Indy Digest: Oct. 7, 2021
About a year or so ago, I was driving somewhere—probably to the grocery store, because I really wasn’t going anywhere else much because of the damn pandemic. It was hot; I went to adjust the direction of one of the air-conditioning vents; the plastic knob came off in my hand.
It was just the latest sign that the days are numbered for my reliable, trusty 2009 Hyundai Elantra. I bought the car new more than 12 years ago, and in the years since, it’s been through a lot.
It only has a little more than 60,000 miles on it—I’ve been blessed with short or non-existent work commutes—but it’s now spent 13 summers in the desert heat, with most of that time spent outdoors, uncovered. It’s also hauled countless tons of newspaper bundles (I personally did the Palm Springs distribution route for the first couple of years of the Independent’s existence, to cut costs as we bled cash), and as a result, the car’s suspension is shot.
Oh, and then there’s the time when someone rather inattentive (not me!) was driving the car and slammed it into an SUV at a stoplight. Further details of that particular evening shall not be shared in this newsletter at this time, but I will say this: The Elantra was almost totaled, but I begged my insurance company to repair it instead, because I wouldn’t have been able to get anything better with the measly check I would have gotten.
Anyway … in the year since that vent knob came off, I’ve been pondering the fact that I will soon need to get a new (or newer, at least) vehicle. At some point, the car will need a major repair or something. These ponderances intensified a few weeks ago, when one—but just one!—of the door locks intermittently began refusing to respond to the key fob. After several grumpy walks back across a parking lot to manually lock the misbehaving door, I was ready to head to the dealership.
There’s only one problem with this plan: The dealership will likely be pretty empty, inventory wise. The Washington Post explains what’s happening:
General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Stellantis reported significant declines in sales in the three months that ended in September — in G.M.’s case, a drop of one-third from a year earlier — as chip shortages forced them to idle plants, leaving dealers with few vehicles to offer customers.
Toyota had a slight increase for the quarter, but its sales in September fell sharply after it was forced to slash global production because of the chip shortage and other disruptions to its parts supplies stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are in uncharted waters,” said Alan Haig, president of Haig Partners, an automotive consultant. “We’ve never seen a vehicle shortage like this. There are just not enough cars to sell.”
The shortage of semiconductors stems from the beginning of the pandemic, when automakers around the world closed factories for weeks and suddenly cut their orders for computer chips. At the same time, manufacturers of laptops, game consoles and other electronics were demanding more chips as sales of their products took off among homebound consumers.
When automakers resumed production, chip makers had much less production capacity to allocate for automotive chips.
The piece then goes on to mention a Wisconsin Toyota dealership that had one new vehicle for sale on its lot. One.
The inventory crunch doesn’t seem that bad here, at least not now. However, the selection is not great, either. The new car model I am most interested in is sold at two places in the Coachella Valley … and each dealership’s website lists only one in inventory—both of which are “in transit.” In other words, not here.
But that’s fine; I’d probably want to buy used anyway. But … the pandemic and the supply-chain issues have made the used-car market even crazier than the new-car market. As Business Insider says: “Between a computer chip shortage, booming demand for cars, and a rat’s nest of other pandemic-related factors, vehicles are in short supply nationwide. Practically all cars—from the latest models to decade-old clunkers—cost significantly more than they did a year and a half ago.”
Sigh. It looks like my good ol’ Elantra may need to get me by for another year or two. I just hope the next part to fall off is neither bigger nor more important than that vent knob.
From the Independent
CV History: Lawrence Crossley Was Not Only Palm Springs’ First Black Resident; He Was Also a Trusted Agua Caliente Advocate
By Greg Niemann
October 7, 2021
When Lawrence Crossley moved to Palm Springs and became its first African American resident, he simply forged ahead—buying property, investing and attaining a stature where he was in a position to help others.
Hiatus No More: Cari Cartmill and Kill Hollywood Marks a Return to Music for a Once-Burned-Out Rocker
By Matt King
October 6, 2021
Cari Cartmill, the rocker from ’80s band The Hunger, has returned from a long hiatus with a new project, Cari Cartmill and Kill Hollywood.
By Bill Frost
October 6, 2021
Here are nine streaming horror movies from 1991 that will remind you how good you have it during spooky season 30 years later.
October 7, 2021
Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include the filibuster, lawn sprinklers, mail-eating goats—and much more!
• We mentioned Monday in this space that it appeared Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco was in the process of being “outed” as a member of the Oath Keepers. Well, the fact that Bianco was indeed once a paying member of the far-right group—for just one year, back in 2014, according to Bianco—is now national news. Here’s a Washington Post story. and here’s an NPR story. Heck, it’s news in Rolling Stone, too. So, what do we expect to come out of all this? Not much, to be honest. (If you want to understand what the Oath Keepers are, and why this is such a big deal, I recommend The Washington Post link above; it spells it out very well.)
• Here’s the latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (Regular readers, repeat along with me: District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and mostly rural points to the east.) During the week ending Oct. 3, the positivity rate was down to 5.3 percent; hospitalizations remained steadyish, between 52 and 62; and, sadly, at least one of our neighbors died because of COVID-19. The trends are looking good, but that positivity rate is still too high, and five dozen hospitalized COVID-19 patients is too darned many.
• Following up on this story we published on July 16: Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed Senate Bill 380 into law, making California’s End of Life Option Act—which had been set to expire—permanent, and removing some roadblocks that had kept some terminally ill people from using the law. Compassion and Choices praised Newsom for signing the bill in a news release. “The End of Life Option Act gives mentally capable, terminally ill adults the option to request prescription medication they can decide to take to peacefully end unbearable suffering, but hundreds of eligible Californians have died each year before completing the time-consuming eligibility process. As a result, they suffered needlessly, instead of dying gently in their sleep. … SB 380 removes regulatory roadblocks to accessing the End of Life Option Act that impeded or prevented hundreds of qualified terminally ill Californians each year from using medical aid in dying to peacefully end their suffering.”
• Newsom also signed two bills meant to address California’s increasing STD problems. The Bay Area Reporter says: “With rates of sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis B and C on the rise in California, Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills Oct. 4 to address the issue. Senate Bill 306 will strengthen the STD public health infrastructure in California. Assembly Bill 489 makes the Golden State the first in the nation to provide adults voluntary screenings for hepatitis B and C. … SB 306, the STD Coverage and Care Act, will require health plans to cover at-home test kits for HIV and STDs; update California’s Expedited Partner Therapy statute to include provider liability protections used in other states; permit HIV counselors to administer rapid STD tests; and require syphilis screening during both the first and third trimester of pregnancy.”
• Our partners at CalMatters report: “At an emotional legislative hearing Tuesday, lawmakers and critics subjected the Newsom administration to blistering questions about the state’s oversight of nursing homes.” Basically, many folks are upset about a lack of proper oversight—which has led to bad actors doing bad things. Key quote: “Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney at the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, referred to a ‘zombie nursing home licensing system,’ which he described as ‘straight bananas.’ … ‘Corrosive (Department of Public Health) inaction has created a system where operators with terrible track records take over nursing homes without approval,’ he said. ‘What’s worse, when the state actually denies a license, it doesn’t really matter. The unfit operator can just keep operating.’”
• The horrible oil spill off the coast of Orange County has renewed calls for a ban on offshore drilling. Voice of OC notes: “The massive oil spill along Orange County’s coast has triggered intense debate over the future of offshore oil rigs—with a local Republican legislator joining several Democratic lawmakers in opposing new offshore drilling. And it’s already shaping up to be a key issue for next year’s election campaigns. In California, new offshore drilling already is almost impossible to set up, with the state not issuing new permits needed to pipe oil to shore. But existing oil rigs are getting their lifespans extended through federal permits for new equipment—and that’s now coming in the crosshairs of lawmakers.”
• The nation just escaped yet another debt-ceiling crisis … but the next time it comes up, could the crisis be fixed simply by the government minting a $1 trillion coin? Maybe? The Associated Press explains: “How is this possible when the treasury secretary can’t simply print money to pay public debts? It’s because a quirky law from more than 20 years ago seems to allow the administration to mint coins of any denomination without congressional approval as long as they’re platinum. The intent was to help with the production of commemorative coins for collectors, not to create a nuclear option in a fiscal crisis. Oops. Specifically, the law says the treasury secretary ‘may mint and issue platinum bullion coins and proof platinum coins in accordance with such specifications, designs, varieties, quantities, denominations, and inscriptions as the Secretary, in the Secretary’s discretion, may prescribe from time to time.’ This is that time, in the view of coin advocates.”
• The AP headline is attention-grabbing: “More than 120,000 US kids had caregivers die during pandemic.” The details in the story are even more heart-breaking: “The number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests. More than half the children who lost a primary caregiver during the pandemic belonged to those two racial groups, which make up about 40% of the U.S. population, according to the study published Thursday by the medical journal Pediatrics.”
• Reuters published a blockbuster report detailing how a little company called AT&T has been the primary driver behind far-right network One America News’ creation and continued existence. A snippet: “A Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives. ‘They told us they wanted a conservative network,’ Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. ‘They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.’ Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.”
• You might want to get your flu shot pretty darned soon. CNBC reports: “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza experts are concerned that the United States could be at risk for a severe flu season this year, Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned Wednesday. That’s because the U.S. population may now have reduced immunity against influenza after seasonal flu cases reached an all-time low last year when large parts of the nation were shut down, Walensky told reporters during a White House press briefing.”
• The nation’s top-rated late-night comedy show is no longer The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And it ain’t Jimmy Fallon, either. Instead, it’s a show that airs on Fox News. Yes, really. Two experts, writing for The Conversation, explain: “In August 2021, Fox News’ Gutfeld!, a late-night comedy-talk show hosted by right-wing pundit Greg Gutfeld, overtook The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in overall ratings. Surprised? We weren’t. As media and comedy scholars, we’ve been tracking the recent ascension of right-wing comedy, which has flourished thanks to shifts in media industry economics and political ideologies.”
• And finally … piece of evidence No. 46,923 that humanity may not be worth saving comes from this Los Angeles Times piece: “Educational leaders throughout the state are urgently warning teachers and school staff about a disturbing TikTok challenge that emerged this month urging students to slap teachers while recording it on a video. … The slapping challenge, which reportedly began this month, has put educators across the country on alert. So far, one elementary school teacher in South Carolina was hit in the back of the head, the Lancaster County School District said.”
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