Monday, November 5, 2018

No Substitute for "Due Process": Kavanaugh "Victim" Recants

The #MeToo movement continues to promote "believe the victims of sexual violence", which in and of itself is simply a defensible philosophy. When it strays into the implied belief that the victims testimony alone is enough to put the perpetrator behind bars, or lose their job, and certainly be publicly shamed in the media and elsewhere, then the long tradition of "due process", no matter how flawed (mostly expensive and time consuming), goes by the wayside. This often can result in errors that punish and incarcerate the innocent. 

This approach is best described at the web site "Start by Believing" - check it out:

"The Innocence Project", which overturns the convictions of those who are innocent but wrongly jailed for many years anyways, has for many decades proven that the wrong people are often jailed. Read about their philosophy here:

A recent example is the Kavanaugh accuser, Ms. Munro-Leighton, who has recanted her made-up story. Should we blindly have believed Ms. Munro-Leighton, who claims Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh and a friend raped her in his car. She later recanted this story as made up, simply because she wanted attention, and was angry. Read about how Ms. Munro-Leighton conceded that she made false statement.

I believe that we all want justice, but until we find improvements to "due process", this should be how we operate in this country: "innocent until proven guilty" is in danger of being thrown out the window for good. Americans are waking up to the realization that some of those who are victims of "accusation with no supporting evidence" turn out to be their husbands, children, parents and friends.

We are so far down this road that sexual assault defendants are no longer referred to in the media as "alleged", and are automatically assumed to be guilty. I claim that this is not who we are as Americans. I support justice and fairness wherever possible, independent of political party considerations.

As hard as it may be, the solution should be to report assaults as close in time as possible to when they occur, and not years later, when memories, not to mention evidence, disappear. I have close family members who are victims of severe sexual assault, and I understand why they are hesitant to come forward - a situation that is rightfully identified as a difficult hurdle to overcome.

For instance, though due process mandates the right to "question your accuser", it could still be done in a manner that is less threatening (and less public) to the "alleged" victim. 

Think about Munro-Leighton and what that could mean for any of us who are wrongly accused. The Kavanaugh accusers got all kinds of media coverage during the accusation, but I am willing to bet that the recanting of testimony by Munro-Leighton gets almost none - so far, that is an accurate observation.

Blog posts without photos are boring. Boat on a lift at King Harbor, only feet from destruction. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

NATION: Co-Living (aka Cooperative Housing) Coming to a City Near You?

This article came up recently in the Wall Street Journal: "Co-Living Takes on Bigger Spaces". I have been discussing cooperative housing as a solution for some time now. Indeed, I lived in a cooperative housing unit called the "Co-op" while attending UCLA. In fact, the "Co-op" (as it was unimaginatively called then, and is still called now) is still standing, and you can check on their rates. The co-op is sited on some of the most expensive land on the planet (Westwood, California), yet charges some of the lowest rates for housing anywhere.

Read about the coop as it operates today:

Here's the article (if the WSJ will let you read it):

'At co-living buildings, tenants lease tiny rooms in larger apartments shared with strangers. Renters have access to living rooms, kitchens and other common spaces, while amenities like cleaning services, dog walking and cooking classes are part of the deal.

This product, which is less than 10 years old and found primarily in large U.S. cities, represents only a tiny niche in the multibillion-dollar apartment industry. But developers are now preparing to build some of the largest new co-living properties in North America, a sign that the appeal of this type of housing could be broadening.

“Co-living’s institutional moment is now upon us,” said Chris Bledsoe, co-founder and chief executive of Ollie, which also recently opened a large co-living project with 422 bedrooms. “There’s no more flying by the seat of your pants.”'

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Overturn the Electoral College, Lifetime Seats for Judges and Senate - NOT SO FAST!

• The winner of the popular vote loses - that's not fair. However, that's what the "Framers of the Constitution" wanted. We don't have a "pure" democracy and never will.
• To eliminate the Electoral College (EC) requires:
(1) 2/3 vote in Senate;
(2) 2/3 vote in the House;
(3) 3/4 of all State Legislatures - 38 states as of now. The EC was designed to protect the small states from getting "trampled" by the big ones - that has not changed.
• Without the EC, national candidates would NEVER campaign or even care about the small states. Instead, they would just campaign in the large population centers of the country.
• With the EC, in a close race, all votes in the ENTIRE COUNTRY would have to be recounted! Remember Al Gore and Florida? That was only 3 counties, IIRC. The EC, by its very nature, avoids such a calamitous recall that could take months or even years!
• A recent effort to end the EC is trying to get states totaling 270 electoral votes to pass a bill in their legislatures pledging that the candidate who wins the national popular vote gets those states' electoral votes. It's been signed into law in 11 states, totaling 165 electoral votes, meaning they need another 105 to make it a reality -- which is very unlikely to happen.
• FUN FACT: The winner of the popular vote has lost the presidency five times: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016.

• To eliminate the "2 Senators per State" structure is even more stringent, and would require ratification by all 50 states (Article V of the Constitution) - that's NEVER going to happen.
• The 2 Senators per State structure was necessary to get the small states to sign on during the Constitutional Convention in the summer of 1787.

• Life Tenure for Judges: Madison wrote that life tenure for judges is the best way to secure steady and impartial administration of laws - that is still true today. Kind of like tenure for college professors.
• Side note: Kavanaugh cannot be impeached for conduct BEFORE he became a Supreme Court Justice. Also, Kavanaugh can only be investigated by a referral to federal prosecutors from the Senate, which is the only government entity to have judicial "Advise and Consent" powers.

Posts without a photo are no fun. Here's Brian in Beverage after a challenging hike up to Cove Spring. The funny part is that Brian is sitting in a "butt shaped" cut out in that rock. It was a very hot and very thorny, but very rewarding hike!

Monday, October 15, 2018

In Memoriam: Bev Morgan - Diving Pioneer and Founder of Dive N' Surf

I worked as the head instructor of Dive N' Surf in Redondo Beach in the late 80's and early 90's.  Part of the Dive N' Surf / Meistrell / Bev Morgan legend is described at the Dive N' Surf web site:

"In 1953, Bev Morgan offered Bill the opportunity to buy in to his local marine / dive shop, Dive N’ Surf. Bev owned the shop with Hap Jacobs, who later pioneered the modern surfboard. Jacobs wanted out and Bill accepted the offer on the condition that his brother Bob be brought in as the third partner. Bev agreed, Bob and Bill borrowed $1800 from their mother and each bought one third of the business. To keep themselves afloat, the twins continued lifeguarding on a part- time basis."

PHOTO: Me and Bev Morgan in 2006 at Bill Meistrell's memorial service at the famous Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach.

PHOTO: Me and Bobby Meistrell - I was honored to have known him. One of the greatest watermen EVER. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

NATION: Permanent Subsistence Housing (PSH) - A New Way of Thinking About Housing Those in Need

After years of talking to elected officials, committees, and regular old citizens like me, many still do not get it. We talk about "low income housing", "workforce housing", "affordable housing" — even "low low low income housing" (yes, that's a "thing"!) - what we don't talk about is a way to immediately begin getting the thousands (yes, thousands) of homeless in SLO county out of the creek beds and bushes, and into something resembling housing that meets basic needs.
I want to express the dire need to get the homeless off the street by describing a new kind of housing that maybe our elected local officials can understand - I call it "Permanent Subsistence Housing" (PSH). I'll try to describe it here as simply as I can. Let's begin.

PERMANENT SUBSISTENCE HOUSING (PSH). We define it by what it REQUIRES. The requirements below do not have to be in place all at once. They can be added ONE AT A TIME, IN RANDOM ORDER, IF NECESSARY. A plan is required, however, to eventually get to supplying all human subsistence requirements as listed below.

R1. Private bathroom with shower and all necessary associated items, like towels, soap, hot water, toilet, shower, etc.

R2. Safe, private sleeping space, with all associated items, such as bedding, pillow, etc.

R3. Lockable, private storage space which keeps private possessions safe while person is away from PSH.

R4. Food storage and preparation space, with all associated items, such as rodent-proof food storage, cooking space, pots, pans, plates, etc.

R5. Secure trash storage and regular pick up service.

R6. Right to the PSH. The right to be at one particular PSH, or moved to another PSH. This is trickier. Once moved into a PSH, the person cannot be kicked out of a PSH except for some very stringent criteria for dismissal. Note that the PSH may be moved from place to place, but it must be within a reasonable distance of the geographic location where the person has roots.

R7. Common area of PSH, where all PSH residents can congregate, with routine quiet hours in that space.

R8. All spaces at PSH require "probably cause" that a crime has been committed before law enforcement can enter these spaces, just like a private residence.

R9. All residents much contribute in some way to the common good of the PSH, based on their abilities (yes, communism it is!).

R10. Everything at the PSH is done according to the law, but when the law does not permit people to exist, the law must be changed. In the interim, emergency decrees shall be declared to permit people to exist, even if it doesn't comply with current law (think "emergency situation", like a disaster of some sort, where many people are displaced from their homes, and must have somewhere to go - the government has no restrictions in these situations).

We also define what is OPTIONAL but highly desired.

O1. Coping services, such as counseling, mental health services, job training, etc. As long as the person meets the behavioral rules of R6, these "Coping Services" are optional.

O2. Community work space, such as communal work activities, communal gardens for raising food items, etc.

O3. No PSH resident can own a car. Instead, the facility should have electric bicycles and tri-cycles, and be near a local transportation hub, such as a bus stop.

A campground could meet all these requirements. 
A tent city at a public park, with access to ports-potties and a paid membership at a health club for showering, and with a cook tent and social center tent (like Mt. Everest base camp) could meet all these requirements. 
So could a co-operative housing facility, like the Co-op in Westwood where I once worked and lived 
So could college style dorms.
And tiny home villages.

It doesn't look like "Affordable Housing" priced at $350,000 - $650,000. 
It doesn't look like a development, where 12% of the units (or pick your percentage - 2%, 5%, 55% - it doesn't matter) are for "affordable housing". 
It doesn't expect people to be something they are not, and may never be. In the short term, some people just aren't going to turn into something that society wants them to be - though they should be given the opportunity to do so. 
Its not a homeless shelter (or a "Temporary Emergency Housing", as I like to call it - those are for people who become homeless when they didn't expect to, like losing your job and getting evicted, hiding from spousal abuse, or becoming disabled because of an accident and trying to live off disability payments.
It doesn't appeal to middle class, upper middle class or high income earners - they won't want to live here - they already have a place to live; the "affluent" won't move in, scoop up PSH housing, and move in, or treat it as a "vacation home" - PSH exists purely to house people with nowhere else to go in a way that is more humane that what we are doing today, which is not much (statistically).
PSH does not require food to be provided - the community will provide food for themselves by whatever means necessary.

I kept this as simple as possible. Maybe more people will "get it". We have to ask ourselves - "are we our brothers keeper?" - I think we are. Peace.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

CALIFORNIA: A Life Lived "Under the Bell"

La Purisima Mission Bells - 200 Year Anniversary
By Tim Waag

This article was written for Mission La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima, in celebrating of the 200th year of their "Manuel Vargas" mission bell, cast in Peru in 1818. There is a special display in the Mission's visitors center commemorating this anniversary.
Many things about California’s mission life are taken for granted - like the timeless sounding of the mission bells. Digging deeper, there is always a greater depth of knowledge and understanding to be had. La Purisima Mission State Park is proudly celebrating the 200th anniversary of it’s 1818 Manuel Vargas-cast bell from Peru. Let’s probe a little further into the historic mission bells.

The bell-maker’s name and date were often cast into the bell, and sometimes even the mission’s name. The La Purisima bronze bell is inscribed with “Manuel Vargas Me Fecit, Año 1818, Misíon de la Purísima de la Nueva California” (translation of inscription: “Manuel Vargas made me, year 1818, Mission La Purisima of New California”). The Vargas bell was found at Mission Santa Inés in the 1930s, and returned to Mission La Purísima. Interestingly, at neighboring mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, their “Joy Bell” and “Gloria Bell” have the same inscription (including the same year 1818) — just swap “Misíon San Luis Obispo” for “Misíon de la Purísima”.
Above: Mission La Purisima Concepcion, where I am a volunteer docent, and play a Franciscan Priest during "Mission Life Days".

We know that the first mission bells in California were transfers from Spanish missions in Baja California, beginning in 1769. They were brought here by Fr. Junipero Serra O. F. M. (religious founder of the first California missions) and Gaspar de Portola, recently appointed Governor of the Californias. We also know that conversion of the indigenous peoples of California to Catholic belief and lifestyle was enhanced by the mythic powers of seemingly magical items unfamiliar to them. Playing a primary role were the metal mission bells with their glorious clanging that could be heard from miles away.

Resources were scarce at the new “Alta California” missions, and often, wooden bells were hung in the belfries (or companarios) until a metal bell could be procurred. Often, the wooden “placeholder” bell was all there ever was in a given slot in the bell tower. The padres at the various missions had limited budgets to procur religious objects, and had to make judicious trade-offs between acquiring religious art, vestments, beads, tools, livestock and other items.
Mission San Luis Obispo - bell tower (companario)

Each California mission had two Franciscans assigned to them, and with the advice and counsel of the Alta California Mission Presidente, decisions were made about how many bells and other items (religious and otherwise) were to be acquired. Large mission bells were heavy and expensive, and prone to cracking and damage over time, so the trade-offs in deciding where to spend their mission budget was a difficult one.

Much information has survived from the mission era, but the internal discussions and trade-offs by the padres related to their mission and their bells seldom survived to the present day. We do know how important the missions bells were to the lives of the Franciscans, as they often described their life as “living completely under the bells”. Today, we are left with speculation and intuition as to the story of each of California’s mission’s bells. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to House the Homeless and Low Income Worker

The bottom line is that when it comes to the homeless, I am at my best, by far, as a "hands on" volunteer. Not a politician, or a policy wonk, or anything like that. However, I read about solutions to homelessness and how to provide low cost housing for low income workers in large volumes.

This page is dedicated to links to California projects to achieve these objectives that have (or are) being implemented, and could be undertaken with success here on the Central Coast, should there be the political will to do so.

Are they "perfect" solutions? No. Do "perfect" solutions exist? No. So what are these? Solutions that are working, and create housing for the homeless, and affordable housing for the low wage worker. Happy reading.

When the links may "disappear" over time, I have copied the article (in part) so that you will have some idea of its contents. Happy reading!

2018.01: Trailers for the Homeless in Downtown Los Angeles Lot
Los Angeles city leaders are planning to house dozens of homeless people in trailers on a city-owned downtown lot as a possible model for citywide temporary shelters.

Above: Large dog guarding a homeless camp in San Luis Obispo.