contracting the dreaded Covid.

The list goes on and on, and it will sadly grow and grow. America will deal with the collateral damage of the lockdowns for years. I don’t just refer to the burden on the health care system, but on the real human damage that likely will dog millions of people.

This is why it is critical to understand how misguided the Left is when it comes to actual human experience. The Left never sees things holistically. By relying on the hammer of government, to which everything is a nail, the one-size-fits-all approach can only result in suffering that is far beyond what is meant as a cure.

There is no nuance to how the Left operates, because they lack imagination and true compassion. They saw a virus, didn’t have information, became afraid and reacted instinctively by trying to shut everything down. This doesn’t consider people, but only a problem to be solved without attendant examination. It's their totalitarian way.

Plus ça change...

Rather than rely on the concepts of individual choice, risk, freedom, and responsibility, they submit themselves to the government and choose to believe the media – whose only goal is to generate traffic. That’s all well and good, until they demand that everyone else do the same thing.

Never once do they consider anything beyond the hammering of the nail. Once it’s been struck, that’s all that need be done. Yet as we see, that nail went through metaphorical rotting drywall, and impaled someone on the other side.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, life went on as it always did. No lockdowns, no masks. Kids went to school. People ate in cafes. Their Covid-19 data was virtually identical to that of the United States. In fact, the total death rate was lower, at 0.14 percent compared to 0.18 percent for the U.S. Not only that, Sweden’s death rate in 2020 was lower than it was in 2010.

The next time this happens, things will only get worse. It is vital that Americans call out the maskholes, the Fauci-ists, the media water-carriers, and the politicians for causing this suffering. It is the only way to prevent this from ever happening again.

In London, the G7 vs. Humanity

The assembly of clowns, charlatans, and senile old men pretending to be President of the United States are about to deliver themselves of a malignant mouse and call it progress:

G7 leaders were on Sunday urged to take urgent action to secure the future of the planet, as they finalised new conservation and emissions targets to curb climate change, and wrapped up a three-day summit where revived Western unity has been on show.

Veteran environmentalist and broadcaster David Attenborough told the gathering of the world’s richest nations the natural world was “greatly diminished” and inequality was widespread. “The question science forces us to address specifically in 2021 is whether as a result of these intertwined facts we are on the verge of destabilising the entire planet?” he said.

“If that is so, then the decisions we make this decade — in particular the decisions made by the most economically advanced nations — are the most important in human history.”

With all due respect to Sir David, bunkum.

What's got into Boris Johnson? Apparently his brush with Covid-19 has permanently addled his pate and he is now all but indistinguishable from your average lefty climate nut. And don't be fooled by the "building back greener" trope -- if "green energy" were real, we'd have been using it long since. Instead, it's just more toffish nonsense from the Davos crowd, part of the Great Reset they have in store for us.

Enjoy your friend green cicada and bat-butt soup while you have the chance -- things will get much, much worse.

 

When Police Get Woke, Society Gets Broke

One of the blessings of growing older is, when tensions roil the social landscape, being able to look back on the troubled times of an earlier day and say, “Those tribulations I survived, these I shall also.” I am a Baby Boomer, born in the late ‘50s to a World War II Navy veteran and a stay-at-home mother, both of whom were conservative Republicans who did their best to usher their children through the tumult of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Nearly all of my friends growing up came from similar backgrounds, but we came of age as the Vietnam war came to its ignoble conclusion and as the Watergate scandal gripped the nation. It was a time when “questioning authority” was oh so fashionable among my generation, and, like nearly all of my friends, I rejected my parents’ conservatism and embraced liberalism, at least as the term was understood in, say, 1976.

I’m ashamed to admit it took some years to accept that my parents weren’t wrong about absolutely everything, and that the “authorities” I had so enthusiastically questioned and rejected had achieved that status for the simple virtue of having been correct. And I became a cog in the authority machine itself when I joined the Los Angeles Police Department after graduating from college, but even then it was only after a few years of patrolling the streets of L.A. that the scales fell from my eyes and I came to realize the liberalism I had embraced, far from improving the lives of those it purported to help, made them worse.

Los Angeles then.

I spent the greater part of my police career working in South Los Angeles, where I was confronted daily with the grim harvest of liberal policies that, however well intentioned in their origins, resulted in the dissolution of families and sent forth thousands of fatherless young men who, lacking guidance in the home, found it on the streets though membership in gangs like the Crips and the Bloods, both of which originated in Los Angeles and have since spread like cancer across the country.

The city’s gang culture brought horrific bloodshed to Los Angeles, most especially in South L.A. In 1976, the LAPD handled 517 murders. By 1980 the number had almost doubled, to 1,028, and when gang culture coalesced with the crack cocaine epidemic in the early ‘80s the result was even more explosive. It wasn’t until 1997 that the city’s murder total fell back below 700, and by 2010 the number was below 300, where it remained for ten years.

That reduction in violence was brought about largely through the efforts of police officers willing to go into the neighborhoods most affected by crime and confront those responsible for it. Yes, some of those confrontations were violent, and yes, it resulted in many black and Latino young men being arrested and sent to prison, as it was blacks and Latinos who committed 90 percent of the violent crime in Los Angeles, an uncomfortable but nonetheless persistent fact mirrored in any American city you can name.

There existed among police officers, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, an ethos that demanded we challenge the status quo that said violence and disorder were the inevitable byproducts of long overdue social transformations. These transformations were welcomed and applauded by the elites, but when a police officer sees a shooting victim take his last breath, when he sees the victim’s mother running down the street to see it too, he cares little for the opinions of elites fortunate enough to live and work safely distant from the violence they have fostered, and it arouses in him the will to act so as not to see such a scene repeated.

Or at least it used to.

L.A. now.

Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and most especially since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, police work has changed so radically as to be unrecognizable to those of us who worked the streets in the ‘80s and ‘90s. America’s police, already in retreat against the advancing woke mob, now recognize that their leaders have abandoned them and the battle against crime is no longer worth fighting.

But as demoralized as police officers are today, it is not they who are paying the heaviest price. If the Black Lives Matter movement has proved anything, it is that the only black lives that matter to its adherents are those few that are lost in confrontations with the police. The thousands upon thousands of others who die at the hands of their fellow blacks inspire no protests, no outrage, no calls for systematic changes, but rather are greeted with a blithe shrug of acceptance. The police, rendered inert by political overseers kowtowing to the mob, are now bystanders to the carnage, reduced to documenting murders while doing little to prevent them.

This is not an accident or an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise benign development. This is the aim of the modern left that now dominates the political, academic, and media classes who shriek to the skies whenever a police officer uses force against a member of some favored minority, but who stand mute when some member of that same minority murders another.

When police officers are no longer useful to fight genuine evils, they will be re-tasked to fight imaginary ones, as has in fact already occurred with cops enforcing mask mandates and other restrictions on liberties most Americans viewed as inviolable only a year ago. When this occurs – and the process is already well underway – those cops best suited to fighting violent crime will drift away from the profession and find employment elsewhere, to be replaced by the type of meek, enervated drones that reflect the political eunuchs ushering in this transformation.

This summer the country will experience violence at levels unseen in decades, and by the time it awakens from its woke torpor, there may be no one left who knows what to do about it.

A Carbon-Neutral Deity?

Relativity permeates this earthly realm. Not Einstein’s but the common or garden variety of judging people and things against other people and things. For example, when Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, emerged from Joe Biden’s virtual climate summit he was condemned by the usual suspects for lagging behind the U.S., the U.K., and others, in not absolutely committing to net-zero emissions by 2050. On the other hand, he earned plaudits from the local conservative media rump for standing his ground; albeit much greener ground than he occupied a few years ago.

A conservative-leaning cartoonist in the Australian newspaper, Johannes Leak, caught the mood. Boris Johnson, Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern and Greta Thunberg were pictured at Joe Biden’s Mad Hatter’s tea party mocking Morrison approaching the table soberly with his “measurable achievements and realistic goals.” Accordingly, he basks in the glow of being less idiotically alarmist than his peers.

Of course, Australia’s so-called “achievements” (regarding his "realistic goals," more below) rest on a pipsqueak reduction in CO2 emissions which don’t move the gauge at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Nevertheless, in percentage terms, it’s relatively better than most. That’s what counts, apparently.

Whatever...

Is everything relative? Are there no absolutes? For a dwindling proportion of men and women there remains a God. For climate alarmists (and that’s now about everyone who’s anyone) a new absolute has emerged. This is vitally important. Religions need absolutes. If you are going have interfaith dialogue with the Pope, which John Kerry has just begun, you gotta have something to show. I suggest that carbon neutrality fits the bill.

“We have God, the way, the truth and the life,” the Pope averred.

“Well, Your Holiness, we have carbon neutrality, scary projections and wind turbines preventing the planet from becoming a fiery hellhole.”

“I think we've got a deal,” says the Pope.

OK, it might not have gone down quite like that. But there is no doubting the religiosity of climate change. And religions need an absolute.

Forget Kyoto and Paris and the relativity of comparing by how much this or that country has reduced its own emissions since 2000 or 2005. All now equally have to aim for, dare I say, the sacred number of net-zero. But what does it mean? Akin, if you like, to the old question about the meaning of God. I searched:

An Australian website called Carbon Neutral seemed a promising place to start. This what I found: “Carbon neutrality means that you have to reduce your climate impact to net zero.” OK, I think. But disappointment follows: “As it is almost impossible to avoid the creation of greenhouse gasses emissions entirely, you will need to balance these emissions through the purchase of carbon offsets.” Hmm? There seems to be a fallacy of composition going on here. Sure, any individual, company, state or country can buy offsets. But not all. Short, that is, of Martians turning up with carbon credits in their space knapsacks.

I turned, at random, to the website of OVO Energy, a U.K. "green energy" company. Here I found the answer. This is what it means in terms of what must be done.

We (the world) must switch to 100 percent reliance on renewable energy for electricity, accompanied by battery storage. We must insulate houses, install low-carbon heating and smart energy-saving products. Switch to electric cars but, note, as making them creates emissions we really need to shift to using public transport. And, as air travel is an issue until it is carbon free, we need to replace vacations with, wait for it, “staycations.” Fits in, I suppose, with Covid-fearing isolationism. Farm animals too are a problem, so we need to move to plant-based diets. Massive forest planting completes the future carbon-neutral nirvana.

Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land.

As anyone of common sense can see this is completely unachievable; apart from being undesirable for those not keen on regressing to a rude state of nature. But at least there’s an honesty about it, which we don’t hear from politicians, who simply repeat ‘net-zero by 2050’ as a mantra to signify fidelity to the faith. Even arithmetic has fallen victim to the faithful. To wit, take Liddell, a coal power station in New South Wales.

Built in 1973, it can still deliver up to about 1,700 MWh of dispatchable power. It’s due for closure in couple of years. Mooted to replace it: a mixture of wind, solar, batteries and gas. Of these, only gas can provide 24x7 power. In case there is any doubt. Wind is intermittent. The sun doesn’t shine of a night. Battery power drains quickly.

Consider wind. Wind turbines on average deliver at best only 30% of their capacity. A typical turbine with a capacity of 1.67 MW produces just 0.5 MWh on average. Thirty-four hundred such turbines would be required to provide 1,700 MWh; occupying about 60 acres per MW of capacity, or 340,000 acres of land. And hold on, an infinite number would be insufficient when the wind isn’t blowing.

To infinity and beyond!

In other words, wind power is expensive, land-intensive and useless. No ifs or buts. It has to be taken out of the 24x7 equation; as does the sun, as do batteries. This leaves only gas. The idea is to provide 660 MWhs of gas. Let’s see, when I went to school, 660 plus zero, or something very small, does not come close to equalling 1700. Never mind, there is still plenty of coal power around to tap to fill gaps.

The Liddell story is like many. Renewable energy (RE) only works now, when it does work, because it is a small part of the energy mix feeding into grids, which borrow from dispatchable power sources in case of need. Watch out when those dispatchable power sources become fewer and fewer. Unless, that is, of course, Kerry’s yet uninvented technologies come to the rescue. After all, there is no imaginable limit to what can be achieved come uninvented technologies. In other words, come miracles befitting the new religion and its totemic absolute of carbon neutrality.

I noted above that Morrison was lauded for having “realistic goals.” Really? He’s pinning his hopes on reaching net-zero on green hydrogen and carbon capture; to which he’s committing oodles of taxpayers’ money. Relatively speaking, he’s just a little less besotted with uninvented technologies and the new religion than is Kerry.

What Covid-19 and the 'Son of Sam' Teach About Fear

Never underestimate the power of fear, stoked by the media, to cause some humans to behave like morons (usually Leftists). Netflix is showing a documentary series on the Son of Sam killings, which terrified New York City in 1976 and 1977. The series presents a completely unconvincing case that David Berkowitz was not the sole participant in the killings. Yet in watching the first episode, the parallels between the fear generated by the murderers that swept through New York City and the hysteria over Covid-19 are both astonishing and chillingly instructive.

David Berkowitz carried out a series of random shootings over a 13-month period, primarily in Queens with two in the Bronx. Once it became known that the perp was likely a serial killer, who struck randomly at night, targeting women with long brown hair who were either alone or with boyfriends in vehicles, people's behavior started to change.

Women spoke of how terrified they were, to the point that many would not leave their homes without putting their hair up in a bun in broad daylight – as if the killer might see them during the day and become inspired to target them. This behavior made no sense.  It was known that the killings were opportunistic, and with the aforementioned criteria, long before Berkowitz’s arrest.

The dog made him do it.

Nonetheless, fear ruled, and this fear was entirely whipped up by the media. Sure, women and those who love them were concerned, but this was New York City during one of the worst periods in its history -- decrepit, corrupt, literally falling apart, bankrupt, and with incompetent leadership.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that one was far more likely to be mugged walking down Fifth Avenue in broad daylight than being shot by a serial killer.

Thanks to the New York Post and the local media, however, what the Son of Sam shootings did was put enormous pressure on the New York City Police Department.  The department itself couldn't seem to get out of its own way, was plagued by poor management, and all it did was contribute more to the frenzy.

Here we are 35 years later, and exactly the same thing is happening with the coronavirus.

As we've known from the earliest days of the “pandemic,” those who were most vulnerable were over the age of 65 who had an average of three comorbidities. Since then, we've learned that the overall survival rate for people who catch the virus is north of 99 percent. The requisite behavior would have been to quarantine the elderly and other high-risk individuals, and leave everyone else alone.

Barring that, if one is in a high-risk category, and chooses a situation in which one is likely to contract the coronavirus, that person stands a pretty good chance of dying.  But one must go to great lengths in order to accomplish this.

Analogously, the odds of being targeted by David Berkowitz during the day, and then killed by him, which would also require one to be parked on a dark street after midnight, while sporting long brown hair, were minuscule.  Again, one literally had to be foolish enough to put oneself into that high-risk category in order to end up as a victim.  Yet even then, the odds were astronomical that one would choose a street that Berkowitz had himself randomly selected.

In perhaps the strangest ironic twist, we can thank New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for analogously putting thousands of young women with long brown hair into parked cars on dark New York City streets after midnight.  He plowed the elderly who were infected with the virus right into nursing homes, and the thousands who have died are direct results of his incompetence.  Yet nobody calls him a serial killer.

Say it ain't so, Fido.

The point is the power of fear historically overwhelms common sense.  The hysteria in both cases was entirely unjustified given the risk.  This is the area where Americans need to become vigilant, because fear controls, and that only serves Leftists.

Back then, the media was only interested in one thing: eyeballs. Anyone with any sense knows Jimmy Breslin was a gift to journalism, but in the Son of Sam case, all he did was sensationalize the story and whip up the panic.

The situation is more insidious today.  Eyeballs are harder to come by, so the media is more relentless and ruthless than ever.  Yet now the media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party, and is bound and determined to carry out Leftist policy in addition to its self-serving mission. That’s why millions upon millions of Americans believe themselves to be the equivalent of young women with long brown hair who are parked in cars on dark New York City streets after midnight. L.A. County and others like it reached the height of absurdity when it instituted curfews, because the coronavirus – like Berkowitz – apparently only went hunting at night.

There are few real journalists left, and those who do exist can’t be bothered to parse the data the way I and others have, so that a true picture of risk can be provided to the public.  We appear to be spitting in the wind, just as other common sense observers of the Son of Sam killings were in 1976-77.

The serial killer David Berkowitz was found using good old-fashioned police work brought on by a stroke of luck -- his presence at the final crime scene was betrayed by a parking ticket. Berkowitz confessed on the scene, pled guilty, and was sent to prison forever.

The analogy is that the media, government, and hysterical leftists should have actually listened to the real science. Rather than throw the entire country into hysteria over a risk on par with being struck by lightning, it would be nice if rational heads had prevailed.  Just as all of New York City went into a one-size-fits-all solution, so did our entire nation.

There's just one difference. New York City was already in the middle of an economic disaster, the killing spree was just the cherry on top. In 2020, the American economy was booming.  By succumbing to irrational and unscientific fear, millions of lives have been devastated. Collateral damage data will come out eventually.  We will discover that far more lives were lost and or irreparably damaged as a result of lockdowns than the virus itself ended.

When Americans should fear the most, however, is that this will not be the last time that fear engulfs reason and destroys liberty. Having seen the unprecedented upside to shaking the American snow-globe, including the apparent theft of a presidential election and instantaneous demonization of those who opposed the official narrative, expect leftists to continue to rely on media-whipped fear.

Beware the Triumvirate of Fear

Bad news everybody: turns out we’re going to die. Everyone of us. No exceptions. Sorry to have to break it to you this way, but I’m a “rip the bandage off as quickly as possible” kind of guy.

Not sure of the exact dates of demise of course, but despite all of our valiant efforts over the last fifteen months, death has not been eradicated. You survived infection after catching the Covid vaccine? That’s great. You’re still going to die. You want to keep wearing your mask for the rest of your life? Terrific. The important thing to remember is that the phrase “the rest of your life” always ends in a full stop.

It’s ironic, but the healthier a society and the more a society is successful in identifying and minimizing risk, the more risk-averse society becomes.

Happy rest of your lives, snowflakes!

America is now at a point where millions of its citizens are not only willing to sacrifice many of the joys of life in hopes of extending existence by a few years, most of this group firmly believes that everyone else should be morally and legally obligated to share their fearful, neurotic views.

Risk and living – truly living – are intertwined. Attempting to lead a risk-free life is not living, it’s mere existence, reducing what should be an adventure into panic-room level exercise in survival. As a general rule, most Americans have grown ever worse at reasonably assessing and responding to risk issues. Fear among average American citizens seems to grow in inverse proportion to our increasing ability to identify and manage risks.

There is no shortage of self-interested organizations and corporations willing and able to advance narratives that exploit the current climate of fear. Environmental NGOs can’t wait to paint the slightest potential hazard in apocalyptic terms. With few exceptions, politicians of all stripes willingly accept such narratives, sensing the votes that come along with going along. The vast majority of journalists, with little to no personal understanding of foundational technical issues are naturally inclined to support whichever position the left adopts and insists upon.

This trio of special interests are thus able to create “realities” that are detached from reality. In general, the more technically advanced the topic, the more emboldened the triumvirate of fear feels emboldened to push their particular agendas.

Looking for salvation in all the wrong place.

We’ve just undergone fifteen months of risk-avoidance on overdrive. It will be some time before sober, credible sources who do not have an agenda will provide accurate assessments of how well prevention-of-transmittal measures balance out against the societal and economic costs of those policies. I truly do not know how that valuation will come out. However, I am certain that anyone attempting to define that valuation at this point is engaged in speculation, not science.

Were we needlessly and overly cautious? As I said, we can’t be sure at this this point. My speculation: probably, but that’s water under the dam. Time to move on. Moving on means accepting victory, rejecting an eternal state of emergency and emergency powers, and starting to address the risk/reward proposition in rational terms again.

From everything I can discern and based on what the CDC is now saying, if you have either: 1) survived Covid infection, or 2) had one of the vaccines, you’re good to go mask-free in public. Surely certain businesses like restaurants and airlines will continue to require masks for a while and that’s just fine. In a free society, everyone can choose or not choose to wear masks in privately-held venues and suffer the consequences if their preference doesn’t align with venue policy. This is analogous to how we can choose or not choose to wear shirts and shoes while expecting service in a convenience store. The markets will figure it out in the long run.

The point is that the “big-mask” era is drawing to a close and we will finally be able to shout “Free at last! Free at last!” once more. What comes next is up to us.

The Fake News of 'Beyond Coal'

When one happens to be a scientist with an expertise in environmental issues like yours truly, one has the opportunity to digest a disturbing number of misleading, eye-rolling headlines in the mainstream media as heavily-biased journalists vainly attempt to present accurate information about environmental issues.

Even by that ridiculously low bar, the headline that appeared in the May 5 edition of the Chicago Tribune rates as the most misleading, unscientific and mindlessly hysterical that I have ever seen. A major metropolitan newspaper in the United States actually printed the following:

Burning natural gas is now more dangerous than coal.

Pollution from natural gas is now responsible for more deaths and greater health costs than coal in Illinois, according to a new study highlighting another hazard of burning fossil fuels that are scrambling the planet's climate.

Researchers at Harvard University found that a shift away from coal during the past decade saved thousands of lives and dramatically reduced  from breathing particulate matter, commonly known as soot. But the numbers declined only slightly for gas, another fossil fuel that by 2017 accounted for the greatest  risks.

About half the deaths from soot exposure that year can be attributed to the state's reliance on gas to heat homes and businesses, the study found. Coal is more deadly only when used to generate electricity.

The alarming findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas—not only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinoisans breathe clean air.

The term “fake news” hardly covers it. This is “farcical news,” “fanciful news,” “delusional news,” etc. Yeah, journalists are not scientists. I get it. But, how sad it is to consider there is not one editor at the Trib who might have enough passing knowledge to think something like “that really doesn’t sound right, maybe we should take a second look.”

The essence of the Trib’s story, written by staff enviro-propagandist Michael Hawthorne, may be summarized thus:

Hawthorne does not actually use the accepted environmental terms “fine particulate” and “PM-2.5” in his story. Instead, he calls fine particulate “soot.” Certainly, that’s a much more appealing term to someone attempting to create a narrative, but it has little to do with reality. When you call in a chimney sweep to remove actual soot from your fireplace, almost none of the black gunk he or she will brush off is anything close to 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter.

Anyway, the problem with this particular narrative is the same one that always occurs when people with an agenda attempt to dragoon science into supporting their political agenda: they use that portion of the science that helps them and ignore (willingly or ignorantly) any of the science that disproves their premise.

I can accept that the amount of PM-2.5 generated though the combustion of natural gas now exceeds the amount of PM-2.5 generated by through the combustion of coal. At least theoretically. The amount of PM-2.5 generated by the combustion of natural gas is relatively so tiny that it is very, very difficult to accurately measure using accepted EPA test methods. In the enviro-biz, one errs on the side of caution, meaning that PM-2.5 emission rates attributed to natural gas are likely inflated.

Doesn’t really matter though, since the amount of PM-2.5 emissions that can be tied to electrical generation of any kind is trivial. Based on the last verified National Emissions Inventory (NEI) of 2017, the total amount of PM-2.5 emissions generated across America was 5,706,842 tons/year. Of that, EPA attributed 107,270 tons/year of fine-particulate emissions to fossil fuel combustion used to generate electricity. That’s less than 2 percent of all national PM-2.5 emissions.

Wondering about the biggest source of PM-2.5 emissions? Glad you asked. The 2017 NEI attributes 4,188,615 tons/year of PM-2.5 emissions to “Miscellaneous Sources.” That’s a shade over 73 percent of the total. Miscellaneous sources are non-industrial, non-transportation related sources of all kinds. In this case, the vast majority of miscellaneous sources consist of wildfires – many of which are the result of pitifully irresponsible forest management in blue states like California – and natural erosion.

Back in the nineties and early 2000s, environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club were all-in supporting natural gas. They recognized that natural gas combustion was inherently cleaner than coal combustion and that the amount of greenhouse gas produced using natural gas was far lower than that amount of greenhouse gas produced using coal on a per megawatt generated basis. They gleefully accepted donations from natural gas producers in order fund initiatives like the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, was a big Sierra Club supporter back then, presumably because Chesapeake executives hoped that going “beyond coal” would help their bottom line. They didn’t have the foresight to see that once the enviros actually went beyond coal, natural gas would be the next target of opportunity. I’ve been told by people I trust that several Chesapeake shareholders were something less than pleased when the Sierra Club pivoted from being a natural gas supporter to a natural gas opponent, which is where they and most of their fellow environmental NGOs remain today. In the business of environmental advocacy, as is the case with any other big business, one has to follow the money.

It’s a disappointing story, but I fear that Chesapeake will be far from the last company to jump at the bait when an environmental NGO offers them absolution in return for thirty pieces of silver.