Archive | July, 2013

Chalk One Up to Extremism at the City Attorney’s Office

Posted on 13 July 2013 by John Rippo

Jeff Olson is aGSmith1WEB 40-year old local man  facing prosecution for scrawling uncomplimentary messages about the Bank of America on sidewalks with classroom chalk between February and August of last year.

Olson has grievances against the Bank of America stemming from Occupy efforts that  urged the public to shift money from the Bank of America and place it elsewhere—this in response to the bank’s acceptance of bailout funds.

While scrawling, Olson was  accosted by a bank manager and threatened with arrest. The bank eventually followed through on the threats and Olson was  charged with 13 counts of vandalism for chalking messages inimical to the bank on the sidewalk by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Bank of America claims it cost them $6000 to hose down the sidewalks after Olson’s acts and this is enough  to slap Olson with $13,000 in fines, costs for restitution to the bank—and a likely sentence of 13 years in state prison if Olson is convicted.

Unsurprisingly, the assistant city attorney at Olson’s initial hearing before Superior Court Judge Howard Shore was granted her motion to prohibit Olson’s attorney from arguing a “free speech” defense. Judge Shore reminded those present that California law pertaining to vandalism says nothing about first amendment guarantees and this presumably leaves Olson hanging in the breeze at trial.

The alleged vandalism charges Olson faces are for chalking  “Stop Big Banks”, “Stop Bank Blight.com” and vague cartoon characters with lots of arms and money in their hands—hardly the stuff of anarchist revolution. Even if Olson championed anarchist revolution, such speech is not anything for rational people to worry about.

Unfortunately, rationality does not exist at Jan Goldsmith’s office. If it did, none of his assistant city attorneys would carry water for so trifling a charge as this.

Unfortunately for  Olson and the rest of us, Goldsmith is bent on making an example of Olson and using him to scare others into silence where big business is concerned. Goldsmith’s vacuous statement following Olson’s hearing acknowledge that laws pertaining to vandalism will not make criminals out of children with chalk and that art will be permitted—so long as no powerful businesses claim that it suffered monetary damage from “vandals”. Even at first reading, Goldsmith’s statement reveals his willingness to defer to the needs of the powerful even when proof of damage is lacking, or in this case utterly unbelievable.

Goldsmith prefers to be a martinet and this has meaning for everyone in San Diego and for the city generally. San Diego depends on tourism and a Sheriff Joe Arpaio-wannabe ready to go off half cocked for agitated chicken scratching does not make San Diego any more appetizing to those elsewhere. Those elsewhere have taken note of Goldsmith’s hard line; media have had a field day cutting Goldsmith to ribbons for his angst-driven prosecution of a man who should face no more than a low fine if convicted on a misdeamenor charge. Even Russian media have cogently remarked on how similar Goldsmith’s scare tactic is to Brezhnev’s and recalls that under Soviet rule, dissidents could be put away for the same number of years on a first offense. To Americans, this ought to be anathema. To Jan Goldsmith, it’s a measure of how important he is.

Respect for law is the glue that holds citizens to the social contract we all live under and that respect is degraded when heavy penalties are unjustly and arbitrarily applied. Goldsmith’s ego outstrips his intellect in his desire to shut up dissent and he cares  not one whit how much this case will cost the city when it goes to the appellate court—where it will get slam dunked and handed back to the City Attorney in little pieces.

Beyond even that, the sheer ridiculousness of Goldsmith’s heavy handedness exposes him as having judgment inferior to his pay grade. One expects that he’ll shoot people for double parking outside Petco or torture material witnesses in shoplifting cases at Walmart any day now. Repeat-offending violent criminals in this state often get less than 13 years for assault and battery or attempted murder; rapists sometimes don’t draw that long a sentence and neither do some who are convicted of manslaughter. To charge an angry, frustrated man with no previous criminal record with crimes carrying such a long sentence is not merely absurd but immoral on its face and its a marker of the City Attorney’s lack of good sense that makes him highly suspect concerning just what “people” of San Diego he presumes to work  for. Mayor Bob Filner is entirely correct in his efforts to cut funding for Goldsmith’s office; if this kind of ham-handedness is what we can expect from him, we should recognize City Attorney Jan Goldsmith for the menace he is to all of us—and to justice itself.

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Rebecca’s Coffeehouse First in New Plan for Charity

Posted on 13 July 2013 by John Rippo

Rebecca’s Coffeehouse in Golden Hill  became the first coffeehouse to sign up for a new plan to target resources to those who need them throughout the world.

The brainchild of Karen Cebreros, formerly of Elan Organic Coffees, Track the Impact is a cloud-based software tool that links businesses to the community of non-profits of their choice through its Profits 4 Purpose software. Businesses, their employees and customers can use the tool to contribute money, resources, time and effort to linked organizations that partner with business with what Cebreros calls a “Facebook of donations”. By attaching favored non-profits to brick and mortar businesses, organizers hope that the public will “adopt” those non-profs as preferred ones to enrich.

By showing in real time with exquisite organization amounts rendered and what happens to them, Track the Impact reads almost like a score board of active giving and shows comprehensive updated information on several levels. Want to see how your favorite enviro group is doing  with its quarterly campaign drive organized through your neighborhood business district? Track the Impact will show you in real time. You can also see the specific contributions given by you and your friends, too.

Rebecca Zearing made the first of what Cebreros hopes will be the first of many contributions to the effort. A five hundred dollar  input launched the coffeehouse into the program; a considerable percentage of which is dedicated to non-profs chosen by Zearing and staff. Cebreros hopes that hundreds of cafés and other businesses will join her effort and create a web-based, “adoptive” community of linked businesses, charities and activism that is more responsive than ever before.

Cebreros has a successful history of fund raising for cultural and social causes; one of her most successful is the Women in Coffee Microcredit Union, which raises funds through the sale of coffees worldwide and extends small “microcredit” loans to women in the third world for self employment projects that allow women to make a living and achieve independence.

Micro-credits are committed to aiding the poorest of the poor and the concept was the brainchild of  Mohammed Younis, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Younis founded his bank in 1976 on microcredit principles which have proven to be extremely successful with a 90 percent-plus repayment rate on loans of as little as four dollars. Coffeecares.com is part of the Track the Impact effort.

The signing on of Rebecca’s is a start and so far, it’s well received by patrons who have discovered the program through the coffeehouse’s site . Cebreros is reaching out to the rest of the 430 independent coffeehouses in San Diego County to join the program now. For more infomation, contact tracktheimpact.com

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Robert Clark Young: Writing the Book on Elder Care After Five Years’ Caring for Gravely Ill Parents

Posted on 13 July 2013 by John Rippo

DSC_2287WEBBetterOneRobert Clark Young recalled the day his life changed. He was in the shower when the phone rang with a call from his father about his mother. Something was very wrong; she was confused, agitated, speaking jibberish and barely responsive. Robert’s 80-year old mother suffered a massive stroke and was entering a new world of aphasia and ever-decreasing mobility and function that eventually ended in her death. But on that day, Robert thought of how long he’d have to be gone from teaching in Sacramento and the trip back to his boyhood home in Imperial Beach. That was in July, 2008. Robert Young still hasn’t gone back; for him and his parents, a series of escalating health crises changed their lives permanently.
“There was nothing in life that prepared me for this,” he said. “I walked into a situation with no idea of what it takes to care for elderly people. I had to learn fast by doing it.” Young suddenly found himself mired in the language of doctors and hospitals and insurance agents; of lawyers, caregivers and of his mother whose failing language abilities morphed into a post-verbal patois that Young soon began to understand and relate to. He realized that though his mother was gravely affected, she still understood what was going on—and what was said in her presence.
“Everything you imagine that will happen doesn’t happen,” he said recently, referring to the fears and stresses of elder care. “Bad things happen but they’re unexpected. Like when my mom had a heart attack right in front of me, and went back to the hospital. They gave her Tylenol,” Young said, in one of many bitter references to the levels of health care that even well-insured people can expect. The aftermath saw Young equipping his parent’s house like a hospital room with a bed for invalids and support equipment. It was several weeks before his mother was well enough to return home and when she did, Young found himself a virtual prisoner of circumstance, unable to leave even for short outings for supplies. It was a harrowing time and it was only the beginning, too.
One of the “unexpected things that happened” was his 81-year old father’s severe stroke coming only four months after Robert’s mother was stricken and which paralyzed his father’s right side and limited his ability to speak. Robert was alerted to this new disaster when his father suddenly fell out of bed, incoherent and waving his arms. As the EMT’s took his father to the hospital, it dawned on Robert that what was a temporary return home was now permanent. “For sure, I was never going to leave,” he recalled.
Since then, Robert Young has become expert at caring for his disabled elders and navigating the systems that his parents depend on. His opinions on everything from HMO’s to elder law attorneys and doctors’ bedside manner is unusually well informed and he expresses them in a column for Yahoo News on issues relating to elder care—including things like the vast amount of economic value saved by society by unpaid care giving. Young makes a case for some $350 billion expended yearly by millions of Americans who have stepped up to care for their families and save their loved ones from becoming a financial drain on society. The loss is bearable—if you’re wealthy, Young argues, or even if you’re poor. But for what was once known here as the solid middle class, it’s a different story.
This was brought home to him when his father couldn’t eat anymore due to the paralysis of his internal organs on the side of his body incapacitated by his stroke. Progressing brain injury robbed Robert’s father of his ability to swallow and internal paralysis meant that peristalsis no longer occurred. Robert’s father was dangerously constipated. Levels of care needed ramping up and costs ramped up with them and while seeking information on state assistance, Robert was told that his parents income was too high for them to qualify for it—unless they got divorced. Divorce would lower each parent’s income to levels qualifying of assistance, but for a couple married for 53 years and depending on pensions and Social Security interactively, the option wasn’t feasible, though it was repugnant. The family’s belt tightened a bit further and life went on, with difficulty than before.
Robert’s cost in time and stress is measured in health concerns and opportunities lost. He developed vertigo and hyperthyroidism that he considers is a direct result of the strains of the last five years and lost nearly 40 pounds. Sober for 27 years, he uses lessons from AA in daily affirmations that keep him grounded even as he loses touch with friends and associates from the past. Writing is an outlet and besides the column for Yahoo, Young is working on a book on elder care written for those who, like himself, are suddenly confronted with the enormity of the tasks involved in caring for the gravely infirm. The Survivor: How to Deal With Your Aging Parents While Enriching Your Own Life is a combination memoir and how-to guide with instructions on every aspect of caring; this is interspersed with stories of Young’s experiences and notable successes. One of whihc is his father’s continuing function, free of disease complications even while catheterized. Young was told that he could expect that his father would die within six months of the procedure. Two years later, his father functions well and has recently begun to move fingers on his paralyzed side. His website, robertclarkyoung.com, isa clearing house of useful information in anticipation of publication.
Young’s experiences as described in his book are as diverse as dealing with adult diapers—“When you’re pooped upon, you just wash it off and the problem is over in two seconds. I wish all of the challenges in life wer this easy to wipe away,” to confronting one’s old family issues and stresses. Young takes a deep breath and releases it with a smile as he formed his description of what that means to him. “You can’t resent them anymore. Whatever is, is done and gone and the more involved it is, the sooner it heals all the old stuff. It’s like a second chance to grow up again.”
In August, Robert Young will mark his fifth anniversary of being his parents’ caregiver. It’s a marker he’ll look forward to proudly.

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