Independence Day greetings from the Bird Streets in the Hollywood Hills. Sorry for the blurry photo but I was in a moving car.
Normally, the variable message sign up in the canyons is a Bailiwick of Karen: Slow Down! No Park Access! No Parking! Last night, in honor of our nation’s founding document it was a holiday whiskey shooter of contempt.
The bonus exclamation points are for Joy, Epiphany, and Piety. Also because it feels so good.
The least expensive house for sale in this neighborhood is $2.5 million. The median would appear to be around $10M. Let’s take a look around Zillow Heaven to see how they’re making do:
A small army of people, most of them brown, commutes from the Valley daily to tend to these homes and their white occupants. Looking at this tableau I think of the scene in Cabaret when the kitchen women are listening to Hitler on the radio while making dinner and Sally, Brian, and Maximillian are too caught up in their own drama to understand the implications. We are living through something like that today, but with the polarities reversed: the elites are revolting against the little people. We continue as though the old rules were still operative while a handful of billionaires control the public square. Statements in the public square claiming AmeriKKKa does a few things other than Suck will be forwarded to the Human Resources department for your cancellation, and not in an ironic way.
But first, clean these countertops.
If you’re going to mock America, do it right. Observe the masters:
If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn the system down and replace it, alright? –Hank Newsome, BLM New York chapter, on FoxNews…just in case you were hoping for ambiguities.
So I picked up a guy in Glendale last year, from a Spanish revival house up in the hills that easily could have been Barbara Stanwyck’s in Double Indemnity. He was en route to a graduate program in Literature at Columbia University, and I asked him what he thought of James M. Cain.
You know, the author of Mildred Pierce. The Postman Always Rings Twice. Never heard of those. Really? You never saw the films? Nope.Are they any good?
Glendale is James M. Cain-land. My rider had grown up in one of its historical neighborhoods, with literary ambitions, and had no knowledge of the man or his work. Now he was bound for the Ivy League, a certifiable cultural illiterate. This amused me at the time, but no longer. He was a harbinger of our frenzied anti-historical present.
Last week I helped a friend in WeHo move his bed into storage. Driving up Melrose past miles of boarded-up storefronts he asked me what I thought about the Troubles. He’s a couch-surfing millennial and I figured I’d keep it friendly and meet him on safe ground. I told him I didn’t approve of looting. On that point at least we could agree, you’d think. My friend was having none of it. The looting, the rioting, the assaults on police could not be separated from peaceful protesting. They were on a continuum, merely left-handed and right-handed expressions of the same virtue, equally valid. It was not for us to question. He had contempt for the police: “They were C students in high school.”
As we were talking we passed several dozen white people, mostly women, laying face down on the ground for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, under the instruction of black women. A month ago this tableau would have been shocking, but it already felt like just another afternoon in WeHo.
Now there’s this:
Is there a limiting principle to statue-cide? We went from toppling Robert E. Lee to Any Dead President Will Do in a matter of days. From there twas but a small step to Any White Man Will Do. Hans Christian Heg, who fought on the Union side and fell at Chickamauga. Miguel de Cervantes, enslaved by Barbary pirates. Ulysses S. Grant, bulldozer of the Confederacy. Inevitably, they now wish to topple Lincoln.
How the decapitators mimic the lynch mobs of yore! The chain around the neck, the sailor-like tugging, the great cheer as the bronze hits the concrete like a felled tree, the dragging and defiling of the corpse…this is the pleasure principle at work, an end unto itself.
Then, because it’s a day ending in Y, the Mayors thank the mob for its thirsts of anger. White women in D.C. verbally degrade black police officers lined up to protect monuments. In Seattle, white volunteers unironically enforce a “Blacks Only” segregation zone in a public park. America is now a perpetual Onion story but without the wry chuckle. Nothing is funny anymore, especially the absurd. Well, it is, but we are living in the time of You’re Not Allowed To Say So™.
How do we put the brakes on this thing?
Beneath the performative grief and the masochistic religious scenes of white contrition, a dark new normal is upon us: urban police are no longer handcuffing lawbreakers. Gun crimes? Sure. But anything short of that is an open question if you are proclaiming fealty to Team BLM. This is not intended to be a passing phase. This is a structural alteration.
What comes after statues? Take a guess. Think of it as a dress rehearsal.
What is my Los Angeles breaking point? What would drive me from my city? I don’t yet know. Well, I sort of do. Kneeling, obviously, would be a red line. Self-denunciation I have pre-decided will not leave my lips. But those things are easy to resist. No, the tripwire will arrive sooner, and in a way I will not be prepared for. What form will it take? This is something I wonder about.
I am blessed not to rely on the good political opinion of others for my income. Mrs. UpintheValley, on the other hand, can be fired at a moment’s notice merely at the insistence of someone tweeting. I predict she will be asked in this coming school year to affirm the present madness. One way or another, it will be demanded of her to assent to something she does not believe during a workplace struggle session designed for precisely that purpose. When she demurs, the clock will begin ticking on her employment and a chapter will close in a great teaching career.
The American media is now Radio Rwanda circa 1994: go forth and kill the Tutsis! We are left with a question: am I a Hutu or a Tutsi? To which BLM replies, choose wisely. To which social media adds, we can answer that for you.
Stop kneeling. Unless you intend to unzip his fly, get off your knees. This will not satisfy the mob. Genuflecting is only the beginning. But you know that already. You like the mob. You agree with BLM. You’re modeling behavior for the rest of us to follow. You’re putting yourself at the head of the parade.
If contrition is what you wish to express there are a whole lot of business owners in this city, including Van Nuys, you might kneel before. They have no interest in having their fly unzipped, but they’ll settle for a wee bit of law and order.
This is what happens when the police show up in two minutes. Thieves scatter like rats. Want to enjoy warm fuzzy feelings? Witness masculine virtues of honor, in action.
Lets back up. There was a canceled then back-on-again protest in downtown Van Nuys yesterday. Canceled because the organizer was deemed not authentically a person of color, nor BLM endorsed, and as Twitter chat would have it Van Nuys was thought too poor and not white enough to deserve looting anyway. Somehow a small crowd showed up anyway and peaceably assembled for the afternoon to chant and placard at passing drivers.
This didn’t last. Saturation news coverage summoned the locusts.
Dozens of suspected looters spilled out from a Boost Mobile store in Van Nuys today, many getting away with apparently stolen goods in hand. Nearby, police declared an unlawful assembly and began dispersing a large crowd of protesters https://t.co/wvk4tBncbapic.twitter.com/OkxaBwFpqb
They hit the jeweler, the weed shop, then the cell phone store, but by the time they reached Walgreens, LAPD reversed it’s we’re allergic to handcuffs ethos that prevailed over the weekend and rolled up in force. They stopped them at the entryway, hammers in hand. A bus was waiting to haul them away en masse to the Pitchess detention center. The mob fanned out across the neighborhood, looking for softer prey.
Guess who happened to be walking his dogs on Raymer Street when the looters broke into the side door of Target and started hustling flat screens into waiting cars?
Police response was swift. Four undercover cars, six black and white, and a helicopter. This is the way the world is supposed to work. Following the disintegration of order this week, it felt like a movie from the VHS era.
This should have been Saturday. It should have been last Thursday in Minneapolis. But it wasn’t and here we are.
She appeared without warning Thursday morning, like a grieving mother, standing vigil at the Ghost Bike corner. Six years ago, a man was killed on his bicycle at this intersection. It was unusual for a hit and run as it took place in a residential neighborhood at Christmastime. Due to quirks in the street grid, our little enclave is closed to thru traffic, which meant the driver likely either lived here or knew someone who did, and a local mystery was born.
Signs appeared, urging confession, an appeal to conscience, a whisper to authorities. None came. After a year, the Ghost Bike was removed, and the baleful accusation went away with it.
We assumed the sudden arrival of the witch after so many years heralded a revival of interest in the case. Why else would she be there? It turns out she was a harbinger of something altogether different.
Yesterday I went to Lowe’s and was greeted by this sign at the freeway offramp. I did some masonry work for a few hours, then poured a beer and settled in front of the TV for this:
The looters assembled at three historic civil rights locations: The Grove, Rodeo Drive, and Melrose Avenue. Then they went shopping in full view of the police. Beverly Hills didn’t let them in. Nordstrom’s was briefly breached at the mall, but private security asserted order.
Melrose, on the other hand, is the City of Los Angeles. Which means they could steal with impunity. They started small, with the shoe stores. Hand items, like sunglasses. LAPD set up a block away and didn’t move in. The local news stations circled overhead, beaming endless footage of mobs stepping across broken thresholds and scurrying out with all they could carry. The disembodied voice of Mayor Garcetti played host, murmuring concern as he called into each station to announce an 8 pm curfew the police had no intention of enforcing. He didn’t dare show his face on TV, and the news anchors didn’t inconvenience him by asking what he intended to do about the breakdown in public order.
Properly incentivized in real-time, looters brazenly pulled up in cars. They worked in teams. They moved up to luxury items. Finally, the Mac store was cleaned out completely while getaway drivers idled out front, trunks open and ready. This went on for hours.
I can’t tell you how depressing it is at this point in my life to note nearly all the looters in Fairfax were black and gleeful and to hear the tawdry excuses offered for them by the media, as though pigmentation rendered one incapable of moral agency. The sin of looting was not that stealing was wrong, but that it was a distraction. America’s irredeemable racism is non-negotiable. Theft invites disapproving response from white people, who should not be speaking at all right now, only affirming.
If the goal last night was for no black person to be seen in handcuffs, the police could have done business owners a whole lot of good simply posting a uniform in front of each storefront with a camera recording license plates and faces. They may have been told not to protect, but the least they could do was serve.
But that’s the point. We have entered a new era, haven’t we? E Pluribus Unum no longer prevails. The media chooses which groups must submit to the Law and those which are immune. Homeless encampments were the beginning. Once we carved out a subset of the population to whom the rules did not apply, our Portlandization was inevitable.
Tonight the looting is widespread. Santa Monica. Long Beach. The White Witch is here.
I encountered this guy around the corner yesterday. He had wandered into the neighborhood from Sepulveda, sweaty and disheveled, muttering on the curb as he loaded his crack pipe…unfettered by self-consciousness, so deep was he into the finger rituals of addiction.
Like my beloved Los Angeles, he was in a state of nervous prostration. A herald of self-destruction. It made me think of our three-month bender of submission to safetyism and power-tripping bureaucrats. So many of us remain insensible to reason. Hopeful data do not appease us. Hard facts of morbidity do not move us. We’re all Emily Dickinson now, cowering at the top of the stairs. We hide behind our duty masks and wait for someone else to be the first to defy authority, lest we are ratted out on social media.
When we take the full measure of the economic damage inflicted upon ourselves and face with clear eyes our willingness to swallow propaganda from a garden hose we will look back on this time as one of madness. We will tell our children by way of explanation for the debt we hand them, forgive us, it was sort of like we were smoking crack.
“I am growing handsome very fast indeed! I expect I shall be the belle of Amherst when I reach my 17th year. I don’t doubt that I will have crowds of admirers…” When admirers failed to appear, roaring disappointment contracted Emily’s world. She ventured no further than the garden gate, then the sitting room, finally her bedroom, where she retreated for the remainder of her life. Amherst became that terra incognita signified on ancient flat earth maps by sea dragons.
“A prison gets to be a friend,” Dickinsonfamously said. As we emerge from the lockdown, will our pent up creative energies prevail, will the animal spirits of commerce revive fully intact, or will we find ourselves diminished somehow? Marked by a limp? Will we embrace a newly discovered weakness?
My beloved Los Angeles has crossed the rubicon. The stay in your house, keep the economy on life support, we love telling the little people what to do ethos has been made semi-permanent. The Wuhan virus restrictions shall remain in place until there is a “cure”. Because science this woman says so.
And this guy.
What began in the name of flattening the curve now continues in perpetuity, or until there is a vaccine. That’s not the premise we began with, is it? See how quickly that happened? Once surrendered, civil liberties are not easily regained.
In all likelihood, there will not be a vaccine before the end of the year. It is possible we may never have one. There has never been a cure for the flu or any other variant of coronavirus. There is only mitigation.
A warm climate and car-oriented sprawl prevented a spike in the curve in Los Angeles. So what now is a power-tripping, virtue-signaling bureaucrat to do?
Mandatory Face Coverings! Anywhere outside your house! Let a militia of Karens go forth to inform on their neighbors…
The LA Times continues to act as though its proper role is that of Mayor Garcetti’s PR firm: “Here Are The Rules” squeals the headline proclaiming his new dispensation. No questions of why, or how long, or what data is underpinning the decision making. No mediating of the public interest, just diktat from court eunuchs.
Let us ask a few questions the Times is incapable of.
-We have never before quarantined healthy people. Why are we doing it now? -In March, we were told masks were unnecessary. We were also told specifically to go forth and enjoy the sunshine. Why now the masks and restrictions? -Our only lasting defense, absent a vaccine, is herd immunity. The lockdown prevents that. Show the math that proves we will be healthier at years end without it. -Has any disease ever successfully been locked away in a cupboard? -Are the secondary health outcomes of lockdown: depression, substance abuse, sedentary behavior and delayed preventative care, exacting a greater cost than the virus itself? -If the risk pool is easily identifiable: i.e.; 80-year-olds and obese people with co-morbidities, why isn’t the quarantine limited to them? -Why are the 58,000 homeless people in LA exempt from the rules, and what does the absence of an outbreak among them tell us? -Gov. Newsom has set a benchmark of “no deaths for two weeks” before strictures can be lifted. Is such a target possible? What statutory power is he drawing from? -There are clinical findings coming in daily from around the world that contradict WHO/CDC guidance. Why is clinical data labeled “misinformation” if it is found to be effective?
Speaking of eunuchs…here’s Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania health czar, mandating, as did New York, nursing homes accept Wuhan virus patients. But not before removing her own mother from a nursing home. In what dystopian novel did the villains look like this?
Los Angeles is two cities now. Elites who work from home and rely on delivery while mocking the concerns of the rest of us who have to mix with others in order to obtain a living. For how long is that sustainable, even in a one-party state?
I went to MacLeod for a beer run and encountered this woman shuffling across Victory…hunched…clutching her mask to her ears as though warding off demons…fearfully navigating the sunshine. This is what we’ve allowed the media to do to us. We veil ourselves as though we were living in Tehran, 1982. What are we really afraid of? I don’t think it’s the Wuhan virus. Being Karen-ed by a neighbor, on the other hand, seeking to collect her snitch reward…being ratioed by the Virtue Police on social media…these are our modern terrors.
Trader Joes is one of the few permissible places we are allowed out of doors. How quickly we have acclimated to lining up like this. Let’s roll back to February for a moment. If you could be put in a time machine how confused would you be by our present submission?
It’s nearly May. The dreaded curve is in the rearview mirror. Our zealotry has exceeded any data-driven health concerns. All is now a public demonstration of obedience to rules handed down by the Clerisy.
I feel I’m being a bit of a bore writing this for the third time. But neither the Mayor nor the Governor have the statutory power to suspend civil liberties. To hear them speak of the conditions which need be met before the economy can resume one is given the impression of a royal personage considering the granting of a favor.
Sweetheart, if you want to wear a mask and confine yourself to your rooms, no one is stopping you. Which of course you are not doing. Nor are you going without a paycheck while you outline your terms of Our New Normal. The rest of us, on the other hand, could do with some herd immunity. You know what else? We have centuries of good public health policy on our side.
We will regret letting the government bribe us with our own money to not work. Trixie likes a good belly rub, but she’d rather be climbing Runyon. So would I. So would you. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, liberty is.
How dispiriting it is to see people in the Valley wearing masks inside their own cars because Mayor Yoga Pants told them to. You would not know this from listening to local media, but he has ZERO statutory authority to do so. These are requests of the public presented to us as binding commands from the state. There is no municipal code called Thou Shalt Not Defy Garcetti.
The Wuhan regulations have little to do with public health and everything to do with our Liberty. We submit to them at our peril.
We snuck into Fryman Canyon over the weekend to discover a small fellowship of hikers edict defiers skulking on the trail with masks around their necks, which they hastily pulled over their noses when they saw us, lest we report them.
Every model of viral prediction has proved wrong, not by a percentage, but exponentially. As we descend the right side of the bell curve, the will to power has not been leavened by the fragility of prognosis or the absence of a tsunami of demand on the hospitals, nor the revelation the morbidity rate is far lower and seroprevalence far greater than assumed. Those details shall be memory-holed. Crisis is the order of the day. May the wealth-leveling panic continue, command the Clerisy. No herd immunity for you! A poorer electorate is a submissive one.
Sometimes an act so small as swinging from a tree can be restorative of citizenship. Where the feet go, the mind follows.
Our very recent future was a blank canvas on which opportunistic politicians projected gleeful doom scenarios. Speculation was served up as certainty. Grim was not dire enough a term. We needed a whole new vocabulary to do justice to the unfolding horror to come.
A last will and testament from my father in Mendocino County landed in my inbox, outlining protocols for his when they put me on a ventilator end of life choices. Ten days ago the county health commissioner predicted 1800 deaths, from a rural population of 100,000, when there were two cases in the entire county. Want to know how many there are today? One. Zero hospitalizations.
Our present is a War Against Facts in which the Clerisy, very much enjoying wearing the shoes of power, have doubled down on their edicts, extending them into June and enlarging their scope to include travel between residences, the closure of all parks and trails, stepping into the sunshine without a mask, or arresting paddleboarders alone on empty waves…and doing so as though the original predictive model remained valid.
In New York harbor, epicenter of Wuhan virus, the hospital ship USNS Comfort sits nearly empty, as does the 2500 bed makeshift hospital at the Javits Center. Total patients seen as of yesterday: 118. Last week was the peak of the bell curve. Discharges outnumbered admissions. Thankfully we did not come close to running out of ventilators. There was no ICU care in the hallways, no triage under a tent in the parking lot. The high-water mark was reached and the levees held with room to spare.
Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, London, the Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow of viral prognostication, posited 2,2oo,ooo death in the United States. Ferguson had a history of erroneous publicity-seeking disease modeling but this didn’t deter the media from airing his claims or lead to questioning governors in the U.S. who used his charts, the exact same chart for every state, to serve as a visual backdrop for shelter-in-place orders.
So we are now at 19,000 deaths in America, and will probably top out around 40,000, well within the range of a bad flu season. Wuhan never really took off in Los Angeles with, blessedly, only 242 fatalities in the county. Sprawl and auto dependency worked in our favor for once. It’s also possible the virus is not as lethal and more widespread than assumed.
Prudence: postponing Coachella Caution: closing bars and restaurants Folly: shutting down the economy
The running tally on the cable news chyron doesn’t differentiate between recovered cases, asymptomatic ones, those who have the flu, and the very small percentage who will need hands-on medical care. The hospitalization rate is the key metric, but one has squint to find it the furious gloom. A run on the hospitals is the only medical and politically justifiable reason for shelter in place. Once that threat passes we need to re-open the economy with all deliberate speed. In most areas of the country, it should not have been shut down to begin with.
Instead, we are treated to governors and mayors and functionaries declaring themselves regent, in an escalating competition of Simon Says, both in what they demand and how long they intend to demand it. This is not being conducted in a spirit of shared sacrifice, for those insisting on months-long lockdowns are not doing without a paycheck.
We have arrived at an inflection point in Democracy, amputating our arm to cure an infected fingernail.
The willingness of my fellow Angelenos to succumb to hysteria thus far is disheartening to me. There is a difference between Law and tyranny and good citizenship is knowing the difference. Stop wearing a mask when you go on a walk, people. We are not sheep. The more healthy folk are out and about, the sooner we develop herd immunity. Staying inside is only prolonging matters.
This Good Friday, instead of turning in our neighbor, let us celebrate resilience. When you get back out there, cough on someone. Do it for America.