Thursday, January 5, 2023

Kevin McCarthy fights for political survival of his dream to be Speaker, a bomb cyclone of rain and wind ravages California and the abortion pill will soon be available in pharmacies

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.

 * ... KEVIN MCCARTHY: The political fate of Kevin McCarthy hangs in the balance as this week's Bakersfield Observed goes to press and it's hard to find anyone who doesn't have a take on his dilemma. Make no mistake: in Bakersfield McCarthy remains hugely popular, and in this fight he has won the

overwhelming and enthusiastic backing of radio and TV hosts who have rallied behind the local BHS driller and former owner of Kevin O's Deli. Others rally behind McCarthy out of the sense that we get no respect here, part of that deep seated insecurity that screams Bakersfield is happy to be out of step with more liberal parts of the state. Interestingly, locally McCarthy's most vocal critics come from the extreme right wing of his own party, the pro-MAGA crowd, the very same people who have been preventing him from being elected speaker of the House- at least so far. 

* ... CALIFORNIA WOES: One of the more thoughtful, and experienced, commentators on life in California is Dan Walters, the dean of the Sacramento press corps who now works for the Golden State non-profit Cal-Matters. This week Walters laid out California's greatest challenges: the multi-year drought, public 

schools struggling with post Covid issue, our deteriorating electrical grid and a shortage of housing for the homeless. And Walters, whose columns run in The Californian but whose writings can be accessed online, said this: "California used to be the place where people went to make better lives for themselves, but now we've become one of those places that people leave because we make it too difficult for them to prosper. Newsom often disparages states such as Texas as Florida, but they are gaining population while California is losing it."

 * ... BOMB CYCLONE: Thanks to a fast moving atmospheric river, California is being lashed by heavy winds and rains that have caused havoc and even death in northern California. Atmospheric rivers are common in California and hugely influential in terms of the drought and the damage they can cause because of too much moisture. So what exactly is an atmospheric river? This answer comes from The New York Times: "These storms get their names from their long, narrow shape and the prodigious amount of water they carry. They form when winds over the Pacific draw a filament of moisture from the warm, moist air over the tropics and channel it toward the west coast. When this ribbon of moisture hits the Sierra Nevada and other mountains, it is forced upward, cooling it and turning its water into immense quantities of rain and snow."

 * ... ISABELLA DAM: And how does all this rain affect Lake Isabella, which has been flirting with dangerously low levels? One who had the answer was Steven Mayer, the gifted Bakersfield Californian feature writer and one of the more thoughtful analysts around town, who posted this on Facebook: "Isabella Lake’s water level grew by more than 1,000 acre feet in a 24-hour period. On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan. 4, the lake held 55,670 AF (acres feet) of water. Twenty-four hours later, it was measured at 56,697 AF, a difference of 1,027 acre feet. Great progress, but we must keep it in perspective, as 56,697 AF is only about 10 percent of the lake’s capacity, and only 39 percent of the average lake level for this time of year. Still, more is pouring in (much more than is being released downstream), and lots more precipitation is forecast. " (photo courtesy of Mayer's Facebook account)

* ... ABORTION PILLS: Here is an interesting development in the blowback against the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade: It looks like pharmacies will soon be carrying abortion pills thanks to new changes made by the Food and Drug Administration. This is a big change that will likely - by design - give more women access to the abortion pills on demand. Up until now, the pill was only dispensed by a few mail order pharmacies or by certain doctors and clinics. Abortion pills are already used in roughly half of the cases where pregnancies are ended. (In California, the pills will be available without prescription)

 * ... TRACO MATTHEWS: It was good to see Traco Matthews being recognized as the local NAACP's "Man of the Year" as part of the celebration of Black History Month. Matthews is among a local group of young, motivated and talented "next generation" leaders that will help define and mold what life in Bakersfield and Kern County will look and feel like in the next in the next several decades. The event will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, at Bakersfield Country Club.


 * ... MEMORIES: So who knew we used to have salt baths down near Mill Creek Park? I didn't until I spotted this on the Kern County History Fans collection of remarkable photos on the group's Facebook page.