Austin Dispatches No. 224 April 13, 2020

e224fig1So I was waiting in the extended supermarket checkout line, and the neighborhood H-E-B sound system played Foreigner's "Urgent."1 Whoever programs the music for these places has an annoying sense of irony.

Amid the shelves stripped, especially of processed foods, paper and cleaning products, I marveled at what remained.2 How'd you like to be the product manager who has to conduct an analysis for his company on why Brand X didn't move during panic buying? "Put that back -- we'd rather starve during a plague than have that in our pantry!"

At least the brewer of Corona beer has the explanation of unfortunately sharing a name with the virus,3 whose pandemic has provided a convenient pretext for jackbooted behavior,4 power grabs,5 looting the commonweal,6 and general immiseration,7 with a gloss of stale World War II rhetoric about how "we're all in this together."8 Keep telling yourself that when a loved one dies of AIDS since the FDA just further loosened restrictions on homosexuals donating blood. Mustn't be "homophobic."9

The winter was my busiest ever for job interviews. Not that prospective clients had yet made the correct decision, to make my bank accounts great again, but I had hope. Until the local authorities imposed de facto house arrest ("shelter in place"), the wording of which just confused people.10 Obviously, that's the latest external factor keeping me unemployed and thus thwarted in life.11 It’s not improving my disposition.

As I watch my account balances drop, and fellow citizens queue like Soviet proles in the cold and rain for toilet paper, disagreements persist among medical professionals about the virus' origin, distinctiveness, symptoms, communicability, susceptibility, lethality, and cure.12 Even if the societal-wide shutdowns and house arrests are medically justified, the social and economic effects are likely iatrogenic. This may be the reckoning we avoided after the 2008 meltdown.

My guess, based on years as a reporter: Officialdom's reaction has been the inverse of what reality merits. If coronavirus were as lethal as many Internet commentators have hoped, government spokesmen would be trying to downplay it. That's what the People's Republic of China did early.13

Perversely, officialdom's anti-coronavirus response may wreck the corporatist, managerial-therapeutic, warfare-welfare state, down to the city level.14

The March 17 shutdown of restaurants, entertainment and nightlife could wipe out a lot of independent businesses that can't be readily replaced.15 Still smarting from the financial loss of the canceled SXSW, the Chronicle announced it'll go to an every-other-week printing schedule, although the Chronicalistas tried to cast it as a heroic hygienic measure.16

The end of bread and circuses also removes a big selling point for Austin. Without that, Austin's just a mid-size, expensive city with bad traffic. Technology companies will have to pay more to attract and keep the workers executives say they want.17

Of course, without these businesses to tax, the Austin power elite lack a lot of revenue to pay for anything.18 The pandemic has halted municipal schemes about increased mass transit and housing density.19 Schools, vectors for statist brainwashing, remain shut down for the foreseeable future.20 The pandemic may even potentially delay opening of the neighborhood soccer stadium.21

Regular Austin Death Watch

Meanwhile, a district court judge ruled in favor of property owners and against Austin's attempted land-use code rewrite, the latest setback in such efforts.22 This should be a sign to Austin's power elite to scrap the rewrite, and indeed, any such laws infringing upon private property rights. Naturally, the power elite chose to appeal the decision.23

The Austin Police Department fired an officer for domestic assault.24

Cultural Canapés

Amid the lockdown, I finally read "Kings of Infinite Space," a second contemporary novel depicting tech writers as clueless, dweeby losers.25 What do these authors know the Society for Technical Communication doesn't?

Journey has fired its founding bassist. So much for job security. Moreover, examination of the reported details reveals the matter has nothing to do with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It's all about board meetings and contract clauses.26 With this, Journey ascends to the apex of corporate rock.

Neighborhood News

An April 10 collision at Metric Boulevard and Parmer Lane resulted in injuries.27 KXAN-TV’s traffic Web page recorded collisions at Running Bird Lane and Cedar Bend Drive on March 16, at MoPac Expressway and Gracy Farms Lane on March 23, at MoPac and Braker Lane on March 26, at Parmer and MoPac on March 27 and April 10, and at Metric and Parmer on April 2.

Since the last issue, four businesses have opened and one has closed.28

On the Town

March 20: Witnessed the aftermath of a collision at Duval Road and Highway 183.

Home Archives


1 Foreigner. "Urgent." The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums 1977-1991. Atlantic/Warner Music 8122795829, 2014.

2 Price, Asher, Madlin Mekelburg, and Lara Korte. "Run on Supermarkets Continues." AAS 18 Mar. 2020: A1+.

3 "Corona's Over ... Well, the Beer Is." Daily Mail 4 Apr. 2020: 12.

4 Wilson, Mark D. "Austin Gets 180 Complaints About Stay-at-Home Violators." AAS 28 Mar. 2020: B2; Wilson. "City Order Violations Draw 2,000 Complaints." AAS 7 Apr. 2020: A1+.

5 Kruzel, John. "Response to Coronavirus Could Test Limits of Government Powers." The Hill 11 Mar. 2020: 10.

6 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Pub. L. 116-136.

7 Barbaro, Nick. "Congress CARES About You." AC 3 Apr. 2020: 8; Clark-Madison, Mike. "Everything's Different Now." AC 3 Apr. 2020: 6+; Sanders, Austin. "City Hall Is Here to Help." AC 3 Apr. 2020: 11; Wilson. "Activists Seek Lasting Change After Coronavirus." AAS 8 Apr. 2020: B1+; Wilson, and Philip Jankowski. "Austin Approves Millions in Coronavirus Relief." AAS 10 Apr. 2020: A1+.

8 Huggler, Justin. "Germany Facing Its Biggest Test Since the War, Warns Merkel." Daily Telegraph 19 Mar. 2020: 11.

9 Gardiner, Dustin. "Blood Donation Rules to Ease for Gay Men." San Francisco Chronicle 3 Apr. 2020: B1.

10 "Confusion Swirls About Shelter-in-Place Order." ABJ 27 Mar. 2020: 3; Munoz, Gabrielle, and Jankowski. "What Stay-at-Home Orders Mean." AAS 26 Mar. 2020: B1+.

11 Cronin, Mike. "Hiring Dips in Austin but Picture Is Much Bleaker in Other Cities." ABJ 10 Apr. 2020: 11; Cronin. "Startups Feel the Fallout of Slowdown." ABJ 3 Apr. 2020: 16; Hawkins, Lori. "Layoffs Surge in Austin Amid Virus Closures." AAS 1 Apr. 2020: A1+; Jankowski. "Analyst: 1 in 5 of Area's Workers Lost Jobs." AAS 8 Apr. 2020: A1+; Salazar, Daniel. "More Than 260,000 Austin-Area Jobs at Risk in Pandemic, Expert Says." ABJ 10 Apr. 2020: 8; Sechler, Bob. "Coronavirus Fallout Slams Texas Manufacturers." AAS 31 Mar. 2020: B5-6; Sechler. "State's Job Losses Keep Mounting." AAS 10 Apr. 2020: A1+; Sechler. "Virus Fears Reach Into Texas Manufacturing Sector." AAS 25 Feb. 2020: B5-6.

12 Apuzzo, Matt, and David D. Kirkpatrick. "Racing for Cure, Scientists Unite in Global Effort." NYT 2 Apr. 2020: A1+; Daniels, Anthony. "The View From Paris." NR 20 Apr. 2020: 16+; Gorman, James. "Role of Pangolin Viruses in Pandemic Is Still Murkey." NYT 27 Mar. 2020: A5; Marchione, Marilynn. "Flu and Coronavirus: Similar Symptoms, Different Fears." India -- West 20 Mar. 2020: B16; Page, Michael Le. "Why Coronavirus Death Rate Is So Hard to Pin Down." New Scientist 141 Mar. 2020: 7; Roy, Avik. "What Drugs Can Do: The Role of Pharmaceuticals in Combating the Pandemic." NR 20 Apr. 2020: 21+; Saey, Tina Hesman. "Coronavirus May Spread Silently." Science News 29 Feb. 2020: 7; Saey, and Erin Garcia de Jesus. "New Coronavirus Fuels Outbreak." Science News 15 Feb. 2020: 6; Zraick, Karen. "Explaining the Origins of a Disease on the Move." NYT 22 Jan. 2020: A10.

13 "China Virus Response Criticized As Slow." Science 7 Feb. 2020: 606; Hernández, Javier C. "China, in Propaganda Push, Boasts of Response to Crisis." NYT 29 Feb. 2020: A7; Oliphant, Roland. "Epidemic 'Grim and Complex,' Says Xi As He Admits Response Was Inadequate." Daily Telegraph 24 Feb. 2020: 5.

14 Williams, Monica. "Survey Finds Nonprofits in Dire Straits." AAS 12 Apr. 2020: B3; Wilson. "Austin Must Stay the Course, Leaders Say." AAS 2 Apr. 2020: A1+.

15 Auber, Arianna. "Texas Breweries See 71% Drop in Revenue Amid Outbreak." AAS 7 Apr. 2020: B5+; Garcia, Ariana. "Businesses Fight to Survive." AAS 9 Apr. 2020: B3; Gross, Joe. "Outbreak Spells the End for Austin's Vulcan Video." AAS 9 Apr. 2020: B5-6; Hawkins. "As Virus Spreads, Austin Retailers Face Tough Decisions." AAS 18 Mar. 2020: B7-8; Hawkins. "Austin Restaurants Struggle to Survive." AAS 21 Mar. 2020: A1+; Jankowski. "Austin Bans Gatherings of 10 or More." AAS 18 Mar. 2020: A1+; Mulder, Brandon. "Eateries in 'Survival Mode.' " AAS 7 Apr. 2020: B3; Odam, Matthew. "Owner of Jack Allen's Kitchen Shuts Down, Lays Off Hundreds." AAS 21 Mar. 2020: B5+; Osborn, Claire. "Eateries Try to Survive in To-Go World." AAS 23 Mar. 2020: B4; Recio, Maria. "Struggling Businesses Hope Federal Money Helps." AAS 11 Apr. 2020: A1+; Taboada, Melissa B. "Mayor Adds Restrictions to Retailers." AAS 23 Mar. 2020: B1+.

16 Jones, Kimberley. "Hang in There." AC 20 Mar. 2020: 4.

17 Carlson, Kara. "Austin's Capital Factory Furloughs Half Its Staff." AAS 28 Mar. 2020: B5; Clark-Madison. "It's Closing Time." AC 20 Mar. 2020: 16; "Local Businesses Fight for Future After SXSW, Coronavirus Fallout." CIN 27 Mar. 2020, Northwest Austin ed.: 1+.

18 Price, Jankowski, and Chuck Lindell. "Cities, State See Virus Revenue Hit." AAS 22 Mar. 2020: A1+.

19 "Capital Metro Ridership Nosedives in Midst of Coronavirus Scare." CIN Mar. 2020, Northwest Austin ed.: 12.; Jankowski. "Transit Services Curtailed." AAS 27 Mar. 2020: B1+; Salazar. "Pandemic Pauses Progress." ABJ 10 Apr. 2020: 4-7; Sullivan, Beth. "CapMetro Suspends Service, Eliminates Fares." AC 3 Apr. 2020: 15.

20 Korte. "UT Asks Students Not to Come Back." AAS 18 Mar. 2020: A1+; Korte. "UT Puts Graduation Ceremony on Hold." AAS 26 Mar. 2020: B1+; Taboada, and Kelsey Bradshaw. "Area School Closures Extended." AAS 26 Mar. 2020: B1+.

21 Bils, Chris. "Austin FC Stadium Construction Not Exempt From City Order." AAS 28 Mar. 2020: C1+.

22 Jankowski. "Judge Voids Council's Votes on Land Code." AAS 19 Mar. 2020: B1.

23 Jankowski. "Austin to Appeal Land Code Ruling." AAS 10 Apr. 2020: B2.

24 Hall, Katie. "Memo: Accused Officer Fired." AAS 5 Apr. 2020: B1+.

25 Hynes, James. Kings of Infinite Space. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2004.

26 Harrington, Jim. "Journey, 2 Musicians Going Separate Ways." East Bay (Calif.) Times 6 Mar. 2020: B2.

27 Martínez-Cabrera, Alejandro. "Officer, Driver Injured After Crash." AAS 12 Apr. 2020: B7.

28 "Impacts." CIN Mar 2020, Northwest Austin ed.: 7+.