Götterdämmerung Under the Palms

While most of you, my dear readers, don’t live here in LA I think there’s a lot to learn from other town’s local news. I sometimes buy tools from a company located in a small town in Maine. They use the local newspaper to cushion their packages. I always carefully pull out the packaging and reassemble the newspaper. The controversies of a small town I’ll probably never visit speak to the universality of the challenges we all face. And I especially like one of the quirks of this paper: a weekly column that consists of the stream of consciousnesses ramblings of the resident of a nursing home. You can learn a lot from listening to the voices of people and places outside your own bubble.

So what’s can you learn from my Los Angeles bubble? Imagine twenty years worth of corruption, brutal austerity measures, woke posturing and mismanagement packed into one completely bonkers week. Some of the high(low?)lights:

  • The mayor opened up retail and restaurant service in the middle of a not-going-well pandemic with no notice.
  • Police fired rubber bullets and drove cars into crowds of peaceful protesters.
  • News that a city councilman paid off a mistress with money from a Chinese billionaire.
  • Conflicting and contradictory curfew notices at all hours of the day and night.
  • The suspension of all public transit with 40 minutes notice at the end of the day and the conversion of city buses into a network of improvised prisons.
  • The mayor pledged not to call in the national guard and then, three hours later, called in the national guard.

That’s not even of fraction of what happened. You can hear a day by day breakdown of the craziness on episode 122 “Seven Days in Mayday” of an excellent podcast called, appropriately, LA Podcast. Even if you’re not a local it’s worth listening to because the problems here are everywhere in this country.

The Frog Notices It Is Getting Boiled


It’s been a week of conflicting curfew alerts. Each time my phone buzzes with these alerts my already simmering anger boils over, mainly because I think that this mess we’re in could have been easily avoided. Rather than simply stew in my own anger this morning, I thought I’d sit through the Los Angeles Police Commission’s emergency Zoom meeting held, ostensibly, to address the unrest that’s taken place over past few days.

The meeting reminded me of many in-person city meetings that I’ve attended in the past. As is typical of other commissions in Los Angeles the police commissioners are an assortment of the mayor’s cronies. The lone African-American is the chairman of a company that builds municipal infrastructure (no conflict of interest here!). There’s a developer and failed mayoral candidate. Another commissioner is a member of what a friend of mine calls the “non-profit industrial complex.” One commissioner didn’t bother to show up. The president of the commision is a former prosecutor and current law professor and a walking, blabbering, embodiment of the Professional Managerial Class. She kicked off the meeting with a canned statement of performative wokeness while underlings attempted to deal with technical problems that prevented anyone over the initial 500 people (including many members of the press) from joining the meeting. Over 6,700 people joined later via a hastily improvised YouTube live stream.

As is typical of Los Angeles City meetings they are held during the day when normal working people can’t attend them. We all had to sit through an hour of empty posturing before public comment was opened. Once public comment was opened speaker after speaker mentioned the years of requests for reform, for community oriented policing, for a police chief who will take community concerns seriously and for a diversity on the commission that would reflect the makeup of this city. One speaker called out the police chief for a behavior that’s all too common at city meetings: looking at your phone while the public is speaking.

We’ve had 26 years since the last unrest to reform the Los Angeles Police Department. We could have moved the LAPD towards a community oriented model and away from a failed para-military strategy. Instead, the awkwardly sculpted bust of Daryl Gates, one of the main architects of militarized policing in the U.S., still gazes towards the mediocre cafe at the police academy. Meanwhile politicians accept donations from the police union and seem unable or unwilling to ask for even modest reforms.

I had a brief job in the 1990s editing police training videos. It was at time when police, including most of the police I dealt with, were seriously thinking about things like improving community relations, understanding how to deal better with issues like domestic violence and non-violent ways to manage demonstrations. The majority of the officers I dealt with (who were in charge of training) supported these reforms. A minority, however, was intransigent and unwilling to acknowledge, even after the civil unrest in Los Angeles in 1994, that there was a problem. This minority won and we’ve seen even more militarization of police departments over the years. As an aside there was one other thing I learned when on this job. The police I worked with told me that the LAPD was especially troubled, insular and had a toxic culture (it’s no coincidence that the evil cop in Terminator is an LAPD officer).

Unfortunately I believe nothing will change as long as we have what Cornell West calls “milquetoast neo-liberal” politicians in charge. The challenge is clear, we need to vote out most of our local, state and federal leadership. That’s not going to be easy to do. It will take years. But we have to do something soon. As Tana Hargest put it in Twitter, “This live action production of Parable of the Sower sucks.”

I stole the title of this post from an editorial by Adam Weinstein, “This is Fascism”.

Saturday Linkages: A Difficult Week

Quar activity: drafting.

Cornell West: The system cannot reform itself

COVID-19 and Circuits of Capital

Holding the Vision: Collecting the Art of the Book in the Industrial North West (museum exhibit in a series of blog posts)

Mystery as 60 peculiar cubes with inscriptions pulled from Coventry river

Thermoelectric Stoves: Ditch the Solar Panels?

The Complete Guide to Creating Your Personal Makerspace (Via Eric of Garden Fork)

Infectious Bronchitis In Chickens: Another Coronavirus

My friend found a listing for an otherwise normal mcmansion that seemingly has a little…. fake… town (?) in the basement

How a Handplane Made a Handplane: A Fairy Tale

California Gardening Guides

In tough times folks start thinking about planting vegetables. As I’m too angry to blog this morning I thought that instead of a rant I’d post a few useful links for Californians on how to start a vegetable garden.

All gardening advice is local. One of the tricky things about California is that we live in a Mediterranean climate and most of the information on what, how and when to plant vegetables is written for places where it snows. So here’s a few links courtesy of our Extension Service that should help you get started with your vegetable garden:

Burpee California Planting Guide

Vegetable Gardening Handbook for Beginners (by friend of the blog Yvonne Savio)

Sacramento Vegetable Planting Guide

UC Master Gardeners of San Mateo & San Francisco Monthy Garden Checklist

San Joaquin Valley Planting Guide

San Diego Vegetable Planting Guide

Happy growing!