Indy Digest: March 7, 2022
To mask, or not to mask … that is the question.
We’re now in the second week of a California that is free of indoor mask requirements. Even Palm Springs and Los Angeles—two of the most COVID-conscious cities in the state throughout the pandemic—have lifted their indoor mask requirements.
That said … while COVID case counts and positivity rates are way, way down from where they were just a few weeks ago, that doesn’t mean SARS-CoV-2 is gone. Indeed, it’s still here. And while I am vaxxed and boosted, I still really would like avoid getting COVID-19.
As a result of all of this, I keep thinking … while I don’t NEED to mask up anymore in indoor public places … should I? You may be having similar thoughts, too.
So far, it’s been a split decision for me. When I went grocery shopping the other day, the mask stayed on. Last night, when I walked into a restaurant, I kept my mask in my pocket, even though my husband had his on. When I went to the UPS Store to have a document notarized the other day, I started with my mask on, then took it off after a few minutes because there were only two other people in the place.
When the pandemic began in earnest—not-so-happy two-year anniversary, by the way!—I thought of the end of the pandemic as being a black-and-white thing. I remember telling friends via Zoom how amazing the day would be when we could walk into a happy hour and hug each other again.
Of course, that day—as pictured in my mind—never came. Yes, the day came when we could walk into a happy hour … but just because we could doesn’t mean it necessarily felt safe. We can hug now, but it kinda feels awkward sometimes.
One day, barring anything unforeseen (and a LOT unforeseen has happened as of late, no?), the day will come when this weirdness and discomfort is gone. But until then, I guess we’ll all have to make our own decisions about where or not we’re masking up while perusing the produce at Aldi.
From the Independent
By Bonnie Gilgallon
March 5, 2022
Some say the purpose of live theater is to promote social discourse and potential societal change. Dezart’s The Mountaintop has a good chance of doing just that.
The Jewish Olympics: Local Adaptive Sports Advocate Michael Rosenkrantz Is Heading to Israel to Coach in the 21st Maccabiah Games
By Kevin Fitzgerald
March 7, 2022
Local adaptive sports advocate Michael Rosenkrantz has been named head coach of the 2022 Maccabi USA wheelchair basketball team. He and his eight-member co-ed team will head to Israel to compete in the 21st Maccabiah Games on July 5.
Catchy Irish Creations: Flogging Molly Celebrates a Return to Live Audiences With a Cruise—and Brand-New Music
By Matt King
March 5, 2022
St. Patrick’s Day legends Flogging Molly are now back on the road, and slated to play at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, March 19.
The Really Dark Knight: Despite Slow Moments, ‘The Batman’ Is a Nice Reset for a Great Cinematic Character
By Bob Grimm
March 7, 2022
The Batman stands as a nice reset for a great cinematic character, opening the door to what will surely be an intriguing future for the franchise.
CV History: Was He an Apache Renegade? Did He Have a Secret Gold Mine? It’s All Part of the Legend of Fig Tree John
By Greg Niemann
March 4, 2022
Fig Tree John was a Desert Cahuilla chief of the Agua Dulce clan who lived at a spring near the Salton Sea—and he claimed he was born in the late 1700s. That would have made him around 130, or even older, when he died.
• The latest Palm Springs wastewater testing for COVID-19 shows the virus levels remain low—but they’re not decreasing anymore. As the report states: “The number of copies recorded at the city’s wastewater treatment plant has increased. The average for the past few weeks were 116,688 copies/L, 113,974 copies/L and 126,106 copies/L last week (Feb. 28 and March 1).” Some context: In early January, the city was reporting more than 6.5 million copies/L. The report also noted: “Samples taken on February 28, 2022, and March 1, 2022, found the signature mutations for the omicron variant in 100% of the detected COVID virus on both days. There was no detection of the BA.2 subvariant on the first day, however in the samples taken the next day, 42.8% of the measured COVID virus had the signature markers for the BA.2 subvariant in the sample.”
• As the war in Ukraine continues, the U.S. is starting to build a case that the Russians are committing war crimes. CNBC says: “The United States is collecting evidence of possible war crimes, human rights abuses and violations of international law by Russia during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a National Security Council spokesperson told NBC News on Monday. The statement comes as Russia has been widely condemned for its attack on Ukraine, which has included shelling of civilian areas that has driven more than 1.5 million refugees out of the country.” Alas, it’s unlikely that Vladimir Putin really cares all that much.
• If you’re hoping the various sanctions against Russia being announced by … well, pretty much the entire world will force Russia’s oligarchs to turn against Putin, a professor of international business writes for The Conversation that such an occurrence is highly unlikely: “In Russia’s ‘piranha capitalism,’ these billionaires have mostly sought to outcompete their rivals for government largesse. Individual survival with a view to the Kremlin, not the defense of common interests such as sanctions’ removal, has been the oligarchs’ modus operandi. The Kremlin, for its part, has promised state support to sanctioned companies, especially in the banking sector. More importantly, it is the guns, not the money, that speak loudest in the Kremlin today. As long as Putin retains his control over the siloviki—the current and former military and intelligence officers close to Putin—the other oligarchs, in my view, will remain hostages to his regime. The generals are more likely to sway Putin than the oligarchs—and an economic collapse may be even more convincing still.”
• Meanwhile, in Florida, Disney is getting more and more heat for not doing anything to battle the awful “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Variety reports: “In the wake of controversy over Disney’s quiet response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, as well as a report that the company has given money to all of the bill’s sponsors, CEO Bob Chapek expressed Disney’s ‘unwavering commitment to the LGBTQ+ community’ in a company-wide email obtained by Variety. … The memo comes just days after Disney drew criticism for its soft stance on the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which would limit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The bill was passed by Florida’s House of Representatives on Feb. 24 and will soon be voted on by the Senate.” Read the memo for yourself—which, for the record, does not indicate Disney will do anything to battle the bill, despite the uproar.
• Gas prices are either at a record high … or about to be. NPR explains: “Oil prices surged to a 14-year high, while gasoline prices jumped past $4 a gallon to near a national record, as the U.S. and its allies discuss potential restrictions on the purchase of oil from Russia after the country invaded Ukraine. Russian oil has so far been spared Western sanctions, at least directly, in an effort to minimize economic fallout in the U.S. and Europe. But the prospect of that changing briefly sent the price of Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, above $130 per barrel, its highest since 2008. Brent was trading at around $124 a barrel in late morning trade. ‘We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN on Sunday. ‘That’s a very active discussion as we speak.'”
• The New York Times reports that Zelle is increasingly becoming a target for fraudsters—and the banks, which created and own Zelle, don’t really seem to care: “Created in 2017 by America’s largest banks to enable instant digital money transfers, Zelle comes embedded in banking apps and is now by far the country’s most widely used money transfer service. Last year, people sent $490 billion through Zelle, compared with $230 billion through Venmo, its closest rival. Zelle’s immediacy has also made it a favorite of fraudsters. Other types of bank transfers or transactions involving payment cards typically take at least a day to clear. But once crooks scare or trick victims into handing over money via Zelle, they can siphon away thousands of dollars in seconds. There’s no way for customers—and in many cases, the banks themselves—to retrieve the money. Nearly 18 million Americans were defrauded through scams involving digital wallets and person-to-person payment apps in 2020, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, an industry consultant.”
• And finally … we’ll conclude with an illustrative example of what can be lost when independent, local journalism sources die. First off, here is an amazing (and amazingly upsetting) piece by Nicholas Schou, just published by the Red Canary Collective. It’s about the case of Rogelio Vasquez Solis, which Schou explains thusly:
What landed Solis in prison was, by all accounts, a nightmarish event: the death of Steve Woods, a white teenager, during an encounter with a group of Latino youths that included members of the San Clemente Varrio Chico gang. Although originally labeled an accident by police, the narrative of the chaotic and tragic night turned into one of an orchestrated gang murder once the media and political firebrands got ahold of the story.
The death occurred during an era of sweeping tough-on-crime, anti-gang measures, as well as anti-immigrant foment, that led up to the state legislature passing Proposition 187 under Governor Pete Wilson. In that heated climate, law enforcement officials and media outlets spread fears that Woods’ death represented the opening salvo in an anticipated wave of deadly gang violence by illegal immigrants from Mexico.
In time, the case would become part of the wave of anti-Mexican immigration hysteria that swept California in the 1990s—the founding mythology of the superheated, xenophobic politics of the Trump era.
Although the events that put Solis in jail occurred decades ago, it merits revisiting in the current context, during which it’s possible that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teen who fatally shot two unarmed people with the assault rifle he carried across state lines and flaunted in the middle of a protest, was found to be acting in self-defense.
Compared to the leniency afforded to Rittenhouse, the Solis case raises difficult questions about race and immigration status when it comes to America’s justice system. Despite having no prior criminal record, 17-year-old Solis was tried as an adult and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for throwing a clod of dirt.
Repeatedly denied parole, he’s now been behind bars for almost 30 years.
• Second, here’s a piece by Gustavo Arellano, in his weekly newsletter, that offers context to Schou’s brilliant work. Gustavo—now a Los Angeles Times scribe—was Schou’s editor at the now-needlessly-defunct OC Weekly (aka “the infernal rag,” per Gustavo). He sets the clock back almost five years.
The plan was for Nick to write a long piece that would reintroduce the world to Rogelio’s predicament.
That was the plan.
By mid 2017, I knew that my time at the infernal rag was going to end sooner rather than later. Nick and my wife were the only people who knew of my wars with the idiot owner of the infernal rag. So I told Nick to focus on doing Rogelio’s story, while he had the time and support of someone above him.
He tried, but it just couldn’t happen.
I left the infernal rag, and he was put in a thankless role that took him away from writing about Rogelio. Nick stayed in it until 2019. He tried to pitch Rogelio’s story to multiple publications; all stupidly passed. Nick’s eventual job had nothing to do with Orange County, so he couldn’t tell Rogelio’s story.
But it was something he and I would talk about any time we would catch up. Nick would express regret that he didn’t heed my call to tell Rogelio’s story at the infernal rag while he had the chance, but I said his day would come.
It finally did.
Thank goodness Schou finally found the time and place to tell this important story, even if it took five years for him to so so. But think of all the other stories out there that haven’t been told—and never will—because of the diminishment and death of local journalism.
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Thanks, as always, for reading.