Introducing the Slingshot! Newsletter
Updated: May 5, 2020
Fellow readers: In late February, nothing could've been more routine when I slowed into a left turn after exiting off a freeway in Orange County. Just then, my peripheral vision caught a glimpse that sounded an alarm to the rest of my body. On adrenal instinct, I slammed on my brakes quicker and harder than I ever had before in my life. I saw a white blur flash in front of my car much too close in an instant. My mental speedometer told me the driver took a red light going at least 75 miles per hour. I quickly glanced behind me to see if a driver had slammed into my car on account of my braking. They hadn’t. But when I turned back around another car sped and ran the red.
A difference of seconds and inches, if that. I slammed my hands on the steering wheel in anger and let out some useless expletives after the threat passed. With a still-thundering heart, I finally eased into that tranquil left turn thankful that I wasn't going to be in a fatal street racing story penned in the OC Register by my journo pal Alma Fausto (ironically, the paper published a piece about a mangled white sedan veering off of a freeway that same night, killing the driver). But if I had, my life would be just another statistic cited by folks now downplaying the coronavirus pandemic that found me quarantined two weeks after that dance with death. As it happened, I watched the Ingraham Angle on Fox News when Dr. Phil, as a guest, claimed we don't shut down the country on account of 45,000 automobile accidents among other things. Gracias to Ralph Nader for publishing Unsafe at Any Speed in 1965 which shamed automobile makers for literally valuing style over safety or that number would be even higher! Dr. Phil's pendejadas are too easy to tackle here. Beneath the bravado of ignorance is a cowering fear, anyway. Let's acknowledge that we're all a little afraid, instead. Before the pandemic, I sought out the views of epidemiologists and found another "Dr. Phil" in Dr. Philip Alcabes, a superb writer. His first piece on coronavirus in The American Scholar cautioned against closing public schools and called the virus a "sissy" in comparison to smallpox and Ebola. I welcomed the challenge to my thinking because Alcabes acknowledged the social cost of closed schools, cautioned against political xenophobia and harbored no illusions about our tenuous healthcare system. To boot, Alcabes recently appeared on a Zoom discussion with single-payer warriors Dr. David Himmelstein and Dr. Steffie Woolhandler. In short: he's no crank! Around the same time, I rolled my eyes at news headlines stating Governor Gavin Newsom cited the possibility of 56 percent of Californians being infected by coronavirus. Outlets that did a little more prodding found that was a statistic that took into account no mitigation efforts. A "sissy" virus and a critique of media reporting: do I sound like a "Liberate Huntington Beach" protester yet? Nah! The truth is it's more than understandable to be anxious in these times. This is the first pandemic with information overload but responsible media outlets are doing amazing work. From what we know now, coronavirus appears much more virulent than the seasonal flu. We don't have the benefits of proven therapeutics or a vaccine so we have to go back to old-school non-pharmaceutical intervention. Even with such measures, the national death toll will ring past 40,000 today. It's solemn, humbling and grim. Still, somehow, we have to balance our existential dread with proportional perspective all without being pendejos in denial like Dr. Phil--McGraw, not Alcabes!
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As part of Slingshot, I'll bring subscribers my critical Mouse musings! Anaheim is in a roil with its city council majority having approved a $15 million dollar coronavirus relief package, including $6.5 million for Visit Anaheim, a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the Anaheim Resort. Disneyland is closed indefinitely and doesn't appear to be reopening anytime soon, making the contract a dubious one. Longtime activist Duane Roberts challenged the move, in part, by citing Visit Anaheim CEO Jay Burress' $450,000 annual salary in a Mar. 26 email to council. A Friday night report in Voice of OC notes that city manager Chris Zapata is set to be shitcanned on Tuesday. In a memo Zapata delivered to council on Friday, he stated his intention to address executive salaries citing the same statistics as Roberts. What came first? Zapata's memo or the agenda item on his future? As it's been reported, Visit Anaheim furloughed many of its workers and Burress is taking a pay cut (although will still be earning a substantial sum). Did Zapata not know that? He should have. Roberts inquired if Burress had taken a pay cut like top executives at the Walt Disney Co. in an Apr. 2 email to city spokesman Mike Lyster that also CC'd Zapata. Lyster replied to Roberts and Zapata that same day by stating Burress and other remaining staff all took 20 percent salary reductions. Either way, taking out a city manager in the midst of a crisis is no bueno!
By the Bylines As of late, I've also been writing about coronavirus in the Los Angeles Times. In case you missed it, I checked in with Irvine comedian Zara Khan in late March about the Zoom comedy shows she's been organizing to give us a little levity in these difficult times. They're still happening every Friday at 6 p.m. Just visit Khan's "Mentally Muslim" Facebook page and Zoom in!