Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Oct. 31, which means it’s Halloween — a holiday purpose-built for the city of make believe. I’m Jon Healey, senior editor of the Utility Journalism Team, and I am writing from South Pasadena, where tonight I will definitely not be visiting the boyhood home of Michael Myers.
The news coming out of California these days certainly has the feel of Halloween (the unsettling day, not the unsettling movie). Take, for example, Friday’s brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at their home in a tony San Francisco neighborhood. The details that have come out since that morning have been chilling; for example, the Associated Press reported Sunday that the man accused of the attack carried zip ties into the home — so he appears to have planned something other than a friendly chat with his representative in Congress.
(The San Francisco Chronicle explains how Paul Pelosi and an alert 911 dispatcher got police to the house in time to stop the attack from being even worse.)
Meanwhile, the Elon Musk era has begun at San Francisco-based Twitter, prompting some progressives to panic, or at least to reconsider their Twitter habits. They fear that Musk, a professed “free-speech absolutist,” will allow hate speech, harassment and intimidation to rule on the platform.
Many conservatives, on the other hand, felt Twitter’s moderation policies were biased against them and welcomed Musk’s arrival as a potential return to balance.
Musk said Friday he won’t change content policies or reinstate banned users until he has convened a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints.
Nevertheless, on Sunday, Musk retweeted a wild, anti-LGBTQ conspiracy theory about the attack on Pelosi that was advanced by the Santa Monica Observer, a font of fake news. The Times’ Anita Chabria responded with a column warning that Musk is driving Twitter straight into the gutter.
“Within 24 hours of Musk taking over the site, the use of the n-word increased 500%, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute — though Musk claims its moderation policies have not yet changed,” Chabria wrote. “Hate has found its home, in the middle of our public square.”
Meanwhile, supporters of affirmative action at USC and other private colleges in California are feeling horror-movie levels of dread over a pair of Supreme Court cases set for oral argument on Halloween. The lawsuits, brought against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, could lead to the same sort of race-blind policies at private colleges (and other institutions that receive federal funds) as California voters imposed on the UC system through Proposition 209.
The result, predicts UC Davis law professor Aaron Tang: less diversity in admissions. He suggests working to improve primary and secondary schools by raising the quality of their staffs.
“If we cannot bring disadvantaged students to schools with great teachers,” Tang writes, “we can offer financial incentives to encourage the teachers to go to them.”
Here’s a fright that strikes closer to home. If you haven’t read Jessica Roy’s account in The Times of how identity thieves turned her life upside down, you should do so now that it’s available to nonsubscribers.
“It will be entirely your problem, and no one — not the police, not the government, not the financial institutions — really cares or will help you much,” Roy warns. Come for the nightmare, stay for the advice Roy gives on self-protection and solutions.
Did you hear the one about the Comedy Store being haunted? The Times recruited Zak Bagans, host of the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” to investigate.
And if all of the anxiety-inducing news of late is costing you sleep, the Washington Post reports on an experimental technique that can ease debilitating nightmares. It involves tying a happier ending to the sound of a “neutral” piano chord, then playing that chord repeatedly after you start dreaming.
I’m partial to the C major seventh chord, but your happy-trigger tone may vary.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California.
Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.
Why L.A.’s ban on homeless encampments near schools and day care has become a heated election issue. Few policy initiatives at City Hall have generated as much debate in recent years as L.A. Municipal Code section 41.18, which places numerous restrictions on where people can sit, sleep and store property. Los Angeles Times
Profound challenges face LAUSD candidates, but big donors still fight over charter schools. The four candidates for two seats on the L.A. Unified board pledge to address a dizzying array of challenges — declining enrollment, teen drug abuse, school security concerns, pandemic setbacks and wide achievement gaps affecting Black and Latino students — but it’s largely their stance on the years-old debate over charter schools that is fueling the dollars pouring into their races. Los Angeles Times
Hurt by racist remarks, Indigenous Angelenos hope to seize the moment for change. When Oaxacan restaurateur Ivan Vasquez heard the recording of three Latino City Council members exchanging racist remarks, “he felt not only angry but invisible.” LAist
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These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re seeking a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse set of reporters from the award-winning L.A. Times newsroom, delivers the most interesting stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
City attorney with right-wing agenda fights for his political survival in increasingly blue Huntington Beach. And to think that voters there put Tito Ortiz on the City Council just two years ago. Los Angeles Times
California banned affirmative action at UC in 1996. The schools struggled for diversity ever since. As the U.S. Supreme Court opens oral arguments Monday on whether to strike down affirmative action in cases involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina, UC’s long struggle to bring diversity to its 10 campuses offers lessons on the promise and limitations of race-neutral admission practices. Los Angeles Times
Winter is coming for Sheriff Villanueva, one way or another. Columnist Gustavo Arellano takes a not-so-leisurely stroll along the Santa Monica Promenade with his frequent (and mutual) antagonist, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Los Angeles Times
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
A lawsuit against Google could lead the Supreme Court to upend the internet. Law professor Christopher S. Yoo opines on how the high court could alter websites and services and use moderation and algorithms to shape content. Los Angeles Times
Man wrongly convicted of Inglewood murder freed by DNA evidence after 38 years behind bars. Maurice Hastings was convicted in 1988 of murdering Roberta Wydermyer of Inglewood, along with two other attempted murders. His conviction and life sentence without parole were vacated Oct. 20 during a court hearing requested by Hasting’s attorneys, who are with the Los Angeles Innocence Project at Cal State L.A. Los Angeles Times
Victims of Kohl’s parking lot attack: a ‘doting father’ and an ‘absolute beacon.’ McKenna Evans and her father, Ken Evans, were working on their car in the parking lot of a Kohl’s in Palmdale when they were fatally stabbed shortly before noon Thursday. Los Angeles Times
Novel defense theory #723. A Tahoe City Council candidate accused of breaking into and trying to set fire to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment said he’s not to blame for the incident that led to his arrest earlier this month. Instead, he says, it was a bear’s fault. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
California set a record for greenhouse gas reductions in 2020, but wildfires wiped out the savings. Oh, and yes, the emissions reductions stemmed in part from short-term cutbacks in driving and travel caused by the pandemic, rather than from sustainable changes in behavior. Los Angeles Times
California cancer care isn’t equitable; a new law might help. A measure by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale) that goes into effect in January requires Medi-Cal insurers to “make a good faith effort” to include in their networks a healthcare facility recognized for its cancer care. CalMatters
As California’s motor-vehicle love shifts from gas to electric, what will happen to all the mom-and-pop gas stations? “Most of the independents will be put out of business — completely out of business,” said Charles Khalil, who owns two gas stations in the L.A. area and is bracing for a shakeout ahead of 2035. “We are all going to suffer through it.” Los Angeles Times
Think esports pros aren’t athletes? A look inside the intense lifestyle of Santa Monica’s Team Liquid. These aren’t teenage boys huddled in their bedrooms, tapping away at keyboards, joking with friends online. This is a professional franchise, and the mood is serious. When scrimmages finally conclude, many of the players return home to practice on their own past midnight. Los Angeles Times
How horror became Hollywood’s safe bet in a scary box office climate. As rom-coms, R-rated comedies, dramas and original action films struggle to convince moviegoers that they must be seen on a big screen, horror has been a rare safe bet for studios as box office overall has struggled to recover from the pandemic. Los Angeles Times
Powerball grand prize climbs to $1 billion. OK, so this isn’t a story about California culture. But I figured you would want to know in time for Monday’s drawing. Remember, your chances of winning are barely measurable even with the most powerful electron microscope. Los Angeles Times
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The Angels: 78, sunny. San Diego: 75, mostly sunny. San Francisco: 62, mostly cloudy. San Jose: 66, mostly cloudy. Fresno: 75, cloudy. Sacramento: 70, mostly cloudy.
Today’s California memory is from Judee Hauer:
At Louis Pasteur Junior High, Mr. Schulman taught social studies and closed his textbook with one hand and a snap. The boys settled their differences by meeting after school at the Adohr lot a couple blocks away. It was there that they could fight it out. (Adohr is Rhoda spelled backward.) It was a dairy location just off La Cienega below Pico. We walked home together to watch “American Bandstand” on black-and-white TV. In the summer, we could ride the Blue Bus to Santa Monica Beach. We laughed a lot.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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