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Wed11252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

In this space back on April 2, I was feeling sad, in part due to the fact that—other than bad ’80s music—most of my normal coping mechanisms were gone due to the lockdown:

On days like this during “normal” times, there are a handful of things I know I can do to get my head into a happier, more-productive frame of mind. Watching or listening to baseball, for example. A quick dip in the apartment hot tub helps. For some reason, a quick Aldi run does the trick. Yes, I am weird: Grocery shopping normally clears my head.

But … there’s no baseball. The apartment hot tub is closed, per state orders. And grocery shopping is daunting these days, and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

Today, as October prepares to make way for November, the apartment complex’s hot tub is open again. Grocery-store runs are less daunting (with plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer!). And then there’s baseball: If you’d have told me on back on April 2 that on Oct. 28, I’d be celebrating my Los Angeles Dodgers’ first World Series win since 1988, I’d have been euphoric—because at that point, I didn’t think there would be a 2020 baseball season at all.

This brings us to the nauseating peculiarities of last night’s World Series Game 6, during which the Dodgers won their elusive championship.

At the beginning of the eighth inning, the Dodgers’ star third baseman, Justin Turner, was mysteriously removed from the game; the announcers speculated that he may have suffered some sort of injury. Fortunately, Turner’s absence didn’t cost the Dodgers; they went on to win, 3-1, clinching the series, four games to two.

I stood in my living room, close to tears, as I watched it all unfold. I was so grateful that we got baseball this year. And I was elated that my team had won it all, after years of near misses, for the first time since my middle school years.

And then came the announcement: Justin Turner had been removed from the game because he’d tested positive for COVID-19.

Had the Rays won that game, there almost certainly would not have been a deciding Game 7 tonight; it would have been postponed, like so many other sports contests have been postponed as this virus continues to spread. If other players subsequently tested positive—as of this writing, no other positive tests have been announced, thank goodness—it’s possible Game 7 could have been delayed for up to a week, and possibly even cancelled.

To make matters even crazier, Turner decided to leave the area to which he’d been quarantined to join his teammates on the field during the latter portion of the post-game celebration. And it’s since been revealed that Turner was allowed to stay in the game after the league learned, apparently during the second inning, that Turner had received an “inconclusive” test result. According to league protocols, he should have been removed from the game right then and there.

In other words, even though baseball made it through the season, it barely did so—with plenty of questionable behavior all around. In typical 2020 fashion, we can’t even have a dramatic World Series win without a depressing subplot.

In terms of dealing with this damned pandemic, we’ve come a long way. But the full story of the World Series shows how far we’ve yet to go.

Today’s news:

Health-care workers at 11 Tenet-operated hospitals in California—including Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, JFK Memorial in Indio, and the High Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree—have voted to strike sometime soon. These members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West say Tenet is not doing enough to keep both workers and patients safe during the pandemic. Read the strike announcement here; for more on the concerns the workers have, read the Independent’s coverage here.

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and largely rural points eastward.) Our numbers here remain so-so: Cases are trending up slightly, while our weekly case-positivity rate remains OK (5.2 percent). Hospitalizations are also steady. (Ignore the weird Oct. 25 ICU spike; that didn’t actually happen and had to do with a data glitch.) Worst of all, five of our neighbors died from COVID-19 during the week ending Oct. 25.

• Related: COVID-19 is now the No. 3 cause of death in Riverside County, behind heart disease and cancer—and it continues to disproportionately kill Black and Latino residents, according to county Director of Public Health Kim Saruwatari. Key quote, from the Riverside Press-Enterprise: “Saruwatari also addressed the assertion by many pandemic skeptics that COVID-19 deaths are being inflated. ‘When we look at 2019 compared to 2020, cancer and heart disease, our leading causes of death, have increased in 2020, as did COVID,’ Saruwatari said. ‘So it’s not that we are detracting from our other leading causes of death and adding to COVID. We are seeing a true increase in death due to COVID.’

A statewide moratorium on water-service shutoffs remains in effect, to make sure people who can’t pay their water bills due to the economic downturn don’t lose this vital utility. The Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to two of the largest valley water agencies regarding how the moratorium is affecting their finances; learn what they had to say here.

• Remember that anonymously written op-ed that appeared in The New York Times back in 2018, in which a senior official in the Trump administration claimed a lot of White House employees were working hard to counter the president’s “misguided impulses”? Well, the author revealed himself today—and it’s Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security. Who in the heck is Miles Taylor, you ask? The Los Angeles Times explains.

• So … why in the world did the president and other members of his administration spill the beans so extensively to Bob Woodward, of all people, earlier this year? The latest stunner to come out of those conversations came out of the mouth of Jared Kushner, per CNN: “In a taped interview on April 18, Kushner told legendary journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was ‘getting the country back from the doctors’ in what he called a ‘negotiated settlement.’ Kushner also proclaimed that the US was moving swiftly through the ‘panic phase’ and ‘pain phase’ of the pandemic and that the country was at the ‘beginning of the comeback phase.’” What?! 

• Cases in Europe are surging—and governments there are locking down again. However, at least in Germany, there’s a key difference compared to what’s happening here, per The New York Times: “(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel conceded that the restrictions are ‘burdensome’ for a public that has grown increasingly weary of—and rebellious toward—limitations. But she stressed that they were necessary. German hospitals have seen the number of patients double in the past 10 days. The government will compensate small and midsize businesses affected by the monthlong closures with up to 75 percent of losses, the chancellor said. Financial aid for affected business will be worth up to 10 billion euros.”

• Related: The former commissioner of the FDA says the U.S. is about three weeks behind Europe in terms of the coronavirus surge. Key quote, from CNBC: “‘The density of the epidemic underway in European countries like France, Italy and the U.K. right now far exceeds what’s under way in the United States,’ he said. ‘For the most part, it’s a little bad everywhere in the United States. It’s not really, really bad anywhere with the exception of maybe Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Utah.’” Gulp.

• From The Conversation: Donald Trump’s support among evangelicals is beginning to slip … but just a little. Key quote: “What appears to have changed of late is that some politically conservative evangelicals—those who prioritize abortion restrictions, opposition to same-sex marriage and religious freedom—agree less than they did in 2016 that Trump deserves their vote. While President Trump may not be ‘pastor-in-chief,’ many evangelical leaders are reminding their fellow Christians that they should not view the office of president as somehow exempt from what they perceive as biblical standards of leadership.

A recent Axios-Ipsos poll shows that most Americans are taking the pandemic seriously, and exercising necessary precautions. Key quote: “A majority of Americans remain extremely or very concerned about the coronavirus, and about the possibility of cases rising in their area this fall and winter. However, there continues to be a significant difference in levels of concern by party affiliation.

• And finally: While things in many ways are terrible right now, at least we have this re-creation of that Access Hollywood interview of Trump by Billy Bush, compliments of Sarah Cooper and Helen Mirren.

As always, thanks for reading. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re able; advertising remains way down due to the pandemic, so we’re depending on reader support more than ever before. Be safe, please; the Daily Digest will return Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

Here are two passages from The New York Times’ summary story on the Breonna Taylor case.

A grand jury indicted a former Louisville police officer on Wednesday for wanton endangerment for his actions during the raid. No charges were announced against the other two officers who fired shots, and no one was charged for causing Ms. Taylor’s death.

Brett Hankison, a detective at the time, fired into the sliding glass patio door and window of Ms. Taylor’s apartment, both of which were covered with blinds, in violation of a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight.

He is the only one of the three officers who was dismissed from the force, with a termination letter stating that he showed “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”

Second:

Ms. Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had been in bed, but got up when they heard a loud banging at the door. Mr. Walker said he and Ms. Taylor both called out, asking who was at the door. Mr. Walker later told the police he feared it was Ms. Taylor’s ex-boyfriend trying to break in.

After the police broke the door off its hinges, Mr. Walker fired his gun once, striking Sergeant Mattingly in a thigh. The police responded by firing several shots, striking Ms. Taylor five times. One of the three officers on the scene, Detective Brett Hankison, who has since been fired, shot 10 rounds blindly into the apartment.

Mr. Walker told investigators that Ms. Taylor coughed and struggled to breathe for at least five minutes after she was shot, according to The Louisville Courier Journal. An ambulance on standby outside the apartment had been told to leave about an hour before the raid, counter to standard practice. As officers called an ambulance back to the scene and struggled to render aid to their colleague, Ms. Taylor was not given any medical attention.

Can someone explain to me how these two passages jibe? Can someone explain how a woman, who had been sleeping in her own bed, can be shot five times, and then ignored, in violation of standard police practice—with nobody held accountable? How is this justice?

More news from the day:

• If you want to follow more news on the aftermath of the Breonna Taylor announcements today, I recommend checking out the Louisville Courier Journal website. There’s a lot of good stuff therein.

• An update: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted 3-2 to delay by two weeks a decision on whether to push ahead with its own reopening plan—which would mean disregarding the orders from the state. Key quote, from the Riverside Press-Enterprise: “Supervisors also want more details on exactly what state funding would be at risk should the county defy Sacramento’s reopening guidelines. And they seek more clarity on when different types of businesses could reopen.

• Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order today banning new gasoline-powered cars in California within 15 years. Hooray for the environment—although there are justifiable concerns over the fact that electric cars are more expensive, among other possible issues. Our partners at CalMatters explain.

Disneyland is crabby that theme parks have not yet been allowed to reopen. In the theme park’s defense, the state has been taking its own sweet time (read: many months) in issuing any guidance whatsoever on theme parks. There’s also this key quote from the Riverside Press-Enterprise: “No COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Legoland and Cedar Fair parks in Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan, according to state health agencies and theme park officials.” (The key word there may be “reported.”)

• The Washington Post, via SFGate, looks at a new study showing how the coronavirus has mutated since the pandemic began. Key takeaway: It may be changing to become more contagious.

Dr. Deborah Birx is unhappy with how things are going as the coordinator of the White House coronavirus tax force, according to CNN.

The headline on this piece from The Atlantic is scary … and the words that follow are even scarier: “The Election That Could Break America: If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?”

• Good news: The self-response rate for the Census, both statewide and locally, is picking up. Bad news: A whole lot of people still haven’t responded, and the Census deadline is the end of the month. If you have not yet responded, please head to https://my2020census.gov/ and do so.

How will we know when a vaccine is safe and ready to go? A professor of medicine from the University if Virginia, writing for The Conversation, explains.

• A new CDC study shows that more than 90 percent of Americans remain susceptible to COVID-19. Translation: We’re nowhere close to herd immunity, despite what the president and Rand Paul want to believe. Key quote, from CBS News: “(CDC Director Dr. Robert) Redfield said the CDC is currently conducting a ‘very large’ study in an effort to determine how the country has been affected by COVID-19. He said that some states are seeing infection rates of 15 percent to 20 percent—with one as high as 24 percent—while others are seeing a less than 1 percent infection rate.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz blocked a ceremonial U.S. Senate resolution honoring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Why? (Other than the fact that, you know, he’s Ted Cruz?) He objected to a mention of Ginsburg’s dying wish, as reported by family members, that the current president doesn’t select her successor.

• The swamp is alive and well in Washington, D.C., if this lede from NBC News is any indication: “The consulting firm where the wife of acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf is an executive has been awarded more than $6 million in contracts from the Department of Homeland Security since September 2018, according to records on the federal government website USA Spending.”

• Despite the recession and the pandemic, Palm Springs has been a darling of the airline industry over the last month. Simple Flying sums up the new airlines and flights that are coming to our li’l Coachella Valley.

• Since movie theaters finally opening here this weekend, here’s the Independent’s review of Tenet, including a now-out-of-date headline.

• Finally, Independent cocktail columnist Kevin Carlow is developing a bar program for a Palm Springs hotel, and in the process, he’s been trying to answer the question: Is there such a thing as a midcentury-modern, Palm Springs golden era cocktail? Here’s what he’s come up with so far.

Be safe out there, everyone. If you have the means, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back on Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

Now that Labor Day Weekend is in the figurative rearview mirror, a lot of people are starting to look toward the holidays—and with that, people will come to the realization that, as with everything else since February, things will be quite different this year.

My husband I have already started talking about our holiday plans. Our family gatherings are pretty small; most of our closest relatives have passed away, and the ones who are left are scattered across the country—except for my mom, and Garrett’s dad and stepmom, all of whom live in Reno. In recent years, we’ve spent Christmas with the three of them, either here or in Reno.

We’ve decided that we’ll likely do the same this year. We’ll probably all get COVID-19 tests before we get together to minimize the risk. There are only five of us, so it seems doable, if still perhaps a little scary.

Last year, the parents visited us in Palm Springs, and we all went to a large, chosen-family dinner on Christmas day at a friend’s house. There were 30 or so people there, and it was absolutely amazing. Such large family gatherings would be incredibly irresponsible this year—at least as things stand now.

Now, it is possible that there could be some sort of advancement between now and then; Christmas is still 3 1/2 months away, after all, and the arrival of inexpensive, speedy, no-lab-needed COVID-19 tests could make larger gatherings more feasible. Maybe.

Then again, there’s also talk of a fall-and-winter combination COVID and influenza surge.

Damn it, 2020.

Before we get to today’s news, two pleas. First: If you have the means, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep producing quality local journalism; click here to do so. Second: If you haven’t yet voted in the first round of the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, please do so by clicking here. Thanks!

Today’s news:

• You’ve probably heard this already, but just in case you haven’t, brace yourself for epic stupidity: The El Dorado Fire, which has burned 7,000 acres so far near Yucaipa and is responsible for the choking smoke in the valley today, was started by morons using a pyrotechnic device at a gender-reveal party.

• Related: Due to the dry, convection-oven-like conditions ’round these parts, the U.S. Forest Service is closing access to Southern California’s national forests, because you never know when cretins may show up, even though it’s 110 degrees and as dry as a popcorn fart, TO SET OFF INCENDIARY DEVICES TO ANNOUNCE THE GENITALIA OF A YET-TO-BE-BORN CHILD. Arrrgh!

• OK, it’s time for a drink! I’ve been enjoying the Boulevardier recently. Unfamiliar? It’s like a Negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin. Here’s a recipe. They’re quite lovely, even if the trademark bitterness from the Campari takes some getting used to. From the Independent archives: Cocktail scribe Kevin Carlow suggests adding walnut to things to make the drink even more festive—far more festive and infinitely less dangerous than a fire-tinged gender-reveal party!

• OK, whew. Now that we’ve calmed down a bit, let’s get back to the fire-related news: More than 2 million acres have burned this year so far in Californiaand that’s a new record.

• Related: The Los Angeles Times looks at the massive toll the August Dome Fire took on the Joshua tree forest. Key quote: “Preserve botanist Drew Kaiser estimated that about a quarter of the sprawling Cima Dome Joshua tree forest—which extends beyond the preserve boundaries north of Interstate 15—was destroyed. But that quarter is a place that some desert lovers call one of their favorite spots on the planet.

The Washington Post over the weekend broke this story: “Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates—money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.” That, of course, is quite illegal.

• Some sort-of good news: Some Californians on unemployment will soon be seeing an extra $900 show up, following President Trump’s executive order.

• Here’s some not-so-good and certainly more bonkers news related to Trump: In response to a tweet claiming California has implemented the use of the 1619 Project in schools (which hasn’t happened), the president threatened to withhold funding from schools that do so. What’s the 1619 Project? It “teaches American history beginning with the arrival of slaves to Virginia in the year 1619 and focuses on the contributions of Black Americans.” Sigh.

• Back to some good news: The Wall Street Journal looks at the fantastic success of an initiative to recruit poll workers, thanks to large companies giving employees paid time off to volunteer. Key quote: “Power the Polls, an initiative to recruit low-risk poll workers to staff in-person voting locations on Election Day and during early voting in October, has joined with more than 70 companies, including Starbucks Corp. and Patagonia, to connect people who want to volunteer during the election with counties that offer training. Last week the Civic Alliance, the group behind the campaign, said it surpassed its goal of recruiting 250,000 volunteer poll workers through its corporate partnerships and now has more than 350,000 people signed on to help with the election.”

A federal judge will hear arguments regarding the Trump administration’s plans to end U.S. Census work early. Key quote, from the San Francisco Chronicle: “(U.S. District Judge Lucy) Koh will hear arguments Sept. 17 on requests by the plaintiffs for an injunction that would reverse the one-month speedup. They sought an immediate restraining order after the Justice Department told Koh in a court filing that the Census Bureau ‘has already begun taking steps to conclude field operations,’ which ‘are scheduled to be wound down throughout September by geographic regions based on response rates within those regions.’”

• OK, I am just going to leave this New York Times headline right here, shake my head and walk away: “Trump Emerges as Inspiration for Germany’s Far Right: Among German conspiracy theorists, ultranationalists and neo-Nazis, the American president is surfacing as a rallying cry, or even as a potential ‘liberator.’

• While movie theaters aren’t yet open here, they’re open in about two-thirds of the country—and this weekend, Tenet became the first major release since … well, you know, to open only in theaters. The New York Times looks at how the film did at the box office—and what that means for other upcoming releases.

• Finally, as Labor Day 2020 comes to an end: A professor, writing for The Conversation, looks at the philosophy of Simone Weil, who helped change the way people look at work in the early 20th century. Key quote: “Work must be seen in its larger context, for if it isn’t, laborers may soon feel like cogs in a machine, winding a nut onto a bolt or moving papers from an inbox to an outbox. To do work well, people need to understand the context of work and how it makes a difference in the lives of others.

Be safe. Be kind. Wear a mask around others. Wash your hands. Thanks for reading; the Daily Digest will be back Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest

(4 1/2 of 5 stars)

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is the sort of movie you need to just take in the first time you see it. Don’t try to figure stuff out; if your brain picks up on shit, fine. If not, relax, because it all does make sense in that Christopher Nolan-puzzler sort of way. You’ll figure it out later.

After many postponements, Hollywood rolled the dice and put Tenet exclusively in theaters, at a time when films like Mulan (exclusively on Disney+) and Bill and Ted Face the Music (a combo of streaming and in-theater releases) dabble with new release formulas, because theaters remain closed in a third of the country—and because COVID-19 is still very much a threat. 

Yeah, I risked life and limb to go to the recently reopened AMC (I’m currently in Texas) to watch this in IMAX. Putting the quality of the film aside, I must confess that this was the most fun I’ve had since closing the vault door to my apartment six months ago and staying in there every day. It was a WOW moment for me to plant myself in a theater chair for the first time in half a year and get my ears and face blasted with a Nolan film. Since theaters aren’t open yet in the Coachella Valley, if you want to see Tenet, you’re either going to need to wait a bit, or make the two-hour trek to San Diego County, which is one step ahead of us on the state’s “county risk” scale.

John David Washington plays a character called “The Protagonist,” an agent of some sort on a mission to find pieces of a complex puzzle to save the world—and that’s all I’m telling you about the plot. Robert Pattinson (recently sidelined on The Batman shoot due after testing positive for COVID-19) is a terrific sidekick as another mysterious agent, while Elizabeth Debicki mesmerizes as Kat, the troubled wife of Andrei, a nasty, nasty guy played by Kenneth Branagh.

The film is visually stunning and at times totally confusing—but it pays off in the end with revelations that tie things up just enough, although you’ll probably spend the next five days putting the remaining mysteries together.

I’ve already had a couple of fun conversations about Tenet with my brother where we argue over what certain things meant. I love movies that spark that kind of conversation.

Tenet is now playing in theaters in San Diego County.

Published in Reviews