The Cavalry

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.

Kent Nishumura, LA Times

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.

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.

White Witch

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.

A Short Walk From Emily’s House

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,” Dickinson famously 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?

Here Are The Rules…

Liberty, meet nemesis

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?

Mr. UpintheValley is full of questions today.

Islamic Republic of Van Nuys

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.

Flu D’Etat

Pop quiz: Is skateboarding social distancing compliant? A: Why, yes.
Are skateboarders a risk group for Wuhan virus? A: Not at all.

If skateboarders can shred about in the spring air, then the edifice of submission and compliance is pretty well mocked, and mockery is one thing the tyrant can’t bear.  Someone call public works!

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.

Simon Says Snitches Get Rewards

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.

Things To Do In The Valley When You’re Not Yet Dead

Here’s something you can do. Queue up at Whole Foods first thing in the morning and consider the novelty of economic martial law…only to find the bread aisle empty.   I have rather pointed thoughts as to the motivation of the hacks who diverted my beloved Los Angeles down this road.  In the spirit of shared sacrifice and heeding the counsel of Mrs. U, I am putting my inner Tom Paine to the side for the time being.

Shorter UpintheValley: Toilet paper is the new bottle of wine.

Instead, let us consider the glory of homemade bread.   Did you know you can make an entire batch of dough for $2?  I didn’t.  One batch = three or four loaves. Shape to suit your whimsy. Warm bread fresh from the oven tastes like nothing else, and for 65 cents a loaf makes the house smell like nostalgia for a childhood memory you never had.     Why didn’t we always do this? Free Time, our abundant new houseguest, that’s why.

Maybe overall health will improve, she said optimistically. Perhaps people will get tired of empty calories and consume less processed food from the market.  Maybe they’ll model reading for their children and both parents will tuck them in at night. 

And he replied: People will continue to be themselves, only more so, and in a righteous mood.

You can also do this:  rent a 20-foot bin, break out the sledgehammer, the pick, and the prybar and dig up your asphalt driveway.   House arrest is the panacea for long-postponed projects. Taxing on the lower lumbar,  restorative of the animal spirits.

You can take to the mountains with the dogs to discover five hundred other people were inspired to visit the same trail at the same time. Maybe I should try baking a banana cream pie, you hear a woman announce to her husband as she passes. No, you really shouldn’t, he replies.  I promise I’ll eat it, you butt in, to collective laughter, and for a moment our metropolis is a curious polite little village where everyone lives six feet apart.

You can read and read and read. I wanted to get back into John Le Carre but the Los Angeles public library has him under lockdown, so I’m settling for E.M. Forster, who has not aged as well as the film adaptations.

You can watch and watch and watch, and soon enough Narcos: Mexico and Mindhunter are done, and then one is left thinking of Nemesis and Hubris and their role in our self-inflicted moment.

Yeah, this guy. Mr. 56%. But that’s a whole other essay I promised I wouldn’t write.

Days of Wine and Slow DSL

When the sun returns we’ll feel differently, but for the moment it’s like we’ve fallen into the pages of someone else’s unfinished novel.   Our lovely week of rain has softened this unfamiliar oddity of mandatory hooky. We have new struggles, like remembering the Hulu passcode so we can watch Contagion.

We rediscover guilty pleasures and then realize our schedules overlap a bit too completely. I predict a spike in births around Christmas. Also divorce petitions.

Flowers will soon riot across the Valley, and our pent up cabin fever will shake us from this sheep-like submission to madness.

In the meantime, we teach To Kill A Mockingbird from the safety of the bedroom.

We expel all members from LA Fitness until April 1st. Effective in five minutes.

We flatten the curve in Echo Park.   Not so unreasonable. A happy middle ground.

Photo by John Sanphillippo

Thank goodness someone is flouting shelter in place orders in San Francisco.  Blessings be upon he who beta-tests.

The Distance Between Us

There are, as of yesterday, 39 Wuhan Coronavirus deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.  Twenty-two were in a single nursing home in Kirkland, WA.   The median age of victims: 80.  Most had correlated health problems. But now you can’t buy canned soup or bottled water in Van Nuys.  There is no rice left at 99 Ranch market.  Our answer to the long odds of infection is consumer-driven scarcity.

Since Wednesday:
-Broadway
-Disneyland
-MLB spring training
-and the NCAA tournament have gone on hiatus.
On Monday, LA Unified is joining them, setting the table for an unprecedented child care crisis among hourly wage earners.

We are in the grip of maximal measures.  We won’t be using any more toilet paper should the virus reach the San Fernando Valley than if it didn’t, yet we buy out every roll in the store anyway because it feels like we are doing something.  We are under the sway of cable news, where catastrophism prevails, everyone is a Fake Expert for Five Minutes, and all roads lead to the Oval Office, as though there was a special button underneath a desk called Pandemic Wing Attack Plan R, press here to release whup-ass.  

Wash your hands.  Cover your cough. Stop touching your face.  Settle in for some binge-watching.   First principles, from actual epidemiologists, now arouse scorn. That’s all?  There has to be more to it than that!   Don’t tell me about washing!  What’s happening? Who do we blame?  

Mrs. UpintheValley just poked her head in the door, greatly agitated, to announce the LA Public Library system will be closed for the rest of the month.  She gathered the books on the coffee table into her arms like Diego Rivera’s flower girl, assessing by touch if they were sufficient to last the duration.

This just in: MacLeod is no longer serving peanuts.   Social distancing has officially begun in earnest.

That looks to be about six feet apart.  Like contented canines let us disappear inside our homes…for the places we normally gather for solace are now off-limits. Let us use this crowded fortnight, after the diversions of wine, fornication and Netflix are exhausted, to consider how isolated we have become from one another. Maybe this contagion can be repurposed.