Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Oakland parking ticket last straw for Michael Caton

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My friend, fellow Oakland blogger, and valued guest blogger at Oakland Focus Michael Caton has had it with Oakland, and to my surprise wrote a stinging blog post on my Oakland Focus Blog that detailed the reason for writing that he would never return to our city in the future: the parking problem.

An Oakland parking enforcement official

Michael has a blog called "An Oakland Citizen" where he opines about political and social issues in Oakland and gives a comprehensive view of how people of different stripes interact in our town. He's headed to medical school in San Diego, but it could be said the Oakland dog "bit him" on the way out of the civic door.

Since he wrote the blog post exclusively on my Oakland Focus site and part of my blog network, I cross-posted it here below:

A Fitting Send-off - Michael Caton in Oakland Focus

I have a note to add to the farewell-to-Oakland parking post I left on my own blog some time ago. To the merchants who feel like the City of Oakland is hell-bent on destroying local businesses with draconian parking policies, I can add a personal experience that has removed me from the Oakland economy permanently.

I moved to San Diego last week to start medical school. For one day, I had the U-Haul trailer I'd rented parked in front of our building - the three story one at the corner of Broadway and Oceanview. There is a stretch of red curb there that is a) out of the way of traffic and b) always, always used by everyone moving into or out of the building.

You already know where this is going. I was riding the elevator back up to my floor, and, tired and sweating from dragging furniture out to the truck, I happened to glance down to the street out through the clear wall to see the parking enforcement vehicle pull up in front of my worldly possessions. I got off and hurtled down the stairs to the street; the parking guy couldn't have been there more than 60 seconds. "I'll move the truck. I'll move it right now," I said breathlessly.

"Sorry. Ticket's already issued." He had his little parking-fascist computer and was waiting for the ticket to print out.

"Is there any way it can turn into a warning? I can really move the truck right now." I had the keys in my hand. We were 10 feet from my car and trailer.

"No," he said, and handed me an eighty dollar ticket. He stood there waiting and watching until I'd moved the trailer.

No, I don't think I'm special, and yes the law applies to me - and I was indeed in a red zone - one that, to my knowledge, had never been enforced, and that I offered to move out of immediately. I think you can understand my frustration. And God forbid Oakland devotes resources to getting criminals off the street - one dead, one paralyzed and critical, one badly beaten in this taco stand robbery a few days after I moved - but hey, at least Oakland is safe from people with U-haul trailers. Guess what I could do in my new, safe place in San Diego? Find parking easily and unload the truck with no tickets!

Although I don't like leaving anything on negative notes, the end of this anecdote will do just that to my brief participation in the Oakland blogosphere. That said, I truly wish the best for Oakland and for its committed residents who are working hard to make it a place to be proud of. Understatement of the year: you have some challenges ahead of you.

The last words between myself and this "public servant", were: "Hey, thanks for sending me off in style." And, standing there and waiting for me to move the trailer before he would leave, he grumbled, "You're sending yourself off."

Yep, I sure am. Once I'm practicing medicine, I will certainly come back to the Bay Area. I will not come back to Oakland.

This is not the first time I've learned of Oakland Parking Officials being nasty to Oaklanders. The worst case I know of other than Michael's is story told to me by a third party where one Oakland Parking Officer told a person trying to get into a wheelchair on Grand Avenue "Have your driver put a quarter in the meter or I'll give him a ticket."

Now, a decent person could have 1) let the disabled person and his driver go on with their business, or 2) put the quarter in the meter themselves! But this action? It's the talk of the Grand Lake business community.

Let's get something clear now: violence against parking enforcement officials is just plain wrong. Oakland parking officials showing disrespect to Oakland's people is equally wrong. It's hard enough to get an $80 ticket - harder still if one's out of work or on a fixed income. A public official being mean to someone in this position - heck in any walk of life - is an abuse of power the City of Oakland must stop now!

Gmail is up at least for me? You?

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After about two hours of being down, my Gmail service is restored, just when I was headed outside. Is Gmail working for you? How did the outage impact you?

Over at Twitter, it seems Gmails working for some others, too:

echoleigh GMail is working for me again.

writerbenjamin #gmail seems to be back up.

thesharath @denharsh #gmail is back

As to what happened,I do not know as of this writing, but will inform you if I get news of the problem. It's amazing to see Twitter working as "the pulse of the public" on this issue.

Gmail is down - 502 Server Error

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Say, if you're trying to access Gmail and getting a "502 Server Error" message, it's not you; Gmail is down.

I went to Twitter to learn if anyone else was experiencing this problem and for a time it was a top tag, which means people were complaining about the problem. Here are some of the Tweets:

rachelrusso What is the deal with gmail? It's been down for over an hour!!

femaleprodigy OK people, take a deep breath. The gmail problem will soon pass. Until then, turn off your computer and take in some fresh air! THAT IS ALL!

kelvinmaphoto RT: @daveweigel: Democrats to pay tribute by naming the health care reform bill after gmail.

gracemcavoy gmail u r ruining my life #epicfail

Well, you get the idea.

Over at its' Twitter page, Google reports:

google We're aware that people are having trouble accessing Gmail. We're working on fixing it. Apologies for the inconvenience http://bit.ly/31kL4B

The link goes to an "Apps Status Dashboard" which confirms that as of this writing Gmail is down. Well, that's a bunch of accounts for my baseball sim for the classroom that will be delayed. But it's a sunny day!

Confused Erin Andrews returns to ESPN College Football

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She's back!

After laying low in the wake of the Erin Andrews Peephole Video Scandal, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews is coming back to work this Thursday as part of ESPN's telecast of the rivalry battle football game between the University of South Carolina and North Carolina State. But that's not all for the 31-year-old media star.

Erin's appearing on Oprah September 11th to talk about the videotape and how it impacted her. (Though some sites report September 24th; I will get a clarification on this.) Plus, she's not shying away from the camera, having just finished this photo shoot for GQ (before the video issue but out now for some reason), where she gets "dirty" wearing football gear.

Erin Andrews (photo courtesy of GQ)

Meanwhile whatever happened to the person who made the video? No one knows. Some have speculated that the person who did it either knew Erin or covered athletic events. Whatever the case, the person's still out there and the video was sold for profit.

Something tells me the person who did it is going to be identified in a strange way.

Erin's back,... as "trophy girl?" 

Meanwhile, with the upcoming GQ photo spread its clear Andrews is not only back in reporting action but has no problem posing before a camera. There's something, er,telling about the photo below where she's on a pedestal while a group of college football players look up to her as if she's, well, a trophy girl.

Erin Andrews (photo courtesy of GQ)

I have to admit I've got a problem with her decision to make that photo in the wake of what happened to her and her increased visibility. As I wrote before, she should really use this moment in time to bring attention to the needs of those less fortunate, not just herself.

Plus, as I said in my video above, I'd prefer to see her in the image I used rather than the one she presents here. It's confusing. She's upset about the nude peephole video of her, goes into hiding essentially, then comes out having done a photo shoot that glorifies her sexuality and male desire for her.

What does Erin want? How does she want to be seen? Is she confused? What does she stand for? If she wants to be the 31-year-old version of Miley Cyrus, she needs to say so and do it. Period. Be authentic. But this confusing set of messages she's sending out is of concern to me.

Reportedly, Erin told Oprah the video was "a nightmare" but it's hard to take Andrews's claims against the video that seriously if, with this GQ photo, she's going to basically swim in the sex-based marketing pool she claims to hate, stating that people think she got her job because of her looks.

Maybe Christine Brennan was right and the whole video peep camera thing was just Erin working to get more publicity. Earlier this year, Brennan basically said that because Andrews was "trading off her looks" she created the problem.

Plus, the timing of the release of the photos, after this scandal, calls the whole video matter into question yet again.

I'm just going with my gut here, but something tells me this whole matter has changed her in a way she may not even see. If she's going to be Miley Cyrus she should stop being confused about it, that word again, and just do it. Personally, she could do a lot of good with her platform, but for now she's just messing around.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here the new Erin Andrews GQ video:

Robert Reich, The Borg, and The Heath Care Debate

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I just happened upon Berkeley professor and dweller, Robert Reich's blog and a post title that caught my eye: "The Guns of August and Why The Republican Right Was So Adept at Using Them on Health Care" and a particularly true statement he wrote:

"The Left had ideas; the Right has discipline"

Prof. Robert Reich

The former professor at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and former Secretary of Labor is right. I'm stunned over the almost "Borg-like" efficiency the right brings to the effort of getting out a message consistently, and getting its members to follow the cue cards chapter and verse, time after time.

(Oh. The Borg were characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation who were part machine and part human and ran by a central computer system.)

Now, if one thinks about my Borg analogy, they might say I'm implying that there's little or no independent thought on the Right. One would be correct here. After all, it's independence of thought that leads to the creation of a new idea.

While the idea-laden Left needs to get its messaging act together, the Couch Potato Conservative representatives on the Right must show the ability to think about what they're talking about. For example, the who notion of "The Public Option".

Conservatives I've talked to think the "Public Option" in the proposed Health Care Bill means you going to a government-run hospital, or having the feds pick a doctor for you. Not so. Ir's just another insurance program. Period. That's it. End of story.

But the facts don't stop the Right from tossing out more untruths, take this email I got from a friend recently:


I got this in my mail. Can you forward it on to Zennie. Could be good stuff for his blog.

It's kinda scary... It seems like it's coming from a legit website.

Below are the items you may find interesting and worth more investigation:

Pg 22 of the HC Bill MANDATES the Govt will audit books of ALL EMPLOYERS that self insure!!

Pg 30 Sec 123 of HC bill - THERE WILL BE A GOVT COMMITTEE that decides what treatments/benefits you get

Pg 29 lines 4-16 in the HC bill - YOUR HEALTHCARE IS RATIONED!!! You can only get so much "care" per year

Pg 42 of HC Bill - The Health Choices Commissioner will choose your HC Benefits 4 you. You have no choice!

PG 50 Section 152 in HC bill - HC will be provided to ALL non US citizens, illegal or otherwise

Pg 58HC Bill - Govt will have real-time access to individs finances & a National ID Healthcard will be issued!

Pg 59 HC Bill lines 21-24 Govt will have direct access 2 your banks accts for elective funds transfer

PG 65 Sec 164 is a payoff subsidized plan for retirees and their families in Unions & community orgs (ACORN).

Pg 72 Lines 8-14 Govt is creating an HC Exchange to bring private HC plans under Govt control.

PG 84 Sec 203 HC bill - Govt mandates ALL benefit pkgs for private HC plans in the Exchange

PG 85 Line 7 HC Bill - Specs for Benefit Levels for Plans = The Govt will ration your Healthcare!

PG 91 Lines 4-7 HC Bill - Govt mandates linguistic appropriate services..... Example - Translation for illegal aliens

Pg 95 HC Bill Lines 8-18 The Govt will use groups i.e., ACORN & Americorps to sign up individually for Govt HC plan

PG 85 Line 7 HC Bill - Specs of Benefit Levels for Plans. #AARP members - your Health care WILL be rationed

-PG 102 Lines 12-18 HC Bill - Medicaid Eligible Indiv. will be automat.enrolled in Medicaid. No choice

pg 124 lines 24-25 HC No company can sue GOVT on price fixing. No "judicial review" against Govt Monopoly

pg 127 Lines 1-16 HC Bill - Doctors/ #AMA - The Govt will tell YOU what you can make.

Pg 145 Line 15-17 An Employer MUST auto enroll employees into public opt plan. NO CHOICE

Pg 126 Lines 22-25 Employers MUST pay for HC for part time employees AND their families.

Pg 149 Lines 16-24 ANY Emplyr w payroll 400k & above who does not prov. pub opt. pays 8% tax on all payroll

pg 150 Lines 9-13 Biz w payroll between 251k & 400k who doesnt prov. pub. opt pays 2-6% tax on all payroll

Pg 167 Lines 18-23 ANY individual who doesn't have acceptable HC accrdng to Govt will be taxed 2.5%

Pg 170 Lines 1-3 HC Bill Any NONRESIDENT Alien is exempt from individual taxes. (You and I will pay for them)

Pg 195 HC Bill -officers & employees of HC Admin (GOVT) will have access to ALL Americans financial/personal recds

PG 203 Line 14-15 HC - "The tax imposed under this section shall not be treated as tax" Yes, it says that

Pg 239 Line 14-24 HC Bill Govt will reduce physician services for Medicaid. Seniors, low income, poor will be very affected

Pg 241 Line 6-8 HC Bill - Doctors, doesn't matter what specialty you have, you'll all be paid the same

PG 253 Line 10-18 Govt sets value of Dr's time, professional judgments, etc. Literally value of humans.

PG 265 Sec 1131Govt mandates & controls productivity for private HC industries

PG 268 Sec 1141 Fed Govt regulates rental & purchase of power driven wheelchairs

PG 272 SEC. 1145. TREATMENT OF CERTAIN CANCER HOSPITALS - Cancer patients - welcome to rationing!

Page 280 Sec 1151 The Govt will penalize hospitals for what Govt deems preventable readmissions.

Pg 317 L 13-20 OMG!! PROHIBITION on ownership/investment. Govt tells Drs. what/how much they can own.

Pg 317-318 lines 21-25,1-3 PROHIBITION on expansion- Govt is mandating hospitals cannot expand

pg 321 2-13 Hospitals have oppt to apply for exception BUT community input required. Can you say ACORN?!!

Pg335 L 16-25 Pg 336-339 - Govt mandates estab. of outcome based measures. HC the way they want. Rationing

Pg 341 Lines 3-9 Govt has authority to disqualify Medicare Adv Plans, HMOs, etc. Forcing all into Govt HC plan

Pg 354 Sec 1177 - Govt will RESTRICT enrollment of Special needs

Pg 379 Sec 1191 Govt creates more bureaucracy - Telehealth Advisory Cmtte. Can you say HC by phone?

PG 425 Lines 4-12 Govt mandates Advance Care Planning Consult. Think Senior Citizens end of life. Seniors will be interviewed every year for health issues and decisions made as to what care they can or can't receive

Pg 425 Lines 17-19 Govt will instruct & consult regarding living wills, durable powers of atty. Mandatory!

PG 425 Lines 22-25, 426 Lines 1-3 Govt provides apprvd list of end of life resources, guiding you in death

PG 427 Lines 15-24 Govt mandates program for orders for end of life. The Govt has a say in how your life ends

Pg 429 Lines 1-9 An "adv. care planning consult" will be used frequently as patients health deteriorates

PG 429 Lines 10-12 "adv. care consultation" may include an ORDER for end of life plans. AN ORDER from GOV

Pg 429 Lines 13-25 - The govt will specify which Doctors can write an end of life order.

PG 430 Lines 11-15 The Govt will decide what level of treatment you will have at end of life

Pg 469 - Community Based Home Medical Services=Non profit orgs. Hello, ACORN Medical Services here!!?

Page 472 Lines 14-17 PAYMENT TO COMMUNITY-BASED ORG. 1 monthly payment to a community-based org. Like ACORN?

PG 489 Sec 1308 The Govt will cover Marriage & Family therapy. Which means they will insert Govt into your marriage

Pg 494-498 Govt will cover Mental Health Svcs including defining, creating, rationing those services

This is all in there, check it out yourself! And be afraid. You must contact your representatives and STOP this insane Health Care Plan before they pass it some night at midnight.

Now none of the points in the email is true. For example, the first item on the list, "Pg 22 of the HC Bill MANDATES the Govt will audit books of ALL EMPLOYERS that self insure!!" is a load of crap. The Heath Care Bill calls for a study of the ABILITY of self-insured programs to cover their obligations. It's part of a call for a national study.

I was pretty upset with the email because of the list of distortions you saw, so I asked harshly "What idiot sent out this email?"

I got this response from the friend of my friend who originally sent the email:

I do not know who wrote it which is why I ask a few friends if they knew anything about it.

My persoal opinion is not an F for who wrote it but a F for the ones that wrote such a complex plan and involved bill. No wonder there is confusion on both sides of the fence. Seriously who will interpret the plan if no one can read it? Will it be the politicians that interpret it to the doctors and patients?

That is I want to know.

Thank you.

To which I replied:


Just saw this.

The Bill is not complicated to read. It's simple but one had to take the time. You're asking for the "dumbing down" of an important piece of legislation. Please don't do that.

Take time to get a cup of coffee, turn off the TV, and read the bill for yourself. It's that important. I'm really concerned with the apparent lack of desire of Americans to absorb information that's not in small bites.

Read. Read. Read.

...And then ask questions.



But do you see how the Right's sending out these takes on the Health Care Bill and scaring the uninformed with their own uninformed view? Part of me thinks its deliberate and they know its wrong, but a larger part of me thinks they just can't comprehend what's before them.

We've always complained about America's declining levels of education, so it should come as no surprise and complete alarm that we now have a good set of the population that's just not used to reading large amounts of information and turns off past page two.

And it seems most of those people have decided to be on the Right and not the Left.

(I'll return to this list for more vetting soon.)