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In 1992, I was working in Los Angeles, with a very diverse group of people. There was widespread belief that LA would explode if the cops who beat Rodney King weren't convicted.

Still, I was amazed to look down from Dodger Stadium at night and see the City of Angels burning.

As California's budget mess continues to worsen, and we seem headed inexorably towards depression levels of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and hunger, I've been recalling the summer of 1992 when Los Angeles erupted into a multi-racial redistribution of wealth.

Have the Republicans really thought through the potential results of eliminating the minimal payments to 127,000 low income parents and children in San Bernardino County when the unemployment rate is already above 13%?

Or the anger among the friends and families of the 420,000 low income parents and children in Los Angeles County who receive minimal payments, education, and assistance with child care?

On a hot night in September, with the Santa Ana winds blowing, and a simmering pool of rage, it will only take a spark.

Hyperbole? God I hope so, but now I think that the Inland Empire might have more tinder even than Los Angeles.

There's a simmering rage out there now, with a deep undercurrent of economic populism. The white, anti-immigrant voice of that rage is reported through the media but there's an even more palpable anger among those who have been demonized as they were being victimized.

Now, the WORST GOVERNATOR EVER and his handlers are proposing massive cuts not only to education, but also the complete elimination of the Welfare to Work program in California, to deny minimal welfare benefits to 1.1 million children and 310,000 parents.

When the Governator declares war on the poor, can he really expect that they will never rise up in anger?

When the Santa Ana Winds blow this fall, with no jobs, no food, and the social safety net eliminated, what will happen?

Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.

—Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"

Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are. "

—Joan Didion, "Los Angeles Notebook"

The township itself was twenty miles (32 km) west of the Santa Ana Mountains, where the infamous winds came from. Time to time they blew in, dry, warm, steady, and they sent the whole of LA crazy. Reacher had seen their effects a couple of times. Once he had been in town after liaising with the jarheads at Camp Pendleton. Once he had been on a weekend pass from Fort Irwin. He had seen minor barroom brawls end up as first-degree homicides. He had seen burnt toast end up in wife-beating and prison and divorce. He had seen a guy get bludgeoned to the ground for walking too slow on the sidewalk.

—Lee Child, "Bad Luck and Trouble"

Originally posted to Aeolus on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 10:21 AM PDT.

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