Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

I received some interesting reader responses to yesterday’s news that Riverside County was being demoted from the red, “Substantial” COVID-19 tier to the purple, “Widespread” tier. Here are three of those responses, slightly edited for style:

Gyms don’t make people sick; shitty food does, though. The fact that fast-food joints and cannabis shops are considered ESSENTIAL IS LUDICROUS. California invented the entire “fitness industry” and now they’re trying to destroy it. Why has no one in a position of leadership made any statement whatsoever about staying in shape and eating healthy—the most important things you can do?! Instead, people are told to stay home, order pizza and get fat.

I understand why you’re bummed about businesses closing—we all are. But you should point out there’s one person to blame for all of this: Trump. If he had properly led from the beginning and made sure everyone was on the same page with mask-wearing (after Fauci learned its importance), I believe most businesses would be open.

Business owners are venting at our responsible governor when he’s done everything he can to slow the spread. You can use this analogy with your readers: Trump is the divorced dad who has his kids on the weekend and never says no to them—including underage alcohol parties, wild sex and “screw the neighbors.” Newsom is the mom who has to be responsible in guiding her kids to make the right choices so they won’t harm themselves and succeed in life and don’t turn out to be delinquents.

“Dad” Trump will be gone after Jan. 21 while “mom” Newsom will be around at least until the next election, faced with cleaning up after the “dad’s” mess.

You said: “To those of you who look at this information and shout, ‘Lives are more important than businesses!’ You need to realize that lives and businesses are inextricably intertwined. Business are life-long dreams, sources of income, sanity-maintaining distractions and so much more, to so many people.” THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING THIS! So many of us small business owners feel unheard and left behind.

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News from the day:

• Example No. 244,851 of the importance of local journalism: The FBI raided the Borrego Community Healthcare Foundation as part of an investigation yesterday; you can read the San Diego Union-Tribune’s coverage of the raid here. The nonprofit medical provider—which has multiple locations in the Coachella Valley—started off in Borrego Springs, a small town in San Diego County south of Palm Desert and west of the Salton Sea, before expanding to become a behemoth provider in San Diego, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. So … what does this have to do with local journalism? The look into potential wrongdoing at Borrego appears to have started months ago, at the tiny Borrego Sun newspaper, which has a special page dedicated to its Borrego Community Healthcare Foundation coverage here. Props to the Borrego Sun for its work.

• An update on those shady ballot boxes put out by the California Republican Party, from the Los Angeles Times: “A Sacramento judge refused Wednesday to order the California Republican Party to disclose information about its ballot drop box program to state officials, rejecting an argument by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra that the investigation was essential to ensuring ballots are being properly handled. The decision by Judge David Brown does not prevent Becerra and Secretary of State Alex Padilla from returning to court over the matter but marks a significant victory for GOP officials who have insisted their ballot collection campaign is following state election law.

• President Trump sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes yesterday—and it apparently did not go well. According to CNN: “Trump walked out of the interview because he was frustrated with (Lesley) Stahl's line of questioning, one source said. Another person said the bulk of the interview was focused on coronavirus. On Wednesday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said there is a ‘high probability’ that the President will release footage of the interview before it airs Sunday, and accused Stahl of acting ‘more like an opinion journalist.’” Sigh.

The pope has come out in favor of civil unions for same-sex couples. According to The Washington Post: “Francis’s comment does nothing to alter Catholic doctrine, but it nonetheless represents a remarkable shift for a church that has fought against LGBT legal rights—with past popes calling same-sex unions inadmissible and deviant. Francis’s statement is also notable within a papacy that on the whole hasn’t been as revolutionary as progressives had hoped and conservatives had feared.

• And now we get to the portion of the Daily Digest where we say something positive about the president. Yes, really. The Washington Post ran a fascinating piece today discussing how truly, honestly close we apparently are to having a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Key quote: “‘Going from where we were in January and February—where we are going to be hit by this tsunami—to very likely having a vaccine, or more than one vaccine, that is proven safe and effective within a year, is staggeringly impressive, and would only have happened with strong and effective federal action,’ said Robert Wachter, the chair of the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. Wachter has strongly criticized the administration’s response to the pandemic, arguing it has cost tens of thousands of lives. But he called the vaccine effort ‘nearly flawless’ so far—words he said he found difficult to say.”

• Our partners at CalMatters are reporting that Gov. Gavin Newsom is about to get sued by environmental-group Center for Biological Diversity, because he continues to allow fracking permits. Key quote: “(Kassie) Siegel said the permits are ‘illegal’ and fail to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The Center for Biological Diversity warned Newsom on Sept. 21 of their intent to sue if his administration continued to issue fracking permits.

The Conversation takes a look at violence taking place against female political leaders—with male lawmakers often the perpetrators. Key quote: “On Sept. 24, House Democrats Rashida Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Jackie Speier introduced a resolution–a largely symbolic congressional statement that carries no legal weight but provides moral support on certain issues–recognizing violence against women in politics as a global phenomenon. House Resolution 1151, which is currently under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, calls on the government to take steps to mitigate this violence in the United States and abroad.”

• Speaking of violence in politics: Some voters in Alaska and Florida have received emails threatening them to vote for Trump, “or we will come after you.” Some of the emails say they were sent by the Proud Boys, but NPR reports that seems unlikely, and the group is denying involvement—and in fact, NBC News says the FBI thinks Iran may be involved.

• The good news: NPR looks at increasing evidence that COVID-19 death rates are going down because medical professionals have gotten a lot better at treating the disease:Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drop is seen in all groups, including older patients and those with underlying conditions, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness.

• The bad: There’s yet more evidence that the pandemic is taking more lives than those included in the official death counts for COVID-19. According to the CDC: “Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to COVID-19. The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.”

• More CDC-related news: The agency has released new guidance on what, exactly, it means to be in “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19. According to the Washington Post: “The CDC had previously defined a ‘close contact’ as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The updated guidance, which health departments rely on to conduct contact tracing, now defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, according to a CDC statement Wednesday.

If a voter shows up to a polling place without a mask on Election Day, they will not be turned away, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Do you subscribe to Quibi? No? Neither do I—and therefore it’s no surprise that the streaming service announced it was shutting down today, even though backers had raised $1.75 billion (!) to launch the company.

• And now for some happier, local entertainment news, from the Independent: “There has been almost no programming from the Coachella Valley’s theater companies since the pandemic arrived and ruined everything in March—with one notable exception: CVRep, and its Theatre Thursday virtual shows. And if the California Department of Public Health gives the OK, CVRep—in conjunction with Cathedral City—could become the first local theater company to bring live productions back to the Coachella Valley, starting in December.” Read what CVRep’s Ron Celona had to say here.

• And finally … I am sorry to put this mental picture in your head, but it appears Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character caught Rudy Giuliani doing something less than appropriate: “In the film, (slated to be) released on Friday (Oct. 23), the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is posing as a TV journalist.”

Again, thanks for reading. The Daily Digest will return Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

The new development in Orange County featured lovely homes, wide streets and lots of families. Block parties were common in the neighborhood, and everyone seemed to know everyone else.

The couple on the corner socialized—always as a couple. In fact, the wife didn’t even drive: Her husband took her to the market. They seemed inseparable and always appeared happy. The other wives were jealous. “My husband would never go to the market with me,” they would say, enviously.

It wasn’t until much later that we found out he was beating the crap out of her behind their lovely drapes. Perhaps that explained why she never socialized by herself and often would not be seen for several days at a time.

With the recent high-profile stories of “domestic” abuse—named as if were somehow tamer than other violence—I’ve been thinking about that woman, and how isolated she must have felt. In those days, back in the 1960s, nobody talked openly about what happened behind closed doors. In those days, it wasn’t even considered possible that a man could be guilty of raping his wife. After all, they were married.

My next experience of such abuse was the young couple who lived downstairs. We used to hear them fight through the thin walls of the apartment complex. It got so loud and scary several times that we called the police. In those days, the early 1970s, police would show up, talk to the people involved, try to settle the guy down, and leave. Police used to tell me such calls were often the most dangerous, because they were never sure what might happen. If they were scared, think about how the women felt.

It never occurred to me that what had gone on in my own home while I was young could be classified as domestic abuse. I remember when my father would explode in anger when my mother broke the yolks while making his breakfast eggs. I remember the times my mom and I were laughing about something that happened to me at school that day—but when we heard his car drive up, we would look around the house to make sure nothing obvious would set him off.

My father never raised a hand to my mom, although he did once explode and start hitting me. I am not sure to this day why it happened, but I think it was because my parents had been discussing money issues—and I, not having any idea what was going on, walked into the kitchen to ask for some money for something I needed for school.

“I can’t even afford new shoes,” my father said.

“I’ve never kept you from buying shoes,” I replied.

He exploded and came after me, throwing me across the room and hitting me. I thought he might kill me—he was so enraged. My mom broke it up, and he left the house for several days. When he returned, I asked my mom, “Why did you let him come back?” She said, “I hope someday, someone will love you as much as your father loves me.”

All I could think was, “I hope not!”

At my 25th high school reunion, some friends and I were sitting around reminiscing about those long-ago days. “You know why we never came over to your house very often,” one said to me. “Your dad was so abusive.” I was shocked. I had never put that label on what happened in my family.

Despite my years in the women’s movement—including marching to raise consciousness about violence against women—I, too, ended up in a relationship that included abusive behavior. I finally left after “only” one hit, but the verbal invectives and threat that he could blow up at any time permeated our household. I didn’t leave soon enough.

People ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did she stay?”

The reasons are as varied as the individual situations. It’s because you know him and love him, and he’s always sorry and promises it won’t happen again. It’s because you can’t support yourself and your children and have nowhere to go. Often, it’s because you’ve been deliberately isolated from family and friends, totally dependent on the man, like the woman who lived in the house on the corner.

It may be because you grew up in a household, like mine, where high drama seemed to be a “normal” part of being married. Or it can be because you don’t want the public embarrassment, especially if the man is in a prominent position. Maybe it’s just because you don’t feel as if the community will support you in leaving. After all, you marry “for better or for worse,” or you come from a family where divorce is considered unthinkable. Somehow, it’s your fault it turned out that way—if only you hadn’t said or done whatever it was you knew might set him off.

Fran Ferguson was executive director of Shelter From the Storm for about five years in the early 1990s, shortly after our local shelter for battered women opened. “I’m shocked,” she says, “that it has continued to be a commonplace part of our world. What has really changed after all these years?”

For one thing, laws have changed, largely as a result of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which established, among other things, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which receives more than 22,000 calls each month; increased prosecution and sentences; training to raise awareness on these issues for police officers and judges; requirements that protection orders be recognized and enforced; and permission for warrantless arrests if a responding officer finds probable cause.

The act was reauthorized this year. In a presidential proclamation, President Obama said, “This law enshrined a simple promise: Every American should be able to pursue her or his own measure of happiness free from the fear of harm.” All women, and men, should be as protected from the threat of violence in their own homes and families as on the street. (Violence can happen in same-sex relationships, too.)

Men can make a big difference by making it not acceptable for any man to behave in this way. Women can support their friends and neighbors, particularly by never finding fault with the victim. Whether you yell or spit at someone—or break yolks—that is no excuse for a violent reaction, especially from someone stronger in whom you have put your trust.

We need to tell our stories, the way prominent people including Meredith Viera have done recently. Statistics indicate that in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds. This violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. 

We need to call it what it is: There’s nothing “domestic” about it.

Published in Know Your Neighbors