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Evicted from Alabama Hills: Security Theater Brought to Bear on Health

Update: reopened on Friday May 22.

I loathe and despise my oppressive incompetent government, state and federal. Stop reading there if you disagree, which is your prerogative.

Security theatre has now moved into the realm of health. Actually, it’s worse, actively decreasing healthy security. Brought to you by your tax dollars, which you won’t be paying if you are now out of a job.

Someone tell me how having 20000 people in close proximity in a supermarket every day is a good idea, but parking alone far from anyone is a bad idea? Oh, and you do not have to wear a mask or gloves in the supermarket, and you are free to (bare-handed) handle all the products (ever see people examining 20 pieces of fruit for the best ones, putting most back?). That’s our context here. This is what the morons and health experts (sorry for the redundancy) in our government think is good policy: tightly cluster people and don’t take even basic health precautions in the #1 most visited public place: supermarkets.

I arrived in this area around Feb 20, and have been here ~8 weeks now as of April 17 (doing two double centuries a bit further south, prior to the shelter-in-place mandate), so I didn’t carry any infection here. My self isolation is surely far more extreme than 99% of the population of the USA, having resupplied only a handful of times. Were I to go home, we’d have dual-way exposure of myself (at risk with asthma and multiple past history of viral pneumonia), my wife (well into the high risk age group) and I have two daughters who will become vectors as things reopen and they return to work. My 3rd daughter is at very high risk due to an auto-immune disease, and she is self isolating in a single unit at college in special circumstances. So it makes no sense for me to return home, abandon my work and suffer economically and have a much higher chance of infection (though I’d drive all night and go home if any of my family really needed me).

Armed forces whose orders are to increase the risk of infection by reducing distancing

Well, here is how I spent my day: wake up, work a little, deal with heavily armed BLM and NPS folks (professional though they were), resupply in Ridgecrest thus exposing myself needlessly, drive back to pick up a delivery in Lone Pine, then try to figure out where to go. Total clusterfuck of a day.

The entire Alabama Hills is now closed at developed or undeveloped campgrounds. No hiking, no biking, just “leave now, we are just following orders and there are six of us with guns...” (cue the music “This land is your land... this land is my land, from California to the New York island...”). No, they did not say that, but body language and guns and 5 trucks speak volumes.

I was told by the BLM and NFS officers that the ENTIRE Owens Valley of BLM and National Forest is now off limits. I don’t know if that is true but it rankles.

UPDATE April 11: it appears that these BLM and NPS folks gave me FALSE information: According to their own website, BLM is closing only specific areas; see https://www.blm.gov/site-page/blm-california-covid-19-updates#CDD. Also, Inyo County is “requesting” that visitors return home, so I’ll take that for what it means—not an order. The National Forest Service (NFS) also is closing only campgrounds and such—the rest of it remains open. So it looks like I can just find appropriate BLM or NFS area to hang out in, preferably one witih a cell phone signal.

I may have to drive to Nevada where they don’t have a moron like Governor Newsom (if only he knew some), since going home means staring at my yard for a month and “honey do” tasks like mowing the grass, for which I cannot rent a lawn mower (“non-essential business”). I simply CANNOT afford to scratch my ass for a month or two since the shitty government relief won’t even pay my mortgage once. Nor can millions of other Americans

Figure that—the most effective self-isolation possible, and the authorities shut it down, forcing people into close proximity, thus increasing the likelihood of infection. Fucking power hungry morons accomplishing nothing. Meanwhile, that idiot De Blasio still has the NYC subway open AFAIK—is that why NYC is in such trouble? Probably.

Mid-day today, six heavily armed BLM and Forest Service personnel drove WAY the hell out to my location in 4 or 5 vehicles, and told me I had to leave. I mean just about everything up to hand grenades decorated the front of one of these guys. This is what “public service” means today—a show of force to intimidate and harass. Where is this country going to end up? COVID-19 is a bad thing, but it is NOT a true emergency.

Below, this 6-frame 427-megapixel panorama on the Fujifilm GF 250mm f/4 examples page shows just how far away I was from any risk to myself or others. The “Welcome to the Alabama Hills” sign is miles away at very upper right. What a great use of public money—force people out of safety and into proximity risk. They were polite and patient and did not mind waitin they said, being paid by the hour. Nice work when you can get it, but the 12 million people out of work not earning anything might be a little envious of their ruling class of government workers. Next day, manpower was still being expended clearing the area. Can’t they do something useful?

Self-Isolating from SARS-CoV2 the day prior to heavily armed law enforcement evicting me
f6.4 @ 0.3 sec electronic shutter panorama 6 frames cylindrical, ISO 100; 2020-04-09 19:22:50
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 250mm f/4 R LM OIS WR @ 198mm equiv (250mm)
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 5300 ft / 1615 m, 45°F / 7°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, pull 0.66 stops, +40 Shadows, +60 Whites, +30 Dehaze, +20 Clarity, USM {10,50,0}, SmartSharpen{40,0.8,20,0}

[low-res image for bot]

My nearest “neighbor” camping out was half a mile away. The law enforcement people were respectful and understanding, so I give them high marks on their professionalism. Let me be clear: those BLM and NPS officers were respectful and polite—I do NOT fault them for doing the job they were told to do by their superiors (but remember WW II and what that meant?). And that’s the problem: militarily-armed agents turned against citizens on whatever pretense is not in your imagination.

I was respectful (they could have cited me I suppose), and they did have enough guns and ammo to turn me into stir-fry meat), but when you see the best photography conditions in April in 20 to 30 years, it sure hurts. Who are these people protecting, exactly? This is the kind of stuff that trains people to accept an oppressive police state—this case bears ZERO relation to public health and 100% relation to totalitarian authority and obedience to... guns. The is the first of one of many obedience and martial law training sessions, right here in the 'free' United States. Mark my words, we will see it more and more.

I was endangering no one, had ZERO risk, and they show up to put me at non-zero risk: they are the ones seeing everyone they can to enforce this directive, thus themselves acting as potential infection vectors. One guy had no mask because he “already had COVID-19”). Yeah—well science has yet to prove that clears the risk. If there is no risk, they should never have been there. If interaction is a risk, what moral or intellectual or logical sense does it make for a group to to all approach me, even if it is 6-10 feet distance?

Moving on and ignoring the above (this is not about my experience above), incompetent government officials ARE NOT KEEPING US SAFE. I speak of federal and state and city and local officials. They are mindless and destructive, hurting millions, arresting and fining people for simple daily activities in some cities, backed by GUNS when people are DYING, all because of THEIR USELESS LIES and STUPIDITIES. Some of these officials deserve LIFE IN PRISON as far as I am concerned. They are USELESS. They fit right into the Chinese model of total lack of any respect for human life, of totalitarian mindsets. Vote them out—all of them—or stick with your tribe, which is a mindless act in which case you and your children deserve what you get. Because there will come a time when something much more challenging comes along. You can count on the authorities to take full advantage of the situation.

Alabama Hills Closed — Blockade on Movie Road
f1.8 @ 1/5000 sec, ISO 20; 2020-04-10 14:05:18
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/2.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm) ENV: altitude 4414 ft / 1345 m

[low-res image for bot]

I spoke to a local resident (50+ years) who has been helping me out with shipments, and he thinks the whole thing is ridiculous. And he is a local and if anything might resent travelers.

“PLEASE GO HOME” and... get infected, since you have to visit public places to live (like supermarkets) and be with other people who might be infected in densely populated areas. What sense does that make except to a moron like our Governor Newsom, who probably has never seen anything but San Fran and Sacramento and LA? A clueless dilettante running the state who has no idea how varied the state is. The “influx” of visitors cited in the poster is about 5% of normal and the highways are nearly empty. So they are lying like you cannot believe. More lies from our incompetent government.

Not one life will be saved by kicking people out of places like Alabama Hills (see the claim on the poster). Rather it is far more likely lives will be lost because of forcing people OUT of self isolation into close proximity.

This has just gone way too far. COVID-19 is going to infect the country. A field hospital closed down in Washington state after seeing zero (0) patients ought to tell you something about one area versus another and the destructive and extremely damaging acting by geographic boundaries (the virus does not understand a state or country boundary!). Meanwhile, the lives of millions will be damaged for many years to come. It is damn hard to come back from losing your life savings in a business shuttered and gone. To pack up and leave because you cannot pay your rent. To have to struggle to eat. To lose your car because you cannot make a payment so then you cannot get to work even if your job reopens. To draw down your meager live savings (paying a tax penalty if from an IRA or similar). To use up all your money, and then owe taxes and penalties next tax season because the government thugs who take your money by the implied threat of a gun made you lose it all and you can’t pay up.

Meanwhile, government employees like those gun-toting NPS and BLM guys are collecting paychecks. Ditto for employees of many large corporations. IMO, government employees should be laid off in direct proportion to the number of private sector job losses (or pay cut proportionally), because their inflated salaries are paid for by tax dollars of the hugely damaged private sector. Sorry if you are one of those, but stop and give that some thought, putting yourself in the shoes of the guy/gal who was living hand to mouth even before this started or who is losing his/her life’s work in a small business. Why should any privileged class escape this damage, being only inconvenienced? “Shared sacrifice” is a ridiculous lie. Share the pain, or shut the fuck up.

I don’t want my 80-year-old parents to die, or my wife and myself (all of us at higher risk), but I am ready for a staged return to work for Americans with low risk. RIGHT NOW, with the reasoned exclusion of hot spots like NYC. That is, with mandatory mask usage and explicit training for everyone returning to work on how to wash hands, use gloves, and use masks, and HVAC systems with HEPA filtration. Within 2 weeks, MAX. Too many people are being hurt now, but not by the virus.

Note that the recommendations shown below still do not include masks.

Alabama Hills Emergency Closure Order
f1.8 @ 1/6000 sec, ISO 25; 2020-04-10 14:06:16
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/2.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm) ENV: altitude 4473 ft / 1363 m

[low-res image for bot]
Alabama Hills “Please Go Home”
f1.8 @ 1/4000 sec, ISO 20; 2020-04-10 14:05:59
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/2.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm) ENV: altitude 4473 ft / 1363 m

[low-res image for bot]

Rolf W writes:

I agree with you. Here in Germany it is not that stupid but sitting alone at a lake at 06:00 in the morning is not allowed. And drinking a coffee, or something else, is explicit forbidden. But I can walk around the lake - if I don‘t sit.

To clarify, sitting 5 Minutes on the lake alone with a cup of coffee gets you in trouble. No coffee and showing My ID-Card that I’m 67 I’m allowed to rest till I’m able to walk. They did not check my backpack with all that photostuff.

DIGLLOYD: security theatre in the realm of health. And now the police get to decide who has the privilege of resting/sitting? This is way too much power in the hands of the ignorant.

James K writes:

Maybe an “out of your comfort zone” trip to Nevada will be a good move. I’ll bet you will find some new and exciting lands to explore. The mountains are with you. Go forth with new vigor and a renewed sense of wonder. All the best in your adventures.

DIGLLOYD: I am totally within my comfort zone in Nevada and quite familiar with it... but much of it is deadly boring and it will take some work to find a place—and I need a cell signal and a city within 2 hours to resupply.

Thing is, the conditions here have never been this good, nor has snow been this heavy this late in 50 years (according to my local friend, a lifetime resident). In 30 years I have never had a streak of such ideal weather in the Sierra Nevada. So it's a sad thing for a photographer.

An alternative I am looking into is staying on private property (friend) and then photographing from DWP land (Department of Water and Power), which is also private property and allows daytime use. The Feds have no jurisdiction over that property, but DWP does not allow overnight stays on it.

Phil W writes:

I hope you and yours are safe in this crazy world. I feel your pain about being barred access to hiking, in solitude. Here in Ireland I have been hiking alone for the last 8 years and for the last 3 weeks (and until at least may 5) we are told the mountains are closed. Stay off. Stay home. Exercise allowed only within 2km of home, no driving to get to nice places to exercise. The police here are not armed, but have threatened heavy fines and/or arrests for violators of the 2km rule.

I think this is madness, the only option I have for exercise now is a maximum 2km walk from my home - in the flat suburbs, where everyone else who is locked down is also allowed (by law) only 2km from their home. I never saw so many people walking down my street. Social distancing in this regard and manner is a farce. Another thing to consider is fitness, I am used to climbing 1000+ meters plus with a 20kg rucksack - how the hell can we do that within 2km of a flat suburban area? Anyway, Look after yourself and your family and I'll see you on the other side.

DIGLLOYD: depress people psychologically (depresses immune system), herd them together (increase the risk of infection), greatly increase “friction” against exercise, (being sedentary depresses immune system) and ensure people all cluster closely (near homes) by closing all parks and open spaces. Then physically and financially threaten people (gun toting cops) with punishment for doing very low risk activities right down to zero risk—all with ZERO evidence of any productive result at all. I believe that carrots work better than sticks, but these totalitarian-minded politicians much prefer sticks.

This is what a police state looks like, and the actions taken would make any dictator have wet dreams. While SARS-CoV2 is a major health threat, it is NOT a true emergency and a sledgehammer is being used everywhere on both flies and tigers.

Someone tell me how having 20000 people in close proximity in a supermarket every day is a good idea, but parking alone far from anyone is a bad idea?

Leave your home only for a proscribed distance or face harsh punishment? This is martial law folks, enforced with lethal weapons. And those bearing those weapons rarely have judgment, being training o re

It is mindless, destructive, and oppressive. And psychologically depressing. It would make China proud—get that boot on the neck of the masses, the State is All Knowing and All Wise. And here in the US, these guys walk around with military weapons, and they shoot whoever they want whenever they want at the least provocation, and then make up whatever story seems to work. So you don't want to argue with them.

Peter O writes:

Couldn't agree more with your recent post "Evicted..." Shocking that they feel the need to close such a sparsely used area.

I live in Virginia (DC Suburbs), where it seems impossible to escape all things "politically correct." Absurd, knee-jerk COVID responses seem to be the new litmus test for political correctness. I am fortunate that my wife and I can work from home, which is good since we have 3 boys ages 4-9 that have been out of school since last month. We live close to 2 trailheads on the AT, that we frequent in good and bad weather. On a nice weekend, you might see 2-3 dozen on the easier trail. Since the powers that be have closed down the vast majority of public spaces people might use for outdoor recreation/relief, the parking area at the trailhead has been packed to overflowing. We won't go now because of the contact risk.

Because our governor shut down all universities, Shenandoah University recently shut down a nearby passive trail on an old golf course they own. A sheriff's deputy waits at the end of the access road to send any would-be social distancers back. All of this has led to more people on our local W&OD trail that passes through town, making it more dangerous to users.

To top it off, I recently saw an op-ed (here, if interested: https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/491502-secretary-bernhardt-must-close-shenandoah-national-park) where former park superintendents call for closing Shenandoah NP. We've used Shenandoah once during COVID and, while crowded, it was far less crowded than any US city or suburbs. It seems very odd that we continue to close more places, especially considering even moderate models now appear to have overstated the impact, and most places seem to be getting past the medical facility pinch.

When will they learn that every time they close a place, it just makes all the other places more crowded, thereby making the risk worse? Most (if not all) politicians and organizations are operating from a cover-your-ass mentality, rather than any science-based planning.

We really need to be talking about phased re-opening NOW, not closing more. While I know many people in the higher-risk groups that I don't want to put at risk, it only makes rational sense they would take extra precautions to stay healthy. Let the rest of the population get back to some sense of normalcy so we can continue to be the type of economy that can create antivirals and vaccines faster than ever. The alternative is bad for everyone, not just those with the virus.

Stay healthy and keep up the good work!

DIGLLOYD: National Parks are closed out here also. Peter is spot-on in noting that the government is hell bent on concentrating people so as to endanger them. No one can just sit on their ass inside for months. Infecting the entire household if just one person has SARS-CoV2, virtually a guarantee.

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