Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Checked Out; Playing Now

 Boys of Summer - by Ronzo Weideman
I dipped my feet in the blue pool at my hostel. Next to me, a lady in her mid 60's is doing the same thing. On the recliner is my book. I've read half of it. It's hot here. 80F / 27C. The local dog, a small pug, stays with me - asking to be petted. I left home, again. I had to.

For 8 months now, I've been wanting to leave East Los Angeles, where I was born and raised (unlike Bel Air). 8 months ago, I was in Stockholm, meeting new friends - and partying it up. People were lovely there.

After 8 months though, I just needed a break, especially after working through and solving my last case. In the words of Louis Brandeis - it was time to unstring and restring the bow of the mind again.

Even though I was leaving only for a short while - it was a hard-good bye. People in my boxing gym seemed sad I was leaving. My clients seemed sad too.

And even my cat, Jeh Pan, knew I was going. He refused breakfast and his treats the morning I left. I don't ever remember him doing that. I wondered: How does he know I'm going away? Is it the luggage? Is it that it was early in the morning? Is there an emotional signal of me checking out mentally? He knew, when I was leaving last time. That was in July of 2018.

The night before, I took my mother out to eat. I said my goodbye to her then too. But I'm just going away for awhile, no? Perhaps, I guess one never knows with me. Do I even know with myself?

I packed just one small suitcase. I brought only three books with me. I only bought a one way ticket. I don't know when I'm coming back. It was kind of scary for me to just buy a one way ticket, but I had a strong spiritual sense that was what I was meant to do.

My plane was late by 30 minutes. I wish they let us know earlier. I could've slept more. Sleep is good, and people who know me know I hate mornings - especially really early ones.

The plane was full. A family sat next to me. A little kid sat in the middle. I watched Mary Queen of Scots on the plane.

It was ok. I liked the scenes showing the Scottish Highlands. The movie definitely had a pro-Scottish agenda and portrayed Mary as a martyr - instead of the traditional English view of her as a traitor. Into thy hands, I commend my spirit. I kept wondering why they didn't show her dog, which she hid in her dress, bark in agony, after the axeman chopped off her head. Bloody Mary - they say - for a reason.

And she also wasn't as beautiful as the movie makes her out to be. Historical records say that when the executioner picked up her head, he only picked up her red wig. And the head rolled away from him. Perhaps - the Scots are disputing this account too.

Who knows what really happened? I wasn't there then.

When I stepped out of the plane, the air was warm and humid - not like the cold and bizarre May-weather we were having in Los Angeles.

Oh - there were so many tourists at immigration. That took awhile. But because I didn't have any checked in luggage, I made it out of there airport quick.

I hopped on the local bus. The locals stared at me. I could feel them scanning my skin. I was the only Asian person there. Some Argentinians buskers came in and played music, but it was too loud for me to tip them anything. I didn't enjoy their music.

The police pulled over the bus. We had to change buses. It cost 20 minutes.

Manta Rays (c) Wikipedia
At the hostel, I met an old friend - same one who joined me at the pool later. She's currently processing and analyzing scientific data on Manta Rays.

We talked for hours. It's been years since we saw each other last.

She's a vegan. The local restaurants that served vegan food was closed. So, she made me lentils for dinner.

Then, I told her all about my sabbatical. She told me all about her journeys through Ireland and Holland. She told me all about her role of becoming an elder in society.

She said, "People don't celebrate eldership or peace."

I told her, "Our society worships violence. Not wisdom or peace."

Lentils and broccoli
I think the most important thing she told me so far, was about conversations. She said - "Remember; in a conversation, you're either trying to one-up somebody, or you're trying to share with them. Next time you're in conflict with someone, remember that."

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Update on Rafael's and Tuttle's case - Hope Springs Eternal

Superbloom in CA (c) Dana Stein
The heavy Californian winter rains ignited a super bloom of flowers all across our state. Philip Fischer - Warren Buffet's mentor once wrote that there are a burst of flowers, when heavy rain follows a drought. (He uses that analogy to describe buying stocks in drought, easier said than done, though.) The super blooms in California only confirms this phenomenon. Even when you look at our backyard, all the trees are thriving with flourishing green and strong leaves.

We had a wet and dreary winter indeed. And, it was spectacular, the way that California flooded. There was so much rain, the huge sink holes formed in the streets.

But as with most dark winters, it does feel like a part of you is dying. The trees lose all their leaves. The hens molt, lose their summer feathers, only to regrow winter feathers. They stop laying eggs.

It's almost like Death's touch ceases and decays everything around you.

But with the spring, we're reminded that hope exists and persists, especially this year.

I've been really busy with two cases. I'd like to share. And end with what I've been learning this spring.

Rafael Valdez's Case

Rafael and Joy Valdez with two children.
I started working on this case on March 25th, 2019. Seven weeks later, I've put in 182.5 hours into it. The labor has been well worth it, and I've mined hidden gems.

The summary of the case is that my client was pulled over in a traffic stop. As a result, he was eventually put into ICE deportation proceedings. He is married to an American woman and has two American children. Because of legal complications, he could not obtain residency.

In September of 2013, he was deported to Mexico. In the meantime, the ICE prosecutor who deported him - was charged with forgery. He's been disbarred and has already served his sentence in prison. In June of 2018, Chief Counsel (the director of ICE prosecution) was convicted of the identities of those he deported for cash - in a complicated scheme that involved getting loans on these stolen identities.

The question remained: Did he steal my client's identity?

My factual investigation has found that it's 99% likely that he has stolen my client's identity.

The next steps therefore is to reopen up this case, and I'm hopeful to get him back.

Tuttle's Case

LA Times here. But the problem in this case, was that I didn't get paid my attorney's fees, which are mandatory.
The three city officials, who sued Tuttle,
Ricardo Pacheco, Monica Garcia, Manuel Lozano
(From left to right)
In this case, if you don't remember, the Mayor Lozano and Council Members Ricardo Pacheco and Monica Garcia sued Greg Tuttle for a restraining order, because he was reporting on how they were misusing city money to go to conferences of corporate lobbyist. They lost the case. You can read about it in the

I appealed. But the California Court of Appeals - in a flawed and disappointing opinion - ok'd me not getting paid, even though I won. Not only that, they allowed the city council to collect costs on Tuttle.

So, Lozano's attorneys - Daniel Barer and Jimmy Gutierrez - filed a memorandum of costs for $1,700 against Tuttle without any proof of why it's so high.

Let me ask you - does this make sense? You win a case against vindictive government officials - who are trying to shut you up - and you end up having to pay them. This is our modern court system.

Retaliation appears to be the trend by Mayor Lozano. For winning the open records case against the City, the City Attorney, Robert Tafoya filed close to 10 failed sanctions motions against Julian Casas - my client. Then, in the second record's case, Tafoya sought costs, which is barred by law. For affirmed appeals, the City attempted to seek $714.32 in costs.

The court gave them $6.56.

But this also appears to be a national and international trend. Government officials use the courts to retaliate against individuals who seek to keep them accountable. Here's a good article on the subject - Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters. Also, a judge jailed an activist for asking for financial records. Even in South Africa, a government official is threatening to sue a renowned journalist for exposing corruption.

There needs to be a change in law, to only allow governments to collect costs in frivolous lawsuits when sued.

In any event, I filed a motion to dismiss these costs yesterday. It took work. But hey - Jesus once said: "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I've never really understood this verse, because I don't know what the kingdom of heaven actually is. But I do believe the enemy certainly blesses you; she teaches you what you don't know about yourself. So, we press on.

Insight for This Spring

Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son
I caught up with someone, recently. I took him out to eat. He's returned, after struggling with his own demons. That struggle might not be over.

But he wants to get back on the right track - the road of the straight and narrow. I just listened. Important to listen.

I think I'm learning that life is full of surprises. Hope and promise can just appear out of nowhere some times.

That's it for now.