We’re just back from vacation from Aspen to New York to Vermont, then back to New York, and finally Los Angeles. Traveling is a bear. Flights are canceled, airports are crowded, airplanes are full and you’re constantly worried if you’ve exposed yourself to this mass of humanity that could kill you. On the other side of the equation is that we haven’t seen family in almost two years, the kids are growing up, and if you don’t get away you feel yourself getting as wacky as the rest of America. We took American Airlines all the way and, frankly, it was not a great experience. What we didn’t realize is you can’t even buy a drink in coach. It’s OK in business and first class, but not coach. Apparently we coachees are not to be trusted with booze, although I must admit it is not exactly an irrational policy. We’ve all seen the videos of some coach passengers going ballistic because some airline destroyed their constitutional rights by requiring them to show proof of vaccination and then, to add insult to injury, they also had to wear a mask while in the airplane. My initial theory was that Americans were all going crazy because they were watching too much Netflix and doomsday movies. But my son Tony, who is now a vice president for the California Medical Association (who has given up journalism for a regular and much more substantial check), then sent me an email that set my mind at ease. Actually, it is an old U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1905 where a local citizen named Jacobson was definitely put out by the fact that the State of Massachusetts was requiring that he get a vaccination. The only difference was that this was a vaccination against small pox, which apparently was having a revival in Massachusetts at that time. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the justices by, 7 to 2, held “Even liberty itself, the greatest of all rights, is not unrestricted license to act according to one’s will. It is only freedom from restraint under conditions essential to the equal enjoyment of the same right by others. It is then liberty regulated by law.” It made sense in 1905 and it still makes sense today.
Citizens and parents are struggling with the same questions today. If you’re a parent, do you let your kid go back to school? Do you let your kid go to the Chili Cook-Off next weekend? The schools and the Boys and Girls Club have taken every precaution they can to make both school and the cook-off safe. Your personal answer depends on your level of comfort with risk. Karen and I reasoned that we were both vaccinated, and our risk of serious illness or death was very small, but you can never say it was a risk of absolute zero. We figured we could live with the risk, I know some other people can’t.
A five-year-old boy, which, if he was typical, probably weighed about 40 pounds, was attacked by a juvenile mountain lion weighing about 65 pounds and the boy was mauled significantly and hospitalized for his injuries. Although reports were a bit sketchy, it’s clear that the boy had significant bites or scratches, which probably means scarring and lots of future surgeries and probably a significant lifetime of mental trauma. Fish and Wildlife shot the mountain lion dead. What is astounding is that many people want to break this event up into a good guy/bad guy analysis. My guess is that in this ultra dry climate the animals are coming down closer to man to find water and food. They are doing what wild animals do; that is, to try and survive under trying conditions. Human beings also have to live and locking up our children in the house doesn’t seem like much of an alternative either. What shocked me were some of the callus comments online in response to the event, which could only be described as a tragedy. There was apparently much more sympathy for a dead mountain lion than for a badly injured young boy. Some questioned why the mountain lion had to be killed. I kind of half-expected someone would suggest that the boy should be shot also to even the score. The lack of sympathy and humanity in some of the comments kind of shocked me. Where are these people coming from? The fact is there are 40 million people living in California and maybe, just maybe, this is no longer a decent environment for mountain lions and they need to be relocated. The Santa Monica Mountains are not a Disney movie set and the moment we made this a National Recreation Area it was inevitable that we were going to attract more people to the mountains and there were going to be run-ins with animals, particularly the predators like mountain lions.
When we put this paper to bed I’m going over to the Malibu Library in the Civic Center to drop off my ballot in the special ballot drop off box. I hope you will do the same. The initial tracking—and there are a number of companies that track the absentee ballots—is that the highest percentage of ballots returned so far are from among the older voters. That part of the voter population, although slightly Democratic, is pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. That’s got the Democratic Party worried because, as a statistical matter, in California, the younger the voter the more likely he is a Democrat. The problem is that younger voters make a lot of noise but many can’t seem to get their s— together and manage to find the time to vote, so that leaves the governor chewing on his fingernails.