June 21, 2013

In which I leave the house

I actually got dressed and left the house for once to visit the scene of investigative reporter Michael Hasting's fatal one-car crash southbound on Highland south of Melrose. That's on the border of Hollywood and posh Hancock Park. (To orient yourself, this is a mile south of the touristy corner of Highland and Hollywood Blvd., which is L.A.'s minor league version of Times Square's Bright Lights Big City.)

While my wife and I were standing there looking at the scorched palm tree in the grassy median of Highland that Hastings' C-class Mercedes came to rest against, I kept trying to picture the car hitting the tree, stopping immediately without skidding away, and then going up in a giant fireball (as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill constantly assume is about to happen throughout the chase scene in "21 Jump Street"):
A blonde in a Lexus pulled up to discuss Hastings' death with us. "How could it happen?" she kept asking in her Persian accent, clearly not accepting the LAPD's "no foul play" conclusion. 

This got me thinking once again about how Los Angeles is different from the rest of the country. Everywhere else, the typical conspiracy theorist is pictured as, say, Randy Quaid's character in Independence Day: a burnt-out redneck Seventies survivor. 

In L.A., however, the typical conspiracy theorist is more likely a Near Eastern immigrant in a luxury car. The Persians, Arabs, Armenians, Israelis, Georgians, Bulgarians, and Russians, however, are not self-conscious about being conspiracy theorists. They don't see themselves as a despised and defiant minority. Back in the old country, nobody doubts that there are conspiracies. The only question is who can come up with the best conspiracy.

So, how could it happen? 

Ironically for somebody concerned about the growth of the Surveillance State, a papparazi (that epitome of the Surveillance Society) hanging out on Santa Monica Blvd. looking for, say, drunken celebrities recorded on his dashboard video camera Hastings blowing through a red light on Highland. A few minutes later, the papp arrived at the fireball.

How Hastings wound up on the median, though, is not obvious. Highland is dead straight and has two lanes each way (but they are narrow lanes). There has been speculation about dips, speedbumps, or potholes causing him to go airborne and lose control. Perhaps, but I watched maybe 100 southbound cars on Highland cross Melrose and continue past the burnt tree. It's unusually smooth and trouble-free for a Los Angeles street. 

Presumably, general reckless driving is to blame, I guess. 

Brave guys tend to be brave about dumb stuff like bad driving, too. Remember how Tom Wolfe kicks off The Right Stuff by reporting that 22% of jet fighter pilots in the postwar era died before the end of their 20-year terms of service? A few hundred pages later he admits that the majority of dead peacetime fighter pilots died in car crashes. (The services would usually write it up as a line of duty death so the widow could get the higher pension, on the grounds that drinking and driving fast is all part of the fighter pilot package.)

But why the huge fire following an impact that just didn't give me the impression that the car was going all that fast when it came to rest against the tree?

I suspected the key is that Hastings' car must have hit at least one fixed object before the tree, which probably did serious damage to the Mercedes (perhaps cutting the fuel line?) and slowed the car down before it hit the tree so that it didn't bounce away.

There's currently a traffic cone sitting on the middle of the grass median about 10 or 20 meters up toward Melrose (the direction from which Hastings came). In the LoudLabs video you can see water squirting straight up into the air from this spot. I don't know if what Hastings' car knocked off was exactly a fire hydrant. It might have been something smaller, such as a metal fixture for controlling sprinklers on the median. In any case, the object perhaps did serious damage to the left side and perhaps underside of the car before the final collision with the tree, and slowed the vehicle down. (Or maybe it was just the curb, but it's not a particularly large or jutting curb. If it was just the curb that set in motion the low-end luxury car's explosion, the widow Hastings should send her lawyer to have a long talk with the Mercedes-Benz corporation.)

Or at least that's what I thought until I tried to see what exactly the obstruction was on Google Maps Streetview. Instead, I just see metal plates flat to the ground. So, maybe I don't know what happened.


wren said...

We need a real LA investigative reporter, like Andrew Breitbart, to get to the bottom of this so that we know that no foul play was involved.

Oh, that right.

Hunsdon said...

In the absence of evidence, apply Goldfinger's rule: Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

IHTG said...

Random Orthodox Jew first to start putting out the fire. O_o

Art Deco said...

How does a car that costs a minimum of $35,000 qualify as 'low-end'?

. (The services would usually write it up as a line of duty death so the widow could get the higher pension, on the grounds that drinking and driving fast is all part of the fighter pilot package.)

Non ci credo.


You might just wait for the accident reconstruction specialists to complete their audit. Wagers he was not sober.

George said...

It's Chinatown, Steve.

eah said...

(perhaps cutting the fuel line?)

To get a fire like that, one would think you'd have to rupture the gas tank. Where is the tank on that model car?

Traveller said...

"to have a long talk with the Mercedes-Benz corporation"

Exactly. Or they swallow the USA govt and they let people believe their cars are designed like crap ("not safe for the childaaaah", heresy in USA), or they go against Obama establishment & co.

Funny dilemma.

just a nobody said...

A few people in the previous story asked for a Google Maps location of the crash site.

Here is the exact location.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, on Mythbusters (Ep. 130) they tried to get a car to explode after going over a cliff, and it turned out to be really difficult. (What I mean by "really difficult" is that they had to strap a gas tank full of gasoline to the front of the car, and cover it with matches).

dearieme said...

The services would usually write it up as a line of duty death so the widow could get the higher pension, on the grounds that all government employment is a conspiracy against the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Briebart's coroner died of arsenic poisoning..
in any event, it would be interesting to see Mercedes reaction - this is 'bad pr' for their car too - no, so it would be interesting to see some automotive engineers say, wait, no that can't happen...

Anonymous said...

Nothing to see here. Please move on. I'm serious.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...


2) 21 Jump Street?!? WTF is that shiznat? If you write up this subject matter for a mainstream outlet, like Taki, then you simply have to force in [no matter how awkwardly] an obligatory TLADILA reference.

I mean, we got standards around here, dude.


Anonymous said...

"Brave guys tend to be brave about dumb stuff like bad driving, too."

I think one kind of bravery comes from being hyper-sensitive to adrenaline. If you get extra-high from adrenaline you might be more tempted to do stuff that causes adrenaline to start pumping.

However copy-catting being such a big part of human nature and coming so close to Snowden I wonder if someone told him something?

Especially with an incoming 9/11 war number...is it four?

Anonymous said...

OK, so it's hard to see how it was "just an accident." But if it wasn't just an accident, how was it done?

Socially Extinct said...

The car crash in Newport Beach last month that killed 5 teens also involved a speeding car into a tree. However that car was estimated to be traveling over 100 mph.

A tank-like Mercedes (even a "lowly" C250) shouldn't eject an engine and catch fire after hitting a tree at 60 mph. I think he was going much faster.

Unknown said...

All cars are equipped with a fuel pump inertia switch which shuts off the fuel pump when the vehicle is involved in a collision, minimizing fuel leakage.

In addition, the wiring would burn early in any fire - cutting off the flow of electricity to the fuel pump.

Thought you should know.


Unknown said...

There is another possibility for the bizarre nature of the fire - perhaps some Directed Energy Weapon?

The Towers were vaporized on 9-11. Otherwise - where is all of the wreckage? Dr. Judy Wood does a great job covering this. Watch her videos and see the odd damage done to cars in the surrounding area. Cars that are burning that are not hot! Firefighters walking by them.


Evil Sandmich said...

In the field reporting, awesome, thanks!

Egon Spengler said...

In the Loudlabs video, the silver car is NOT going 100 mph. It's not even doing 60 mph. Soooooo, to send the engine block "at least 100 feet away" (LAPD version) or "60 yards away" (crash-site witness version) from the crash site means he accelerated really quickly and lost control almost immediately after crossing Melrose.

Or, he didn't, and the fireball was from some unknown source.

Hmm. Might he have been eluding something at that moment?

So, he was going to meet with Jill Kelley, now identified as a "socialite", but previously a lady who might have been regarded (by someone like Paula Broadwell, say) as a some sort of honeytrap/spy/contact? She didn't want the FBI looking too closely into her background, perhaps with good reason. Or not.

Reckless speculation - could her handlers have been worried that Hastings was not as stupid as David Petraeus, and might have asked the wrong questions?

Just adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.

Dave Pinsen said...

I thought Randy Quaid's character in Independence Day was supposed to be Mexican.

Unknown said...

"We need a real LA investigative reporter, like Andrew Breitbart, to get to the bottom of this so that we know that no foul play was involved".

Gary Webb or Danny Casalaro would be better suited for this type of investigation.

TV watcher said...

I always assumed crashing cars explode more often in California because it's sunnier or something.

Anonymous said...

Make no mistake about it, this was an assassination by "Boston Brakes".


Hastings had just contacted a Wikileaks attorney about being followed by the government, and was planning a major story on CIA/NSA spying.

The US is not a special, unique country wherein if you embarrass or threaten the powers that be, they will not come after you. This assassination of Hastings will serve as a warning to other journalists who get too big for their britches. Already the AP has instructed all of its reporters to refer to Snowden as a "leaker" and not a "whistleblower". The media is falling back in line.

Paul Mendez said...

I don't have anything to add to the conversation, but the Captcha was so easy I couldn't resist.

Ethan said...

Brave men often drive like maniacs but knowingly blowing through a red like that is playing Russian Roulette, not the driving of the brave. So he was either outright suicidal or on a Hunter S. Thompson style adventure that blinded him to the red light. Did the police report say if drugs were involved? If not, wtf?

The only other reason you would blow through a red is if you are distracted. Maybe he was driving 80 AND looking at his phone. Pretty crazy, but it's possible.

I wonder what his driving record looks like. At the age of 33, you aren't driving like that unless you have a long history of speeding tickets and accidents. Is that public information?

Anonymous said...

Were there skid marks?

Anonymous said...


As a real life ex-cop who was a trained accident investigator, let me assure you that cars do not "bounce off" trees. They very much tend to wrap themselves around trees.

I investigated wrecks involving automobiles getting hit by trains that were "bounced" (trains in motion have their own momentum, they can mangle a car and throw it a goodly distance). But stationary objects such as houses, street lamps, phone poles, bulldozers, trees, etc absorb the impact and the car always loses.

As to the cause of the fire, I have no comment, as this one isn't "my wreck".

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Not only the Onion but spy novelists are going the way of the blacksmith in today' s "America".

BTW, when you leave the house are you dressed like The Dude? Picture please.


Anonymous said...

If you keep the facts but remove it from US context then people see right away what's going on. Mikhail Khastinsky was writing articles about the FSB and took down one of Putin's top generals. He contacted the Moscow bureau of Wikileaks hours before he died, clamining the FSB was investigating him. He died in a one-car crash hours later. Then they roll their eyes and say, sure.

Anonymous said...

A superhero idea.

Golf Man. Some guy plays golf on a cloudy day and gets hit by lightning. He wakes up to find himself with special powers. His golf club becomes like a special weapon. He hits balls that explode. He rides around in a Golf Cart.

Marlowe said...

Ladies and gentlemen, you've been invited here today for the official announcement of the inquiry into the death of George Hammond. A complete transcript of the investigation is in preparation. This committee has spent nearly six months of investigation, followed by eleven weeks of hearings. After careful deliberation, it is concluded that George Hammond was assassinated by Joseph Frady. An overwhelming body of evidence has revealed that Frady was obsessed with the [Senator Charles] Carroll assassination, and in his confused and distorted state of mind seems to have imagined that Hammond was responsible for the senator's death. He was equally convinced that Hammond was somehow plotting to kill him. And it is for those reasons that Frady assassinated him. Although I'm certain that this will do nothing to discourage the conspiracy peddlers: there is no evidence of a conspiracy in the assassination of George Hammond. Those are our findings. The evidence will be available as soon as possible. Thank you. This is an announcement, gentlemen. There will be no questions.
-- The Parallax View (1974)

Anonymous said...

The accident happened at 4-5AM. The reporter has written about his struggles with alcohol/drugs. I saw a couple articles that said he lives in Vermont. I bet he was away from his wife and hit the sauce for the first time in a while and went too far.

Anonymous said...

"But if it wasn't just an accident, how was it done?"

Something related to the engine block flying out i'd guess.

Anonymous said...

One of Hollywood's endless ploys about the crazy conspiracy theorist in their movies is not to deny that he is, in fact, crazy. Of course he is! It is to reveal, at the end, that about this one particular thing he was right.

Usually this is just a secondary character for comic relief, but it was the entire premise of Mel Gibson's movie "Conspiracy Theory."

I am not an Alex Jones fan, nor a fan of that 'brand' of conspiracy theorist. He may very well be crazy. But, it is not difficult for me to imagine that every now and then he is right about something.

It is episodes like this, regardless of what really did happen, that cause very reasonable people to listen to an Alex Jones type for five minutes at a time.

It is just odd enough to cause one to say, "So, maybe I don't know what happened." And then at the end add, "But, I do wonder."

dirk said...

If he was murdered, I'd guess it was a Hollywood hit. The connection I'd look at is his May 24th story about Die Hard director, John McTiernan, who's serving time for lying to the FBI. Maybe McTiernan learned too much about the Hollywood underworld.

But, as someone else remarked, you're in Chinatown.

Art Deco said...

From USA Today

Coroner's Lt. Fred Corral says Thursday that the findings on the cause of death are deferred pending the results of toxicology tests expected in eight to 10 weeks.

Corral says an autopsy was performed Wednesday and the 33-year-old Hastings was identified by matching fingerprints to prints the FBI had on file.

Art Deco said...

Perhaps one of you might wish to explain why the military-industrial complex wanted to rub out five students from Fairport High School in the Genesee Valley.


Superman said...

Three panhandlers were arrested Wednesday in the fatal stabbing of a young woman who was taking photographs on Hollywood's star-lined "Walk of Fame," Los Angeles police said.

Officers found the 23-year-old woman bleeding from multiple stab wounds near the busy intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue at about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

Don't use terms like 'redneck' which is a racial slur for working-class whites.

How many slurs are there for working-class Jews?
Blacks? Asians?

Need I go on?
Same is true with "hillbillies" and many other slurs, all done against poor white people(or really, just white people in red states who don't live in big cities, they can be really healthy/smart and still be slurred).

Disappointed that you fucked up that one.

Anonymous said...

Jack Stever.


Steve Sailer said...

"when you leave the house are you dressed like The Dude? Picture please."

No, the mental image is plenty.

Sam said...

Here's a video linked from veterans today.


Look at 00:38

See the gas tank on the ground in the back. All the gas tanks I've ever seen were held on by metal straps. It would take an enormous force to break these. Why isn't the tank bent up? It isn't even burnt so...?
Engine blown up the street. Loud explosion. A wild guess some of that fancy nano-thermite used in the World Trade Center. Spray paint it on the underpan of the car. Add radio controlled igniter.

Maybe the enemy's of McChrystal killed him to make it look like he's the one that did it. McChrystal is after after all no longer in power.

DYork said...

I actually got dressed and left the house for once to visit the scene of investigative reporter Michael Hasting's fatal one-car crash southbound on Highland south of Melrose.

You went to the Highland Walk of Flame.

Marlowe said...

I thought of Mr. & Mrs. Sailer more in terms of Nick and Nora Charles. Or Hart to Hart if one prefers a Mannix type reference.

Dave Pinsen said...

Since a commenter above mentioned To Live and Die in LA, a question about that: watching a bit of it on cable recently, I think one of the secret service agents lived in a house right on the beach. Would a house like that have been affordable for a secret service agent in the mid-'80s?

Anonymous said...

Could've been a localized earthquake that threw his car airborne.

Icepick said...

Hmm. Might he have been eluding something at that moment?

A drone? Did that car have a moon roof?

d said...

David Geffen's biographer died suddenly of....something. True he was gay and had just come back from a party, but still. Weird.

Meanwhile here in NYC the talk of the town is Bear, the police dog, who busted up four "rowdy" women fighting on a subway platform. One of the fair ladies decided to plant her delicately shod foot in the mouth of the German shepard. The latter responded in gentlemanly fashion by clamping his jaws around her foot. He exercised more restraint than many a brother, by not cracking her ankle.

For his trouble the pooch suffered broken teeth and tongue lacerations. The perp has not apologized.


The Times tried to make a big joke of it. Well, I guess I did too.

The woman really should win a Darwin award, but the joke's on us. She's 21 and probably has three kids.

Anonymous said...

"Email from Michael Hastings before crash mentions FBI probe"


"In an email sent hours before his death in a single-car L.A. crash, journalist Michael Hastings wrote that his “close friends and associates” were being interviewed by the FBI and he was going to “go off the radar for a bit.”
According to the email, sent to KTLA, Hastings wrote he was working on a “big story” and was going to disappear. He told his colleagues that if the FBI came to interview them, they should have legal counsel present.

The subject of the email was “FBI Investigation re: NSA.” Hastings sent the email to his colleagues just before 1 p.m. Monday."

Kibernetika said...

It's time to sit back on one's haunches, eastern style (with scythian, slanted eyes), and see what information time and evidence provide.

I'm a terrible person, it's certainly true, but I don't think there's anything to see here.

As others have said, the guy was prolly just tanked. He was much less a threat to our nation than most of our own senators, really!

Anonymous said...

The Google Street View images are two years old. That could explain any discrepancies.

Education Realist said...

"I thought Randy Quaid's character in Independence Day was supposed to be Mexican."

No, his dead wife was Mexican, I thought.

Steve, is there a reason you don't leave the house that I missed, or are you doing the blogger in pjs thing?

Chief Seattle said...

I drove like a bat out of hell s***head at 18 and even a bit at 26. But by 33 it was all out of me and I drive like an old man. I know plenty of other guys like me that used to wreck anything they could get their hands on at 20, but now are happy to do 72 in a 65. I can't imagine that the same 33 year old 1. could hold down a steady job. 2. bought a low-end mercedes sedan. 3. drove at an out of control speed in a neighborhood. It just doesn't make sense. Clear message from TPTB. Like Breitbart's heart attack at age 41 or whatever. When was the last time you heard of that?

Anonymous said...

A part of Santa Monica and venice were crime-ridden during the 1970s and early '80s, so a cop might have been able to buy in at that time.


Kocour said...

Not just fighter pilots.

From Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers:

Adding to the problems of frustration and anger caused by the point system was the combination of too much liquor, too many pistols, and too many captured vehicles. Road accidents were almost as dangerous to the 101st in Austria as the German Army had been in Belgium. In the first three weeks in Austria, there were seventy wrecks, more in the six weeks of June and July. Twenty men were killed, nearly 100 injured.

John M said...

I've probably seen the results of 200 utility pole hits during the past twenty five years. I've never seen one that resulted in a fire. On the other hand, that fellow from the Jackass show on MTV hit a tree while driving some kind of race tuned Porsche 911 and killed himself and an acquaintance. His car burned like a Sherman tank at Kasserine Pass. He was supposedly doing over a hundred when he lost it. So - inconclusive. Of course, nothing would surprise me any more.

Whittaker said...

He'd just emailed that he was on to a big story:


They don't have to care whether we know they kill, as long as we can't prove it, do they? If we're afraid, that suits their purpose just fine.

That's actually more than tokenly frightening, that they can know everything electronic that they want.

oops I'm doing this submission wrong I think - sorry.

just a nobody said...

There is something weirdly disrespectful in that Youtube video of the news report: when it shows the face of Hastings against the backdrop of the burning car, it suddenly flares up with a quite a pop.

Anonymous said...

Three drunk teens entering my subdivision going 80 mph in the middle of the night bounced up from the little dip in the pavement and hit a tree in the median. Their car burst into flames and they were killed.

I can't remember the make of car but it belonged to the father of one of them and it was a bigger, more substantial brand.

A policeman was following them and recorded it on his dashboard camera.

Anonymous said...

1. LA is not the United States any longer, so it is no wonder it operates differently than the United States. LA exists in its own bizarre multi-cultural universe. 2. People on this website are far more conspiracy minded than any Persian in LA, so not sure what the first point is supposed to mean.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to a story about the crash in my neighborhood in Bryan, Texas.


FWG said...

I would ask if you're depressed Steve, but then I realized you were probably just concerned about being mobbed by your legion of fans.

Anonymous said...


"Hastings Car Crash: Murder or Suicide?

Below is the account of the only known witness who saw the Michael Hasting's car crash from beginning to end. It is appears from this account that Hasting's was not simply driving at a high rate of speed but that the vehicle was going at a speed that was unsustainable.

This seems to suggest only three possibilities:

1. There was a malfunction that caused the car to accelerate and which Hastings could not override.

2. He was actively attempting to commit suicide.

3. The electronic management of the car was taken over by an unknown via the "Boston Brake" technique."

inquire wire said...

"The Towers were vaporized on 9-11. Otherwise - where is all of the wreckage? Dr. Judy Wood does a great job covering this. Watch her videos and see the odd damage done to cars in the surrounding area. Cars that are burning that are not hot! Firefighters walking by them. "


6/21/13, 7:11 AM

She has done incredible work. On 9/11/01, she was a professor at VA Tech. She was so sure that what happened to the Twin Towers was impossible as being "explained" on TV, that she looked at her colleagues (true believers all, apparently) and just asked incredulously, "You believe that..?"
Magic planes. Magic bullets. They manipulate reality before our very eyes, and keep us in line by having the "sane" among us call anyone who sees what he sees and asks questions, crazy. With the right programming in place, we police ourselves and those around us.
Dr. Wood ignored that. Despite her career being threatened, she looked at the evidence, and only the evidence.

David said...

Many people who don't like to go out aren't depressed, they're introverted. Not the same thing, but it's very difficult to get extroverts to grasp that.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Stanley McCrystal with a rocket launcher. Has anyone checked out his alibi?

Anonymous said...

"I actually got dressed and left the house for once." Hm, you're just confirming the stereotype of bloggers in their pajamas...

Pat Boyle said...

Steve, you started this. You therefore have an obligation.

You must warn preppers that their hidey-holes may not be deep enough if the bad guys are using 'Directed Energy Weapons'.


Anonymous said...

First of all, I am not an American; and I do not know who Hastings is beyond the wiki article I read moments ago. But as a middle eastern with more experience with byzantine perception of the world, if there is such a thing, I want to point this out :
This could be an accident as much as I [do not] know. But the problem is that in but 1 or 2 days LAPD declared that they found no evidence of foul play and by now everyone who believes there can be some foul play is a raving lunatic. Reuters article quoted in wikipedia who quoted "LAPD" does not report what steps did the LAPD had taken until then.

Everyone who claims that there is nothing interesting without telling what kind of investigation they conducted to reach that conclusion is just trying to manipulate the discourse. They should be ignored, if not held accountable; and anyone who takes them seriously is STUPID, however witty you think your latest tinfoil-hat snark is notwithstanding.

A journalist who used to report on intelligence/special ops was killed in a single car accident shortly after he thought he was being investigated by FBI, which promptly denied such investigation. So there is strong suspicion of a crime having been committed, namely impersonating a federal agent. Although its punishment is not harsh enough to give Texans death porn chubbies and tingles, it is a starting point. Who would go to trouble to convince someone familiar with intelligence community that he is being investigated by FBI, and to what end?

In any sane [and reasonably honest] world a grand jury [or a judge if you have a continental system] would start with investigating that crime and start handing out summons and indictments for obstruction of justice, dereliction of duty, bribery etc. Worst thing that would happen is some corrupt officials will lose jobs and go behind bars. Shake the tree hard enough and you'll see some apples fall. And maybe there really is nothing, and then you will know. Then you can be contented, instead of complacent.

Anonymous said...

In response to your question about the water, hydrant, etc-There was no hydrant there, just a faucet mounted on a U shaped plastic pipe. Not likely that it could have done any damage to the underside of the vehicle. I just posted an article in which I discuss the pipe and where it ended up


george said...