A Time for Re-Learning

A small but spirited Recall George Gascon rally took place at Topanga and Victory yesterday, in quiet response to the noisy lawlessness of 2021.

Is this the mustard seed of a Prop. 13-style rebellion? A beginning of the return to broken windows policing? Or a doomed last stand by a declining demographic? I have no idea. After the past year I can’t trust my political instincts when it comes to predicting events in Los Angeles.

Shootings are up 73%. We don’t enforce property crime or public nuisance crime at all, so any numbers on that front are meaningless. No one is allowed to say so, but there is a historical connection between the two.

We are in the midst of our Great Unlearning. Or Re-Learning, depending on your view.

Note, but a year ago Jackie Lacey was on the verge of reelection in the jungle primary for District Attorney -Gascon a distant second place with 28% of the vote- when BLM activists began showing up outside her Granada Hills house in the middle of the night, chanting, knocking on her door. After weeks of this, her husband David emerged at 4:30 AM flourishing a weapon, ordering everyone off his porch and property.   An orgy of sanctimonious media coverage ensued. Menacing! With a deadly weapon!  Jackie Lacey, Crenshaw raised, a member of that disappearing breed of law and order Democrat, was recast as Wife of Dirty Harry.  The Times saw to it she never recovered and now we have this George Soros-backed carpetbagger from San Francisco making decisions as to where the societal guardrails will be placed in L.A.   Apparently they will be in El Segundo.

The recall rally took place across the street from the now defunct Promenade at Woodland Hills. Which invites a question: what if the restoration of law and order that brought people back to the cities is destined to become an artifact of the 90’s, like the traditional indoor mall, or Dawson’s Creek?

The same tech companies that devoured the mall also de-platform critics of BLM.  Make of that what you will.

The final remaining tenant is the AMC theater. Like Macy’s, AMC may also be on its way to the graveyard of commerce.  You can stream unlimited programming, so there’s that.  But there also has been a decline in public decorum and fewer people willing to sit in close proximity with the unhousebroken.  Cinema is becoming either an evening of Netflix on the comfy couch or $30 tickets at iPic in a posh zip code far from the unruly.

I saw The Dark Knight here. A packed house and a most un-woke film. It was so much better as a bonding experience with strangers. We walked out of the theater together knowing we had been part of something special.

America was another country then. Same people, different set of rules.

At the Crossroads

Things we’ve been told are true and cannot be questioned:
The solution to drug addiction and mental illness is free housing.Homeless housing cannot be a Quonset hut. It must cost $500K per unit.
Looting is speech.
Not putting handcuffs on black people will lead to better outcomes for the black community.
State mandated inactivity will protect you from the Wuhan virus.
Every infectious disease from Lyme to Ebola is named for its geographic origin, but Wuhan must be called Covid, because racism.
Also, disagreeing with the CCP is racist.
Disagreeing with the diktats of corporations wishing to do business with the CCP…extra racist.
You can catch the Wuhan virus walking by yourself outdoors in the sunshine without a mask.
You can catch it from door knobs. Everything must be de-sanitized multiple times a day.
Everyone must stand six feet apart, masked and mute. No large public gatherings.
Unless it’s a BLM rally. Or looting. Then the science doesn’t apply.
The first cases emerged from inside the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but a lab leak hypothesis is a conspiracy theory.
Only crazy Trump people would say such a thing. De-platform them all.
Dr. Fauci would never fund gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab.
Okay, so he did. It would have been a “dereliction of duty” to have not done so.
But Ivermectin is unsafe as a prophylaxis against Wuhan.
If you say otherwise in Senate testimony YouTube will de-platform you. Because Merck.
The limits of free speech should be proscribed by organizations and unelected bodies outside U.S soil.  Also, corporations.
Merck administered 4 billion doses of Ivermectin globally while under patent. Now in the public domain, it is ‘unsafe’.
Taiwan is not a nation but a rogue province of China.
Just ask John Cena.

A little something YouTube will not be taking down.
They’re the experts on truth. Not you.

This diminution of citizenship has crept up on us quickly, if imperceptibly. Our willingness to defer to authority for the benefit of all has been weaponized by forces that recognize no limiting principle. Ask yourself: why are you being told to apologize all the time now? Why are the parameters of acceptable speech disqualifying what was the majority opinion day before yesterday? Who is doing this? Why have we ceded that authority? The slippery slope pundits referenced when American politics was vanilla and operated within recognizable 20 yard lines? Yeah, that’s gone now. We’re at the bottom of the ice crevice, with a bump on our head, looking up at a sliver of sky, but we can’t find purchase.  The only way out is through.

What does “through” mean, in this post-Constitutional moment? I’m not sure. The picture at the top of the page I took in Mendocino county, walking near the Eel River on a road with less than hundred people in an area as large as the San Fernando Valley. This Little Free Library stood at a crossroads between the river and a field, an artifact of Jeffersonian America.  I thought of all the Little Free Libraries around Los Angeles, and the universal desire to share knowledge with strangers.  Therein perhaps is a path forward. To be anti-fragile as a nation begins with personal anti-fragility.  Thinking for oneself, the way the Founders intended. De-coupling one’s understanding of Truth from one’s curated feed. Of no longer being a prisoner to an algorithm.  Returning to paper, if you will.

I, For One, Welcome Our Corporate-Sponsored Overlords

Rich wypipo say, look at me

Would you be a cop today?  If you were a strapping young man or woman with a strong sense of civic duty, would you sign up for a career?  Would you encourage your child? If you were  already a cop, in say, Los Angeles, would you put in for a transfer to a rural jurisdiction or take early retirement? If you are mid-career and the rural departments are full up, and you’re stuck in LA waiting out your 20, how proactive are you going to be?  If theft under $1000, mugging and assault are now misdemeanors (provided no gun is used), how much effort are you going to exert chasing violators?

Police encounter uncooperative suspects in a state of acute drug intoxication every day.  There are protocols for this. Those protocols were followed in the case of George Floyd. Up until the last three minutes of the encounter, that is. The prosecution conceded as much at trial.  Now Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder. Not negligence. Not a failure to exercise caution. Murder, of a man with advanced arterio-sclerosis and a lethal level of fentanyl in his system. A man who had overdosed on fentanyl several months prior and for which he was hospitalized for five days. A man who left two chewed fentanyl tablets in the back seat of the police car with his DNA on them.  Nine minutes with a knee across the shoulder blades is not going to induce cardiac arrest in a healthy person. Don’t believe me? Try it at home.

Chauvin inspires little empathy from me. He was negligent. I worry about the badge, not the man. I worry about the thin blue line, forgive the cliche, separating civilization from barbarism.

What happens to police work now? For starters, physical contact with violent subjects will drop away to nothing.  Unless you’re charging at someone with a knife. Oh, wait…

Columbus, Ohio, the day the Chauvin verdict was read

After Chauvin, cops will no longer be proactive. They will drive by and wave. They will show up to take statements and file incident reports. Protection? Not so much. The broken-windows model, the one that transformed every shitty realm in LA, the policy which allowed the historical neighborhoods to rediscover their former glory, the policy that put equity into the hands of so many working class people, is now inoperative. We are entering the realm of No Handcuffs for Violent People.  How does this effect Van Nuys? Too early to tell.  How about the mortgage-holders in the neighborhoods in proximity to DTLA? Not good. Not good at all.

Mark Zuckerberg underwrites a private army worthy of Pablo Escobar. There are 6,000 security people on the Facebook payroll, $18 million per year dedicated to his detail alone. There is an escape chute in his office that goes to an underground garage and a waiting vehicle, staffed by ex-Secret Service and military people.  He maintains this posture of maximum deterrence while living in Palo Alto, the least diverse and safest city in California.  All while donating millions to the Racial Justice Accelerator Fund, which backs BLM, George Gascon, and various pro-crime initiatives, including the effort to de-felonize mugging and assault down here in L.A.  He’s not alone in this. Jack Dorsey, Laurene Powell Jobs, Mackenzie Scott, Dustin Moskowitz, Patty Quillan, all heavy donors to The Cause. (That’s Twitter, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix, if you were wondering)

The widow Jobs, and one of her many homes

Lets unpack this.  The wealthiest cohort in California is funding political street violence and altering laws that allow a very diverse population -lesbian Wiccan schoolteachers to chain-smoking Armenian bodyshop owners- to amicably share space.  Truly remarkable, when you think about it, 17 million people speaking 43 different languages can share L.A. roads every morning, conduct commerce, work amongst one other despite incompatible and mutually exclusive understandings of the cosmos, socialize and dine, with a minimum of friction. This is possible due to agreed upon societal guardrails, developed over centuries.  Los Angeles is the anti-Lebanon, the living rebuke to the idea Diversity+Proximity=War.

What if Palo Alto decides: let’s burn it all down in the name of perfection. That couldn’t really happen, right? Only in dystopian fiction…

Well….a small sliver of the population provides most of the funding for left wing causes. A handful of editors and producers at the Times and the networks set the narrative of our news feed. A microscopic percentage of the people who work in the entertainment industry decide what programs and films are greenlit. A tiny subset of administrators and admissions officers can impose Critical Race Theory on the education system by fiat, determining who is allowed to ascend into the professional classes. Five people and their advisors control the platforms on which freedom of speech is exercised in America and practically speaking, speech itself.

What if the Wuhan virus was the second most impactful event of 2020? What if the big reveal is just how small The Clerisy is and how ruthlessly it intends to impose its will?

Hello, 2021. Ready for more?

The Chauvin verdict was made with a rioters standing ready outside the courthouse, and racially motivated looting and arson taking place in Minneapolis.  With our very own Maxine Waters on the ground (behind police protection) calling for “confrontation” should the jury return a verdict for less than murder.  One is obliged to forget a whole lot of American history to believe this ends well.

Apple has an ongoing crowdsourced billboard campaign promoting the capabilities of the iPhone. This year, in keeping with the moment, they chose black photographers utilizing black subjects. Fair enough.  Take a look at the photo at the top of the page. This is what greets you as you enter West Hollywood, our most heavily looted neighborhood of 2020. This is not happenstance. TBWA/MediaArtsLab chose this photo out of countless others, and chose to place it at Doheny and Santa Monica, on behalf of the world’s third largest corporation and its major shareholder, Laurene Powell Jobs. This man, it says, has license to punch you.  Little people, take it and like it.

A Gloss for the Greater Good

Woke commerce, Abbot Kinney

To escape this heat without end, I took the bike to the beach yesterday.  After my ride, I topped myself off with a $20 kale smoothie on Abbot Kinney.

Twenty dollars! Strip club prices. Decadent. I’m sure I didn’t even spend that much on a premium cocktail at the posh Nomad Hotel last year but tis the season to do all we can to help small business.

The merchants of Venice are doing their utmost to bridge the distance between the necessities of commerce in a time of Wuhan, and paying obeisance to the woke mob, lest it erupt again in greater strength.

It’s a balancing act, meeting your monthly nut with limited customers while conducting socially performative capitalism.

Here’s the Abbot Kinney Straddle: make rich Wypipo as invisible as possible while marketing to said rich Wypipo.

Part of the gloss requires overlooking ironic facts…much of bungalow Venice was a black neighborhood not so long ago.  It was also single story. Here I shall invoke UpintheValley’s Second Law of the City: the further from the actual friction points of urban life, the louder the virtue signaling.

In a synthesis of the cognitive dissonance in summer 2020, someone converted a vintage Porsche into a planter as an artistic statement…of indeterminate meaning.   Guerilla marketing for a local garden store? Maybe.  The backdrop for a fashion shoot? People assumed it was some kind of pop-up Instagram and queued up to pose in front of it.

While not as badly hit as DTLA or Melrose, about a third of the stores have gone dark…

…which might explain this banner.  If the statement were true, though, would the banner be necessary?  I sense a whiff of desperation. I have a feeling things are about to get cheaper.

On other end of the economic spectrum, 72 years after being cut from citrus orchards as a whites-only landing pad for returning GIs, 50 years after man landed on the moon, 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, thirteen years after the iPhone, my neighborhood this morning finally enjoys the benefit of street lighting.

We’re 17 miles from Venice. Hard to believe it’s the same city.  There’s an upside to this. In the shakeout to come, we have a much shorter distance to fall.  Our neighborhood doesn’t depend on $20 smoothies and sales of $150 graphic tees.  We aren’t glossy.  We are anti-fragile.

Witness

Standing alone for the blue, Ventura and Sepulveda.

The Sherman Oaks BLM chapter has been busking in front of The Galleria for 113 consecutive afternoons. On Sundays, Benjamin stands on the opposite corner and witnesses for the police.  Sometimes the BLMers cross the intersection and do a walk by.  Compared to scenes from Portland the exchange, or lack thereof, was civilized.  Score one for the Valley.  He gets grief from passing drivers sometimes but doesn’t mind too much. He says he enjoys it.

American Rhymes

Gus Chinn/Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection
Washington Post

“When they crowded around my table and started demanding that I raise my fist, it was their insistence that I participate in something that I did not understand that led me to withhold my hand.”  -Lauren Victor, diner and reluctant fist-raiser.

Top photo:  Sit-in at the lunch counter of the Cherrydale Drugstore, Arlington, Virginia, 1960.

Apart from the historical irony, I can’t help wondering which of these tableaus is worse.   That I should be asking this question in 2020 says a lot about how far we have strayed from e Pluribus Unum and where we are inevitably headed.

If one can only be either fully woke or stand accused of being a white supremacist then our public space has become awfully small in a very short window of time. Most of us choose the path of least resistance, which precludes sitting alone on principle.  The intimidators are banking on this.

Rwandan Radio

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.

Who?
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.

Silence is not enough.

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:

Raleigh News-Observer
Tony Webster, Flickr

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.

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.