Friday, June 18, 2021

The city sets aside funds to consider saving the Union Pacific rail depot, the Bishop of Fresno orders Craig Harrison to shut down his counseling service, and a stroll through Bako on Flag Day

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... CITY BUDGET: Do you remember a few years ago when the city of Bakersfield was so short on cash that it couldn't hire enough police officers for the streets? Well that was before the voters narrowly approved Measure N, which raised the sales tax with the promise of using the money to fight crime and clean up with homeless issue. And now that Measure N is generating more money than anticipated, our City

Council is far too eager to spend it. This week, the Council approved a $638 million budget that includes tens of thousands of dollars to try to salvage the old Union Pacific rail depot on Sumner Street. This is the pet project of Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales, whose own ward is an embarrassment of vandalism, petty crime and trash because of the homeless, but he has focused his attention on saving a grand old building that will likely never become a viable business simply because it is located in one of the most economically deprived areas of town. I hope I am wrong about this one but if not, I hope the City Council pulls the plug on this little adventure before we pour millions of dollars into "Andrae's folly." If I asked every one of you reading this to list the top 10 things that Bakersfield needs to address, would pouring millions into an old railroad depot on Baker Street be one of them? Or is this just another opportunity for a photo op?



 * ... HOMELESS FUNDS: The good news in the budget is another $1.9 million for 11 new positions to address issues along the Kern River Parkways, $3.1 million for continue operations at the Brundage Navigation Center and $6 million for affordable housing projects.

 * .. HARRISON VERSUS BRENNAN: In journalism, a story has "legs" when a constant series of new developments keeps a story fresh and in the news. And that describes the ongoing saga of Craig Harrison, the once wildly popular priest who clashed with his own bishop and chose to leave the church amid allegations that he sexually preyed on young men while serving at churches in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield. And now comes word that Bishop Joseph Brennan has ordered Harrison to close his counseling business and nonprofit (Reflections for Women). Kyle Humphrey, one of Harrison's attorneys, accused Brennan of conducting a personal vendetta against Harrison. "If (Harrison) does not comply," he told KGET, "the bishop, acting in his capacity for the Diocese of Fresno appears to be threatening to publicly define Father Craig, a private citizen." Interestingly, Humphrey claimed he had received confirmation from the church that Harrison was not on the list of credibly accused priests. The Fresno diocese has indicated it is about to release that list, but other than Humphrey's statement, there is no word on if Harrison will make the list.


 * ... SEXUAL ABUSE: Meanwhile an expert in sexual abuse says the allegations against former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison appear to follow a predictable pattern involved accused predators: the accused denies the charges, his attorneys attack the accusers and supporters rally to defend the embattled priest. Joelle Casteix, a survivor of sexual abuse herself while in high school in Orange County, joined me on the Bakersfield Observed podcast to discuss how communities react when one of their own popular members is accused of inappropriate sexual activity. Casteix said she had "heard rumblings for years" about Father Craig Harrison and was not surprised when men came forward to accuse him of sexual abuse. "The goal is to blur boundaries," she said, referring to a predator's attempt to "groom" victims by offering them friendship, emotional support and sometimes even cash as they struggle with personal issues. Predators often focus on troubled young men, many from broken homes, who often turn to their churches when things become difficult in their lives. Once allegations are made, Casteix said it is typical for the accused to cast doubt on the intent of the accusers by implying they are out for money. "It's easy to silence a survivor," she said, adding it is doubly difficult when the community appears to have rallied unquestionably around the accused. Casteix described herself as an "advocate" for men and women who have been sexually abused, sometimes by a priest or a teacher, friend, parent, scout master or coach.


 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Halfway through the argument I realized I was wrong but I kept going because you can't just stop an asshole train on a dime."

 * ... FLAG DAY: Some random pictures of flag day around Bakersfield.







 * ... MEMORIES: Thanks to my friend John Kelley for posting this old map of Bakersfield looking north. The map predates the 1952 earthquake.


 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And special thanks for Art Moore of the Kern County History Fans for this cool picture from back in the 1960s.



Thursday, June 10, 2021

Two men file lawsuits claiming they were sexually abused by Craig Harrison, the Sierra Club joins the chorus of people lamenting the damage homeless have done to the Kern River Parkway,

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: It was a remarkable scene out of Fresno this week when a prominent child abuse attorney laid out two lawsuits filed against former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison. Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson and Associates referred to Harrison as a "predator" whose actions against young men were of a "serial nature," and he speculated that even out of the church, Harrison represented a "peril" to other men.

Anderson's firm represents two men, both unidentified, who claim Harrison sexually abused them in the early 1990s. Furthermore, the lawsuits claim the Diocese of Fresno not only knew about Harrison's actions but also covered them up. Anderson further indicated that there may be more victims. "We are interviewing others," he said. "How many? We don't know." Meanwhile, back home Harrison's criminal defense attorney, Kyle Humphrey, doubled down on his claim that victims were coming forward simply for the money. Humphrey had predicted the lawsuits and said people would come forward like "pigs" to a trough in search of money. One of two things is happening here: either the past has caught up with Craig Harrison, or Humphrey is correct. Now that the accusers have filed suit, the public can judge for itself when the accusers lay out their case in depositions and trial testimony. Harrison and his attorneys are now juggling five separate lawsuits, including three defamation suits that Harrison filed against critics and the two latest which put Harrison on the defensive.



 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Maybe I will get a $100 gift card to Lowe’s for Father’s Day so I can buy 1 sheet of plywood."

 * ... OUR TRASHED TOWN: Momentum is building in the community to do something about the homeless, the culmination of a growing frustration that government is watching with hands tied as parts of our city are being trashed. And no where is that trashing worse than along the bike path and the Kern River Parkway, which is now home to several hundred homeless who have left the riverbed looking like a scene out of the famous Rio de Janerio slums. And now comes the Kern-Kaweah chapter of the Sierra Club, which has joined the chorus of people complaining that something must be done. "At present much of the river (now far too often a dry riverbed) is being trashed. This includes San Miguel Grove, Uplands of the Kern and, to a lesser extent, Beach and Yokuts Park. San Miguel Grove is a particularly tragic example of what should be a natural open riparian area is strewn with all manner of rash, left by unlawful campers and others using the place for a dump, leaving the area strewn with all manner of waste filth, broken glass and drug related paraphernalia including sharps," Stephen Montgomery of the Sierra Club wrote to Beatris Sanders, chair of the citizens committee overseeing Measure N funding. Montgomery called on the city to set aside money to keep the riverbed clean by hiring more police on bikes to patrol the area, do a better job of cleaning up litter and conducting a longer term study to address issues along the riverbed.

 * ... BAKERSFIELD OBSERVED: My new podcast, Bakersfield Observed with Richard Beene, is up and running, focusing attention every week on an important issue or newsmaker about town. The first two episodes are now up, the first an interview with Lois Henry on how parts of central California are literally sinking because too much water is pumped out of the ground, and the second a chat with Carlos Baldovinos about the ongoing homelessness issue. The next episode will be released Thursday and examine the controversial concept of Critical Race Theory, which proposes a new way of teaching American history with a new emphasis on race, power and privilege. Bakersfield High teacher Jeremy Adams is my guest. Follow the podcast on KERNRADIO.COM, on Spotify or wherever you access your podcasts.




 * ... RIDGE ROUTE: I spotted these pictures of the old Ridge Route on a Facebook page devoted to Highway 99. Not sure of the dates. Enjoy.




 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And finally thanks to the Kern County History Fans who posted this picture of a grocer. The cutline: "1930's - H. H. Close Market... 301 South 10th Street (was then South Lincoln)
Taft, Kern County, California  Proprietor: Herbert Henry Close (1889-1963) Credit to Lawrence Peahl for address and approximate years open.

 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Attorneys preparing to hit former Bakersfield Catholic priest Craig Harrison with two lawsuits alleging he sexually abused two boys

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 For the first time since he was suspended from the Catholic Church more than a year ago, former priest Craig Harrison has been hit with two lawsuits alleging he sexually abused two young boys while serving as a priest in the Diocese of Fresno.
 The lawsuits will be announced Wednesday in Fresno during a press conference by Jeff Anderson and Associates, a firm that specializes in child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. The press conference will begin at 1 p.m. PST at the DoubleTree by Hilton at the Fresno Convention Center.

 According to the attorneys, the two civil child sexual abuse lawsuits will be filed accusing Harrison of sexually abusing the boys as well as Fresno Catholic officials for ignoring and concealed his crimes.
 In a statement by one of the plaintiffs, identified simply as Joseph Doe: he said: “Msgr. Harrison hurt me when I was an altar boy at St. Francis. I was just a kid, and he used his position of power as a priest to abuse me. Msgr. Harrison stole my childhood, and every day since then I have lived with shame. I want the Bishop to start protecting kids. I want the Bishop to stop helping abusers. I want the Bishop to stop keeping secrets about abuse.”
 The statement from the attorneys went on to read: "On April 12, 2019, a survivor made a report of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by Msgr. Harrison to the Diocese of Fresno. Three days after receipt of this report, the Diocese allegedly contacted the Firebaugh Police Department. Msgr. Harrison was reportedly put on paid administrative leave due to an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that occurred decades prior in Firebaugh, California. Since then, two other survivors have come forward alleging childhood sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison. One of the survivors purportedly previously reported the sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison in 1998, and again in 2002. The Diocese deemed the allegation unsubstantiated and Msgr. Harrison continued his priesthood. A survivor who has alleged sexual abuse against Msgr. Harrison is a Catholic monk that referred to Msgr. Harrison as a mentor and felt compelled to come forward after hearing other allegations."
 These lawsuits mark the first time since his suspension that Harrison has been targeted by alleged victims. Up to this point, it has been Harrison filing the lawsuits: including one against the Diocese of Fresno for defamation, and two other defamation lawsuits against former monk Ryan Gilligan (he has not filed suit against Harrison but has submitted damming statements against him) and an organization that tracks wayward priests, known as the Roman Catholic Faithful.


 The attorneys also are putting pressure on the Diocese, and on Bishop Joseph Brennan, to reveal a list of "credibly accused priests." 
 "After decades of pressure, " the attorneys said, "the vast majority of US bishops have posted on church websites the names of and often some details about proven, admitted, and credibly accused predatory clerics. Unfortunately, the Diocese of Fresno is one of sixteen Catholic Dioceses in the United States yet to publish a list of credibly accused clergy. Many consider this long-overdue step to be the bare minimum church officials should do to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded."
  Now out of the church, Harrison has been busy trying to rebuild his life and his reputation. He has positioned himself as a life coach and counselor, and has scheduled an appearance at the Fox Theater soon to address an audience of women.
 The filing of the lawsuits against Harrison moves the case into a potentially critical and revealing phase, when details of the alleged encounters with Harrison will be submitted in court in lurid detail while Harrison and his attorneys will attempt to discredit the accusers one by one. Stay tuned.
 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

People flock back to local theaters, a bad year for local retail is in the books, California tries to save the dwindling population of Monarch butterflies and Sheriff Donny Youngblood says he will run for office again

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... MOVIE THEATERS MUSCLE UP: If you were one of those who believed movie theaters may never rebound from the pandemic and lock down, think again. Across the country people are flocking back to theaters to take in the latest blockbuster, get out of the heat and enjoy a popcorn and a Coke. And no where is that

truer than in Bakersfield where theaters are doing a gang buster's business, and they still are not opened at 100 percent yet. Mike Armandariz, general manager of the Maya Cinemas in downtown Bakersfield, was thrilled to report that movie goers are flocking back to the theaters. "We could not be happier," he told me. And with temperatures hitting 106 and higher, Maya and other local theaters will remain top choices to spend a cool afternoon on a scorching day.



 * ... RIP RETAIL: Running a retail business has never been a walk in the park and the advent of the internet and brand killer companies like Amazon. And then came the pandemic which forced a number of prominent American brands into bankruptcy: Brooks Brothers, Joseph A. Bank, Belk, GNC, J.Crew, Lord and Taylor, Pier 1, Men's Wearhouse and J.C. Penny among others. The best locally owned companies thrive on a strong service ethic and have proved resilient but experts fear there will be a second wave of smaller retailers going out of business as consumers emerge from the pandemic more satisfied that ever with buying their clothes and other goods online.


 * ... MONARCHS AND MILKWEED: With Monarch butterflies facing eventual extinction, the state of California has launched an ambitious effort to plant 600 acres of milkweed statewide. Milkweed is known for being a "mega food market for insects," attracting more than 500 types of insects drawn to its sap, leaves and flowers. But not all types of milkweed are acceptable. According to a report in The New York Times: "Well intentional locals in California's cities have started planting tropical milkweed in their gardens in an effort to help the monarchs. However, tropical milkweed is not native to California and doesn't die out in winter, which confuses the monarchs' migratory patterns."  Locally, various types of milkweed are being planted in the Panorama Vista Preserve at the base of the Panorama bluffs to provide food and nutrients for the monarchs.


* ... DONNY YOUNGBLOOD: Sheriff Donny Youngblood has announced he will run for re-election, and now let me tell you why I believe that is a good thing. First, Youngblood has been a steady, consistent voice for law enforcement in Kern County, and he has displayed remarkable resilience and agility dealing with a host of challenges on his watch. Officer involved shootings, fatal car wrecks involving deputies, corruption, they have all been on his watch and he has handled each of them accordingly. Full disclosure: I urged Youngblood to run again. With the world in turmoil - police shootings, Black Lives Matter, recriminations, the movement to defund the police, the notorious "woke" culture in society - Youngblood would best serve the community by running for another term. Youngblood is now 70 and was first elected to office in 2006. He says he still has the passion, is in top physical shape and will offer himself up for another four years. That is good news. (photo by Alex Horvath of The Bakersfield Californian)


* ... BAKERSFIELD OBSERVED: Yearning for a better life and weary of the crime and corruption with his native Honduras, a young man named Carlos packed up his family and moved to the United States,

determined to set his family on a better course for happiness. If this sounds familiar, it is the echo-chamber soundtrack of why so many people flee their homes in Central America and try desperately to get to America, only in this case it was all done legally, and we are all off better for it. The man in question is Carlos Baldovinos, father of his son and namesake who now runs The Mission of Kern County. "I did it all legally, and I am glad I did," he told me. "I would not have done it any other way." The subject of immigration - both illegal as it seen on the border and legal as is displayed in the case of the Baldovinos family - is the topic of the Bakersfield Observed with Richard Beene podcast being released later this week on Spotify and other podcast platforms. Access the interview there or on KERNRADIO.COM where a link to it will be posted. (father-son photo of Carlos Baldovinos and son)


 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this picture from back in 1925 at DiGiorgio Farms, thanks to the Facebook page Kern County History Fans.


 * ... MORE MEMORIES: Finally here is a valentine to all you West High graduates. A picture of your campus back in the day.



Sunday, May 30, 2021

Kern Board of Supervisors considers a new tax to clean up after vagrants, the super moon woos the world, and a new Bakersfield Observed podcast makes it debut

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... TRASH TAX: Did you see the Kern County Board of Supervisors is looking at a new parcel tax to help pay for all the illegal dumping around town? The idea would be to increase the land use fee charged to property owners to help pay for illegal dumping, an increase expected to generate some $6 million a

year. But is this fair to the property owners, who often already bear the brunt of ridding their properties of illegal trash and debris? The problem here clearly is not the property owners but the legions of homeless and vagrants and residents who feel free to use our community as their personal dumping ground.

 * ... STOLEN ASHES: A security alert from a Ring security doorbell lamented a car break-in in Oildale this week. Among the items stolen: the ashes from a "despised husband." That's right, the alert noted that among the items stolen were "a brown purse, with wedding set, black watch, red knife and ashes from despised husband inside."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Baby shark implies the existence of Ginger Shark, Scary Shark, Posh Shark and Sporty Shark

 * ... BLOOD MOON: Did you spot the super moon this week? It was bright and reddish and spectacular, but not quite as spectacular as this picture taking by Bakersfield resident Debi Bozanich from her second home in Cabo San Lucas. Enjoy.






 * ... NEW PODCAST: The Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk Radio has been retired and has now evolved into a podcast. My goal is the same: to provide in-depth interviews with Kern County newsmakers about a variety of subjects, but all local. The inaugural podcast features former Californian columnist Lois Henry, who is now devoting her time to a blog (SJVWATER.ORG) covering the politics of water in Californian. On this first podcast Henry talks about how some areas of the Central Valley are

literally sinking after years of farmers pumping water out of the group. An excerpt: "Subsidence is the technical term for the phenomenon — the slow-motion deflation of land that occurs when large amounts of water are withdrawn from deep underground, causing underlying sediments to fall in on themselves.
 Each year, Corcoran’s entire 7.47 square miles and its 21,960 residents sink just a little bit, as the soil dips anywhere from a few inches to nearly two feet. No homes, buildings or roads crumble. Subsidence is not so dramatic, but its impact on the town’s topography and residents’ pocketbooks has been significant. And while the most recent satellite data showed Corcoran has only sunk about four feet in some areas since 2015, a water management agency estimates the city will sink another six to 11 feet over the next 19 years." Access the podcast via the KERNRADIO.COM website.





 * ... BITWISE: The Fresno based company Bitwise is wrapping up its renovation of the old Turk's copy building across 18th Street from the old Padre Hotel. The color scheme is stunning.


 * ... MEMORIES: Thanks to the Kern County History Fans for this "now and then" picture of a property downtown. "Then & Now ... 1920's - C. N. Johnston Auto & Truck Repair... 1000 18th Street
Bakersfield, Kern County, California."



Friday, May 21, 2021

A Bakersfield Observed exclusive: A proud immigrant from a a humble village in India, Dr. Brij Bhambi draws on his past to pay tribute to his adopted country and the power that rests in American exceptionalism

 Dr. Brij Bhambi is an owner-operator of the Bakersfield Heart Hospital and head of Centric Health, the leading provider of medical services in Kern County. He is a native of India and today shares some of his early experiences growing up in India.

"It's amusing to reminisce life, as passage of time ushers fading existence in to the relevance of a relic. A relic that provokes reluctant and evanescent curiosity. To capitalize on the infrequent inquisitiveness, I will share candid thoughts of an American by choice.
 Times were simple in 1960s India, scarcity omnipresent and social media nonexistent. Much has changed since then. But let me not rush.
 Higher education was a foreign, exotic endeavor mentioned in folklore. Distant acquaintances

regurgitated embellished stories of enviable and likely unachievable successes. I was fortunate to be in the audience when an Indian-Canadian, in flesh, visited our village. He also had a couple Canadian professors on a sabbatical to India, accompany him at my village.
 I was enthralled. But I was pre committed to USA.
 My father was the first one in our village to finish sophomore year in high school, raising the roof in education. My marching orders were to raise the roof further, and then some. My father was generous in accepting my achievements as worthy endeavors.
 "Nobel prize I did not deliver him.
 Such audacity in a parent in a remote village in India, scares me. Such permissiveness in accepting mediocrity now and here, scares me more.
 Growing up, happiness was parenthesized by proximate experiences. If want was covered, need did not need to exist. Steve Job was yet not there to insert the dictum: they don’t know what they want. We happened to be insulated from the glitters of riches. Obeisance to the elderly was engrained. Respect to authority stretched to a fault.
 Ambition was not always derided. Healthy ambition was encouraged. Work ethic was foundational. Griping and grievances were looked down upon. The sacred message in Gita told us as much. Salvation depended less on charity, more on personal conduct and industry.
 The founding principles of USA, reflected in my core values, had a natural tug. America drew me like a moth to flame.
 Stories and anecdotes in my last 37 years of existence in USA abound.

 "For now, allow me to share opportunities, successes and challenges encountered here in Bakersfield, focused specifically on Covid times.
Covid laid bare some existing fault lines. It afflicted poor and unhealthy with a greater ferocity. Elderly with constellation of comorbidities, huddled together in nursing homes, ill equipped to handle an opportunistic pathogen, were sitting ducks for disease and death. Next time we will be better prepared.
 This pandemic was aggravated by preexisting behavior related morbidities. We are responsible for what we eat, drink, smoke and exercise.
 Diabesity, a play on diabetes and obesity is the number one cause of preventable blindness in USA (other than politics…more on that some other time). We have primary responsibility for our health. Obesity is a growing problem that lends to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart disease, increased inflammation, decreased immunity, diminished quality of life and much too often, premature death

 "This cottage industry of justifying obesity on everything else other than personal behavior is a blatant sham. Corporate greed encourages this malfeasance.
 Obesity is an invention of calorie dense, nutritionally vacuous and remote clicking generation. We can’t out source good diet and vigorous exercise without insourcing obesity and ill health. Lessons of my childhood, accountability and no griping figure conspicuously.
 Covid also laid bare our disconnect from commonsense. And common science. These mask wars under the guise of personal invincibility and purported impotence of Covid added to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in USA. Definition of patriotism used to be different.
 Politics needs to stay out. The concept of individual freedom strains credulity when corrupted by recklessness. It endangers the whole. How did this virtuous sentiment of personal freedom become so thin skinned and vulnerable to contrived infringements? At least keep the darn mask till the kids are vaccinated, we owe that to kids.

 "Covid did bring out the best in some. The healthcare workers poorly resourced, dressed in chinked armors toiled long hours for months. Many succumbed to the virus. Solutions emerged slowly.
Collaboration among the leading scientists in the world, an uneasy alliance among normally hostile corporate world and public private partnership yielded magical vaccines in record time. This magic was wasn’t pulled out of the hat, contrary to pervasive disinformation on social media. Decades of formidable science undergirded it. The safety and a remarkable 95% efficacy rates of many vaccines, births optimism in the wary humanity. The virus that should have been buried in Wuhan may, with luck, indeed have a burial!
 "But there is a rub. In a society that accepts over a dozen lifesaving vaccinations routinely has a “patriotic” segment that rather kill fellow citizens by refusing vaccine against Covid. Notwithstanding hoopla on social media, With 150+ million Covid vaccine shots administered, we are still awaiting a monkey tail, a third eye or Bill Gates microchips (that failed to control his divorce). People who choose not to vaccinate should take out patriotism as an excuse. Killing fellow citizens is counterintuitive to the purported cause.

 Economic fallouts from Pandemic appeared to have irreparable consequences this time, last year. Vaccines (among the willing) have shielded us against the worst. Financial impacts were variably felt by different industries. American dollar is a default currency for the world and denominates most international transactions. Dollar being a feat currency, is anchored by the faith and trust of US government, aka tax paying citizens. That trust is an irrevocable bond. A compromised trust corrodes currency, a corroded currency wrecks cumulative labors of generations, tenuous trust undermines future endeavors.
 Democracy has its pros and cons. The basic premise is an inviolable constant though. That constant is votes. A dystopian interpretation is making the rounds again. Dystopia lies in being able to corrupt the system. Being able to buy votes. Newsom can consume $20K worth wine at French Laundry and still keep the authority to distribute $600 per most voters to consolidate power, is poignantly instructive to corrupt politicians in the Third World.
 "Printing to prosperity is intrinsically inconsistent with logic. It also is economically inconsistent. If indolence is aspirational to the languid and prosperity is state distributed free money then we invite financial apocalypse.
 “Fruits of labor” is reverential and foundational. Labor should not be cheapened by handouts.
 Aspire to be the best.
 Go get a Nobel Prize for your dad.
 My dad will be proud for you. And God willing, for me.





Ford makes a big gamble on an all electric version of its popular F-150 pickup truck, a billboard pops up criticizing Rep. Kevin McCarthy and remember the hold Hell's Angels movie filmed at Hart Park

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... F-150: Head's up Kern County. This is known as truck country, but are Kern County pickup truck drivers ready to trade in their gas guzzling vehicles to go all electric? Ford Motor Co. thinks they are, and that's why Ford has placed a big bet on its all new F-150 electric vehicle that should hit the show rooms

next year. Ford thinks offering its best selling pickup in an electric version could spur the rush to all electric vehicles. The new F-150 Lightning will have a starting price tag at just under $40,000 before any tax credits are factored in. Ford is hoping to attract fleet buyers who prefer trucks that are cheaper to operate.


 * ... BILLBOARD: Did you see the new billboard criticizing Rep. Kevin McCarthy that popped up along California Avenue near Highway 99?


 * ... HOUSING PRICES SPIKE: The price of housing in California continues its meteoric rise with the median price now topping $800,000 - that's right, closing in on a cool million dollars -  putting a home out of reach for hundreds of thousands of people. According to a The California Association of Realtors, April home sales increased 65% from a year ago, with 458,170 believed to have changed hands. “California continues to experience one of the hottest housing markets as homes sell at the fastest pace ever, with the share of homes sold above asking price, the price per square foot and the sales-to-list price all at record highs,” said Dave Walsh, California Association of Realtors President Dave Walsh. A decade ago the media price was around $250,000 following the Great Recession.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: I spotted this picture of a boat load of trash that was unceremoniously dumped on Edison Highway the other day. And so it goes.



 * ... FORMER PRIEST: A former priest who has been accused of preying on multiple young men while serving in California parishes lost a round in court when a Fresno County Superior Court Judge threw out his defamation lawsuit against the Catholic Church. Craig Harrison, who left the priesthood earlier this year, had sued the Diocese of Fresno claiming that a church official, Teresa Dominguez, had defamed him in remarks to a radio station. The court disagreed and tossed the lawsuit. Attorneys for Harrison said they will appeal. Harrison has been accused of using his favor to curry favor with troubled young men and making sexual overtures to several of them over the years. The often lurid allegations have been at odds with Harrison's otherwise untarnished reputation in the community, leaving the community split between those who believe him and those who believe he was most certainly involved in some way.


 * ... HARRISON TODAY: Meanwhile, Harrison is living in Bakersfield and working to polish his reputation and start anew after leaving the church. He apparently is thinking of working as a life coach or personal counselor, and this week he appeared at Hodel's to address an standing room only crowd of adoring middle-aged women. Attending was state Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican who has stood by Harrison's side despite the accusations. The event drew the attention of Christine Niles,  who works at ChurchMilitant.com, an organization that tracks accused pedophile priests and has been a thorn in Harrison's side since he was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno. (Harrison has been at odds with the organization and sued a member of the Roman Catholic Faithful for defamation) Niles noted Grove's presence at Hodel's and concluded this: "The cult of Msgr. Craig Harrison is live and well in Bakersfield. Nevermind the alleged victims and their suffering."


 * ... VACCINES: Centric Health, an integrated medical care company, administered more than 10,000 Covid-19 vaccines along with its sister organization, Bakersfield Heart Hospital. According to Centric president Dr. Brij Bhambi, the hospital also administered some 10,000 vaccines, bringing Centric's total contribution to more than 20,000 doses.

 * ... HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS: The 1967 movie Hells Angels on Wheels was playing on local television the other day, an offbeat look at the motorcycle gang shot in and around Bakersfield. The movie was shot both in town and out near Hart Park, and it's a treat to pick out local landmarks during the film.







 * ... COUSIN HERB: Thanks to the Kern County History Fans website for this nugget: "1950's - KERO TV ... The Cousin Herb Show... Photo credit to Michael L Henson.


 * ... MEMORIES: From the Kern County of Old Facebook page comes this picture of four women on a crew for picking cotton in Buttonwillow.



Monday, May 17, 2021

Dr. Brij Bhambi: Society is at war with vaccine hesitancy even while the young are threatened by the deadly variant out of India ...


 Dr. Brij Bhambi is a Bakersfield cardiologist, officer in Centric Health and physician-owner of Bakersfield Heart Hospital. He has been a regular guest on The Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM/1180 AM. His thoughts appear regularly in Bakersfield Observed. In his words:

 Crowning Glory
 "It's been a tale of virus and vaccine. Mankind was blindsided by the release of a pathogen from the vicinities of a lab in Wuhan. A recent report by WHO to investigate the origins of Covid-19, spearheaded by past president of Liberia, used plenty of ink and English yet managed to say nothing. A transparent

failure to hide lies.
 "The virus is ravaging the globe with escalating numbers. Misery is compounded by the spread of virus in countries that are sparsely resourced to mount a meaningful defense. As bodies pile, the perpetrator consolidates power and influence to the detriment of USA.
 Here in USA, we were saved by the miracle of vaccine. A miracle a few anticipated but many worked for. Standing on the shoulders of giants, to paraphrase Issac Newton, science was able to create magic in record time led ably by Warp Speed team. 
 The Covid-19 virus is genetically more advanced than RNA viruses like Influenza. Its larger genome empowers it to proof read its progeny and minimize errors. This stability in the genome of the virus provided science a steadier target, hence better marksmanship.
 The continued replication of virus though is a precarious station. It tempts the faith. Already multiple variants with better skillset to infect and evade immunity have evolved. Fortunately, evolutionary skills of the virus so far have not exceeded the efficacy of existing vaccines. 
Immunity whether natural or vaccine based, compels virus to evolutionary pressures to reincarnate itself as a chameleon engineered to circumvent building immunity.
 Virus replication is a threat humanity need to contain and defeat. 
 Mitigation and vaccination are our proven repertoire.
 CDC has struggled to be consistent in its recommendations. Till recently it erred on the side of abundance of caution. Pressures must have been building. Comforted by emerging data from around the world affirming the efficacy of vaccine in preventing infections and reducing transmissibility, CDC decided to relax mask wearing guidelines across the board barring healthcare settings(and few others like prisons). 
If nothing else, CDC has a knack for jolting the weary. 
 Let's do an inventory.
 Roughly half of the population in USA has had one shot of the vaccine. A little over third have had both shots. A significant fraction of population has had infection. Some both. We can see the mountain top now. 
That reminds me of my first hike to Mt Whitney.
 As I tip toed in to early middle age, urges of fading youth pushed me to smell the roses. Hence Mt Whitney. 
 "The mountain reminded my every upward step that the country doc was unaccustomed to the physical toils. That was before verticality approached its rarefied better half called altitude. I was unacclimated to altitude too. Every forward step expended more energy with diminishing returns. Beyond effort it took persistence. Mountain top demands commitment and discipline. Quitting as they say is forever. 
So also is success. 
That reinforces the imperative that this close to the mountain top we need to recommit.

 "As I have reiterated ad nauseam,  vaccine hesitancy is the last mile we need to triumph through doctors offices. Its the steepest part of the hill, the part where you retool to summit the top.

 "The vaccinated now can intermingle per CDC. Vaccinated is a word to be taken at face value(with or without mask). 
 "We are a deeply polarized country.  President Reagan wisely suggested, trust but verify. The current data suggests more than two thirds of us have trust deficit with each other. Add to that a third or more of the population that questioned the virulence of virus and is adamantly opposed to vaccination. 
We can’t trust or verify!
 The “vaccine anxious” have been vaccinated. We need to recognize that least vaccinated are the kids 18 and under. Who among us will expose our kids to an inadvertent infection when a variant from India is relentlessly sickening the kids. 
 The pressures and anxiety on the part of CDC not withstanding, this recommendation is eminently premature. 
 We may never defeat vaccine hesitancy, we still should allow a few weeks to expeditiously vaccinate the kids whose parents restlessly await the vaccine salvation. 
Expanded immunity among the willing is our best shield against this pathogen. 

 "The resurgence of virus in the third world is largely predicated by abandonment of mitigation measures. New iterations of virus maybe more contagious but still yield to standard mitigation measures. We in USA and EU need to expand our vaccine production to help vaccinate the rest of the world. Our world depends on it.
"In founding this country, the forefathers renounced the crown. Humanity is grateful for their emancipatory vision. The crown is a scornful word but calling vaccine a crowning glory, that I can live with. If you haven’t had vaccine yet, get one. Royalty will have nothing on you. 
The glory was never in the crown.