CVIndependent

Fri04102020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

On this week's face-mask-wearing weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat is worried about gaining weight while being stuck at home; Apoca Clips gets Li'l Trumpy's thoughts on face masks and his "resolute desk"; The K Chronicles wishes he'd appreciated toilet paper sooner; This Modern World ponders Donald Trump's pandemic management style; and Jen Sorensen yearns to flatten the crazy curve.

Published in Comics

It’s been a crazy-busy day here at Independent World Headquarters in rainy downtown Palm Springs—for some very exciting reasons.

Because the day has been so busy, and because there’s so much news to get to—much, but alas, not all of it, good—I am going to keep this intro brief. And tomorrow, I’ll share the exciting news—I promise.

Today’s links:

• Regular readers know we don’t focus too much on the numbers and stats here, for two reasons: First, the numbers don’t always tell the full story; and two, you can get the numbers everywhere else. However, here are the countywide numbers. And now, the full story, courtesy of resident expert Dr. Laura Rush: “You all are doing great here in Coachella Valley so far. And we are coming up on eight days with no doubling of cases yet. No new cases in PS last 24 hours. … Keep it up; it’s working!” So, keep staying at home and wearing masks and #flatteningthecurve!

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newson has touted reliable COVID-19 antibody testing as a key to helping California get back to something resembling normal. However, that’s not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.

Eisenhower Health posted a fantastic update on Facebook yesterday, detailing all the numbers and information regarding how the hospital is faring during the COVID-19 crisis. While there are a lot of big numbers, there’s also a lot of encouraging news within.

• Excellent news: The Desert AIDS Project has started telephone and drive-up COVID-19 screening. Get the details here.

• Former Independent wine columnist (and good friend) Christine Soto has joined forces with all sorts of other amazing people to found Keep Shining Palm Springs, “a fund helping the hands that feed, imbibe and provide for us—small business in Palm Springs and beyond. Learn more about the fundraiser—which includes some really awesome apparel—here.

• The IRS is warning everyone about scammers emerging as the stimulus money starts to arrive in people’s bank accounts. Here’s what to be aware of, via the AARP.

• Speaking of shady dealings: The Conversation points out how government agencies are using the pandemic as an excuse to keep more things secret—and this is a very bad thing.

• And speaking of shady dealings and very bad things and government secrecy: The president has canned the person responsible for overseeing how the Trump administration spends the trillions of dollars in pandemic relief money.

• And speaking of … well, all that stuff above, this story from the Los Angeles Times explains how “the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.” Yikes!

• Your Women’s Circle, a fantastic local business group that connects lesbians to lesbian-owned businesses, has launched a hotline for local lesbians in need of assistance. Learn more here.

• The city of Palm Springs is holding a town hall webinar “for local residents impacted by COVID-19, featuring information on worker benefits and resources related to tenant rights, mortgage relief, evictions, unemployment benefits, utility relief, food and local volunteer resources,” at 9 a.m., Thursday, April 9. Register here.

• College of the Desert would like to remind you of its Partnership and Community Education program, where you can take relatively inexpensive online classes—and do some learnin’!

• Stay-at-home parents and guardians who are dealing with stressed-out kids, or who are struggling to explain what’s going on to their young ones: Check out this fantastic resource library from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Apps that anonymously track the spread of coronavirus have been used successfully in other countries—and could help us get back to normal here. But there are privacy concerns, as you may expect. NBC News explains.

• June’s Splash House, to nobody’s surprise, is cancelled. However, former Independent scribe Brian Blueskye explains in The Desert Sun that organizers are holding out hope for the two scheduled August weekends.

Lady Gaga is doing some cool things. Not only is she helping arrange a worldwide virtual music festival for April 18; she’s raised $35 million in a week for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

• We have reached the “Let’s get weird!” portion of the Daily Digest. First off, this headline from the Los Angeles Times: “How a Discovery That Brought Us Viagra Could Help Those Battling the Coronavirus.” (It’s actually a fascinating story on how nitric oxide is being used as an experimental COVID-19 treatment.)

• The hubby sent me this link with this comment: “Art Museum for Gerbils.” ‘Nuff said.

That’s it for today! Get us your submission for the Coachella Valley Independent coloring book project. If you’re able and appreciate what we do, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—honest, reliable local journalism. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I think I speak for all of us when I ask the question: How long is all of this going to going on?!

The only correct answer, of course, is that nobody knows. Nobody. We’ve never dealt with a worldwide crisis like this during the information age. We’ve never had so many smart, qualified people working on fixing a problem at the same time. And we’ve never before seen such rapid devastation—both in terms of health and the economy—strike the entire world, all at once.

Every day, there’s good news that offers hope—including hints that treating COVID-19 patients with plasma from people who have recovered may just help treat those who are still sick.

And every day, there’s news that’s alarming—such as today’s revelation that, good lord, tigers are getting it from humans now?!

Sigh.

Anyway … some news yesterday that has local implications regarding this question of “How damned long?” went a little under the radar. It all started with a call that President Trump had with representatives of most of the major sports leagues and operations in the country. Sources say Trump said he thought the NFL season should be able to start, with fans in stadiums, on time this year. What does on time mean? Pre-season games start in August, with the regular season starting Sept. 10.

Trump elaborated later yesterday during his daily briefing, according to ESPN: “I want fans back in the arenas. I think it’s ... whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”

Putting aside Trump’s, um, credibility problem (to put it mildly), I think we can all agree that we really, really want all of that, too, if it’s safe. But … will it be?

Later yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked about Trump’s hopes that society could handle 80,000 people packed into a stadium in August or September. The first words out of his mouth were rather direct: “I'm not anticipating that happening in this state.”

Newsom then sort-of backtracked, but not really, by clarifying that decisions “will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts,” and that he was focusing immediate concerns. Newsom also said he wanted California to avoid the fate of some Asian countries, which seemed to “return to normal” a bit too soon.

As for that local angle … well, our friends at Gay Desert Guide have done a fantastic job of listing the dates that the valley’s biggest events (not just the gay-themed ones) are now scheduled/rescheduled for, and … well, here’s the thing: If we are in a place by the start of September where we can have larger crowds at things, this valley could have one hell of a fall, in terms of an economic boost. Starting with the ANA Inspiration golf tourney (Sept. 10-13), and moving through Dinah Shore Weekend, Coachella’s two weekends, the Modernism Week Fall Preview, Stagecoach, the White Party and Palm Springs Pride (Nov. 6-8), we could see two fall months the likes of which the Coachella Valley has never seen.

But if Gov. Newsom’s right about September, and likely October and November … you get the point.

Even if Newsom is right, that doesn’t mean we won’t be a lot closer to “normal” by then. After all, one of the last things we’ll be able to do is let 80,000 people into a stadium together. Of course, the same goes for letting 125,000 people into the Empire Polo Club together.

To repeat one more time: We really don’t have any idea how long this is going to go on. And that may be one of the most frustrating aspects of the pandemic.

Today’s news:

• Hey, artists: Take part in our coloring book project—and earn a few bucks while doing so. The deadline is this coming Friday afternoon; get the full details here.

• The big news: Riverside County now says you can’t have any gatherings at all. And you have to wear a face mask when you go out.

• Gov. Newsom says California is making progress on its COVID-19 backlog—and he took responsibility, unlike some other leaders, for missteps.

• Hooray: Palm Springs has enacted an evictions moratorium.

• Making lemonade out of really awful lemons: All of this working from home has given the creators of The Office an idea for a new show.

• When students from different backgrounds get to a college campus, socioeconomic differences can seemingly melt away, when everyone’s living in the same dorms and eating the same food. But inequity can get magnified when all of the classes go online.

• CBS News got some advice from Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and George Takei on how to handle all of this pandemic stuff.

• A TV news station in Cleveland has introduced a helpful new feature for those of us who may be losing track of the days of the week.

• The Los Angeles Times brings us this sad but important story about the increase in calls to suicide hotlines. Sigh.

• You know times are tough when a rare address from the Queen of England is making me weepy.

That’s enough for now. If you have the means, and appreciate the free-to-all journalism the Independent does, both in print and pixels, please consider helping us to continue to do it. Thanks for reading. Oh, and wash your hands, and make the best of this coming week.

Published in Daily Digest

Welcome to the first-ever Coachella Valley Independent Daily Digest. The goal for this Daily Digest is to round up reliable, vetted news related to COVID-19 and the accompanying societal changes. There’s too much unreliable information floating around on social media (and even coming out of some elected officials’ mouths)—and in this space, we'll sort through it all to get to truthfulness and sanity.

In addition to news updates, we’ll also highlight good things happening—specials from local businesses (that REALLY need your support right now), enlightening comments from members of the community, and so on. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have anything you think should be included.

And with that ... here's the news.

• As we were getting close to clicking send on this, the Palm Springs Unified School District announced it would be closing schools the next two weeks. They're moving up Spring Break, essentially. Parents are receiving this message right now: "Hello PSUSD families. This is Supt. Sandy Lyon. I wanted to provide you with an update on the coronavirus situation as it relates to our District. You may be aware that over the past day, there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases here in the Coachella Valley, and there are a number of tests pending that could result in several other confirmed cases. Additionally, both the Riverside County Department of Health and Governor Newsom issued a directive to suspend gatherings of over 250 people. As a result, Palm Springs Unified School District is moving its two-week spring break. It will begin on Monday, March 16."

• Eisenhower Medical Center announced earlier today that visitors will no longer be allowed at EMC for the time being. More on what EMC is doing to protect the community can be found here.

• As of this writing, local theaters have made a split decision on whether to stay open or not. While Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, Coyote StageWorks and the Desert Rose Playhouse have cancelled or postponed shows this weekend, Palm Canyon Theatre, CVRep and Desert TheatreWorks are letting the shows go on. Read more about this in the second installment in the Independent's Pandemic Stories series tomorrow (Saturday).

As for that first Pandemic Stories installment: Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the owner of Piero's PizzaVino about the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tourney, and how that devastated her and her staff. Piero's is one of the few local restaurants to have a pop-up location at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, alongside big names like Nobu and Spago.

• As for closures and cancellations: The Palm Springs Gay Softball league has suspended practices and play through March, and the national NAGAAA Cup tourney the league was hosting at the end of March is cancelled. Other recent cancellations/closures include the Palm Desert Food and Wine fest, all Certified Farmers Markets through at least March 30 (though the Palm Springs Cultural Center remains open for now), the Palm Springs Library (though the Palm Desert Library remains open), and shockingly, The Abbey down in West Hollywood.

• From our partners at CalMatters: As the coronavirus toll rises, so do concerns about health-care workers' safety.

• Earlier today, President Trump declared a national emergency. The press conference was ... well, fascinating. At one point, after Trump said he didn't take any responsibility for the pandemic, a reporter from PBS asked him about his firing of the national pandemic response team. His response was that he didn't do it, and that this was a "nasty question." As for that firing, Snopes says it's true that it happened.

• Support local businesses! If you're comfortable with going out (while taking all the precautions that you should be), local bars and restaurants need you right now. If not, order food from a local restaurant on GrubHub or one of the apps!

• Alternately, consider buying gift cards from local businesses. Some places are offering 20 percent bonuses.

• If you found this email helpful, forward to a friend, or have them email us and we'll add them to the list. Please consider supporting the Independent, too ... we could use it!

Until tomorrow ... stay safe; support local business, and wash your hands!

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's hand-sanitizer-hoarding weekly Independent comics page: (Th)ink reassures America that Donald Trump has the corona thing covered; This Modern World features a visit from Invisible Hand of the Free Market Man; Jen Sorensen ponders conservative doppelgangers; Apoca Clips gets Li'l Trumpy's thoughts on the coronavirus; and Red Meat lets the kids pretend to be bank robbers.

Published in Comics

In September 1918, hundreds of men stationed at an overcrowded U.S. Army base 30 miles west of Boston began showing up at the hospital. Their faces, the director of the surgeon general’s Office of Communicable Diseases would report, “wore a bluish cast; a cough brought up the bloodstained sputum.”

Experts recommended that no one from that base—Camp Devens—be transferred. Doing so, Army doctors warned, would lead to “thousands of cases of the disease, with many deaths.” They were overruled. The war was too important. On the trans-Atlantic voyage to the front, thousands got sick, and many died.

The so-called Spanish flu killed many more Americans than did World War I: 675,000 to 117,000. The disease infected up to 40 percent of the world’s population and killed between 50 million and 100 million people, about two-thirds of them in a 10-week span between September and December of 1918; the war itself killed about 20 million people.

Though its origin is unknown, the first reported case was in Kansas in March 1918. Other early cases surfaced in France and China. But the U.S., France and China were at war, and their governments restricted what newspapers could publish. Only when the king, prime minister and cabinet officials of the neutral Spain caught the virus did news of its spread get broadcast worldwide—hence, the misnomer “Spanish flu.”

The Woodrow Wilson administration urged Americans not to take it too seriously. In mid-October, the surgeon general finger-wagged: “The present generation has been spoiled by having had expert medical and nursing care readily available.”

Even as the body count rose to unfathomable levels—in New York City, the flu killed 20,000 in 10 weeks; in Philadelphia, priests drove carts through the streets asking people to bring out their dead—the government suppressed the scope of the crisis, fearing that panic would undermine the war effort. That led to still more deaths. For example, Philadelphia scheduled a march to promote war bonds for late September. Doctors warned the city to cancel. The city’s newspapers declined to publish the warnings. The march was a huge success.

Within four weeks, 47,000 Philadelphians came down with the flu; 12,000 of them died.

The coronavirus pandemic 102 years later doesn’t appear to be nearly as deadly. As I write this, the virus has infected 90,000 people, mostly in China, and has caused more than 3,000 deaths. While the rate of growth in China appears to be declining, it is spreading rapidly elsewhere, particularly in Europe and across Asia.

In the United Kingdom, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that up to 80 percent of the UK’s population could become infected, and a half-million Britons could die. He hasn’t ruled out taking drastic measures, including locking down entire cities, to contain the virus.

But like Wilson, President Trump doesn’t want you to take it too seriously. A fearmongering backseat driver during the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the world’s most famous germaphobe will face voters in the midst of his own public health crisis—and with little public credibility as currency to spend. Further complicating things, his go-to solution—travel bans from afflicted countries—won’t stave off the spread. Trump’s immediate concern is that the stock market had its worst week since the 2008 crash; some economists are starting to toss around the R-word, which could be fatal in November.

Trump’s priority is to calm markets by projecting control amid dysfunction. As always, there’s a lot of dysfunction.

Last month, the State Department overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and brought back 14 infected cruise-ship passengers from Japan on the same plane as non-infected people. The CDC’s restrictive criteria for identifying potential coronavirus cases and faulty diagnostic tests have likely led to a deceptively low number of positive results. According to a Department of Health and Human Services whistleblower, a dozen DHHS employees were sent to meet the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, without protective gear or training. And over HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s objections, the administration asked Congress for a paltry $2.5 billion in emergency funds—it didn’t want to signal a real crisis.

The optics-focused Trump, meanwhile, was reportedly enraged that a CDC official—Rod Rosenstein’s sister, so cue the conspiracy theories—said the virus’s spread across the U.S. was inevitable.

At a press conference last week, Trump announced that he was appointing Vice President Mike Pence the head of his coronavirus task force—evidently because he feared that an outside czar might be disloyal. Pence, as governor of Indiana, badly botched his state’s handling of an AIDS flare-up. His first order of business was a mandate that that no one comment on the coronavirus without his office’s approval.

Minutes before that press conference, Trump learned that the CDC had uncovered the first U.S. case of coronavirus not tied to foreign travel, the sign of its impending spread. He didn’t mention that, though. Instead, he assured the American people that it would all be over soon and praised his administration’s response.

“And again, when you have 15 people—and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero—that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” he said.

The next night, he offered a self-contradictory take: “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear. And from our shores, we—you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows.” The night after that, in South Carolina, he told his supporters that Democrats had politicized the pandemic and that “this is their new hoax.”

The next day, the first American died from coronavirus. The day after that, the second one did. As of this morning (March 4), the U.S. had at least 129 known coronavirus cases.

Contact Jeffrey C. Billman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in National/International

Jennifer Jennings dons a veritable uniform these days: Whether she’s picking up groceries, cruising through a fast-food drive-thru or headed to the car wash, she’s always sporting Bernie wear—sweatshirts, T-shirts, whatever.

But she doesn’t just wear her support on her sleeves. She’s also been making small online donations—hundreds of them—to the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the progressive senator from Vermont who continually assails the “billionaire class.”

“It has just become part of my life now. It’s a dollar a day,” said Jennings, a safety manager at the Port of Long Beach. “I live paycheck to paycheck, and somehow, I’m contributing this money, because I’m making that choice, you know? I’m making minimum credit-card payments by their due date, and that’s all I’m willing to do,” she said. But when it comes to Bernie, “I want to do my part. I want to participate.”

A CalMatters analysis of the latest available Federal Election Commission data shows that of the 20 California donors who made the greatest number of small presidential campaign contributions under the same name in 2019, one supports President Donald Trump. The rest are backing Democrats. Fifteen of those sent most or all of their donations to the Sanders campaign.

And those donations are adding up. “In January, our campaign raised an incredible $25 million from more than 648,000 people,” Sanders’ campaign tweeted recently. “Our average donation: just $18.”

The donations the commission reports are “itemized” contributions, which add up to more than $200 a year. (More on that here.) Small donors who give less than $200 a year aren’t listed in the data.

The GOP has set its sights on small donations, too. Trump’s re-election campaign raked in more than $12 million in itemized donations in 2019—more than any other candidate.

The most-frequent Trump small donor—Gary Schneider of Mountain View—didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. Schneider, a Lyft driver who has given more than 200 donations to the president’s campaign, made some of his contributions through the platform WinRed.

WinRed on the right, and ActBlue on the left, have sprung up as ways to streamline the process, making it more convenient and appealing to frequent small donors.

WinRed says it raised more than $100 million in its first 190 days last year.

“WinRed donation pages that include the word ‘impeach’ or ‘impeachment’ raised over 300 percent more than non-impeachment pages,” states a blog post on the organization’s website. “In fact, after the House Democrats formally opened their impeachment inquiry on October 31, WinRed fundraising spiked 176 percent per day on average.”

ActBlue, a platform used by nearly every Democratic presidential candidate, reported breaking records on New Year’s Eve by receiving more than a half-million contributions and raising more than $20 million in a single day. Overall, donors made 35 million contributions through ActBlue last year, according to the organization, which says it processed more than $1 billion in donations.

Some small donors prefer to spread the wealth, or rather their sliver of it.

Jo Postyn, 87, of Palo Alto, has been giving small donations to an array of candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She said she can’t decide which candidate deserves a larger share of her money.

“I think it’s important to make contributions,” she said, “… because our country is in pretty bad shape.”

Some donors give whenever sporadically, whenever the spirit, or the campaigns, move them.

When Sacramento teacher Mariah Martin, 37, sees a Sanders email about his education policy or another issue she’s passionate about, she donates online.

“I give pretty much whenever I am inspired by something that Bernie says or there’s something else happening where I feel like, ‘Because of this, I should just go donate to Bernie,’ and that will make me feel better about whatever is happening in the news,” she said.

For many of these donors, a small contribution can be a big sacrifice. Barbara Whipperman, an 83-year-old retiree living in Richmond, splits her donations between Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Her donations, she says, are around $5 each.

“Well, I don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “I worry a little about my own long-term income.”

Whipperman, a retired administrative assistant for UC Berkeley, has taken a reverse mortgage on her house and typically spaces out her donations around her pension and Social Security checks. The in-home care she needs is a financial worry for her, and she says her checks don’t really cover the expense.

“I’m kind of worried about how things are going to work out later,” she said. “I will probably stop donating at some point.”

Other small donors don’t necessarily choose their method out of necessity. Bob Bogardus, a 64-year-old self-proclaimed “geeky IT guy” in Carmel, has made more than 400 contributions to Sanders. He doesn’t want to volunteer at a phone bank or knock on doors.

Instead, he set up a daily donation of $2.70—because $27 was the average nationwide donation to Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign.

“We have resources, and it’s fun,” he said. “We love Bernie, and he makes everything fun, and we’re really proud to participate in that way.”

Last Halloween, Bogardus spent a couple of hours taping labels sporting Sanders’ name to each piece of Halloween candy he gave to the roughly 300 trick-or-treaters that stop by.

“We put a Bernie banner up. We have one of these large life-sized cardboard cutouts of Bernie, so people took selfies with it,” he said. So beyond donating, “we’re doing a little bit in other areas too.”

Elections reporter Ben Christopher contributed to this report. Here’s a look at the race for presidential campaign cash in California, in six data visualizations. For complete state election information, check out CalMatters’ voter guide here. CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

On this week's candy-heart-strewn weekly Independent comics page: Apoca Clips learns the truth about Li'l Trumpy's tan; Red Meat engages in a lengthy bathtub experiment; Jen Sorensen worries about facial-recognition efforts; The K Chronicles ponders the president's propaganda channel; and This Modern World, yet again, examines Life in the Stupidverse.

Published in Comics

On this week's overwhelmingly acquitted, yet guilty-looking Independent comics page: (Th)ink spies something, yet again, on Trump's shoe; This Modern World ponders the GOP excuses for acquittal; Jen Sorensen wonders who is going to save us; Red Meat pens a Valentine's Day poem; and Apoca Clips wants to know whether or not that creature saw his shadow.

Published in Comics

On this week's coronavirus-free weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson watches a terrible show; (Th)ink avoids watching a slam dunk; This Modern World ponders Mitch McConnell's impeachment-trial rules; Red Meat tries to enjoy Mr. Bix's cooking; and Apoca Clips declines a chance to watch the trial.

Published in Comics

Page 1 of 29