Every so often you might read some uplifting story in the news — a woman is rescued from a burning car, a charity raises money to buy Christmas toys for homeless tots — that makes you feel better about the world. Don’t be gulled. We live in the wealthiest society with the highest level of education and the most advanced technology the world has ever seen. Yet things are getting worse! Signs of the times pulled from today’s headlines:
Virginia sees highest number of babies born with syphilis in several decades. Reports WAVY-TV: The number of syphilis cases in Virginia has rebounded to the highest level in years. The rate among women has surged 159% between 2013 and 2021, which drives up the rate of syphilis in newborns. The Virginia Department of Health reported 20 cases of congenital syphilis last year, the highest number in three decades. Up to 40% are born stillborn or die from the infection. Survivors can have deformed bones, an enlarged liver, blindness or deafness.
Meanwhile, the death rate of American kids is skyrocketing. Deaths of American kids spiked 205% between 2019 and 2020, the result of increased car wrecks, shootings and drug overdoses, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Steven Woolf , even poisonings are up. Woolf said he has not seen an increase like this in his career. “This is a red flashing light. We need to understand the causes and address them immediately to protect our children.” Motor vehicle fatalities remain the highest cause of childhood death, but homicides and suicides are catching up. Continue reading →
A defund-the-police protest in downtown Charlottesville. Photo credit: The Daily Progress
by James A. Bacon
I’ve just returned from a week in Costa Rica. The country is beautiful and the people are friendly. More than that, they’re sane. I saw none of the zaniness that is routinely on display in Los Estados Unidos. By contrast, here at home the lunacy is so loco that it could emanate only from a people educated by a system bent upon extinguishing rational thought, and possessed by a naïveté so extreme that they believe in the social-justice equivalent of unicorns and leprechauns.
Costa Rica defunded its army back in 1948, a fact lauded by many on the left. But the country still has a police force. During my stay, the police were very much in evidence — pistol-packing guards in the airport, motorcycle cops enforcing the speed limit ($600 fines!), and agents who enforce the nation’s strict immigration laws. (Nicaraguans who overstay their visas are quickly booted out.) Maybe Costa Rican nut cases are calling for defunding the police, but they haven’t had much impact. According to Wikipedia, the number of police per 100,000 population in Costa Rica is 297 (2012 figures) — more than that of the U.S. at 242 (2019 figures).
In Charlottesville yesterday, a group calling itself SURJ, which is dedicated to ending “white supremacy,” held a protest downtown to defund the police… this in a small city where, even The Daily Progress acknowledges, gun violence is (pardon the pun) SURGing: nine homicides and 18 injuries since September. In 2021, the city had reported zero homicides, and only five the year before that.
The solution? “Loving and supporting one another,” according to one scribbler on the city’s free speech wall.
Consider the words of a certain Laura Sirgany to The Daily Progress. Her interactions with police have been negative, she said. Continue reading →
by James A. Bacon
Kudos to The Washington Post for continuing to dig into the particulars of the shooting by a 6-year-old student of a Newport News elementary school teacher. The latest revelations raise urgent questions about the causes of the breakdown of discipline at Richneck Elementary School and other schools across the commonwealth.
As the Post reports, school officials downplayed repeated warnings about the boy’s behavior, dismissing a threat to light a teacher on fire and watch her die.
Speaking through their attorney, the boy’s parents said that he has an “acute disability.” In one instance, he wrote a note saying that he hated his teacher and wanted to set her on fire. In another, he threw furniture, prompting students to hide beneath their desks. In yet another, he barricaded the doors to a classroom, preventing a teacher and students from leaving.
A six-year-old terrorizing the class. I shudder to think what he’ll be like when he’s ten or twelve.
The main question consuming the media is how the child gained access to a handgun, which his parents stated they store out of reach with a trigger lock. That’s a legitimate question. But there’s another: why was that child in school in the first place? Continue reading →
by James A. Bacon
There are numerous existential threats to Western Civilization — reckless fiscal and monetary policies leading to government collapse, the rush toward a zero-carbon economy supported by a shaky electric grid, and, least appreciated, the increasing complexity of technology and information systems. We have brought the first two dangers upon ourselves, and we theoretically have the power to reverse them. But we are powerless to deal with the fourth.
I have ranted in the past about system complexity. Like most Americans, I live on the Internet now. I cannot function without it. And it’s a mess. Infuriated by recent incidents, I feel compelled to escalate from rant to fulmination. Imagine me typing these words with spittled lips and fire shooting out of my eyes.
My consternation began earlier this week when I was spending the night out of town on business. My old laptop was frustratingly slow and klunky, so I broke down, went to Best Buy and purchased a new one. When I brought my shiny new Samsung back to the hotel and tried to set it up, I got caught in a Catch 22. I couldn’t establish an Internet connection, my laptop informed me, because the time on the laptop’s internal clock needed resetting. But I couldn’t reset the clock because… I couldn’t get on the Internet! Continue reading →
Hot off the wires from The Virginian-Pilot:
A teacher was injured in a shooting Friday afternoon at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, according to police and school officials.
No students were injured but an adult was taken to the hospital. Police believe they have the person responsible in custody and said there is no longer an active shooter.
A Newport News school district spokesperson confirmed the adult is a teacher. The extent of the teacher’s injuries [was] unknown.
Never fear. This won’t affect teacher morale. I have it on the highest authority that the explanation for the increasingly acute teacher shortage in Virginia is the Youngkin administration’s policies on transgenderism and prohibition on the teaching of “real” history!
by James A. Bacon
Inmates in the City of Richmond jail have cell phones, we are learning. They’re not supposed to, but they do. When a deputy attempted to confiscate one not long ago, he (or she) was surrounded by inmates with knives, according to WRIC. Deputies have been physically assaulted, too. Many fear for their safety, which is not surprising considering that the jail is severely short-staffed; 168 of 385 positions (44%) are vacant.
We can surmise that morale isn’t the greatest when deputies are complaining to local media and Sheriff Antionette Irving has taken to giving the deputies polygraph tests. Irving says the jail administers the polygraphs because of “safety and security” considerations. She wants to know if “things are coming through the front door, the back door, or the mail.” Whistle blowers say she’s running deputies through the polygraph to find out whom they’re talking to.
Deputies are talking to Reva Trammel, among other people. The Richmond councilwoman has taken her concerns to local media and has written a letter to Robert Mosier, Virginia secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. The letter cited three inmate deaths this year and “a growing number” of assaults on deputies. WRIC claims to have seen documents indicating that inmates have inflicted “several deputy injuries” in the last month.
“We’ve only had a few major assaults. We have had little incidents take place, but they haven’t resulted in injury,” Irving told the television station. “We’re doing a good job collectively to keep all of us safe.” Continue reading →
Richmond crime scene. Photo credit: WWBT NBC 12.
by Jon Baliles
On Wednesday, CBS6 Crime Insider Jon Burkett gave an interview to John Reid on WRVA about the rising and scary number of shootings happening all over the region, most of them in the city.
He noted that as of Wednesday morning there had been 12 shootings in the previous 7 days, and 10 just in the previous 5 days, with two murders.
He talks about how a lot of it is driven by feuds on social media and then gives a scary quote: “Credit the surgeons at VCU — if we didn’t have them, we’d be in really big trouble,” while also noting that their job in the ER is the “equivalent to a combat surgeon.”
He goes into more detail and talks about one woman who was interviewed whose brother had been murdered and she wondered why he was even out on the street – he had 13 serious felonies on his record. Burkett also said he was threatened by someone in a passing car while he was conducting an interview following a shooting. Does it feel like we are turning or have turned things around? Continue reading →
Brookland Middle School. Photo credit: Forrest Shelor / 8News
by James A. Bacon
At some public schools across the state last year, educators relaxed standards for everything from classroom attendance to cell phone usage out of a sense that children who had spent a year doing remote learning needed to ease back into learning at school. Adults effectively relinquished control, and anarchy followed. (See “No Grades, No Discipline, No Structure, No Learning.”) School officials say they learned their lesson, and they are trying to reestablish order in the new school year.
But educators are finding that it’s not easy putting the genie back in the bottle.
As WRIC reports, school divisions across Central Virginia are addressing internal security policies and procedures “amid a rash of in-school violence in local academic buildings.”
Brookland Middle School in Henrico County was put on “lock and teach” status — school and classroom doors are locked while teaching continues — after a 7th-grade student was hospitalized from a locker-room stabbing. Several students at Highland Springs High School, also in Henrico, had to be treated for pepper spray after a School Resource Officer used the chemical to break up a fight.
“There is an enormity of threat, both inside and outside the school building,” Richmond school board member Jonathan Young said Tuesday. “In a year, we average something like 20,000 incidents. To be clear, not all of them materialize in a melee or all-in assault on a student. But too frequently, they do.” Continue reading →
Parents can’t be trusted. Childhood gender dysphoria diagnoses leaped 70% from 2020 to 2021. More than 40,000 children received the diagnosis nationally in 2021, up from 15,000 in 2017, reports Reuters, citing a Komodo Health Inc. analysis. The number of children on puberty blockers more than doubled between 2017 to 2021 to more than 5,000 — 1,390 cases added last year alone. Against this backdrop, Charlottesville City Schools has declared its opposition to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s transgender guidelines for public schools that would give parents the power to decide the names, pronouns, restrooms and locker rooms their children use.
Can you say, “lower standards”? Ninety-two percent of Virginia’s public high school students graduated in 2022. That’s a tad higher than the pre-COVID graduation rate of 91.5 for the Class of 2019 — even though high school students in 2022 suffered massive learning loss during the pandemic and consistently under-performed the Class of 2019 students in their Standards of Learning test scores.
No, wait, don’t kill all the lawyers. We still need some. Facing high caseloads and a “dwindling staff,” reports the News & Advance, the Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney has made the decision not to participate in the prosecution of some misdemeanors. Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany Harrison said the number of attorneys is 27% shy of what it should be. If police want to prosecute trespassing, drunk in public, altered license plates, or driving with a suspended license as standalone charges, they will have to handle the cases themselves. Unfortunately, the police department is suffering a labor shortage, too — with 28 vacancies reported in the fall of 2021. Continue reading →
Scene outside of Charlottesville High School yesterday. Photo credit: Daily Progress
by James A. Bacon
In the latest sign of spreading social disorder, Virginia underwent a plague of school hoaxes yesterday. According to media reports, incidents included:
- The Loudoun County sheriff’s office and Leesburg police were notified of acts of violence at Loudoun Valley and Loudoun County high schools. The reports were false.
- In Arlington County, officers responded to a false report in a 911 call of a possible act of violence at Washington-Liberty High School.
- The Culpeper County school system placed all schools on lockdown after a 911 caller reported an “active shooter.”
- A 911 caller told the Charlottesville police that there was an active shooter at the Charlottesville High School. (Eleven days ago, Albemarle County police had responded to a threat to Western Albemarle High School made through social media.)
- E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg was placed on lockdown after a 911 caller alerted authorities to someone potentially being inside the high school with a gun.
There’s nothing new about shooting and bomb hoaxes. What is new is the epidemic-like frequency with which they are occurring. Apparently, the practice of reporting violent incidents in school buildings has reached such a critical mass that it now has a name — swatting. Continue reading →
Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
by James A. Bacon
In a protest that will never make the national news, an estimated 75 people turned out for a weekend march in Richmond to denounce the latest killing of a child in a drive-by shooting. Fifteen-year-old Tynashia Humphrey was walking to the store from her grandmother’s home near the infamous Gilpin Court housing project when she was struck by a stray bullet. “Stop the killing! Save the children!” the marchers chanted.
“My baby had only been 15 for two weeks,” Karen Cheatham, the girl’s grandmother and guardian, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “She was walking to the store. She was out of my hands for two hours. She was supposed to return back to me at 9 o’clock to get ready for school…. Hold on to your babies and hold on to them tight because tomorrow is not promised to none of us.”
The march, I fear, is totally in vain. I see no sign that city politicians, General Assembly legislators, or the media have any inkling of why killings have spiked in the past two years, much less what to do about them. As a society, we are flailing ineffectually as we continue to apply the same bromides that never contained much truth to begin with.
One of the politicians to attend the rally was Delegate Dolores McQuinn, D-Richmond. Her words are worth quoting at length because they mix the failed conventional wisdom with flashes of insight. Continue reading →
From January to June this year, the seven largest localities of Hampton Roads have seen 115 homicides — up from 88 the same time last year, a 30% increase. Newport News and Hampton experienced a dip, but homicides have surged in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Suffolk, reports The Virginian-Pilot.
by Jon Baliles
The rise in crime across the region and especially the City is naturally a cause of concern. A rise in crimes against deputies and other inmates in the Richmond Jail is flat-out disturbing. The Free Press went to the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting — that was attended only by Councilwoman Reva Trammell — who discussed the issue with Sheriff Antoinette Irving.
“Just since last Friday, July 22, according to information provided to The Free Press, a female deputy was punched in the face, three inmates suffered serious stab wounds and two inmates had to be revived after overdosing on illegal drugs.”
That followed another “savage attack on a female deputy July 7 that had left the woman with a broken jaw and other injuries.” Continue reading →
Boarded up store in Washington, D.C.’s chi chi Georgetown district. Photo credit: Washingtonian
by Bruce Majors
Mayor Muriel Bowser — elected to a third term in a June 21 primary where only 27% of registered voters voted, and only 14% voted for her — is lamenting the bus loads of illegal immigrants that Texas politicians are shipping to D.C. Apparently DC homeless shelters are full.
Maybe she should be happy though?
Walking along M Street NW from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in West End, past the Four Seasons in Georgetown, to the Francis Scott Key bridge that takes one to Arlington, Virginia, was usually a pleasant stroll through one of DC’s most upscale shopping districts.
But if you take this walk today, one thing you will notice is that every fourth or fifth storefront is closed, for lease, papered over, or boarded up.
When the city was still mask-mandated and locked down – and other towns and cities were on fire, marred by rioting, or occupied by “autonomous zones” – this might have seemed normal. D.C. isn’t locked down anymore. Yet Georgetown and other areas remain surprisingly vacated.
D.C. is shrinking. Continue reading →
School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days.
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick
–– Gus Edwards and Will D. Cobb (1907)
Virginia schools don’t use hickory sticks to impart discipline anymore, but they do have jail. And that’s where 18-year-old Elijah Schneider is heading after assaulting a fellow student at Strasburg High School.
Schneider pleaded guilty to assault and battery, possession of a weapon on school property, and use of profane language over an airway in a plea deal with the Shenandoah County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. He was sentenced to six months in jail with time suspended.
Here is the account of the incident provided by Northern Virginia Daily: Continue reading →