Sunday Reading – 04/04/2021

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

One dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines was 80% effective in preventing Covid in CDC study of health workers – A single dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine was 80% effective in preventing coronavirus infections, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of vaccinated health-care workers.

The effectiveness of partial immunization was seen two weeks after the first dose, according to the CDC, which looked at nearly 4,000 health-care personnel, first responders and front-line workers between Dec. 14 and March 13. The health-care personnel and other essential workers in the study, which was published Monday, had no previous laboratory documentation of Covid-19 infection.

Two doses are better than one, federal health officials said, adding that the vaccines’ effectiveness jumped to 90% two weeks after the second dose. Read More > at CNBC

Study: Children show strongest immune response to COVID-19 – Children age 10 and younger develop a more robust immune response to the coronavirus than other age groups, a study published Monday by JAMA Network Open found.

Blood of younger children tested for antibodies to the virus had evidence of more than twice as many cells created by the immune system to fight off infections than adolescents and young adults, the data showed.

Similarly, adolescents displayed higher antibody levels than young adults, the researchers said.

Antibody levels declined with age, with study participants age 80 and older having the lowest, according to the researchers. Read More > at UPI

‘Homer Simpson Move’ by PG&E Was ‘Final Tipping Point’ Into California’s Second Evening of Rolling Blackouts Last Summer – At 6:13 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020, a gas-fired power plant in the Central Valley city of Firebaugh suddenly ramped down production. The move was the exact opposite of what California’s Independent System Operator wanted the Panoche Energy Center power plant to do at that moment.

CAISO, which manages most of the state’s electric grid, was already struggling to find enough power to meet demand during a regional heat wave. It hoped to avoid a repeat of the previous day, when it had called for rolling blackouts — California’s first in nearly two decades. But the loss of about 250 megawatts at Panoche would ultimately prompt the agency to call for more rolling blackouts that evening.

CAISO later reported that it understood the ramp down “to be due to an erroneous dispatch” from the plant’s scheduling coordinator. Every power plant has a scheduling coordinator, acting as the point of contact between CAISO and the plant, relaying and confirming the grid operator’s instructions on whether the plant should ramp production up or down.

Since last year’s rolling blackouts, which left hundreds of thousands of Californians without power for parts of two consecutive evenings, CAISO has produced two root-cause analysis reports issued jointly with California’s Public Utilities Commission and Energy Commission — one in October and another in January. Both reports run more than a 100 pages, and conclude that the Aug. 15 rolling blackouts “were not caused by any single generator or resource type.”

While the reports mostly place blame on climate change and poor planning, the context regarding the incident at Panoche, which is operated by a private investment firm, remains murky.

“It is not at all clear why a modest 248-megawatt reduction in output from Panoche would have precipitated rolling blackouts 15 minutes later,” said Bill Powers, a San Diego-based energy consultant.

“It was such a Homer Simpson move to back off on power at a time when the grid needed that power,” he added. He said it speaks to larger issues about CAISO’s clarity on other major factors, including the fact that California was exporting power during the rolling blackouts. Read More > at KQED

No Shortage of Would-Be Governors as Newsom Feels the California Heat – Around 1.3 million signatures of the 2.1 million turned in by organizers have already been verified. To trigger a recall, 1,495,709 (12 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial race) votes are needed. At that point, petitioners would have 30 days to remove their signatures, then the legislature would have 30 days to estimate the cost of the election. Finally, the lieutenant governor would need to schedule an election within 60–80 days. The ballot would include two questions, one over whether to remove Newsom from office and then another over who should replace him. For the second to matter, a majority must favor recall on the first. If Newsom is defeated, whoever wins a plurality on the second moves into the governor’s mansion.

It seems doubtful that Newsom will see his political career ended by this effort. However, the fact that organizers succeeded in even bringing it into question suggests that there is a chance. California is a much different, more progressive place than it was back in 2003 when Democrat Gray Davis was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. But if someone other than Newsom is running the state by the end of 2021, it will probably be one of these people:

Republican Kevin Faulconer

If the GOP is to not only take down Newsom, but replace him with one of their own, it would seem that Faulconer is its best bet. The winner of two mayoral elections in San Diego, Faulconer is the furthest thing from a base-pleaser. 

Republican John Cox

John Cox is running for governor professing to be a “problem solver, not a politician,” but it’s certainly not for lack of trying. He launched bids for the House and then the Senate in Illinois in the early 2000s, then for president of the United States in 2008. In 2018, he lost to Newsom in the largest Californian gubernatorial landslide since 1950. 

Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa

A former mayor of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa ran for governor in 2018 but lost decisively in the jungle primary and endorsed Newsom. Asked by the Los Angeles Times about throwing his hat in the recall race, he demurred, saying “politics is the last thing we should be talking about,” but he’s also echoed Newsom’s detractors on Twitter…

Democrats Kevin de León or Ro Khanna, or a Progressive to Be Named Later

The progressive wing of the California Democratic Party has so far remained loyal to Newsom. Congressman Ro Khanna got Bernie Sanders to condemn the recall….

Democrat Tom Steyer

He’s back. Not by popular demand, but he is back. Democratic donor and 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer is reportedly polling the recall race and including his name among the potential replacements for Newsom… Read More > at National Review

It’s Not Just QAnon. Democrats and Independents Also Want to Recall California’s Governor. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom is framing the burgeoning effort to remove him from office as a fringe Republican movement backed by right-wing extremists, Trump supporters and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

But Newsom isn’t telling the whole story about who supports his recall.

Democrats and independent voters — who together dominate the state’s electorate — have also signed the recall petition, motivated by frustration with Newsom’s response to the covid-19 pandemic. Even Californians who helped elect Newsom to his first term in 2018 are angry over prolonged school closures, the whipsaw of business closings and openings and closings, vaccination chaos and turmoil at the state’s unemployment agency — which has been plagued with fraud, website failures and devastating backlogs that have left legions of residents without benefits.

A recent Emerson College poll found that 58% of Democrats and 55% of independent voters — those registered under no-party preference — would be open to dumping Newsom in favor of another Democratic candidate. And back-to-back polls this year by the University of California-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies and the Public Policy Institute of California showed Newsom’s poll numbers dropping, although they are higher than those of former Gov. Gray Davis before his recall in 2003. read More > at Kaiser Health News

Troubling development’ for Newsom: California Latinos inclined to support recall, poll finds – In the wake of a pandemic that has devastated Latino communities in California, a new statewide poll finds that Latino voters are more likely to vote to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom than white, Asian and Black voters.

The Probolsky Research poll released this week found that 44.5% of Latino voters said they would vote for Newsom to be recalled from office, while 41% said they would vote no. About 14% were undecided.

The poll results offer a glimpse of Latino voters’ attitudes toward the Democratic governor amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Additionally, the poll showed about 49% of white voters, 49% of Asian voters and 72% of Black voters said they would vote no on the recall. Overall, about 52.5% of California voters surveyed said they would vote no on the recall, compared with 34.6% who would vote yes. Read More > in at

California suffered the nation’s 4th-worst pandemic job loss – California suffered the nation’s fourth-smallest job recovery and fourth-highest unemployment rate over the past 12 months of the pandemic.

My trusty spreadsheet, filled with February employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, details the impact of the pandemic’s economic wallop and California’s strict business limitations designed to slow the spread of coronavirus. Those restrictions have fueled a heated political debate about the balance between public health and economic opportunities.

On a national scale, California is down the most jobs — off 1.66 million workers since February 2020, just as the pandemic hit the nation. After California, job losses were greatest in New York, down 1.06 million; and Texas, with a 593,000 drop. Two states have more jobs than a year ago — Idaho, up 7,900 and Utah, up 5,800. Montana had the smallest job loss at 10,300.

Remember that California is the nation’s largest job market with 16 million workers followed by Texas, at 12.4 million, and New York, at 8.8 million. But even when you account for the Golden State’s huge employment, the state economy has returned to only 90.6% of the job count enjoyed before we all knew what coronavirus was. Read More > in The Press-Enterprise

Is California driving business away? – Is California killing the golden goose with taxes and regulations that drive businesses and their jobs to more hospitable states?

That question has been debated for years without a definitive answer, flaring up whenever there’s a high-profile move out of the state.

With the recent relocation of several well-known firms to Texas, along with one famous billionaire, Tesla’s Elon Musk, the question once again reverberates in political circles.

Last week, the Center for Jobs and the Economy, an arm of the California Business Roundtable, offered new grist for the debate by launching “CaliFormers,” a running list of companies that have relocated from California or expanded operations elsewhere.

“California policies have created the highest in the nation cost-of-living and strictest in the nation regulatory costs which have caused jobs in key sectors such as manufacturing to start-up, scale or relocate in other lower-cost states, sometimes just across the border from California,” the CaliFormers announcement declared.

CaliFormers arrives on the scene not only as the perpetual debate heats up again but as the Legislature considers a new spate of bills that would impose additional costs on business and/or levy new taxes on business or wealthy individuals such as Musk. Read More > at CalMatters

 Nearly Half of Americans Changed Sports Viewing Habits Because Woke Social Justice. – According to a new YouGov / Yahoo News poll, nearly half of America changed its sports viewing habits once political and social messaging spread across the leagues.

Because of aggressive woke messaging, three times as many Americans watched sports less often than those who watched them more often, 34.5 percent to 11 percent. 56.3 percent say they watched about the same amount. Though not quite 50-50, the number of those who changed habits was undoubtedly represented in total viewership declines.

Ratings across all major sports were down in 2020. The NBA, the most political among them, lost over half of its audience in the NBA Finals, a Finals that featured its top individual and team draw, LeBron James and the Lakers. That’s not viewers watching less often, that’s viewers not watching at all. Read More > at OutKick

The Invisible Asylum – The story of American deinstitutionalization has become familiar. In a long arc—from President Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Act of 1963 to the present—federal and state governments dismantled mental asylums and released the psychiatrically disturbed into the world. Though there were sometimes brutal abuses in the state mental hospitals of the early twentieth century, the closure of the asylums did not put an end to mental illness. If anything, with the proliferation on the streets of psychosis-inducing drugs such as methamphetamine, the United States has more cases of serious mental illness than ever before—and less capacity to treat and manage them.

The question now is not, “What happened to the asylums?” but “What replaced them?” Following the mass closure of state hospitals and the establishment of a legal regime that dramatically restricted involuntary commitments, we have created an “invisible asylum” composed of three primary institutions: the street, the jail, and the emergency room. In slaying the old monster of the state asylums, we created a new monster in its shadow: one that maintains the appearance of freedom but condemns a large population of the mentally ill to a life of misery.

I’ve spent the better part of two years looking at this invisible asylum in West Coast cities. In major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, the scale of mass psychosis is overwhelming, and the inadequacy of the public response is self-evident. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine how public officials could “solve” the problem of mental illness in these places, which are home to tens of thousands of individuals suffering from the “perilous trifecta” of mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. By contrast, the contours of the problem are much more intelligible, even manageable, in smaller cities and towns.

Olympia, Washington—a city of 52,000 tucked between a joint military base and a state forest—is one such place. In Olympia, approximately 250 individuals have become entangled within this broken system of care, cycling through the streets, the local jails, and the emergency ward at Providence St. Peter Hospital. A half-century ago, many, if not most, of these wayward souls would have been institutionalized. In 1962, Washington State had 7,641 state hospital beds for a total population of 2.9 million; today, it has 1,123 state hospital beds for a population of 7.6 million—a 94 percent per-capita reduction.

In the absence of the old asylums, Olympia’s mentally ill are now crowded into a city-sanctioned tent encampment, then shuffled through the institutions of the modern social-scientific state: the jail cell, the short-term psychiatric bed, the case-management appointment, the feeding line, and the needle dispensary. In the name of compassion, we have built a system that may be even crueler than what came before.

…And this is precisely the insanity of our current system: in fear of “criminalizing mental illness,” we have simply delayed care until the mentally ill engage in explicit criminality. We thus condemn legions of vulnerable people like Harrison to street, jail, or emergency room. Until we rebuild the physical capacity and moral strength to help them, nothing will change. Read More > at City Journal

64 percent view ‘cancel culture’ as threat to freedom: poll – A majority of Americans say they view “cancel culture” as a threat to their freedom, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill on Monday. 

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that there is “a growing cancel culture” that is a threat to their freedom, while 36 percent said they did not view it as a threat to their freedom. 

Additionally, the poll found that 36 percent of Americans said cancel culture is a “big problem,” while 32 percent called it a “moderate problem.” Another 20 percent said it was a “small problem” and 13 percent said it is “not a problem.” 

“It is a chilling finding that most people in the country now are afraid they would be fired if they expressed their real views on social media,” said Mark Penn, the director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey.

“The public generally gives negative ratings to social media companies and sees the movement as more about censorship rather than trying to correct wrongs. It is growing as a national issue,” he added.  Read More > in The Hill

Claiming 3 million masks used globally every minute, researchers warn of environmental catastrophe – Researchers are warning that heavy mask usage over the course of the coronavirus pandemic could be contributing to a looming environmental disaster, with millions of masks being used every minute and many of them polluting local ecosystems in the process. 

Researchers in the U.S. and Denmark estimated in a study in Frontiers in Environmental Science that “an astounding 129 billion face masks [are] being used globally every month,” a number that works out to three million every minute. “Most are disposable face masks made from plastic microfibers,” the researchers note.

With mask usage skyrocketing to unprecedented highs over the past year due to beliefs that masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19, the scientists note that “there is no official guidance on mask recycle, making it more likely to be disposed of as solid waste.” Read More > at Just the News

How mRNA Technology Could Change the World – Synthetic mRNA, the ingenious technology behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, might seem like a sudden breakthrough, or a new discovery. One year ago, almost nobody in the world knew what an mRNA vaccine was, for the good reason that no country in the world had ever approved one. Months later, the same technology powered the two fastest vaccine trials in the history of science.

Like so many breakthroughs, this apparent overnight success was many decades in the making. More than 40 years had passed between the 1970s, when a Hungarian scientist pioneered early mRNA research, and the day the first authorized mRNA vaccine was administered in the United States, on December 14, 2020. In the interim, the idea’s long road to viability nearly destroyed several careers and almost bankrupted several companies.

The dream of mRNA persevered in part because its core principle was tantalizingly simple, even beautiful: The world’s most powerful drug factory might be inside all of us.

…But mRNA’s story likely will not end with COVID-19: Its potential stretches far beyond this pandemic. This year, a team at Yale patented a similar RNA-based technology to vaccinate against malaria, perhaps the world’s most devastating disease. Because mRNA is so easy to edit, Pfizer says that it is planning to use it against seasonal flu, which mutates constantly and kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year. The company that partnered with Pfizer last year, BioNTech, is developing individualized therapies that would create on-demand proteins associated with specific tumors to teach the body to fight off advanced cancer. In mouse trials, synthetic-mRNA therapies have been shown to slow and reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis. “I’m fully convinced now even more than before that mRNA can be broadly transformational,” Özlem Türeci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer, told me. “In principle, everything you can do with protein can be substituted by mRNA.”

In principle is the billion-dollar asterisk. mRNA’s promise ranges from the expensive-yet-experimental to the glorious-yet-speculative. But the past year was a reminder that scientific progress may happen suddenly, after long periods of gestation. “This has been a coming-out party for mRNA, for sure,” says John Mascola, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “In the world of science, RNA technology could be the biggest story of the year. We didn’t know if it worked. And now we do.” Read More > in The Atlantic

Making A Case For Trailer Parks as the Housing Answer – Few kinds of housing are more stigmatized than the mobile home. Just the name invokes squalor and destitution — one knows from the title alone that the show Trailer Park Boys is going to involve lower-class people living in grim conditions.

But there is nothing inherently bad about the humble trailer park. With some policy changes, they could be an important tool to increase efficiency and density in American cities, and provide millions of affordable homes to people who need them.

Now, it is definitely true that many trailer parks today are not ideal places to live. They have been heavily stigmatized in the media as the private version of public housing projects — supposedly full of disgusting poor people and criminals, and run by slumlords who skimp on maintenance. Most people with means therefore avoid them where possible, and most cities zone only small chunks of land for them, or ban them entirely. Often people buy the homes outright but rent the land in the park itself, leaving them exposed to rent increases because it costs thousands of dollars to move the home to a new location. This is a particular problem in parks that have been bought up by ruthless Wall Street bloodsuckers. The private equity firm Blackstone is notorious for buying up hundreds of parks and jacking the rent through the roof.

That said, mobile homes are still the largest source of affordable private housing in the country — home to about 20 million people. There are two main reasons: First, they are cheap to buy — because they are built in a factory with efficiencies of scale, prices run something like a third to half of what it would cost to build a similar house on-site… Read More > at The Week

These bears are acting way too friendly due to deadly brain disease – Following a number of recent incidents with bears in California’s Tahoe Basin being reported for acting strangely, seemingly unafraid of humans and eager to do distinctly un-bear-like things, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has published a blog on the sad reason for the behavior: encephalitis. 

“Necropsies on the afflicted bears have confirmed encephalitis but the root cause of the disease remains a mystery,” the post states, attributing various bears’ bizarre behavior to the brain-inflating condition, which is manifesting from an unknown origin — although, in the process of looking into it, scientists have discovered five novel viruses which may be to blame. 

“Complicating matters for wildlife officials, the neurologically dull bears appear friendly to the public. Not fearing people, they may come into contact – and conflict – with humans more often,” the post continues. 

In the past 12 months, California officials have captured three bears with encephalitis, most recently a severely underweight female in Pollock Pines. That bear, which should have weighed approximately 80 pounds but only clocked in at 21, was found covered in ticks, acting confused, hopping into car trunks and accepting human attention, the Sacramento Bee reported. 

“Someone opened the trunk and it climbed in the trunk and that is not normal behavior. And that’s got to be a red flag right? That’s got to be a red flag that something is not right,” Dr. Brandon Munk commented to CBS Sacramento. Read More > in the New York Post

Inside Clean Energy: Well That Was Fast: Volkswagen Quickly Catching Up to Tesla – This is a big month for Volkswagen’s aspiration to become the leading maker of electric vehicles.

The all-electric ID.4, a compact SUV that is a crucial part of the company’s planned transition, began arriving at U.S. dealerships this month.

And Volkswagen held a “Power Day” event last week, in which executives mapped out how they intend to transform the company to focus on EVs, a process that will include opening giant new battery factories and working with others to set up charging infrastructure.

But the thing that got my attention was a research note from a Deutsche Bank analyst saying that Volkswagen was quickly catching up with Tesla as the global leader in EVs. (Deutsche Bank is an iconic German company that does business with Volkswagen, another iconic German company, but the bank’s stock analysts are independent of other parts of the company.)

Volkwagen “should come very close to Tesla’s” sales in 2021, and “We see a good chance that VW could surpass Tesla’s (all-electric vehicle) sales as soon as next year,” said a report issued on Monday by analyst Tim Rokossa. Read More > at Inside Climate News

Opinion: Los Angeles is Dragging California Down – “California has a big problem: It’s called Los Angeles.” That’s the brutal lede in the latest column by Zocalo Public Square commentator Joe Mathews.

Matthews says that the city and county of Los Angeles have been holding the state back for decades. With lagging job numbers, wages, education, and health, the state’s largest metropolis has been a drag on the economy and the primary driver of economic inequality.

LA’s troubles became most apparent during the coronavirus pandemic. The region saw one-third of the state’s deaths.

Possible solutions, Matthew says, lie in a 2020 report from the Committee for Greater LA, USC’s Equity Research Institute, and UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. That report, entitled “No Going Back to LA,” recommends a series of policy changes… Read More > at California County News

Say goodbye to dentures! Scientists develop new drug that can regenerate lost TEETH in mice and ferrets – A genetic treatment has been discovered which can regrow teeth, offering hope for the millions of people living with dentures.  

Suppression of the gene USAG-1 with an antibody treatment was found to allow teeth to grow back. 

The antibody treatment targets the sole gene and therefore stimulates tooth growth. In mice and ferret studies, missing teeth were seen to regrow fully. 

After successful trials in mice, the researchers branched out to ferrets, a more complex animal with similar dental patterns to humans. 

‘Our next plan is to test the antibodies on other animals such as pigs and dogs,’ says Dr Takahashi.  Read More > at the Daily Mail

California Sent $8 Billion to Counties to Improve Jails and Services But Failed to Track the Money, Says Auditor – A decade after California embarked on a sweeping prison overhaul that diverted thousands of inmates to county jails, state and local governing bodies have failed to adequately track billions of dollars intended for improving county lockups and rehabilitating offenders, a state audit has found.

The lack of oversight has created enormous budget surpluses, opaque spending practices and progress reports to lawmakers that are “inconsistent and incomplete,” California Auditor Elaine M. Howle’s office said in a wide-ranging report issued Thursday.

The 2011 law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, which called the changes “realignment,” was designed to drastically reduce the population of California’s prisons, which were so overcrowded that the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in. The law sent billions of dollars to counties to bolster county jails and services throughout the state in exchange for housing more inmates.

But the audit, which was requested more than a year ago by a state senator following a surge of jail deaths reported on by The Sacramento Bee and ProPublica, found that county commissions that monitor the money and the California Board of State and Community Corrections have failed to adequately account for the spending. Read More > at ProPublica

Los Angeles agency votes for $36M police funding boost as crime surges – Officials in Los Angeles voted this week to re-fund their police amid an upswing in crime.

Less than a year after “defund the police” fervor swept across major cities from coast to coast, Los Angeles County Metro, the region’s public transportation agency, voted Thursday to boost police funding by $36 million.

The vote passed 12-0, including a “yea” from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a major advocate of defund the police measures, who chairs the board.

The money will go toward the agency’s law-enforcement contracts with the Los Angeles Police Department, Long Beach Police Department and Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department. Read More > in the New York Post

‘Zombie genes’ spur some brain cells to grow after death – When people die some cells in their brains go on for hours, even getting more active and growing to gargantuan proportions, new research shows.

Awareness of this activity, spurred on by “zombie genes,” could affect research into diseases that affect the brain.

For the study, researchers analyzed gene expression using fresh brain tissue collected during routine surgery and found that, in some cells, gene expression increased after death.

The investigators observed that inflammatory glial cells grew and sprouted long arm-like appendages for many hours after death. Read More > at UPI

Public Participation and Why Zoom Alone Isn’t Good Enough – Videoconferencing has served us well during the pandemic, but it shouldn’t become the standalone “new normal” for public hearings after the crisis has passed. There’s a different dynamic when people are physically present.

That public hearing might be messy and sometimes loud, though usually peaceful. That’s the heart of healthy democracy. Public participation and engagement help balance the decision-making process. It adds more information for elected policymakers and agency officials to consider, whether the subject is zoning changes, next year’s city budget, state tax policy, or where to build a new school or highway…

Let’s face it: Video-only hearings are just not as good as in-person, face-to-face public hearings and engagement. When people are physically present in the room with public officials and directly connecting with them, it’s a different dynamic than when people are muted on Zoom — and sometimes not even on camera — and have to type in a question. Read More > at Governing

Column: Woke California pays homage this week to another American hero with a complex legacy – Let me tell you about an American hero whom the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education might find, um, troublesome.

He opposed undocumented immigrants to the point of urging his followers to report them to la migra. He accepted an all-expenses-paid trip from a repressive government and gladly received an award from its ruthless dictator despite pleas from activists not to do so.

He paid his staff next to nothing. Undercut his organization with an authoritarian style that pushed away dozens of talented staffers and contrasted sharply with the people-power principles he publicly espoused. And left behind a conflicted legacy nowhere near pure enough for today’s woke warriors.

A long-dead white man? A titan of the business world? Perhaps a local politician?

Try Cesar Chavez. The United Farm Workers founder is the first person I always think about whenever there’s talk about canceling people from the past. He’s on my mind again, and not just because this Wednesday is his birthday, an official California holiday.

He remains by far the most famous Latino activist in this nation’s history, a modern-day secular saint of whom former President Obama said when he dedicated the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Kern County in 2012 “refused to scale back his dreams. He just kept fasting and marching and speaking out, confident that his day would come.”

Chavez’s main cause — bringing dignity to farmworkers — remains so radical and righteous that to criticize his personal failures is still largely verboten.

History — life — is not an easy-peasy snap-judgment call. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: Every saint had a past, and every sinner has a future. And Chavez is perhaps as great an example of this in California history. It’s a thought that took me my adult life to realize and appreciate — and accept.

…When I asked Pawel recently if problematic people like Chavez should have their names stricken from schools and other monuments, her answer was quick: “Of course not. The fact that heroes have flaws don’t make them any less heroic. We’ve gone from hagiography to tearing people down.”

During her book tour, Pawel feared that audience members might take issue with all the Chavez warts her book exposed. “But the responses was, ‘Yeah, we get it, we get he was human,’” she said. “They were not surprised to hear that he was more complicated than a two-dimensional postage stamp.”

And so on Cesar Chavez Day, let’s remember that the hero was a man. And that Man, invariably, is no saint. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

China burned over half the world’s coal last year, despite Xi Jinping’s net-zero pledge -Despite its pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060, China continues to burn more coal than any other developed nation, relying on the fossil fuel to satisfy the nation’s surging demand for electricity.

According to a report released Monday by U.K.-based energy and climate research group Ember, China accounted for 53% of the world’s coal-powered electricity in 2020—nine percentage points higher than its share in 2015, when China joined the Paris Agreement.

China’s electricity usage has surged 33% since 2015. According to the International Energy Agency, demand from China’s steel and cement industry—propped up by the state’s heavy infrastructure investment—is one of the primary drivers of electricity consumption, alongside increasing automation of the manufacturing industry. Read More > at Fortune

Why Is Church Membership in America on the Decline? – For the first time in 80 years of surveys, Americans’ membership in houses of worship dropped below 50 percent. A survey by Gallup finds that in 2020, 47 percent of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50 percent in 2018 and 70 percent in 1999.

When Gallup first measured church membership in 1937, it was 73 percent. It remained near 70 percent for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the millennium.

Gallup also asks Americans numerous questions each year about their religious attitudes and practices. Some trends emerged in an analysis of declining church membership across three-year aggregates: 1998–2000 (when church membership averaged 69 percent), 2008–10 (62 percent), and 2018–20 (49 percent).

The decline in church membership appears to be primarily a result of more Americans expressing no religious preference. For the past 20 years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8 percent in 1998–2000 to 13 percent in 2008–10, and 21 percent in the past three years. This trend appears to account for more than half of the 20-point decline in church membership during the same time. Read More > at TGC

About Kevin

Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-UPI, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Trustee RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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