Thursday, March 30, 2017

Port Antonio, Jamaica - The Hunt for the Kraken

Blue Lagoon, Port Antonio
I took a four hour bus ride from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, a place a number of people told me to go. I ended up at a German hostel at the top of a hill, in the rainforest, where the fireflies light your way to the path. (Once when I hiked up to the top of the hill, I saw red and blue flickers. In New Zealand, the glowworms only come in blue.)

When I came to Port Antonio, a taxi took me to a soccer field by the hostel. I saw the black soccer players competing. I noticed how tall and sporty they looked, a big contrast to my small frame. There, I ordered fried chicken and rice and beans, a common dish in the Caribbean. It was alright, but not great.

I can't say that my time with the guests was as a nice as it was at my last place. Here, it seems like mostly couples and long time friends are traveling; so, they're more closed off to meeting new people.

Nonetheless, I still felt it familiar with Germans. And at one point, my host caught me listening into their German conversation. Although I said nothing, he looked at me, and said, "Do you understand what we're saying?"

I smiled and nodded and said, "But not everything."

He said, "I can tell."

At first, I disliked the locals. Several times, I was called "Ching Chong" and "Mr. Wong" and "Mr. Chin" (though the last one, Mr. Chin is not so racist; he's a Chinese-Jamaican billionaire). It got annoying. At one point, a prostitute in a hot pink dress grabbed my forearm and said, "I have a place upstairs. You like?"

"No thank you," I said.

But some people have been really friendly. And over time, I've really liked some of the people. Down the hill, there's a fried chicken shack. And the guy also calls me Mr. Chin. I call him, Mr. Chicken. But he has the best fried chicken I ever ate. So, I go there every lunch.

He also makes Caribbean rice that's amazing. (Perhaps, it's so good, I should bring some home for my friends.) What makes it good is that he puts the right amount of coconut milk in it and the right amount of beans. Somehow the balance makes it come out very good. I've grown to like him very much, and he's grown to like his Mr. Chin very much; perhaps, because I appreciate his food so much.

One time, at the bank, I was in the senior citizen's line without knowing. The man in front of me was 68 and was a Rasta Man. And he told me, "Hey man, this line is for people that are 68 'o older."

I told him, "I'm 69."

He said, "No you not 69."

"I am. I do the Chinese way. It keeps me young, man. Makes me look like this."

He believed it for awhile, and he said, "Really?! You 69?"

I nodded. I told him, "You need to learn the Chinese way."

"I guess so..."

"But really, if you want to be live long, you need to be right with the Lord."

"Oh man," he said. "I'm right with my Father."

"Ok, good, man. Be at peace."

One day, I went to the Blue Lagoon. It's a blue pool of freshwater and saltwater. When you swim in it, the top part of it tastes fresh. Supposedly, it's over 200 feet (68 meters) deep. The locals say a giant squid lives in the bottom. And I believed them.

So, I held my breath and dove down as deep as I could, looking for my Kraken, the octopus-sea-monster. One of my favorite poems by Tennyson said this of the Kraken:

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth . . .

But, I never found my Kraken, no matter how hard I looked.

The German guy told me they were just making a story for me. Then he added, "I can't believe you would want to find a big sea monster that could kill you."

"Why not?" I said. "It wouldn't kill me. Animals like me."

Well, one day I'll find my Kraken, Leviathan, and Phoenix. But my time in Jamaica wasn't the time to find these ancient and mystical monsters and creatures.

Perhaps on this trip, more than others, I reflected on the importance of having less and not more. The Western World is one of excess, which people don't realize carries with it, unhealthy and unintended consequences. Thus, remedies for such problems can only come through fasting, rest, meditation, prayer, and forgiveness.

My days are coming to an end in Jamaica. I'll be back in Los Angeles soon. Until then, I need to relax more under the Jamaican sun and sea.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Unwinding in Jamaica; My Days in an Island in the Sun

Jamaican Coconuts
In my early days in Jamaica, a little island in the sun, I just unwound and did nothing. I went to the white sand beach every other day, socialized a lot, and read.

At the beach, I didn't feel like eating a hamburger at the resort; so, I snacked on Caribbean Sea urchins, coconuts, and sea grass. I ate it all raw.

I would go hunting for the sea urchins in the sea. I would grab them. Then crack them open with a rock. Then, I would wash out the guts and undigested sea grass with the ocean water. Then, I'd scrape out the orange eggs and eat them. They tasted fatty and sweet and good, and I liked them.

 I felt like a caveman, and although the Germans frowned that I would crack open a sea urchin and eat its eggs so savagely, I told them it tasted good and was most likely good for me. I figured I might as well fill up on ocean nutrients while I had the chance.

The workers at the resort told me to stop picking the young coconuts. And, I would tell them the younger ones tasted sweeter. Even though I'd pick them, they would always open it for me.

And it tasted sweet and good. So, it was kind of an odd effect. They told me to stop doing it, but rewarded me every time I did it. So, I kept doing it, because I was rewarded and it tasted good.

Lars, one of the German guests, called me a freeloader in German, because I didn't want to pay for food. (The Germans paid for their coconuts, because they didn't pluck them out of the trees like I did.) And why should I, when the beach had plenty for me to eat? (I tell everyone I'm unemployed anyways, so it really makes sense I do this.)

It was odd how the food made me feel full for a long time, when there was so little of it. In contrast, sugary and starchy foods in the States, only temporarily make you feel full; it's a bad thing and perhaps is a leading contributor to our out-of-control obesity epidemic.

In total, sometimes I was social with the guests. Sometimes I was anti-social, retreating into my own world to read or write or think. In this way, I had best of both worlds.

Incidentally, I finished my book on Lincoln and his generals. It gave me many brilliant insights, and I was grateful that the author wrote it. I think it will help me with my litigation going forward.

One other odd trivia. I also noticed a funny thing at my hostel. I realized Germans are coffee thieves. Really! They are!

I would brew myself two cups of coffee in a French press. Drink one of it. Then the other one was missing. Luca, a German told me he drank it. I managed a smile and brewed myself another cup.

Then another German asked me to make him one, because he had no coffee. Then, when I left my coffee sitting, the German girl Mona, the same one who asked me to take her into town, drank my coffee. I had to brew three cups of coffee to have one. Two went to the Germans.

Although I didn't buy the famous and delicious and expensive Blue Mountain coffee at the markets, the Jamaican coffee is very good. There's something with coffee growing in islands in the tropics. They always taste better for some reason; think of Blue Mountain, Kona, and Bali coffee.

So, perhaps that's why the Germans were pinching my coffee all the time. I also fill my coffee with the French cream at the store, which is rich and buttery and makes the coffee taste so much fuller and somehow more complete.

But Luca repaid me. His parents came to visit him from Germany. They brought to Jamaica their famous, locally baked, German black bread and gave it to me. That was kind of them.

It was delicious as well. Luca slathered on it New Zealand butter and German honey. I liked it.

He also got me some French tobacco, and I smoked it and smoked it quickly because it tasted so nice. (It's not at all a habit, so don't rail on me for doing it.)

Because of Luca's parents' hospitality, we were able to chat and introduce ourselves. It was a pleasant breakfast, over coffee and cream and German bread and honey and fatty butter.

One day Mona, a German girl kept asking me to cook for her. So, I cooked for her and the Flemish guy, William. I cooked Caribbean ocean fish with roasted spices, roasted sweet potatoes, and stir fried okras (an vegetable native to Africa) with garlic and butter .

At first I was little annoyed, because good food has to be made with love. And love is work. And working on a holiday is not a pleasant task. But after awhile, I started getting into it, and I appreciated serving them.

(But then I got upset, to think how long it was since I cooked. And the reason, I realized while I didn't cook was because the last big meal I made was for the boxers for Passover. After that, Baldwin Park protested the Jewish holiday and got Julian fired. (Perhaps it's too much to allege they're anti-Semitic, because they appear to be vindictive towards anyone who want to do what's right for the people.) It left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and I realized since then, I never made a big meal again.)

And, so, I was grateful that I had an opportunity to cook again and reclaim a joy that was taken from me. All the food tasted good and hearty and healthy and filling. I ended the meal with coffee, and Mona and William looked grateful.

Anyways, a number of us were leaving the hostel. Mona was going home to Germany. I was moving on. William walked us to the street and waited for us, while we caught a taxi. He gave us both a hug.

They made fun of me for not having social media, which in their minds made me a lot older than them. I smiled, thinking that's not why I'm not on social media (though I never said really why).

And that was how my time in Montego Bay ended. I find that good byes can be difficult. To quote a Caribbean writer, Ana├»s Nin once said, "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Confession - I'm in Jamaica

So, I have a confession, and it's this: I'm in Jamaica right now. I arrived some time ago, and when I did I was tired because I had a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Jamaica. I left around midnight, only to arrive early in the morning in Jamaica.

I was tired. I only slept four hours on the plane.

The hostel I'm staying at is owned by a German woman. As a result, most of the guests here are German; there's one guy from Belgium and a few from England. The Flemish guy teaches me French from time to time.

A lady spoke some German. I made a mistake and answered her back in German. The next thing I knew, everyone at the hostel knew the Asian guy can speak German. (But it's not that good; so don't test me - please.)

Well, at least that made me feel like I was "in" immediately. And they all asked me, Where did you learn German? (I do feel like I'm oddly at home with all these Germans around me, and it's nice I can practice and learn more German.)

The problem is that they're all smoking weed around me. Also, marijuana, which is called ganja, is everywhere. No, I'm not smoking it. It smells good, though.

I've learned so much about marijuana in the first few days here, than I think I learned of it in my entire life, such as how to grow it best, how to use a microscope to tell when it's ripe, and how dealers make it heavier by spraying it with hairspray.

The tourists here, I believe, think only of marijuana, since it's so cheap and legal here.

The other day, a German girl named Mona asked me to take her into town. I asked the Belgium guy, William to come with me. We sat at a cafe overlooking the turquoise sea. The day was fine and breezy and balmy, and the air was salty.

We all ordered cappuccinos, which was probably one of the best cappuccinos I ever had. This was because it was made from the premo Blue Mountain beans. Blue Mountain tastes rich and fatty and decadent without being bitter at all. It was nice to have it with the frothy milk of a cappuccino. We just chatted and talked about our lives.

After, we all walked into town. It felt like we were in a movie, with the hustling and bustling Jamaicans constantly stopping us and saying "Hi Man..."

William bought us ice cream. We all sat on the floor like children and ate our ice cream. William looked so happy licking his ice cream. I had raisin and rum ice cream. It was good and tangy and had the lingering taste of alcohol.

Then, we went to the pet store. I looked at the birds - lot of exotic ones. I also looked at the fish, hoping to see some freshwater fish native to Jamaica. No luck.

Then, we all took a taxi to the beach. We ordered drinks and chicken wings. I ordered a smoothie made of rum and bananas and coffee.

William ordered some festival - which is their deep fried bread made of cornmeal and flour and sugar. (It tastes good, like a deep fried cornbread, but I'm sure it's not good for you.) We looked at the ocean, as we ate, drank, and talked more.

There were mangrove trees by us. So, I explained how these trees can live in saltwater.

Then the three of us sat the pier and watched the sunset. Underneath us, I could see the elegant and majestic butterfly fish swimming in the clear blue water.

After, we caught the taxi back to the hostel. Unlike the other drives, our taxi driver was nice and respectful.

It was a nice day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

On Understanding the Enemy - Lessons on Strategy

The secret and real enemy in Full Metal Alchemist
On thinking about all my legal battles, I realized I made a mistake on not understanding my enemy well enough from the get go. I'm writing this, so you don't make the same mistakes I did.

Sometimes in life, we hear a proverb, but we don't realize how true it is until experience comes later and validates such wisdom. During college, I remember that Sun Tzu, the author of the Art of War stated, "Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories."

In short, it means that to win, you need to know both the enemy and yourself. It's simple to understand but harder to put into practice.

So, when I litigated against Baldwin Park, I had no idea the number of unethical tactics that would be prosecuted against me, such as when the City Attorney misrepresented my signature to the court. I didn't even know such tactics existed. I'm sure the English generals were shocked when the Germans bombed nerve gas on them for the first time in human history in World War I.

My introduction to litigation shocked me. And being shocked is not a position any fighter, warrior, or officer should ever be in. A good fighter should be able to anticipate such tactics, because he already knows his enemy. And in hindsight, I now know the information was available on my adversary, I just had to do more digging for it, which I didn't exhaust thoroughly.

Currently, I'm reading T. Harry William's novel Lincoln and His Generals, which echoes the same concept of war. In criticizing one of Lincoln's incompetent generals, Williams says that the general made the rookie mistake of expecting the enemy to do what he wanted. Think and pause about that for a second. Do you expect your adversary to do what's in your realm of possibilities?

Like that general, I made the same mistake as a young litigator. The biggest mistake I made with Baldwin Park is that I expected them to follow the rules of court.

But in hindsight, I can see it now has to be asked: Why would the City follow such rules, when cheating puts them at an advantage? Also, when the City gets caught, it goes unpunished. Of course, it would employ the most unethical of tactics, because it's in its great benefit to do so.

But over and over again, I expected the opponent to do what I wanted, instead of understanding the true nature of how he would behave. (Of course, there came a point in time when I changed my expectations of enemy, who is also the enemy of the people and the hardworking.)

So, that's a leaf from my book. If you don't know who you are, don't go into battle. If you do, then understand who the enemy is. Then, after you do that, really understand who the enemy is. And after you do that, really, really understand who the enemy is. In doing so, victory should be guaranteed. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

On Generational Curses, Legacy, and Freedom

The Holy Redwoods
Photography by
Being back in the City of Baldwin Park, a city stricken by poverty, has caused me to think about the topic of intergenerational curses. Now, I know in our modern world, belief in such concepts is frowned upon. For, we tell ourselves that such ideas are superstitious and have no place in our realm of science and empirical thought. But is that really the truth?

What I've observed is that poverty, drug addictions, violence, alcoholism, self-image issues, and other vices seem to pass from father or mother to their children. And then, when I look at the grandparents, there appears to be the roots of such vices as well.

Although not logical, it appears that sometimes the grip of being born in certain families or tribes carries with it a certain predestination - whether that be good or bad. A.E. Winship, an American pastor and educator, noticed a similar pattern. He did a 150 year study on genealogy of the famous preacher Jonathan Edwards and a convict during Edward's Times, Max Jukes.

This is what he found of their issues and heirs. Jonathan Edwards’ legacy includes: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 65 professors, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers and 100 missionaries.

Max Jukes’ descendants included: 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 50 women of debauchery, 130 other convicts. 310 paupers (with over 2,300 years lived in poorhouses) 400 who were physically wrecked by indulgent living.

T.H. White, the author of a number of King Arthur's legends also recognized the concept. For he penned these lines:

When shall I be dead and rid
Of all the wrong my father did?
How long, how long 'till spade and hearse
Put to sleep my mother's curse?

Really, the principles of blessings and curses is as ancient as time itself. Even our Hebrew Torah, though not a popular subject, talks about curses. The first curses are discussed in Genesis, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and in doing so, condemned all of mankind.

Exodus says this about the subject: "The Lord then passed in front of him [Moses] and called out, “I, the Lord, am a God who is full of compassion and pity, who is not easily angered and who shows great love and faithfulness. I keep my promise for thousands of generations and forgive evil and sin; but I will not fail to punish children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents.” (Exodus 34:6-7).

I guess the following principle of Exodus is this. If you do good, your generations get blessed for thousands of years. If you do something evil, your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren reap the poisonous harvest for at least 150 years. No wonder why the Scripture frequently mentions that the Law brings death.

Perhaps, one might argue - that's not fair. Why should my children suffer for what I've done? Well, that logic is flawed. Yes, the Scriptures draw a line about the criminal penalties that should afflict a relative that is not involved in a crime, but a more permanent cost seems to be taxed on the family.

For instance, a father can say that his alcoholism or drug abuse  or affair isn't affecting anyone but himself. But is that true?

Of course not. Such harm penetrates through the whole family, even if it isn't brought out into the open. To say it's not fair, really underestimates, trivializes, and denies the scorching harm that evil has, which burns not only the committer of it, but those around him or her.

I don't have children; (though, I have a kitty named Jeh Pan. I don't know if it applies to him). But, it makes you wonder and think, what kind of legacy you'll leave behind by what you've done and said on this earth. Remember; it's not only about you but the next generation to come.

The bleakness of it all, begs the question: Is there an escape for one and their issues to come? In Apostle Paul's letter to Galatians he presents the solution.

Paul says that Abraham and all of Abraham's issues were blessed, not because he obeyed the Law - which brings death, but because he had believed in God and believed God. And through that belief, God has cleansed him and made him right with God.

Then Paul goes onto write:

But by becoming a curse for us Christ has redeemed us from the curse that the Law brings; for the scripture says, "Anyone who is hanged on a tree is under God's curse." Christ did this in order that the blessing which God promised to Abraham might be given to the Gentiles by means of Christ Jesus, so that through faith we might receive the Spirit promised by God. (Gal. 3:13-14 NLT)

In short, the High Priest has already paid the price that was supposed to be incurred on us. Therefore by believing in Him, all debts and blood covenants have been satisfied, because all current and past debts have been preempted by our High Priest already.

In knowing this, I suppose I have to give public notice too. Whatever blood covenants that my parents or ancestors have made, have been fulfilled and satisfied; therefore, such covenants no longer have authority over me or my issues. I and my issues are also released from any duties that remain outstanding. I also renounce any worthless benefits (which all of them are) associated with such covenants. This notice is effective on the date of publishing This Article, though it should've been in effect when I was baptized.

And with that, I end with this quote by Celso Cukierkorn: “Shalom is understood to mean peace, but peace is only one part of the word’s real meaning. The root shalem means completeness.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can Cities Run Sham Nonprofit Corporations? Julian Casas Files Petition in the California Supreme Court

California Supreme Court, San Francisco, CA
After the Court of Appeal rejected reviewing Casas' appeal in his second California Public Records Act lawsuit against the City of Baldwin Park, Casas filed a petition to the California Supreme Court on March 6, 2017 for the Court to review his case. (Bit late in reporting with all that's been going on: Casas argued orally in front of the Court of Appeal last week with his first case. Nonetheless this is still an important issue.)

Here is a summary of the facts. Casas caught Manuel Carrillo, the Director of Parks and Recreation, collecting money from businesses all over the City. Then, at the end of the year, Carrillo would hold an event called Santa Clothes for poor children, in which he purchased tens of thousands of dollars of Walmart gift cards.

When Casas asked for the name of the children, Carrillo provided what looked like a fake list of children's names. So, Casas asked for more records to validate their existence. Carrillo then didn't respond to the record requests. So, Casas sued him and the City of Baldwin Park.

The City dragged out the lawsuit for two and a half years with frivolous motions, trying to wear Casas out of time and money. Casas didn't give up.

But before trial, the City then admitted to not having any records. Hence, the City finally confessed that Manny Carrillo can't account for all the tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) of money. Where did it all go?

Is this why Carrillo fired Julian, after giving him a forty cent an hour raise and a stellar performance review?

So, Casas filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal, which already stated earlier, that Casas was onto something with the City's misconduct. Casas argued that he should've won the case, because even though the City doesn't have records, the City should've stated that at the beginning of the lawsuit and not dragged it out for two and a half years. Also, the City is still stating that the school district has records, and if the City is going to state that, it needs to help Casas understand how the City has this kind of knowledge.

Does it make any sense that the City won this lawsuit, when at trial, two and a half years after the lawsuit started, it just says: Sorry, we don have any records?

In any event, the appellate court denied his request for even a review. That was disappointing.

For this reason, Casas wrote in his Supreme Court petition that such a denial enabled the City to create "the perpetual unaccountability machine," by using shell alter ego corporations.

Although the City was forced to dissolve it's forty-year-old nonprofit corporation, the City Manager Shannon Yauchtzee and Manuel Carrillo, under the control of Manuel Lozano, just started up a new nonprofit called the Baldwin Park Charitable Relief Fund. Like ghouls and zombies, sham nonprofits can also be undead beings that come back from the grave and can't be killled (one reason that they're not people, like us).

What all this means is that the City can lie, cheat, and steal through its shell corporations and never be held accountable for such misconduct; this is precisely one of the reasons that a good number of people were upset with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizen's United, which held that corporations are people too. In simpler English: In using sham nonprofits, governments can do whatever they want, and we can't do anything to stop them.

(I have an analogy for my generation on alter ego nonprofits. Do you remember playing Legend of Zelda? One of my favorite video games. (I used to be called Nintendo Boy at one point.) Remember, the evil boss was Gannon, the evil pig-wizard. Gannon had two personas, the wizard-Gannon and the Pig-Gannon, the latter was his real self. Now imagine that the Wizard self is really a ghost; so, attacking it doesn't really hurt the real boss.

Well - that's how it works folks. When you attack the shell, it doesn't really hurt the people controlling the shell. That's why all these public officials featured in the Panama Papers, like Iceland's former prime minister, revel in shell corporations; it protects their identity, while they commit evil against us.)

Back to the case. Well, the appellate court's denial of review forced Casas to appeal his case to the California Supreme Court. Now, I'm not holding my breath on this one.

In the fiscal year of 2012 to 2013, the Supreme Court granted 32 petitions for review out of 1,108 petitions. That's only 2.8%. (Do you think lightning will strike in the same place twice?)

In any event, I wanted to let the people know that I wrote the best petition I could for the Supreme Court. I also believe I've done everything I could for this case, and in many ways, I've brought it to the people's attention that it's illegal for a public agency to run a nonprofit corporation and to spend taxpayer money to run and defend such a corporation, which really is just a malignant cancerous growth. (The effects are profound, like having cancer, which forms it's own life and parasitic agenda, ultimately leadings to the death of the host organism.)

The City, through its attorney, Robert Tafoya (also known as Robert Nacionales-Tafoya), had this to say about the lawsuit: "You have lost every appeal ever taken and you have lost every CPRA filed against the City while I was City Attorney. But, keep filing and I will keep defending and we will see how that works out for you."

I have to say: I'm very disappointed with not only the City's misconduct but the results of exposing everything - which seems to be that governments can harm us and not be called out on it. Casas also had a response: "We expect people [including public officials] to behave with respect and courtesy. But when they don't, isn't that why we have law?"

Such sentiments were also echoed by the exiled Russian Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "It is time in the West to defend not so much human rights as human obligations."

Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Hope Springs Eternal - the Dark Winter is Over

Mason Bay, Stewart Island, New Zealand
Photo shot by Paul Cook
The last two weeks have been trying, literally, with an oral argument at the Court of Appeal, a filing of a California Supreme Court Petition, and a trial motion. After it was all over, the weather also started changing from cold to hot, and the sun started shining in all its glory. And the hens are laying eggs again. All the changes let me know that the dark winter was over.

Although I have a lot to say on what's happened on the court front, I want to focus in this article about my insights and lessons on this dark winter.

I told a friend of mine, who took me out for a cigar and a whiskey (after it was all over), that I believe I managed my stress best this winter. It wasn't that I had any less of it, but I had somehow learned better to bring peace and light into my mind and soul during a time of bleakness and darkness. It wasn't easy.

But every warrior, fighter, and commander at war needs to learn how to be at peace in in him or herself to truly win a war. I've been reminded of this by rereading Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

One principle that made me pause and think was this one: "The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand."

And what is this temple? The temple is in the mind and spirit.

Knowing that; how is your temple? Is it clear? It is polluted? Is it clean? Is it at peace? Does it have love and wisdom? Or does it have hatred and recklessness? Does it have worry and anxiety?

Those are the questions I had to wrestle with this winter. Those are the values I had to guard and constantly guard in my heart and mind.

It helped greatly to have loving friends and family during this time who provided support. I don't think they'll know how much their support means and meant to me.

But in the end, the strong and wise fighter has to find it in himself to confront his own vices and darknesses and vanquish or restrain them. It is not a one-time process. It continues again in a cycle that mirrors a spiral with different levels, complexities, and dimensions.

No wonder why the Scriptures say: "My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4 GNT)

In short, the passage means to suffer and suffer well, and we know we can suffer well because we have a peace and strength that endures and guards against all.

But now that the winter has gone, and the spring is here, I believe the spring will bring hope and the renewal of a new spirit. As the great neoclassicist writer, Alexander Pope said: "Hope springs eternal in the human breast . . . Rests and expatiates in a life to come."

Monday, March 6, 2017

Julian Casas Court of Appeal Case Against City; Tomorrow, Oral Argument

Tomorrow, on March 7, 2017, Julian Casas will argue in front of the Second District Court of Appeal against the City of Baldwin Park. The main issue in the case is whether the trial court was correct in allowing the City to get away with the we-don't-have-record defense against four court orders.

Here's the background of the case. The former head boxing coach, Julian Casas, who was making $8.80 an hour hired an attorney with no experience against a city who wouldn't release records. Against all the odds, Casas won, and the court issued an order against the City to release records.

The City thought it could get away with it and release records by lying about not having them. But Casas kept suing over and over again, racking up four court against the City to release records.

In response, the City kept stating it didn't have the records Casas sought. But what the City didn't know was that other people in town had them. In find these records, Casas proved in front to the court that the City was lying about it all. So, when the last court order issued, the City was forced to release records.

And why did the City hide records? Because, in the end, we found out the City was engaged in one of the largest racist scandals in California's history. The City was directing it's police officers to target Hispanic, undocumented drivers to steal their cars and sell them at auction. As a result of their little scandal, in a five year period, the City and the towing company, Royal Coaches, made over $11.9 million. But there are still more records the City won't release.

So, before the Court of Appeals is whether a city could alleged that no records exist as a defense to our public records act. (There are other minor issues that will be presented before the court, but this is the main one.)

So wish me luck tomorrow. If you can come, even better.

As James J. Braddock (Cinderella Man) once said: "I want to go out like a Champion, I want to be carried out."

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On the Battle for the Mind and Heart

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
This week, probably more than other weeks, I've become more profoundly aware that the battle is really in a person's mind and heart. When I was in high school, my youth pastor told me once that the battle is in the mind. But I didn't get what that meant, then. It's only at this point in my life I really feel like I know what that really means.

In popular culture, coaches for professional athletes are focusing on the concept of emptying the mind, which seems to be the same thing as being in the zone or the zen state. It means that one just has to execute the correct actions without even thinking about it.

Recently, I paid a visit to my former boxing coach. We chatted. He fights in the boxing arena; me, the legal one. He kept telling me that all the events in our life that weigh us down, that bring us stress, that fill us with anxiety, "blinds the mind." He went onto tell me about a fight he didn't do that well in, because his "mind was blind."

The picture in this post illustrates the Eastern concept well. Rembrandt painted the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, now missing. While Jesus and his disciples were sailing on the Sea of Galilee, they got caught up in a violent storm. They feared they were going to die.

Jesus was sleeping while the event happened. One disciple even asked him if he wasn't afraid that they were going to die. (This tells you they thought they were going to die.)

After rebuking the storm, Jesus told the disciples, "“Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”

In one sense, we see that the outer storm reflects the inner chaos and havoc of the disciples. We see that the Master, on the other hand, was able to sleep through the storm.

The point of passage proves that no matter the external circumstance, a person could still be rested and at peace. (Incidentally, I wonder what Rembrandt was struggling and conflicted with when he painted this picture.)

And isn't that what ultimate performance requires? A stillness and a peace inside a person. But that's much easier said than done.

In any event, as the time approaches, I better learn to clear the heart and the mind, because they both need to be able to see and see clearly.