california

Who Elected These Clowns?

Photo via Shutterstock, by Sergey Sukhorukov

In a world far removed from the tragic cesspool of Washington scheming and maneuvering, real people flocked to Central Park on El Camino Real for this town’s first Bacon & Brew Festival.

It was wildly successful. Vendors ran out of food and beverages; sponsors closed off ticket sales early. The parched and mean-spirited landscape that ideologues are trying to manufacture seemed distant.

As they stood in line for burgers, barbecue, fries smothered in cheese, and microbrewed beers, young adults eyed each other’s pregnant bulges and baby strollers. I heard no muttering about Obamacare. People have better things to do than to defund a program that benefits fellow citizens.

Young Adults Reluctant to Enroll in the Affordable Care Act

California is the facing a new challenge: getting young adults to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.  More than 2 million Californians, ages 19 to 34, are uninsured. Getting these individuals enrolled is crucial to balancing the cost of older, sicker patients. The state is developing media strategies to specifically target young adults and encourage to them buy insurance. The Los Angeles Times reports:

The success of the healthcare law "depends on reaching everyone who is uninsured, but particularly young people who may feel like they don't need insurance," said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Read more here.

Hunger Action Day in California

Image via Karla Vasquez
Image via Karla Vasquez

Where there is hope, there is future.

Today is Hunger Action Day.

For many in my beloved Golden State, today will go unnoticed. It will be what it always is — a Wednesday full of its special nuances with perhaps homework, meals and snacks, pleasant weather, and most definitely, a dose of stressful traffic. It will be normal. Life will be as it always is. For others however, myself included, this is the day we have been waiting for. In fact, you could even say, that this is the day we’ve been hungry for.

More than 300 California residents from all around the state — from the beach towns to the gritty parts of the city — have committed their day, their energy, and their hearts to visiting with their representatives to advocate for their neighbors and friends who every day face hunger. To these few hundred residents who have taken the time to journey to Sacramento, the opportunities that today provide could be life changing for thousands.

1 in 10 Los Angeles Residents Are Undocumented

A study by the University of Southern California’s Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration used California as a microcosm to see how immigration reform would affect America. The study estimated that 7 percent of California residents were undocumented. In Los Angeles County the number jumped to 10 percent. Christian Science Monitor reports:

“What sticks out to me about this report is that it shows how many immigrants have been in the country more than 10 years that are not just migrants, and who have children born here who are naturalized citizens,” says Michael Moreland.

Read more here.

California to Polluters: Go Green or Pay Up

Mother Jones reports:

"Cap and trade" may be a dirty expression inside the DC Beltway, but as of today in California it's the law of the land. Gov. Jerry Brown has brushed aside dire warnings from the fossil fuel industry to forge ahead with the state's first-ever auction of emissions permits under its groundbreaking climate law, AB 32. This morning's auction marks the official launch of the world's second-largest carbon market.

At heart, the concept is elegantly simple. Suppose you wanted to persuade a group of 10 pack-a-day smokers to cut back, and you controlled the cigarette supply. In the beginning, you'd provide the group with 200 cigarettes (10 packs) a day, which they'd have to bid for. That's the "cap." Then, each month, you would reduce each person's daily allottment of smokes, gradually lowering the cap. The people who managed to smoke less could sell their extras to the more hard-core smokers for whatever they were willing to pay. That's the "trade" part.

Read more here.

Discerning Justice: Yes on 34

Anti-death penalty campaigner Alan Toy. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Anti-death penalty campaigner Alan Toy. MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

October was Interfaith Month for Prop 34, a time set aside for leaders of faith traditions to address the question of California’s death penalty and advocate for its replacement. Hundreds of faith community’s have endorsed Proposition 34 because we believe the best way to do justice in California is to replace the death penalty with life in prison with no possibility of parole. 

The will to see justice done is deep within the human spirit. We may not always agree on what “justice” looks like, but the belief in a just and fair society — and the desire to bring it about — are at the heart of how we live together and form a community. In religious traditions like Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and countless others, doing justice is a calling to enact God’s will.

The next question is, of course, what does that mean? Discerning justice can be even harder than doing justice. 

Death Penalty for Jesus

Stained glass window of Jesus scourging, Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock.com
Stained glass window of Jesus scourging, Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock.com

In 2009, after moving to Southern California, a neighbor, Tom Rotert, who is an attorney, asked about my reporting on wrongful convictions and wrongful executions while I was at the Chicago Tribune.

I explained that along with my fellow reporter Steve Mills, we had documented numerous wrongful convictions in Illinois and the executions of two innocent men in Texas — Carlos DeLuna and Cameron Todd Willingham.

 “You know who the ultimate wrongful execution is, don’t you?” Rotert asked. “It was Jesus Christ. They killed the son of God.”

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ doesn’t come up very often in discussions about wrongful convictions in America, but as California voters prepare to go to the polls to vote on Proposition 34 which would ban the death penalty in this state, two lawyers — one from Chicago and one from Minneapolis — are doing exactly that.

Ending the Death Penalty

IN NOVEMBER, Californians will vote on a ballot initiative that would end the death penalty in the state: the Safety, Accountability, and Full Enforcement Act of 2012, known as the SAFE California Act. The backdrop of this vote is California’s deep economic crisis and the economic savings to be gained from ending capital punishment. But when the debate is largely concerned that the cost of killing criminals is just too high, where does faith come into the conversation?

If the measure passes, all 725 death penalty sentences in California will be converted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The supporters of the initiative have one main mantra: “California can’t afford the death penalty!” This initiative delivers on savings—around $1 billion in the first five years, say supporters—due to halting the death penalty’s expensive legal processes and increased costs for death row detention.

The initiative also redirects some of those funds, $30 million per year for three years, to counties across the state to help investigate unsolved cases of rape and murder. In 60 percent of rapes and 36 percent of murders in California, no one is even charged with the crime, let alone convicted.

Death row prisoners are generally not allowed to work; once their sentences are changed under this initiative, they will be required to work inside the prison and to pay into California’s victim compensation fund.

People of faith usually argue to end the death penalty on gospel and ethical grounds, citing the command “thou shalt not kill,” the call to forgive, and the call to love our enemies. However, the most compelling variable at play in this historical moment is California’s budget crisis—in this case, as always, the budget is a moral document. Where we spend our money as a society discloses our true values and priorities: It shows whether we believe in the God of life or the power of death.

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'Spiritual-But-Not-Religious' Mecca Faces Midlife Crisis

RNS photo by Chris Franek
Caught in the rapture - Tai Chi on the pool deck with Al Huang at Esalen Institute. RNS photo by Chris Franek

BIG SUR, Calif. — Perched atop the rugged splendor of the California coast south of Monterey, the Esalen Institute is the mother church for people who call themselves “spiritual but not religious." Over the last five decades, hundreds of thousands of seekers have come to this incubator of East-meets-West spirituality looking for new ways to bring together body, mind, psyche and soul.

But on May 30, as this iconic hot springs spa and retreat center celebrates its 50th birthday, a bitter dispute has broken out over its future. Like the many “seminarians” who come here after losing a spouse or a job, Esalen now faces its own midlife crisis.

California's 'Prop 8' Ruled Unconsitutional

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Same-sex couple celebrates outside of San Francisco City Hall Tuesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In a decision that likely will set the stage for a high-stakes showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California's Proposition 8 ballot measure that banned gay marriage, saying there is no "legitimate" reason to keep same-sex couples from marrying.

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