• RLn COMMUNITY: May 2, 2014

    May 3
    Friend Fest
    The May Day Festival and Friend Fest will take place, from 1 to 4 p.m. May 3, at Drake Park in Long Beach.
    The event will include folkloric dances, tours, May pole dancing and live music. Activities include clothe mending, a free market and screen printing.
    Details: (562) 270-5463; www.facebook.com/events/500351740088020/
    Venue: Drake Park
    Location: 951 Maine Ave., Long Beach

    May 3
    Fashion Extravaganza and Fundraiser
    Maral clothing design presents its fourth annual Fashion Extravaganza and Fundraiser, at 5:30 p.m. May 3, at the Grand Annex in San Pedro.
    Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.
    The event will include, cultural clothing and a showcase of local artisans.
    Details: www.toberman.org, www.afganwce.org
    Venue: Grand Annex
    Location: 434 W. 6th St., San Pedro (more…)

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  • RLn ENTERTAINMENT: May 2, 2013

    May 4
    24th annual Dylanfest
    Andy and Renee’s 24th annual dylanfest, will be perform, at 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 4 at the Torrance cultural Arts Center, in Torrance.
    Details: www.andyandrenee.com
    Venue: Torrance Cultural Arts Center
    Location: 3330 Civic Center Dr, Torrance

    May 16
    Vintskevich Taylor Quartet
    The Vintskevich Taylor Quartet will perform, at 8 p.m. May 16, at Alvas Showroom in San Pedro.
    The quartet has earned international recognition participating in big international festivals in Russia, Europe and Scandinavia and releasing albums with renowned record labels.
    Details: (800) 403-3447; www.alvasshowroom.com
    Venue: Alvas Showroom
    Location: 1417 W. 8th St., San Pedro (more…)

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  • RL NEWS: May 2, 2013

    Man Killed in Officer Involved Shooting Identified 
    LONG BEACH — Long Beach Police Department identified 36-year-old Jason Conoscenti as the man who officers fatally shot April 27.
    Sheriff officials in Compton said that a security guard at a Target in the 1600 block of South Alameda Street in Compton, tried to detain for stealing. Conoscenti got away entering in an SUV that was outside the store.
    Police officials were called. The driver took the local city street at slow speeds, avoiding the spike strips that were placed in front of them.
    The pursuit ended near Ocean Boulevard and 14th Place in Long Beach.
    Officials said that Conoscenti refused to exit out of the vehicle when commanded by the authorities.
    Conoscenti got out of the SUV 15 minutes later. Officials said that he brandished a wooden-like weapon in his hand. Police ordered Conoscenti to drop what was in his hand, but Conoscenti refused to comply.
    Officers tried using a stunbag to detain him without consequence. Conoscenti ran off.
    LBPD officer ended up shooting Conoscenti. He died at a local hospital later that afternoon.

    Former POLB Employee Awarded $1.1 million
    LONG BEACH — On April 29, the Los Angeles Superior Court ordered the Port of Long Beach to pay former employee Sharon Jordan $1.1 million related to a discrimination case that was filed against the city in 2010.
    Jordan filed a lawsuit against POLB, citing retaliation for filling complaining about her job conditions. (more…)

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  • Deanne Elise Pernell

    October 13, 1954 to April 14, 2014
    Deanne Elise Pernell had a lifelong interest in social justice and education.

    Reared in Southern California, she helped create an ecology club, while attending high school at Palos Verdes Peninsula. She was a founding member of the Santa Cruz Women Against Rape, while attending Santa Cruz. The organization gave support to women who survived assaults. This organization educated the community to deepen understanding of the causes of rape. It developed alternatives to the civil justice system. She continued to be a part of group for almost 20 years.

    She also was part of the Women’s Student Teaching Collective. That collective presented the first Introduction to Women’s Studies class at UCSC.
    After graduating from UCSC, Pernell worked through the apprenticeship program of the local plumbers union.

    She also worked as a substitute care provider at the Santa Cruz Toddler Care Center and the Simcha Preschool. She partook in the starting of the local Child Assault Prevention Program, helping children develop safety strategies.

    In 1980, she met her life partner, Jan Shirchild. The two women married on December 18, 2013. The women had two children together, Brian Thomas and Marleena Brown. (more…)

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  • Coffin in Egypt Review

    By John Farrell

    For more than 400 hundred years, the biggest driving force in opera has been mental illness.

    No, not mental illness of the megalomaniac kind that drives producers to spend millions, which they can’t afford on productions that are less than glorious. (That’s a book in itself.) Mental illness of the kind that causes women and men to go crazy with grief, with passion, with regrets.

    A Coffin in Egypt, the new opera by gifted composer Ricky Ian Gordon is the latest in that long and honorable tradition. The libretto, by Leonard Foglia, is based on the play of the same name written by playwright Horton Foote. This opera was specifically written for Frederica von Stade.

    A Coffin in Egypt is one woman’s very emotional look at her own very violent, very unhappy life. Most of that life was spent in the small town of Egypt, Texas. Myrtle Bledsoe, a 90 year old who has outlived her violent husband, her two daughters, everything but her regrets. With a few speaking roles and the backing of a gospel choir, Myrtle relives her life full of disappointment and more than a little hatred, of blacks, her husband and even her children. She says that she once had a chance to be a star on Broadway, once was seduced by a sheik who wanted her to run away with him. But she always returned to Egypt, where her husband was continually unfaithful to her, finally murdering the father of his 17-year-old mistress with whom he was having an affair. (more…)

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  • The Gin Game: A Complex Tale Told Simply

     

    By John Farrell

    The Gin Game started in an equity-waiver theater in Hollywood in 1976.

    Since then, it has gone on to conquer Broadway, the United States and the world. The play, with just two actors, is a tour-de-force, a package that combines comedy and tragedy in a single, simple set.

    Its first great couple, 30 and more years ago, was Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Since then, it has been all over the world, in Europe, Israel, China and Japan.

    Now, The Gin Game is playing at San Pedro’s Little Fish Theatre. It still touches hearts with its simplicity and hidden complexity.

    Mary-Margaret Lewis is Fonsia Dorsey and Dennis Hattem (making his Little Fish debut) is Weller Martin, two residents of a home for the aged. They meet on the sun-porch of that home and Weller invites Fonsia to play Gin with him.

    It looks like romance is going to strike these two, but the play is much more complex and profound. Hattem’s Weller is charming and ingratiating, but he also has a violent temper and a past that includes some very great disappointments. Lewis is also a charmer at first, until Weller begins to unravel her secrets and her past. (more…)

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  • Coming Together for Gale Aikin Pack

    Melina Paris, Music Columnist

    April 27 brought a night of love and beautiful music to The Warner Grand Theatre for San Pedro’s beloved Gale Aikin Pack.

    Gale was diagnosed with cancer. Her family, friends and community all came out in a show of great support for her.

    The night showcased a benefit concert for Gale. San Pedro’s own, Ambrosia, headlined the event. Special guest Michael McDonald, hometown band One Love, Grammy nominated Stephen Bishop and a young Los Angeles band King Washington also performed. Gale’s daughter, Kaitlyn Pack, accompanied by Brian Asher on cello, opened the evening singing for her mom.

    It was plain to see that this was a fun loving, rambunctious and closely-knit gathering. Kaitlyn freely called out to her mom and others saying, “Hey” to everyone and the room responded back with affection. She sang with a soul-filled voice and played guitar on a couple of numbers, both with a bluesy and country feel.

    Alternative folk and rock band King Washington came out next treating us to an amazing show of pure rock ’n’ roll at its best. The band is comprised of Tyson Kelly, playing rhythm guitar and vocals, George Krikes playing  guitar and vocals, Billy Lee on bass and vocals and Lucas Ventura playing drums. (more…)

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  • A Scary Apparition From the Desert

    By Lionel Rolfe

    The other night on MSNBC, Rachael Maddow talked about Col. William P. Gale, the man who created the Posse Comitatus, Christian Identity and Aryan Nation movements.

    She pointed out that the Nevada rancher, who thinks he should not have to pay federal grazing fees, was espousing a particular ideology, which had been Gale’s creation.

    It turns out Maddow was talking about a rather arcane theory Gale proposed rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government because the 14th Amendment was passed in the Reconstruction period, following the Civil War. The former Confederacy hated the 14th Amendment because it essentially was designed to protect the rights of the freed slaves. Gale’s answer was to insist the only legitimate authority in each county was the sheriff.

    Maddow’s piece on Gale quickly reminded me of an encounter of another kind I had had with Gale. In 1969, New Orleans District Attorney James Garrison tried Clay Shaw for what he believed was his involvement in the conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy. I had never believed the shots that killed Kennedy came from the Book Depository Building, not after hearing a reporter on the crime scene, an ABC radio broadcaster, proclaim the “shots are coming from the grassy knoll!” (more…)

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  • Long Beach Marijuana Collective Duo Freed

    Photo by Steve Baker

    By Diana Lejins, Contributing Writer
    On April 17, exhausted but jubilant, medical cannabis collective business partners Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron walked away free men from the new Long Beach Courthouse, ending a five-year legal nightmare.
    In a surprise move, Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano announced that the District Attorney’s office had decided not to pursue the case.
    Judge Arthur Jean, who originally set bail at $560,000 in December 2010 — an amount higher than for many violent offenders such as rapists, murderers and child molesters — presided.
    “Dismissed,“ quickly responding Jean said.
    The duo was freed and all criminal charges against the duo were “thrown out”.
    Premature Absolution
    The judicial nightmare began in December 2008, when Grumbine was transporting medical marijuana to supply his dispensary.
    Police officers pulled him for a routine traffic stop in Riverside. And, after smelling marijuana, the officer searched his car. Grumbine was arrested. A Riverside County judge found Grumbine to be totally compliant with California laws and dismissed the charges. The magistrate ordered all of Grumbine’s property to be returned.

    Entrapment and SWAT
    From October through December 2009, several undercover Long Beach Police Department officers presented “legitimate” physician’s recommendations to the dispensaries for membership.
    Clinic employees verified the physicians and their licensure standing. Additionally, the “patients’” identifications were checked for residency and currency. The police officers signed the collective agreements and obtained less than a sum total of two ounces of medical cannabis within 12 visits. For each literal entrapment, the Joes were eventually charged with separate felonies.
    On December 2009 more than 120 armed police officers from Long Beach, Los Angeles and Orange County descended on multiple locations citing that there were criminal enterprises taking place.
    In a SWAT-style raid, complete with machine guns, helicopters, and military dogs, they arrested 17 people, including legitimate disabled patients. They seized the contents of three dispensaries and two grow sites, plus many items from residences and other unconnected business locations. The arrestees were subjected to full-cavity body searches and kept overnight before being released with no charges filed. At all clinic sites and both men’s homes, SWAT teams ransacked with abandon.
    Besides destroying numerous items such as surveillance cameras and knocking down doors that were not locked, they pointed assault weapons at Grumbine’s terrified wife and daughter, and handcuffed them for hours. (No charges filed.)
    Grumbine said that Los Angeles Police Detective Salb told them that they “should all be put down like animals.”
    “The place (home) looked like a bomb had gone off,” Grumbine said.
    About $32,000 in cash was confiscated from all of the locations searched. This included the dispensaries and homes of both Joes, employee and volunteer homes, their personal bank accounts, patients and their homes, and unrelated businesses—owned many years prior to the clinics. The two received a note 30 days later stating that the money was sent to “asset forfeiture,”,a black hole created by the government to swallow up monies and assets to fund more military-style equipment and raids. They ultimately nabbed a California Highway patrolman, whose wife was employed at a clinics. While the officer was placed on administrative leave for nine months, he was eventually exonerated.
    “They even eat their own,” Grumbine said .
    Grumbine said that after trashing his house, storage sheds and the entire garden nursery, the police left human feces in all three toilets of his home. In the end, all they found was a small amount of Grumbine’s personal medications and a scale that his wife used to weigh bee’s wax. At one of the dispensaries, officers wrote “Merry Xmas.”

    Peaceful Innocence
    Prior to this precarious predicament, neither Grumbine, a peaceful organic gardener and nurseryman for botanic plants, nor Byron, a small restaurant owner, had never been arrested or charged with any crime. Both men were helping friends with cancer when their interest sparked in medical cannabis. They opened their clinics during the years 2008-2009, complying with California Attorney General guidelines and state law, paying taxes, and providing medicine to sick patients. In the spirit of compassionate use, Byron and Grumbine often gave medicine to people who couldn’t afford it. They spent a great deal of time with patients, providing food, clothing, wheelchairs and help with obtaining gainful employment. They built wheelchair ramps and gave bus passes to those who couldn’t afford to drive.

    Judicial Hell
    In Nov 2010 Grumbine and Byron rejected a felony plea deal and were charged in December with bails set at $240,000 and $320,000, respectively.
    Grumbine was charged with multiple counts of sales of a controlled substance and electricity theft. The theft charge was quickly dropped. Byron was charged with sales of a controlled substance, tax evasion and electricity theft. The electricity debacle was eventually found to be an error made by a hired construction worker. Throughout their ordeal, they persistently refused to plea bargain and steadfastly maintained their innocence.
    In November 2011, Judge Charles Sheldon granted the prosecution’s motion to deny a medical defense for Grumbine and Byron. But, in a very unusual move, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the defendants and their medical defense was allowed. Defense attorneys, Chris Glew and Allison Margolin requested a few days to subpoena witnesses in preparation of their newly granted defense, but Sheldon denied the request and the trial proceeded. Further hampering the defense team, Sheldon issued a gag order prohibiting them from speaking to the press.
    The medical marijuana community rallied behind Grumbine and Byron. On the 18-day trial, the courtroom was filled with passionate supporters. Peaceful protestors gathered and picketed outside the Courthouse.
    “Those people gave me strength to stay the course,” Grumbine said .
    The trial ended up being fraught with questionable actions or inactions by Sheldon.
    When the jury came back after a day of deliberation with guilty verdicts on all counts, defense council charged that the court was biased and that due process was denied. Declarations from numerous courtroom observers and articles from OC Weekly Magazine describing the numerous miscarriages of justice witnessed during the court proceedings were submitted for scrutiny. In addition, a copy of an inappropriate letter from Sheldon to Deputy District Attorney Jodi Castano was included.
    In January 2012, to the astonishment of a packed courtroom, Sheldon admitted that he had acted inappropriately and recused himself, but he refused to lift the gag order. Sheldon allowed the defendants to remain out of custody on bail.
    The case was forwarded to Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, who ordered defendants Grumbine and Byron to return in April 2012. Cassani overturned the jury verdict stating that in her many years on the bench she had never seen such a “terrible trial.” She continued on to illuminate the many violations of due process and blatant biases. Judge Arthur Jean was selected to hear the new trial. Lawyer J. David Nick stepped in to defend Byron and public defender John Steinberg was appointed to represent Grumbine.

    Justice Prevails
    In February 2014, the District Attorney’s lawyer argued in the 2nd District Appellate Court that Cassani had no jurisdiction to issue her ruling. The panel sided heavily with the defendants and granted the new trial. On April 17, the District Attorney’s Office stated that due to the length of time, the appellate court ruling and changes to the law, they decided not to move forward with the case.
    “I am sort of in disbelief after five years of hell,” Grumbine lamented in an exclusive interview. “I’m broke and beat up, but sure glad to get it behind me. I don’t know if I will ever recover financially. This whole thing started out as a perfect storm with District Attorney Steve Cooley running for attorney general and publicly stating that he’s going to get rid of all these dispensaries. It was clearly politically motivated…. If we would have been able to present a proper defense, the jury would have never convicted me. Long Beach spent over 5 million taxpayer dollars in this fiasco. I just want my life back and the things that they stole.”

    The Silver Lining on a Black Cloud
    As a result of his devastating experience, Joe Grumbine founded the Human Solution to help others in this same type of predicament—that of complying with state laws but being persecuted in spite of it.
    More than 90 percent of all cases are settled in plea bargains, where innocent citizens waive their rights because of extremely excessive bail amounts and for fear of losing their children and/or being imprisoned for life, Grumbine said. The non-profit, grassroots organization focuses on this kind of legal harassment as a civil liberties matter. The group has grown into more than 25 U.S. chapters, plus one in Canada. They help prisoners locked up for cannabis charges and support all defendants willing to stand up for their rights.
    “When enough of us stand up and demand due process, this will all come to an end,” Grumbine summarized.
    The Human Solution can be contacted by emailing info@the-human-solution.org or by calling at (951) 436-6312.

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  • Yes, There’s a Problem. And, Yes, There’s a Solution

    By Matt Highland, Adjunct Staff Writer, Cal State University Long Beach Graduate Student

    I routinely receive surveys from various activist and party organizations asking me to prioritize and rank the most pressing issues facing the country.

    Since 2010, I have always answered with the exact same response: “Overturn Citizens United!”

    No matter what issues are particularly important to you, progress on them face the same common road block, the influence of big money.

    While Democrats have found a possibly effective line of attack for the next round of elections by focusing on the influence of the Koch brothers, Republican voters are quick to point to the liberal billionaire George Soros. Mother Jones puts 2012 election spending by Soros at $2.6 million, while the Koch brothers and their group Americans for Prosperity spent $38.9 million, making this a poor rebuttal. Still, this should not be a partisan issue. Polls show an overwhelming bipartisan majority support for reducing the influence of money in our elections.

    Recent scandals in the state legislature, such as the indictment of Democrat Leland Yee for exchanging political favors for campaign donations or the indictment involving a San Diego police detective and Washington D.C. lobbyist conspiring to funnel a Mexican national’s money into local elections to Republican and Democratic candidates, show that this is not a partisan issue. Wealthy interests seek to exert influence over policy makers, regardless of their party identification. Money flows to whomever holds power.

    In 2010, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates of money into the political system. With the recent McCutcheon v. FEC decision, the Supreme Court has further eroded restrictions on spending limits. The decision eliminated contribution limits and has left in place a system that’s ill-equipped to detect and prosecute outright bribery and corruption. There are few safeguards to prevent foreign interests from influencing our elections. Something has to give.

    People know there’s a problem, but fear there is no viable solution. With the Supreme Court’s McCutcheon decision, the demand for something to be done is hitting a fevered pitch. There are widespread calls for campaign finance reform and public financing of elections among other approaches.

    Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito claim to be constitutional traditionalists, who do not believe it is a “living, breathing document.” They believe justices are not meant to interpret, but to strictly read, the Constitution. How is it that they can find corporations are people and money is speech while claiming to strictly read the Constitution without interpretation?

    Corporations are not people; money is not speech; and a Supreme Court ruling is not the last word. The Constitution is. The Supreme Court is tasked with the duty to uphold that Constitution and rule on a given case’s adherence or violation of it. We, the people, can undo this influence of money in our government by passing a constitutional amendment.

    Many individuals and organizations are now seeking to do just that. Organizations calling for a constitutional amendment include Common Cause, Democrats.com, Greenpeace, MoveOn.org, Move to Amend, People for the American Way, Public Citizen, Root Strikers, and the Sierra Club, among many, many others.

    A student-led movement that began at UC Berkeley called Students United For Democracy has launched a campaign on 86 campuses in 31 states. Throughout the week of April 14 through 18, students across the country are passing resolutions in student governments calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. On April 14, students participated in rallies and educational events in support of reforming our elections and amending the Constitution.

    The movement is gaining ground. Elected officials are now circulating petitions and mobilizing voters around the issue. Sixteen states have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment. Thirty-five senators and 114 members of the House of Representatives have gone on record supporting a constitutional amendment. Sens. Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as local Reps. Janice Hahn and Alan Lowenthal, are among those who support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    Students, elected officials, organizations and everyday citizens are uniting to give voice back to the people. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever party you belong to, take a stand for democracy and voice your support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

    For more information on how you can get involved visit: www.united4thepeople.org, www. studentsunitedfordemocracy.org. or www.stopmccutcheon

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