Indy Digest: June 16, 2022
Happy California Reopening Day Anniversary!
It was one year ago yesterday that the state ditched its tiered COVID-19 restrictions system in favor of local control. (You may recall that the city of Palm Springs decided to have a party that night—including VillageFest vendors for the first time since March 2020—which, because it was 120 degrees, nobody attended.) My, how time flies when you’re in the midst of a seemingly never-ending pandemic!
In the June 14, 2021, Indy Digest, I previewed the big reopening by making fun of the Los Angeles Times for being a buzzkill thanks to an article the paper published that, at the time, was headlined, “Here’s what could go wrong as California reopens.”
Beyond that dreary headline, the article itself is actually quite optimistic. “There’s plenty of reason for confidence in the months to come. California has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the nation, with 56% of residents of all ages—and 72% of adults—having had at least one dose of vaccine,” the piece says. “… Barring a new, completely unforeseen development, experts do not anticipate California will backslide to any degree similar to the state’s previous three pandemic surges. There’s increasing evidence the vaccines are effective against known variants.”
The article then goes on to explain “some possible scenarios health experts will be watching for in the coming months”—like concerns about a new variant that could make unvaccinated people quite sick; parts of the state that have a lower vaccination percentage; and so on.
Well, that variant came—hello, omicron!—followed by even worse subvariants, and not only has omicron made unvaccinated people quite sick; it’s made a whole bunch of vaccinated people sick (just not AS sick).
Yet despite omicron’s mind-blowing case counts, the hospitals have never gotten completely overwhelmed, and widespread restrictions have never returned. The vaccines, thank God, held.
Today, 366 days after the big California reopening, we’re in a weird place with the pandemic. Masks are almost completely over. Life has gone on. Yet case counts remain high—multitudes higher today than a year ago—and the only thing we solidly know, thanks to omicron, is that we DON’T know what SARS-CoV-2 will bring in the future.
I want to say I am optimistic, but I’m not. Yet I am not pessimistic, either. Instead, I am just tired of COVID-19 and the resultant havoc. Alas, SARS-CoV-2 does not care how I—or how any of us—feel.
From the Independent
Civic Solutions: The CODe Program Travels Across the Valley to Teach Students About Coding, College
By Melissa Daniels
June 14th, 2022
The CODe program at College of the Desert provides free computer science and coding lessons to students age 10 to 18 during one-week summer sessions.
D.I.Y. Emotion: Slow-Core/Garage-Rock Band Garb Gets Set to Release Sophomore Album ‘Stiff as a Feather’
By Matt King
June 16th, 2022
Garb—made up of Carrick O’Dowd (vocals/guitar), Nick Sacro (drums), Nic Lara (guitar) and Lindsay Clark (bass)—adds emocore vocals and melodies to a mix of garage rock and shoegaze instrumentation.
Caesar Cervisia: After Two Years Off, the Firestone Walker Invitational Was Back to Show Off Some of the Beer World’s Best
By Brett Newton
June 15th, 2022
Since 2012, Firestone Walker has been inviting its friends in the brewing industry to Paso Robles to sample beers from all over the world.
The Weekly Independent Comics Page for June 16, 2022!
June 16th, 2022
Topics covered on this week’s comics page include modern-day particle beam weapons, Borat, left-hand bong-holding, help wanted—and more!
• The state has decided to delay a decision on whether to list the Joshua tree as a threatened species. The Associated Press reports: “California won’t be listing the iconic western Joshua tree as a threatened species for now after the four-member Fish and Game Commission couldn’t reach agreement on how best to protect the plant from climate change. After deadlocking on whether to list the species under the California Endangered Species Act, commissioners decided to reconsider in October. In the meantime, they voted to pursue more feedback from tribes and directed the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to work on a conservation plan for the species. … There are two types of trees, the eastern and western, but only the western is up for consideration. If the tree is listed as a threatened species, killing one would require special approval from the state. That would make it harder to win approval for housing, solar fields or other development projects on land where Joshua trees are abundant.”
• The local real estate market is finally showing some signs of returning to non-insanity. Maybe. The Palm Springs Post reports: “A May report from the Greater Palm Springs Realtors (GPSR) shows inventory actually increased, while buyers securing contracts continue to pay a premium. On June 1, there were 1,179 units available to purchase in the Coachella Valley—498 units more than at this time last year. Data shows those successfully landing offers in Palm Springs paid 4.8% over asking for a detached home (that’s slightly below last month’s 5.2%) and 5.3% above asking for condos, townhomes, and other attached dwellings. … ‘This is the first meaningful increase in inventory in three years,’ the report states. ‘What is particularly significant is that (the inventory increase is) occurring during the seasonal period when inventory normally contracts.’”
• The gas tax is set to increase very soon. Yes, really. But will that actually happen? Emily Hoeven reports for CalMatters: “July 1 is shaping up to be a big day for California. That’s when the Golden State’s sky-high gas prices are set to tick up even more due to a scheduled increase to the excise tax rate, which will tack nearly 3 cents per gallon onto prices at the pump. On Wednesday, drivers were already paying an average of $6.44 for a gallon of regular gas, compared to the national average of $5.01. July 1 also marks the dawn of California’s new fiscal year—although the state’s spending plan is far from finalized. Lawmakers on Wednesday sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk a $300 billion placeholder budget, which the governor criticized earlier this week for failing to include ‘more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.’ A similar message was struck Wednesday by a group of Republican lawmakers, who gathered outside the state Capitol in front of a huge ‘100’ constructed out of bright orange traffic cones. According to the GOP legislators, Friday will mark 100 days since Newsom first floated the idea of gas tax relief in his March State of the State speech.”
• Riverside County is being sued by groups including the ACLU because of voting maps that they say are unfair to Latinos. The Press-Enterprise says: “While Latinos make up close to half the county’s population, the board has just one Latino supervisor, V. Manuel Perez. During last year’s redistricting process, the ACLU and Latino advocacy groups pressured the board to create at least two districts with majorities of voting-eligible Latinos. Advocates offered a map, known as Map 1.4, that created two such districts. In December, the board, in a 4-1 vote with Perez opposed, picked a map that created one Latino voter majority district.”
• A huge number of Trump-endorsed candidates have been winning at the polls. A political-science expert, writing for The Conversation, says not to make too much of that fact: “Candidates’ electoral fortunes mostly stem from whether they’re incumbents, which political party they belong to, their ideology and their political savvy. In turn, these attributes also determine who gets endorsed by prominent groups and people. For this reason, Trump’s endorsements are an excellent lesson in what scholars call ‘reverse causality.’ This is what happens when people mistake a phenomenon’s effects for its cause, like thinking that people holding umbrellas have caused it to rain. In this case, reverse causality implies that Trump’s favorite candidates are not more likely to win because of his endorsement. To be sure, candidate endorsements can act as valuable cues for voters seeking to make informed decisions. Voters might think to themselves, ‘If this person, whom I trust and like, supports a candidate, then I should trust and like the candidate too.’ This is especially true in elections in which little is known about the contenders.”
• And finally … this headline in The New York Times caught my attention: “The Hotel Is 642 Feet Tall. Its ‘Architect’ Says He Never Saw the Plans.” A bit more: “At 642 feet tall, the building soars above the Hudson River, featuring jagged sets of floor-to-ceiling windows that shimmer in the sun. To all outward appearances, Warren L. Schiffman, who is in his mid-80s and retired, was the architect of record on the project. His professional seal and signature were stamped on its design and those of two other large-scale projects in New York City. … But Mr. Schiffman said he had no active role in those projects, a statement that raises questions about whether the buildings were approved for construction without the oversight and involvement of a registered architect—a requirement in New York State to ensure that buildings are properly designed and do not pose a safety risk. A document obtained by The New York Times shows Mr. Schiffman’s credentials were used to fake his approval of building designs that he did not review. The document, a four-page contract addressed to Mr. Schiffman on company letterhead, shows that when Mr. Schiffman retired in 2016 from Marx Development Group, he signed an eight-point agreement with its chief executive, David Marx, detailing how the company’s design firm, DSM Design Group, could continue to use his seal of approval even though he no longer worked there.” Yeesh!
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