I’ve been half-following the impeachment investigation and to no one’s surprise, including my own, the usual cast of characters are reciting their lines, along a highly predictable path. But there is one thing that was a major surprise. In answer to the inquiry about who actually was on the call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky and heard it firsthand, the answer was simple. Just about everyone! Apparently, the president lives on a party line, which he shares with his personal staff, the vice president’s staff, the National Security Agency, the CIA, the State Department, the translators, probably a secretary or two and numerous international spy agencies whom I’m sure are listening to both us and also the Ukrainians. So much for the myth of highly classified and top secret and “for your eyes only” communication, which is featured in every TV spy show. Then, to top it off, there was a later conversation with Trump’s EU Ambassador Gordon Sunderland while sitting in a cafe in Kiev, talking on his own personal phone—in a conversation loud enough that others at the table could hear Trump’s voice, which means it probably was on speaker, with Ambassador Sunderland telling the President that Zelensky was going to go along with the Biden investigation.
What got to me most was not that the president was using foreign aid as a domestic political weapon, which I’m sure has happened in the past with other presidents, but it was so blatantly immoral and amoral, and probably also illegal, that you might think they would at least try to cover it up. What Trump did is the kind of thing that’s done typically through a trusted intermediary, in a face-to-face whispered conversation, while taking a walk in the garden. Trump’s total lack of guilt or even shame makes it absolutely apparent that Donald Trump has no moral compass at all; to him, it’s all just a matter of tactics of the moment and if it happens to betray people, well, that’s their problem not his. Even though it’s evidently clear that our president is a bit of an amoral lowlife, the scariest part is that 42 percent or so of our population seem to feel that’s OK, which is really depressing. Trump may have no moral compass, but lots of people around do have one and maybe that’s the bright side that so many are willing to come forward and speak, and to them, telling the truth still has meaning even though there are clearly career consequences to many of them.
Locally, “homelessness” has risen to a “top of the mind” issue in many recent local surveys. We have estimates of 60,000 homeless in LA, but that probably understates the number. Tents seem to be everywhere, and campers, trucks and cars are parked along PCH, which is fast becoming a housing project. We’re beginning to see more angry letters and angry online comments about the homeless. The milk of human kindness appears to have dried up and the citizens want action. They want them removed, arrested if necessary but, most of all, just gone. The cities are struggling, especially small cities like Malibu, but I’m fearful it’s going to get a lot worse in the near future. The courts are not going to let the small cities just push the homeless into the next town, which is always what happened in the past. There are simply too many homeless now to just pass them around. We may have to build large homeless encampments with safe places to park their car or RV, with showers, toilets and sanitation, with policing and cleanup services. There will have to be social services and mental health services available. The problem is always where you site it, because the truth is no one wants it near them. So, if it was mandated that we have to create a facility to handle 500 or 1,000 homeless, where would we put it? Could it be somewhere in the Civic Center, on Point Dume, Trancas or up in the hills? That siting problem is repeated all over LA. Years ago, there were large, multistory high rises that housed the poor and the almost-poor but, ultimately, they were torn down and instead low-rise buildings built in their place. That worked for a while but now the value of land has escalated so much and we may have to go back to the high rises. There were a bunch of bills in the legislature this year to allow increased density but they all went down to defeat. Those bills will be back and in time it may be that we’ll decide those high rise projects are preferable to people living on the streets.
As we go to press this Tuesday evening, they are predicting rain tomorrow. Let’s all do our rain dance and hope it’s true.