Saturday, October 23, 2021

Chicago Succumbs to Organized Retail Crime

In many of America’s large blue cities the 2020 insurrection has never really stopped. In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd organized criminal gangs, inspired by Black Lives Matter protests, decided that lawlessnes should become a way of life. They set about systematically to loot and pillage retail establishments throughout their cities, thereby encouraging more and more retailers to close up shop. It is worth mentioning that cities lose money when looters do not pay sales tax.

It is not just the covid pandemic that is hollowing out urban storefronts in places like San Francisco and Chicago. Pro-criminal prosecutors have let the looters know that they will not intervene to stop shoplifting. 


The results are visible in Chicago. One understands that the mayor Lori Lightweight and the State Prosecutor Kim Foxx are basically responsible for destroying their cities. If you criticize them you will be called out as-- a racist.


The Daily Mail reports:


Chicago is the latest city to be hit by rampant shoplifting and its Magnificent Mile, the once highly-populated retail destination, is now dotted with empty storefronts as businesses are being driven away by the brazen thieves.


The city has been plagued by a string of robberies and a wave of crime in the past few months, as some say that the city's 'soft-on-crime' policies embolden the thieves. The issue may only grow worse as at least 50 cops have been put on unpaid leave for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.


Shoplifting cases grew more common following a December 2016 motion from State's Attorney Kim Foxx that mandated Chicago prosecutors only issue felony charges for theft of property over $1,000.


Her office said at the time that the move was meant to shift focus to the driving factors of the crimes instead of low-level offenses. In turn, however, thieves know they can grab armfuls of merchandise without being stopped by store security.


Apparently, no one cares. Public safety and the value of real estate-- thus tax revenue-- have been taking serious hits:


'It's a serious problem, and we have to address it,' Alderman Brian Hopkins told CBS Chicago, explaining that the issue affects commercial real estate as well as public safety.


'The commercial brokers tell us that when they get potential interest from a tenant, that's one of the first questions they ask, is what's happening in Chicago to stem the tide of retail shoplifting rings that have been operating with impunity downtown? And we don't have a good answer right now for that.'


Hopkins added, 'I think we have to look at prosecution. Clearly there's a feeling running through the criminal elements that there are no consequences here. We have to look to the courts, and I think we have to just look to all the players in this drama to get Chicago to what it once was.'  


Of course, it’s not just a feeling. There are no real consequences to looting. One understands that the new policies are singling out certain groups and giving them a right to pillage. It’s almost as though pillaging is a more modern form of reparations, owed to certain people. 


While the national Democratic Party is ginning up the outrage against the January 6 demonstrators, members of inner city minority communities have been allowed to rob, loot, steal and pillage, at will.


On Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a number of major retailers have closed down.


Top chain stores that closed their doors on the Magnificent Mile: 


Macy's

Uniqlo

Disney Store

Gap

Forever 21

Tommy Bahama

Express

Apple

Dylan's Candy Bar

Na Hoku

Roots

Topshop

Columbia Sportswear


Stores throughout Chicago's Magnificent Mile are doing the same as Macy's closed its 170,000-square-foot flagship store in Water Tower Place last spring, Japanese retailer Uniqlo closed its 60,000-square-foot store in August and the Disney Store closed its 7,000-square-foot location on Michigan Avenue last month.


In the past few years, Gap, Forever 21 and Tommy Bahama have also closed stores on the Magnificent Mile. The vacancy rate has skyrocketed from 11 percent in 2019 to 19 percent this year, according to ABC 7.


The evidence is available on tape.


Late last month, a gang of shoplifters was filmed brazenly ransacking UIta Beauty store in the Windy City's Norridge suburb over the weekend. Footage showed a gang of three hooded thieves emptying its shelves of expensive Christian Dior and Armani makeup into black trash bags.


It was shared on social media Monday, with the shocked cameraman, who hasn't been named, saying: 'Look at this, this is insane,' as he films the theft unfolding before his eyes.


It came as CWB Chicago reported Chicago's stores have been targeted by three different organized crime gangs. One of those gangs has been targeting upmarket designer stores on the city's Magnificent Mile, whose businesses were hit by looting in summer 2020 during riots in the wake of George Floyd's murder.


The second has targeted at least three Ulta Beauty stores - although it's currently unclear if that is the same gang filmed at the Norridge location. And a third gang has been raiding Walgreen's drug stores to steal cigarettes.


The first shoplifting crew was stealing from high-end Chicago stores between the Magnificent Mile and Rush Street, according to CWB Chicago. Twelve men were seen involved in a raid of 35 handbags at Bottega Veneta on September 27 - which go for thousands of dollars each- and left in two separate cars, including a gray Honda CRV.


The same crew allegedly attempted to steal from Salvatore Ferragamo an hour before but left after they were believed to be recognized by the store's security guard. They already reportedly stole $43,000 worth of the store's merchandise in August and injured the security guard during the theft.


Chicago is not alone on this score. 


Chicago's pattern of crime and shoplifting mirrors that of other cities like San Francisco, in which Walgreens announced that it is shuttering another five of its stores because of rampant shoplifting by thieves who sell the items outside the drugstore chain's doors. 


The national chain has closed 17 of its 70 San Francisco locations in the past two years because of the shelf raiders, who have swiped everything not behind lock and key.


Thefts in the chain's 53 remaining stores are five times the average for their stores elsewhere in the country, according to company officials.


San Francisco and Walgreens officials have cited 'organized retail crime' - in which the thieves sell the swiped merchandise outside the stores - as a main reason for the most recent closures.


'Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,' Walgreens spokesperson Phil Caruso told the Daily Mail last Wednesday.


'Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average.'


Blue America has become lawless. The people in charge do not care. They must see the looting as a righteous response to a lack of diversity in America’s institutions. In the meantime, Mayor Lightweight is about to fire a large number of police officer for the serious crime of not taking the Covid vaccine.


Friday, October 22, 2021

Climate Change Hysteria

When it comes to science, some opinions are weightier than others. You do not establish scientific fact by polling citizens or even by polling scientists. You do not establish it by trotting out a motley band of celebrity high school dropouts and overwrought adolescents. 

Surely, we know that scientific research is based on skepticism. There is no such thing as settled science. The latter is merely a euphemism for dogmatic belief. The notion that people who disagree with the consensus view about climate change are “deniers” is decidedly unscientific.


Ginning up mass hysteria about an impending climate apocalypse has nothing to do with science. 


For that reason, we grant more authority to some scientists than to others. Among the most consequential climate scientists is one Richard Lindzen, retired professor of  atmospheric sciences at MIT. Lindzen is internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading climate scientists. For that reason his views are rarely reported. 


Now, the Tablet site offers up some of Lindzen’s thinking about the current debate. He believes that the current mania about global warming, along with our earnest efforts to shut down power grids and to jack up the prices of oil and gas are signs that our civilization is self-deconstructing. He even suggests that our competitors in the Middle Kingdom are happily cheering from the sidelines. 


Lindzen opens with the data about warming:


From a minimum in temperature around 1960 (basically the end of a modest cooling trend beginning around 1939, which led to concerns over global cooling) until 1998, the global mean temperature anomaly (the index used to describe the Earth’s temperature) did increase by about 0.5 degrees Celsius. That’s a small change compared to the typical change between breakfast and lunch, though the net increase since then has been relatively insignificant (except for a major El NiƱo in 2014-16) and appreciably less than predicted by all climate models. It should be noted that the increase was small compared to what was happening in any given region, and temperatures at any given location were almost as likely to be cooling as warming. Despite the fact that increases of CO₂ thus far have been accompanied by the greatest increase in human welfare in history, and despite the fact that there have been large increases in the Earth’s vegetated area largely due to increases in CO₂’s role in photosynthesis, governments seem to have concluded that another 0.5 C will spell doom.


It is worth noting that the increases in carbon dioxide have produce an increase in human welfare-- given that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but contributes to plant growth.


In China the government is building new coal-fired plants, to produce electricity. Are they, Lindzen asks, doing so in order to destroy the planet?


According to the Global Energy Monitor, China is planning the addition of 200 GW of coal-fired generating capacity by 2025. If we assume this is a four-year period and that a large-scale power plant is 1 GW, that would be about one plant per week over the next four years. Why would China intentionally pursue the presumed destruction of the Earth?Moreover, why are the Anglosphere and the EU pursuing hugely disruptive, destructive, and expensive policies intended to reduce their already largely irrelevant emissions?


What are the Chinese thinking? And, isn’t it strange that while they build more coal generating plants they also support climate alarmism in the West:


The answer to the first question is likely to be that China sees the threat of climate change as readily manageable regardless of what one believes about the underlying physics (remember that China’s leaders, as opposed to ours, tend to have technical backgrounds). But they also recognize that climate hysteria in the West leads to policies that clearly benefit China. Indeed, China is actually promoting activities like the Sino-American Youth Dialogue on climate change to promote climate alarm among young American activists.


Lindzen believes that the West is caught up in a religious fervor, that it is punishing itself for the benefits gained from the Industrial Revolution. The interesting part is that many of the Western policies that fight climate change require Chinese manufacturing:


Thus, it would seem that confronted with what is claimed is an existential threat over which we, in fact, have almost no influence, it seems obvious that the correct policy would be to increase resilience against disasters. Instead, the West is proposing to do the very opposite. It is hard to think of good or virtuous reasons for such a policy. Perhaps our policymakers have a pseudo-religious wish to expiate the sin of letting ordinary people reach comfortable middle-class standards of living. The encouragement of such policies by China is undoubtedly one of the reasons; certainly, many of the proposed Western responses (electric cars, windmills, and solar panels) will involve heavy investments in China, which dominates the global solar industry and is already the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles.


Of course, the science is anything but settled:


Debate over this issue has been avoided and even actively suppressed under the fatuous claim that the science is “settled.” Indeed by 1988 Newsweek had already claimed that all scientists were agreed on the subject, even though nothing could have been further from the truth. And the truth has been buried ever since. As former Energy Undersecretary for Science in the Obama administration Steven Koonin compellingly illustrates in Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, the issue remains far from actually being settled. The book relies entirely on the science from the official assessments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and from similar official U.S. assessment reports. The vicious attacks on Koonin since the book’s release in May indicate the absence of almost any level of discourse. Yet, given what is at issue, the need for an open debate over both our assessment of climate science and the proposed policies is, indeed, desperately needed.


At a time when the nation is caught up in climate change fever, it is good to cast the cold eye of reason on the issues. No one is more qualified to do so than Richard Lindzen. 


Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Happiness Gap

This could be the most unkindest cut of all, to coin a phrase. While you were worrying about thigh gaps, a happiness gap has opened up. Some researchers report that conservatives are on the whole happier than liberals. Others have disputed these conclusions and have declared that liberals are just as happy as conservatives.

Thomas Edsall reports fairly on both sides of the issue, as well he should. Unfortunately, the distinction between conservative and liberal does not quite do justice to today’s political spectrum. Some conservatives seem to be more radical than conservative; they want to rip things up, not to conserve them. And some liberals and progressives are clearly members of the radical left, the socialist and even the Marxist left.


Jaime Napier and John Jost suggest that conservatives are more content with things as they are while liberals are more dissatisfied with the current state of things. Those who accept inequality are happier than those who take offense at it, and who complain about it:


Using nationally representative samples from the United States and nine other countries, Napier and Jost note that they consistently found conservatives (or right-wingers) are happier than liberals (or left-wingers). This ideological gap in happiness is not accounted for by demographic differences or by differences in cognitive style. We did find, however, that the rationalization of inequality — a core component of conservative ideology — helps to explain why conservatives are, on average, happier than liberals.


Napier and Jost contend that their determinations are “consistent with system justification theory, which posits that viewing the status quo (with its attendant degree of inequality) as fair and legitimate serves a palliative function.”


Another group of researchers see things slightly differently.


A very different view of conservatives and the political right emerges in Schlenker, Chambers and Le’s paper:


Conservatives score higher than liberals on personality and attitude measures that are traditionally associated with positive adjustment and mental health, including personal agency, positive outlook, transcendent moral beliefs, and generalized belief in fairness. These constructs, in turn, can account for why conservatives are happier than liberals and have declined less in happiness in recent decades.


In contrast to Napier and Jost’s “view that conservatives are generally fearful, low in self-esteem, and rationalize away social inequality,” Schlenker, Chambers and Le argue:


Conservatives are more satisfied with their lives, in general and in specific domains (e.g., marriage, job, residence), report better mental health and fewer mental and emotional problems, and view social justice in ways that are consistent with binding moral foundations, such as by emphasizing personal agency and equity.


Liberals, Schlenker and his co-authors agree,


have become less happy over the last several decades, but this decline is associated with increasingly secular attitudes and actions (e.g., less religiosity, less likelihood of being married, and perhaps lessened belief in personal agency).


Conservatives tend to have a better grounding in work, in the value of their contributions to the society at large. Liberals and progressives and radical leftists tend to see themselves more as isolated individuals, raging against the machine or chronically discontented with the way things are.


Conservatives generally score higher on internal control as well as the Protestant Work Ethic, which emphasizes the inherent meaningfulness and value of work and the strong linkage between one’s efforts and outcomes, and is positively associated with achievement. Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to see outcomes as due to factors beyond one’s personal control, including luck and properties of the social system.


These differences have consequences:


Perceptions of internal control, self-efficacy, and the engagement in meaningful work are strongly related to life satisfaction. These differences in personal agency could, in and of themselves, explain much of the happiness gap.


So too, in their view, does the liberal inclination to view morality in relative, as opposed to absolutist, terms, have consequences:


A relativist moral code more readily permits people to excuse or justify failures to do the ‘‘right’’ thing. When moral codes lack clarity and promote flexibility, people may come to feel a sense of normlessness — a lack of purpose in life — and alienation. 


Further, if people believe there are acceptable excuses and justifications for morally questionable acts, they are more likely to engage in those acts, which in turn can create problems and unhappiness.


In more banal terms, conservatives are more likely to play by the rules and to accept the outcomes. Liberals or leftists are more likely to protest outcomes that do not conform to their ideology. It is worth mentioning that such an attitude, as prevalent as it is on the left, does not merit the name of liberal.


Edsall continues:


Liberals define fairness more in terms of equality (equal outcomes regardless of contributions) and turn to government as the vehicle for enforcing social justice and helping those in need. Conservatives define fairness more in terms of equity (outcomes should be proportional to contributions), rely on free markets to distribute outcomes, and prefer individuals and private organizations, not government, to contribute to the care and protection of those in need.


Liberals see their work as having a more charitable purpose, while conservatives tend to accept the verdict of the marketplace. Moreover, conservatives tend to value community ties over individual self-actualization, and thus are less likely to suffer from anomie:


Newman argued that since “family ties and a strong sense of community and connectedness are key ingredients for a meaningful life,” it is possible that “if liberal agendas and ideologies inhibit social bonds and connections, it could lower people’s sense of meaning and purpose.”


Needless to say, these results have been questioned. One group of researchers suggests that it’s all about the style of self-reporting. This means that conservatives tend to say they are happier, even when they are not.


Based on that research, Wojcik, Ditto and four colleagues argue in “Conservatives Report, but Liberals Display, Greater Happiness” that “research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals is fully mediated by conservatives’ self-enhancing style of self-report.”


Using what they call “behavioral measures,” the authors found that relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. Our results were consistent across large samples of online survey takers, U.S. politicians, Twitter users, and Linked-In users.


It’s all about the smiley face. What is positive emotional language? Perhaps it means that liberals have been taught to use positive emotional language, regardless of their happiness quotient.


Edsall closes with a Princeton professor who claims that liberalism makes people happier. It's always good to have a contrary opinion:


In “Why Liberalism Works,” Paul Starr, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton, puts the case for contemporary liberalism this way (and I am going to give him the last word):


Historically, liberalism has been defined by a shared, albeit evolving, body of political principles rather than by agreement on the ultimate grounds on which those principles rest. One of those shared political principles is an equal right to freedom, where freedom has been successively understood during the past three centuries in a more expansive way: first, as a right to civil liberty and freedom from arbitrary power; then, as a right to political liberty and a share in the government; and finally, as a right to basic requirements of human development and security necessary to assure equal opportunity and personal dignity.


Shared principles suggests groupthink and ideological conformity. One wonders why and how this makes anyone more happy.


Of course, we are happy to see both sides of the issue. But, the researchers might also have asked whether liberals or conservatives take more psychoactive medication. Are American college students, who tend to lean left, more or less likely to take medication for anxiety or depression? Do the inhabitants of America’s blue cities tend to take more of such medications? And then, there is the matter of self-medication. Do red state or blue state inhabitants tend to take more opioids and narcotics?

Forever Netflix

Holman Jenkins makes some interesting points about the Dave Chappelle/Netflix kerfuffle in today's Wall Street Journal. I report them, with minimal commentary.

First point, why is the transgender world up in arms about Chappelle?


Mr. Chappelle is black. This helps. But sadly irrelevant is the fact that his latest Netflix special, while not especially funny, is also not transphobic, the charge leveled by activists. Absurdly, the line some find most incendiary was his statement “gender is a fact.” This doesn’t insult anybody. It only violates an ideological taboo that was invented almost overnight, and that activists now seek to enforce against eight billion human beings who, until yesterday, took gender to be a face-value reality.


Emphasize this point-- violating a newly invented ideological taboo is not the same as insulting someone.


And then, a few words about the economics of the newspaper business. Clearly, as anyone who reads the New York Times can see, reporting the facts has lost out to ideological conformity. No more informing people; thought reform has won:


Once upon a time this would have been fatal to a newspaper that aspired to be a paper of record. But the internet has changed industry economics.


Arguably now the business model shareholders have signed up for is precisely one of catering to reader prejudice. Discomfiting facts might still be reported but no claim is likely to be supported in its pages that contradicts the package of virtue signals the paper sells to readers whose need is to see their idealized selves reflected back at them.


While we like to blame it on the press, the sad reality is that the readers of these newspapers do not want to deal with facts. They most certainly do not want to deal with doubt and uncertainty. They want to see only the facts that affirm their prejudices. It is a sad state indeed.


Of course, Netflix is standing up for Chappelle for the same reason her publisher defended J. K. Rowling. Some people are too important to be jettisoned:


What is often sold in the moment as courage, or “speaking truth to power,” is simply conforming to the self-righteousness of whoever has power. This means: If you’re a Netflix contributor whose “impact value” isn’t in Mr. Chappelle’s league, you can count on being thrown overboard for exactly the reason he wasn’t—if that’s the move that will best enable Netflix leaders to go on making decisions that benefit shareholders.


And then, what are the shows that have made Netflix so powerful? Some are artistically valuable. Others are exploitation porn. Still others are ideologically driven fairy tales. How much of it will soon look like cheap tricks? I’m not sure what Jenkins has against "cheap tricks," but here is his analysis:


But it does highlight an insidious problem already arising in our new “golden age” of television. In the compressed arc that took us from “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” to “Bridgerton” and “Squid Game”—and from early Chappelle to late Chappelle—the danger is the one Nietzsche (to drag him in) pointed to: What once seemed transporting can quickly come to seem a bag of cheap tricks.


Shoveling money at screenwriters and producers, as Netflix and its competitors are doing, is not likely to prove a fix to this problem. The knack that Messrs. Hastings and Sarandos have shown for finding something new and fresh to put in front of viewers is unlikely to prove infinitely self-renewing.


Into the vacuum the conformity police will inevitably enter, even if they’ve experienced a setback in the case of Mr. Chappelle. Maybe this is why Messrs. Hastings and Sarandos have started talking up videogames, merchandising and even sports rights as future refuges for Netflix shareholders.


Here, to my mind, is an important point, one that is rarely noticed.


How much of the Netflix programming represents, not transgender activism, but feminist fairy tales. And, of course, a world where equity, inclusion and diversity reign?


How many times do we see strong, empowered women saving the day? How many times do we see women in charge, with men playing a supporting role, if that? How many times do we see women beat up or beat down men who are twice their size? How many times do we see perfectly diverse workplaces, with minority group members being declared to be the most competent? 


Surely, this emphasis has produced some excellent programs. But, after a time you feel obliged to recognize that, Netflix has fallen prey to ideological conformity, by skewing character and action toward what the woke legions want to see, what their minds can tolerate.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Tyranny of Hurt Feelings

As you know, Netflix is embroiled in a controversy over a Dave Chappelle comedy routine. The reason, Chappelle had the unmitigated gall to defend J. K. Rowling and to assert that men and women were not interchangeable. He asserted that you cannot change your gender by changing your mind. That is, he defended the gender binary-- which nowadays counts as heresy.

Apparently, at our current cultural moment, stand-up comedians must not speak out about certain subjects, lest they provoke hatred and violence. Apparently, the people who have for years now been inciting violence against the former president of the United States are exempt from these rules.


I have written about the Chappelle controversy in a prior post. Link here.


When the controversy first broke, the Netflix co-CEO, Ted Sarandos defended the Chappelle show in a memo. Now, however, seeing a mini-uprising by staff members, he has changed his tune. 


The Daily Mail reported an interview that Sarandos did with the Hollywood Reporter. In it, Sarandos seemed to be backtracking on his previous remarks. He declared that he had a communications problem, because he had not shown sufficient sensitivity to the hurt feelings of certain people.


In the interview, Sarandos was asked if his attitude on the special changed after the criticism he received for the memos.


'No, my stance hasn’t changed,' he said. 'I can tell you I screwed up those communications in two ways.'


'One of them was, I should have first and foremost acknowledged in those emails that a group of our employees were in pain, and they were really feeling hurt from a business decision that we made. 


'And I, instead of acknowledging that first, I went right into some rationales. 


Yes, indeed. It’s a mental health issue. And the mental health issue in particular suggests that the pain that the transgendered feel, for having undegone biochemical mutilation, for having suffered surgical mutilation and for poisoning themselves with cross-sex hormones, that their real pain derives from the fact that a stand-up comedian refused to accept that they were really the gender they believed themselves to be.


Anyway, Sarandos explained that his prior emails showed a lack of humanity. He might have called out those who insist that they should have despotic control over the minds of other people, but he did not. 


'And so first of all, I’d say those emails lacked humanity, in which I like to and I do generally communicate with our teams.'


He also noted that the email's message was 'out of context' and that it was part of an ongoing conversation of the impact that onscreen content can have.


'I 100 percent believe that content on screen can have impact in the real world, positive and negative,' he added.


The interviewer also probed the question on Sarandos' stance on the special, and grilled still wanted to know if it changed since the controversy.


Again, Sarandos offers a reading of the current cultural climate--one that has seen good and evil transformed into more therapeutically correct values, like feeling good and feeling bad.


In the current climate feeling protected and safe trumps all considerations regarding freedom of expression. Some people insist that they must never be exposed to a discouraging word, lest their mental health suffer. And their mental health is the gold standard, to which all people must bow down. Obviously, this runs directly counter to the first amendment to the Constitution, point that no one much cares about any more.


Of course, the argument against free speech is that any speech that anyone considers to be hateful will naturally and normally produce violent actions against its object. One feels compelled to repeat that hate speech against the former president of the United States, wishes for acts of violence to be committed against him must be protected.


Sarandos does not believe that there is a direct correlation between violence on the screen and violent crime. One might ask whether the Squid Game, a current and rather violent Netflix hit show, has provoked a wave of violence in South Korea? Or in any other country where children are transfixed by it.


True enough, we have of late seen a rise in homicide in the United States. And yet, were the perpetrators of those crimes Netflix subscribers, or whether they were simply following the instructions offered by politicians like Maxine Waters. 


The Daily Mail continues, reporting on the prior Sarandos memo:


Sarandos' memo continued, 'The strongest evidence to support this is that violence on screens has grown hugely over the last thirty years, especially with first party shooter games, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly in many countries. 


'Adults can watch violence, assault and abuse – or enjoy shocking stand-up comedy – without it causing them to harm others,' he said.


Seriously, when we decide that we must suppress comedians, something is seriously wrong. A large percentage of jokes are designed to offend. If you cannot stand to hear a joke that mocks you or even that sees the world differently you probably have a problem.


And while we are talking about transgenderism, we can recall the boy wearing a skirt who raped two girls in a Virginia high school. And of course we must consider that certain high schools now allow, in the name of diversity and inclusion, boys to disrobe in the girls' locker room. If the girls feel offended, that is their problem. Rest rooms are no longer safe spaces for high school girls, or for any women, for that matter.


And, one more time, in the matter of seditious rhetoric, some forms of incitement, explicitly targeting political figures, is not legal today. The first amendment is obviously not absolute.


You are not allowed to threaten the life of the president of the United States-- unless you are referring to Donald Trump.


But clearly, it matters far less than do a few jokes offered by a stand-up comedian.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Whose Side Is Trump On?

This story will make some readers seriously unhappy. Think of it this way, it’s not my idea. It comes to us from Gerard Baker, of the Wall Street Journal.

Baker’s point is simple. At a time when the Democratic Party is clearly on the political ropes, at a time when the manifest incompetence of a Democratic administration has been so clear that no one can ignore it, at a time when the Republican Party has a great chance to change America’s course, one man has stepped forward to save the Democrats.


No, it is not Barack Obama. It is certainly not Joe Biden. It is, drumroll please, Donald Trump.


In principle, Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. If Ronald Reagan made history by announcing the eleventh commandment-- thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican-- Trump seems not to have gotten the message. Not only does he talk trash about notable Republican leaders, but he tells Republicans not to vote:


… Mr. Trump somehow keeps coming to the rescue of the Democrats just as they look to be burying themselves in their own extremism, hypocrisy and unfitness for office.


The thought is prompted by the former president’s broadside last week, in which he more or less instructed his supporters to do something that should produce Democratic landslides in forthcoming elections.


Trump told Republicans not to vote. It was quite the assertion, one that sustains Baker’s argument that Trump is a Democratic plant:


“If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented) Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do,” read the former president’s statement.


As you know, Trump rescued the Biden administration in January of this year by helping to turn two Georgia senate seats blue:


It’s not as though the strategy hasn’t worked perfectly before. In January, incensed by his failure to convince enough people that he had actually won last November’s election, he and some of his so-called aides suggested voters in Georgia shouldn’t bother showing up in the state’s Senate runoff election because that too was going to be rigged.


The result: Just enough Republicans who had voted in the first round last November declined to follow up in the Jan. 5 runoff, and we got Two Senators Who Changed the World. Or at least tried to.


Winning matters. Wasn’t that the original Trump message? So how did it happen that Trump connived to lose the senate. Will Trump now rescue Virginia gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe?


To that helpful intervention by Mr. Trump can be attributed trillions of dollars in prospective tax and spending increases, several confirmations of far-left Biden nominees, and this continuing offense against sanity: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders.


And this is the gift that keeps on giving to Democrats. If Mr. Trump’s latest campaign is successful, he may well deter just enough voters from going to the polls in next month’s knife-edge Virginia governor’s race, thereby handing the Old Dominion to a Democratic Party that thinks it owns your children and has the right to tell them what to think.


So, Democratic party governance is a calamity. By all measures the Democrats should lose bigly in every upcoming election. And yet, they have a secret weapon-- Donald Trump:


As it stands, we are governed by among the most incompetent, ideologically extreme, dishonest governments in living memory. If the normal laws of political gravity were to apply, the Democrats should be headed for an epic defeat in next year’s midterms, with Republicans sweeping away the tiny Democratic majority in the House, breaking the tie in their favor in the Senate, strengthening their grip on statehouses and governors’ mansions across the country, and rescuing the country from the lunacy of the Sanders-AOC political condominium.


But if Mr. Trump gets his way, none of that will happen.


The Problem with Lockdowns

In the matter of using lockdowns as pandemic prophylaxis, we have taken the position that any policy has rewards as well as risks. To shut down a country in order to limit the spread of a viral contagion is not a win/win proposition. Sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs. Sometimes the costs outweigh the benefits. Sometimes it’s a toss up. If the latter, savvy and hopefully competent leaders should make the best decision.

As we know, in some countries and even in some American states, officials refused to lock everything down. One might remark that some of them had higher covid cases. But, again that needs to be balanced against the suicides and the illness caused by the lockdowns. 


At the least we know that the American mania about shutting down public schools has come at a serious cost. One notes that many other countries, assessing the relative pandemic risk to children, kept their schools open.


The consequences have been dramatic. Children are falling behind. Children are losing ground. Minority children especially are being hurt by the policies. Meantime the teachers’ unions and their Democratic enablers whistle past the graveyard. And, of course, the children’s parents continue to vote for the politicians who are sacrificing their children’s future in order to look like they are doing something to curb the virus.


And now we have news about how lockdowns have damaged children’s mental health. The data comes to us from Great Britain, and that is not a reason to ignore it.


From Max Pemberton at the Daily Mail:


While there were calls for stricter lockdowns and tighter restrictions, many clinicians – particularly those working in mental health services – were concerned that lockdowns would have a profoundly negative impact on our wellbeing and that ministers, politicians and public health officials should be taking this into account when weighing up the pros and cons of our response to the pandemic.


Precisely….


We ought all to be asking how government policies have impacted mental health:


We are starting to see exactly how the lockdowns set in motion a series of events – from stopping face-to-face treatment, to isolating large groups of people and even the fear of the virus itself – that had a profound effect on the mental health of the nation.


It is understandable that the stresses and pressures of lockdown, the unfamiliarity of the situations we found ourselves in and the uncertainty would result in increased rates of depression and anxiety.


Post-traumatic stress disorder rates have also increased from people who spent time in intensive care or witnessed loved ones or – in the case of doctors and nurses – patients dying.


Panic attacks have increased among those who experienced shortness of breath when unwell. Some of these conditions will be short lived, while others will prove a long-lasting legacy of Covid.


But, depression and anxiety are one thing. Psychosis is quite another. Pemberton reports that on recent research in Great Britain that has shown a dramatic increase in psychosis:


But research published this week threw up one surprising and utterly unexpected finding – an increase in psychosis. Figures show there was a 75 per cent rise in first-episode psychosis between April 2019 and April 2020. The rise continued throughout the summer, with rates more than 50 per cent higher than the same summer period the year before. This is certainly not something clinicians were predicting. 


Doubtless, they are using the term psychosis more broadly that I might prefer, but still, it is a condition not to be toyed with:


The first is that, while psychosis is considered a symptom of severe psychiatric illness, we actually know that it can be triggered in susceptible individuals by stress.


The policies produced a massive amount of stress.


There’s no doubt that lockdown was hugely stressful for lots of people in different ways – the extreme isolation that some faced, the prospect of losing their job, the loss of routine and structure, and financial insecurity.


For others, they had to spend a prolonged period of time with family members or flatmates that they might not get on with, or have complex or even abusive relationships with.I think these severe stressors will have led to psychotic episodes being triggered in some people. 


Some will have had psychotic episodes before and this stress will have triggered a relapse, but there will also be some who may be susceptible to psychosis (some people’s brains seem more likely to develop it than others), but for whom it was triggered for the first time by the stress of lockdown.


It goes on:


People ran out of medication, or were unable to collect it from pharmacies because they were unwell or scared to go out. Without regular support from community psychiatric nurses or care coordinators in community mental health teams, some simply forgot to take their medication or didn’t take it regularly. 


Many would turn up to A&E scared and confused, with the first symptoms of a relapse of their psychosis, asking for help. Others had depression or other mental health problems, and had stopped taking their medication and become very unwell, to the extent that they became psychotic for the first time.


And then, the lockdown caused so much stress that some people, especially young people, turned to illegal drugs to manage their stress. Dare we mention that our culture at large is having an extended love affair with psychiatric drugs. Why would children not believe that chemical substances are the solution to psychological problems:


One of the big triggers for psychosis is drugs, particularly cannabis, but also crystal meth and spice. I was struck how, throughout lockdown, we were seeing incredibly high levels of drug-induced psychosis coming into A&E.


To give you an idea, in A&E, we might typically see one case of drug-induced psychosis a week. Yet on just one night shift towards the end of lockdown, I saw four patients with this, and this was not uncommon through lockdown and indeed has remained surprisingly high. 


Many were youngsters, particularly students (and a disproportionate number of overseas students), who were stranded in halls. Bored and isolated, they had turned to drugs.


Just in case you think that this story has been ginned up by the right wing media, as in The Daily Mail, the Guardian, not part of the right wing media, has the same story:


Brian Dow, the deputy chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Psychosis can have a devastating impact on people’s lives. Swift access to treatment is vital to prevent further deterioration in people’s mental health which could take them years to recover from.


“These soaring numbers of suspected first episodes of psychosis are cause for alarm. We are now well beyond the first profound shocks of this crisis, and it’s deeply concerning that the number of referrals remains so high. As first presentations of psychosis typically occur in young adults, this steep rise raises additional concerns about the pressures the younger generation have faced during the pandemic.


While political leaders pat themselves on their backs about their drastic policy measures to fight the virus, we should also take into account the costs that the general public, especially the younger generation,  has had to bear.