Newsletter: Mass killing and fires: a suburb’s terrible year

People hug on the side of the road outside the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks on Nov. 7, 2018.
(Mike Baker / For the Times )

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 10, 2019. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

I don’t often begin a newsletter with a discussion on something that’s been out of the national spotlight for a year, but the large suburban city of Thousand Oaks, just west of the San Fernando Valley, deserves some recognition for the annus horribilis it endured.

To people outside Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks is probably most widely known for the Borderline Bar and Grill mass shooting that took place on Nov. 7, 2018. What people outside Southern California forget is that barely 24 hours later, the city faced a potentially graver tragedy when the nearby Woolsey fire erupted. That wildfire went on to devastate primarily Malibu, but being placed under siege as a famously safe city that had just been terrorized by America’s gun violence epidemic would no doubt change Thousand Oaks in ways only locals could describe.


This week, one such local, a journalist for that city’s newspaper of record, took to the L.A. Times’ op-ed page to describe the grief and fear that have gripped Thousand Oaks over the last 12 months. Please go here to read reporter Dawn Megli’s full piece describing the “constant lump” in her throat (and bullet-proof backpacks, among other things) that she’s carried with her since last November.

The cover-up isn’t always worse than the crime. According to an attorney who worked on impeaching President Clinton, the allegations against Donald Trump are far worse than those that resulted in the 42nd president’s impeachment trial and in President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. “Today, unlike in 1998, the abuse of public trust is directly tied to the president’s conduct of America’s foreign affairs,” writes Paul Rosenzweig. “It is precisely the sort of foreign entanglement that deeply concerned our founders.” L.A. Times

More on impeachment: The House is giving Trump far more due process than the Constitution requires, writes Erwin Chemerinsky. The president’s impeachment defense is shaping up to be that Trump himself did not pressure Ukraine, says Jon Healey. Trump’s treatment of Ukraine is precisely the sort of misconduct for which the framers created the impeachment remedy, writes the editorial board. And columnist Virginia Heffernan’s take is probably the week’s most provocative from our Opinion pages: “Lock him up” is the new “yes we can.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the left’s Donald Trump. She may not get pilloried on “Saturday Night Live,” but her no-middle-class-taxes pledge on Medicare for All is just as silly and far-fetched as Trump’s promise to build a big, beautiful wall on the Mexican border, writes Jonah Goldberg: “Will she admit that she overpromised, or will the apple lady follow the playbook of the orange man, and blame a rigged system and shadowy evil actors working to deny us our heart’s desires? The latter is likely, given that such rhetoric is another thing she has in common with Trump.” L.A. Times


California is where the climate apocalypse happens: That’s the sense you get reading the New York Times’ op-ed page. (That isn’t to say this is not true, only that there’s more to life here than watching chaparral and invasive grasses burn.) The latest op-ed dispatch reads a lot like other pieces we’ve seen recently: “Depending on the day, grocery store shelves are gutted and schools are closed. Family members throughout the state have been evacuated, losing days of pay, as they cross their fingers that their houses won’t be ash by the time they return. The air quality is still officially so bad that it’s unsafe to be outside in a large, patchy network of area codes. And if you have no power, you can’t run air purifiers inside.” New York Times

Speaking of the West Coast apocalypse, I received an inbox full of feedback from newsletter readers in response to last week’s edition, in which I panned the piling-on of California by writers proclaiming the end of life as we know it in the Golden State. The response was a mix of complimentary (“we will come out of this as we always do, and better,” said one reader) and critical, including from those who said decades of poor land management are catching up with California. Nearly all of the feedback was constructive, and for that I thank you.

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