Los Angeles Times - 03.04.2020

(C. Jardin) #1




here’s nothinglike a
global pandemic to re-
mind us of what we
truly value. As mortal-
ity ratesand economic
upheavalfill the headlines, we in
coastal California are also grap-
pling with another significant
change: the closing of our beaches
and severing of access to the sea.
For the first time in history,
most people in Southern Califor-
nia, under stay-at-home orders,
are completely banned from surf-
ing, sunbathing, fishing or building
sandcastles at the ocean’s edge. It
is hard to understate the magni-
tude of this situation or how por-
tentous it is.
Californians are extremely atta-
ched to coastal places. The annual
California State University Chan-
nel Islands Coastal Survey has
found that sandy beaches are so
central to ouridentity that when
asked for words that come to mind
when prompted with “California,”
survey respondents overwhelm-
ingly answered “sunny,” “beach” or
similar phrases.
The survey also found that 8%
of the residents of Los Angeles,
Ventura and Santa Barbara coun-
ties go to the beach daily, 31% go at
least weekly and 61% go at least
monthly. One-third of us went to
the beach before our first birthday;
half of us before our second. Some
77% of Californians say the “condi-
tion of the ocean and beaches is
very important to the economy
and quality of life for California’s fu-
This love of the coast is what
prompted Californians to create
the Coastal Act, protecting the
public’s access to the shore. The
monetary value of this access adds
up, with ocean-dependent tourism
and recreation in Southern Cali-
fornia’s five coastal counties alone
contributing more than $12 billion
to the state GDP in 2016.
The current beach closures are
giving us a glimpse of Southern
California’s likely future: one with
fewer and smaller beaches nearly
as inaccessible as they are right

now. An estimated 31% to 67% of
Southern California’s beaches will
be completely gone by 2100, accord-
ing to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Climate-change-driven sea-lev-
el rise and ever more powerful,
sand-robbing stormsincreasingly
gnaw away at the ocean edge of our
beaches. Property owners have re-
sponded by pouring more con-
crete, piling up mountains of boul-
ders or otherwise armoring the
landward side of beaches to shield
property and structures from the
encroaching sea.
As of 2018, 38% of Southern Cali-
fornia’s coastline was armoredto
combat that erosion. Unfortu-
nately, such protection sacrifices
public access and, ultimately, the
beach sand itself thanks to altered
wave energy focus and increased
scouring of the beach face.
Fostering a future rich with
beaches requires new, well-in-
formed approaches to face this
looming threat. We do have the
tools to respond to beach loss.
Chief among these is “managed
retreat.” Letting beaches and
coastal ecosystems evolve natu-
rally and migrate inland as the sea
level rises is one way of ensuring
they continue to exist. We’ve done
this successfully at Surfers Point in
Ventura and on the Pacific Coast
Highway at the base of the Big Sur
coast. Firmly opposing coastal ar-
moring is another. We need infra-
structure such as public parking

lots and stairways to access the
beach, but we need a beach to ac-
cess in the first place.
Governments everywhere
under-invest in shoreline protec-
tion. California is no exception. We
spend less than $100 million a year
on the health of the state’s sandy
beaches. More public resources
could help us improve coastal
monitoring to know where and how
to focus limited dollars, make the
coastal infrastructure more cost
effective and better help home-
owners and local governments de-
velop realistic plans for the future.
We are all now seeing what hap-
pens when we fail to invest in crisis
planning and ignore pending
threats. Improved public invest-
ment on the shoreline can help us
avoid repeating this mistake.
With the pandemic raging, Cali-
fornians need to live by the public
health measures communities are
taking to stop the spread of the co-
ronavirus. For now, that includes
avoiding the beaches, which are so
much a part of the California
dream. This forced separation
from the surf should motivate us to
support more policies that pre-
serve our glorious coastline before
much of it is gone for good.

Sean Anderson, Kiki Patsch
and Dan Reinemanare professors
of environmental science and
resource management at Cal
State Channel Islands.

HERMOSA BEACH,like all other beaches in Los Angeles County, was closed last week to prevent
gatherings of people in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Jay L. ClendeninLos Angeles Times

A glimpse of California

without sand and surf

BEACH CLOSURES give Californians a taste of what life will
be like when we lose our beaches to climate change.

Allen J. Schaben Los Angeles Times

By Sean Anderson,
Kiki Patsch
and Dan Reineman


n Tuesday, Secretary
of State Michael R.
Pompeo unveileda de-
tailed framework for
restoring democracy in
Venezuela that was immediately
rejectedby the man who would
need to step aside for such a transi-
tion to occur: Venezuelan dictator
Nicolas Maduro. Perhaps this
should not come as a surprise, giv-
en that just last week the U.S. De-
partment of Justice charged
Maduro with narco-terrorismand
put a $15-million price on his head.
Many Venezuelans reacted with
understandable satisfaction to the
indictment of Maduro and some of
his closest collaborators. Presi-
dent Trump further rattled sabers
by announcing a buildup of his ad-
ministration’s counternarcotics
operation off Venezuela’s coast,
though the U.S. is unlikely to drag
Maduro into court anytime soon.
This will come as a disappoint-
ment to the Venezuelan diaspora
in the United States, concentrated
not coincidentally in the electoral
battleground state of Florida. For
those victimized by Maduro’s well-
documented repression, corrup-
tion and sheer incompetence, the
salient fact remains that someone
is taking steps to hold the unpopu-
lar Maduro regime accountable.
As the U.S. struggles to restore
democracy in Venezuela, however,
it will have to reconcile these crimi-
nal indictments with Pompeo’s
more conciliatory framework,
which proposes a transitional
unity government and a sequence
of steps leading to new elections. In
return for these steps, the U.S.
would incrementally lift sanctions,
which have been criticized for cut-
ting off Venezuela’s oil revenue
while the country tries to prevent a
COVID-19 catastrophe.
Legally speaking, the fact that
the U.S. does not consider Maduro
Venezuela’s legitimate president is
sufficient to overcome the custom-
ary immunity enjoyed by heads of
state, as it was three decades ago in
the case of Panamanian strong-
man Manuel Noriega.
But from the standpoint of U.S.
foreign relations, seeking the ar-
rest and prosecution of a de facto
leader bears many of the same
weighty consequences as indicting
a recognized head of state. So the
indictment of Maduro and other
top officials raises important stra-
tegic questions. Most fundamen-
tally, how does it advance the
Trump administration’s objective
of a peaceful, democratic transi-
tion in Venezuela, which Pompeo’s
framework aims to achieve?
The White House likely views
the indictments as the next step in
its “maximum pressure” campaign
against Maduro — an escalation,
perhaps, but a logical one. The U.S.
will interpret recent developments
as evidence that its efforts to as-
phyxiate the regime are succeed-
ing — the collapse in Venezuelan oil
production and sales, the gasoline
shortages in Caracas, and
Maduro’s doomed-to-fail appeal
for a $5-billion loan from the Inter-
national Monetary Fund.
The administration presum-
ably calculates that as funds dry
up, those keeping Maduro in power
—most prominently, Venezuela’s
armed forces — will cut him loose.
Under this theory, the indictments
speed Maduro’s demise by under-
cutting his legitimacy and eroding
the cohesion of his collaborators,
some of whom will look to abandon
a sinking ship — with the U.S. tran-

sition framework the life raft.
The first challenge to this ap-
proach is that maneuvers that
have tried to splinter the regime or
provoke its collapse have yet to
work. Efforts to force Maduro from
power through a combination of
domestic mobilization, interna-
tional isolation and economic pres-
sure reached their zenith in early
2019, when opposition leader Juan
Guaido emerged from obscurity to
lead mass demonstrations and
was widely recognized as Venezue-
la’s interim president. Even then, a
scheme to convince military lead-
ers to remove Maduro failed spec-
The regime is weaker economi-
cally today, but Maduro has
sources of revenue beyond oil, in-
cluding the illegal gold trade and
other criminal activities. And the
United States’ ability to assess the
loyalty of the military brass, much
less fracture it, has proven limited.
While Pompeo’s transition frame-
work offers assurances to the mili-
tary, such as keeping Minister of
Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez in
place, the fact that Padrino was
indictedjust a week before the
framework was announced will do
little to convince his comrades in
arms to put their fates in the hands
of a government they have been in-
doctrinated to abhor.
Asecond challenge is that the
indictments tie the hands of the
Trump administration and
Guaido by rendering any negotiat-
ed pathway to a democratic transi-
tion even more complex. Remarka-
bly, this includes the roadmap
Pompeo put forward, which largely
replicates a sensible proposal
Guaido’s representatives made
during unsuccessful negotiations
with Maduro last summer. It would
require both Maduro and Guaido
to step aside, and their parties to
govern together until elections are
called. At the time, the Trump ad-
ministration threw cold wateron
the talks. Now it appears to be be-
latedly embracing the proposal.
The result is strategic confusion.
In what may be the most endur-
ing foreign-policy consequence of
last week’s indictments, any effort
to incentivize political compro-
mise and power-sharing is over-
shadowed by the actions of the De-
partment of Justice. Unlike asset
freezes and visa bans, public in-
dictments cannot be easily
quashed to reward positive behav-
ior or traded away in a deal for new
elections. The U.S. has in essence
demanded the unconditional sur-
render of not just Maduro, but
many of the most frequently men-
tioned candidates who might push
him aside. Arguably, the accused
now have even more motivation to
close ranks and crush their oppo-
nents, at a time when Venezuela
needs just the opposite.
On top of its existing institu-
tional and humanitarian crises,
Venezuela is staring down the bar-
rel of COVID-19, with a health sys-
tem that has collapseddue to
Maduro’s corruption and neglect.
In recent days, civil society leaders
appealedfor a humanitarian truce
between the country’s political fac-
tions in a desperate attempt to mo-
bilize international assistance for
coronavirus response. As Pom-
peo’s transition framework seems
to recognize, Venezuela needs po-
litical solutions now more than
ever. Last week’s indictments may
make that even harder than before.

Michael J. Camilleriis director
of the rule of law program at the
Inter-American Dialogue.

Our muddled

Venezuela strategy

By Michael J. Camilleri


n Jan. 20,South Korea
and the United States
both reported their
first confirmed cases of
the novel coronavirus.
While President Moon Jae-inof
South Korea acted with ingenuity,
dispatch and courage, President
Trump delayed, denied and lied.
As of Wednesday night, South
Korea reported 169 total deaths,
and the numbers seem to be lev-
eling off.
You know where this goes.
As of Wednesday night, the U.S.
reported more than 5,000 deaths,
with a potentially terrifying surge
in fatalities still to come.
And thus we get Trump’s latest
wretched failure to lead. But this
time he seems to have been ani-
mated by more than his addled
psyche. A workof sophistry by the
libertarian legal professor Richard
A. Epstein, which was widely circu-
lated by Trumpites, helped to

justify the administration’s equiv-
ocation and denial.
The federal government’s
response to the virus, in other
words, has been driven by the
usual Trumpworld up-is-down
madness. Only this time it comes
with a luxe academic sheen.
According to the Washington
Post, Trumpites began sharing
“Coronavirus Perspective,” Ep-
stein’s first blog post on the mat-
ter, just over two weeks ago, when
it appeared on the website of the
conservative Hoover Institution,
where Epstein is a senior fellow.
Epstein’s first post — along
with two others, “Coronavirus
Overreaction” and “The Grim
Cost of Lockdowns”— evidently
told Trumpites what they wanted
to hear: That the virus had been
overhyped by liberals trying to
crush personal freedoms. “Pro-
gressives think they can run every-
one’s lives through central plan-
ning,” he groused in the second
post, with all the brio of a new
reader of “Atlas Shrugged.”
He also claimed it would kill
only the weak and elderly people
the economy could afford to lose.
And that the flu-like bug would
soon lose steam.
But Epstein also got truly rash,
projecting that in the U.S. the

coronavirus would cause only 500
deaths. With little explanation,
and just as reality was proving him
wrong, he revised his tally to 5,000.
Wrong again. Dr. Anthony
Fauci, director of the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases, projects the total at
100,000 and 240,000, if we’re lucky.
Epstein described that first
faulty calculation as “a public
relations gaffe.”
A lot of Epstein’s factual as-
sertions were challenged by jour-
nalist Isaac Chotiner, citing vari-
ous virus and infectious disease
experts, in a Q&A in the New
Yorker, and also by the data scien-
tist Rex Douglass, whose method-
ical dismantling of Epstein’s argu-
ments went online Monday.
Douglass, of the Center for
Peace and Security Studies at UC
San Diego, faults Epstein not just
for errors but for intellectual dis-
honesty: cherry-picking data,
avoiding specificity, using double-
speak, and showing indifference to
the truth.
And yet Trump’s recent helter-
skelter propaganda has regularly
contained echoes of Epstein’s bad
faith. When Trump condemned a
disciplined stay-at-home response
to the virus as “overreaction,” and
wanted Americans to get back to

business as usual by April 12 —
those moves could have been
derived straight from Epstein’s
I hope Epstein’s posts go down
in history in much the same way as
another landmark of pseudosci-
ence: The 1998 paper in the august
medical journal Lancet by Andrew
Wakefield. This is the article that
falsely connected vaccinations
with developmental disorders in
Wakefield’s paper, since
retractedby the Lancet, gave
ballast to the dangerous anti-
vaccination movement, which
contributed to a resurgence of
measles; Epstein’s work seems to
have informed at least some of the
Trump’s administration’s fateful
coronavirus missteps, adding to
the pandemic’s dangers and in-
creasing the toll of sickness and
And yet Epstein calls an inex-
cusable mistake a public relations
And there’s the crux. Why did a
legal scholar at a solemn think
tank dish out something he would
later excuse as PR? What about
the accuracy, honesty and the
consequences of his claims?
Maybe it’s a consequence of the
internet bandstand, the notion

that everyone has a right to take
the mic on any subject and win an
audience. Maybe Epstein found
the possibility of socking it to
pearl-clutching lib overreactors
impossible to resist. After all,
when you say dangerous Trumpite
stuff like “back to work by Easter!”
you get to make people mad; you
get to run with the devil. Maybe it
feels manly.
Like many conservative intel-
lectuals, Epstein likes to think of
himself as a “contrarian,” an ivory-
tower troll. Douglass convincingly
identifies the kernel of Epstein’s
intellectual misconduct in that
“Contrarianism is not a search
for truth, it’s a search for political
influence,” Douglass writes. “Per-
formative controversy, fake horse
races, hypotheses that don’t follow
from theory are immediate red
flags the author doesn’t actually
care what the right answer is.”
Indeed. The Hoover Institution
should retract Epstein’s danger-
ous posts, which constitute disin-
formation. They are a public-
health hazard. Trollish posturing
has no place in serious intellectual
work, let alone in the formation of
White House policy.


One source of Trump’s inexcusable coronavirus failures

A legal scholar low-balled

COVID-19 deaths, helping

to justify White House

equivocation and denial.


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