A Note From the Editor: Will the Death-With-Dignity Movement Finally Make Significant Legal Progress?Written by Jimmy Boegle
On Valentine’s Day, I did something that, at one time, I never thought I’d be able to do: I married my boyfriend.
When I first started dating the man who is now my husband, some 12-plus years ago, same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the United States. My, how times have changed: As of this writing, same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states, as well as the District of Columbia—and even the staunchest same-sex-marriage opponents concede it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s legal throughout the United States.
The rate at which same-sex marriage has become accepted and legal has been simply stunning; after all, it has been less than 11 years since it first became legal anywhere in the U.S. (in Massachusetts). And look where we are now.
Unfortunately, legal change on other important social issues has not been so swift. This brings us to a recent Independent story, by Sacramento-based writer Melinda Welsh, on the right-to-die movement. (It's the cover story in our March print edition; you can also read more from Anita Rufus on the local angle here.)
Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act was approved by voters in 1994 (and it went into effect after an injunction was lifted in 1997)—yet today, physician-assisted death is legal only in three states, period. This is despite the fact that 70 percent of Americans say physicians should be able to “end (a critically ill) patient’s life by some painless means” if the patient so desires, according to a 2014 Gallup Poll.
However, the legal tide may be about to change, thanks in part to Brittany Maynard. Last year, the California resident was forced to move to Oregon in order to die with dignity after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She made her situation very public—and got a lot of attention in the process, before passing away on Nov. 1, 2014, at the age of 29.
In the wake of Maynard’s crusade, progressive lawmakers around the country are reintroducing death-with-dignity legislation. Welsh’s story looks at the situation in California. It’s a fantastic piece; you really should check it out, if you haven't already.
As festival season heads into full swing, I can’t help but wonder: How involved is the average Coachella Valley local in these big events?
Take the Palm Springs International Film Festival, for example. I’ve heard grousing that the festival, which started out as a smaller event designed primarily for locals, has grown into an event that’s more for L.A. and film-industry folks, and less for Coachella Valley residents. (When you consider how hard it is for locals to get tickets to some of the bigger film-fest events and screenings, you may realize that those grousers have a point.)
This brings us to a couple of February’s bigger events—especially Modernism Week. I have a confession to make: I have never attended a Modernism Week event. The same goes for many of my friends.
Why haven’t I ever attended a Modernism Week event? While it’s true that many Modernism Week tours sell out weeks and months in advance, it’s also true that a lot of other events—good events, some of which are low-cost or free—don’t sell out. Therefore, I can’t blame a lack of availability.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that when it comes to the behemoth series of events that is Modernism Week (which includes many hundreds of things to do), I didn’t really know where to start. Hence the “Modernism 101” story.
My goal in doing this piece was to answer a lot of the questions I (and, presumably, other locals) have about Modernism Week—and modernism in general, for that matter. Did I succeed? Judge for yourself.
Our great arts coverage coming to CVIndependent.com this month (and already out in our February print edition): a story on renowned local designer Christopher Kennedy; a piece on the neighborhood tours offered during Modernism Week; and a primer on another cool arts event happening this month: the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.
I promise: I will attend at least one or two Modernism Week events this year. If you’re in the same boat that I am, I hope these stories will help you decide to take part in this year’s Modernism Week, too.
I hope you enjoy all of our coverage. As always, thanks for reading.
College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community.
But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives?
That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school.
The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her heart for adult women who return to school to improve their lives.
“Basically, I was one of them back in the 1980s,” she said. “I had made some bad choices early on, but finally realized that I needed to get an education to improve my life and the life of my boys. I learned first-hand that a combination of financial assistance and encouragement from other women was a magical combination for success. There are so many common threads in women’s lives, and they tend to thrive when they have the support of other women who have been there.”
Girlfriend Factor’s educational grants, known as GoGirl! Grants, are given to local women 25 years or older who show financial need and have chosen a specific educational path that will lead them to a specific employment opportunity. GoGirl! Grants are renewable, staying with the recipients until they graduate. Supporters of GFF, known as Girlfriends, act as cheerleaders to the women they assist, providing them with encouragement. GFF also brings them together occasionally, where they can meet other recipients to share experiences and friendship.
“These students are very fortunate to live within a community that has such a wealth of great educational institutions such as College of the Desert and Cal State-San Bernardino,” said Busick. “Most recipients end up staying within the Coachella Valley once they graduate since they are already established here, which is another positive aspect of assisting local adult women.”
For the Girlfriend Factor, it’s all about local funds for local women. The leaders of GFF believe that charitable giving is most effective when supporting local individuals who ultimately become productive members of their own economy.
“When you put a face to the individual you are assisting, the difference you are making becomes real,” Busick said.
For donors to the Girlfriend Factor who truly want a direct connection to the women they are assisting, GFF recently established Personalized Giving Grants, which provide naming rights of the grant and designate a specific recipient to receive that grant, creating relationships that are gratifying on both sides.
Not only are the students receiving GoGirl! Grants nontraditional; the organization itself tends to raise funds and gain support by marching to its own drummer.
“We attempt to not take ourselves too seriously,” Busick said. “We try to always have an element of fun when raising funds to improve women’s lives.”
The next GFF event is Club Cabana, an evening when GFF celebrates local professional men who support GFF’s charitable mission. This year’s Club Cabana is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at Toscana Country Club.
To learn more about Girlfriend Factor, visit www.thegirlfriendfactor.org.
The brown paper bag I carried out of the bookstore wasn’t there for the sake of discretion. Truth be told, the bookstore refuses to handle plastic anymore.
Ideally, the clerk told me, the store was on the verge of going entirely bagless, so I was lucky to be handed a brown paper sack. But it was raining, fortunately, and as I walked down the sidewalk trying to shield my new purchase, I secretly imagined a few genuine watermarks marring the surface of a page or two—indelible reminders that the spine of the West’s summer drought had finally been broken.
When (and if) the electronic book revolution gets more flexible and affordable, this bookstore might also be going bookless. Despite our latest national fixation with banning disposable plastic bags, nobody knows exactly how the future will be packaged. From an eBook merchandiser’s point of view, the traditional book is the archetype of excess packaging, and the ideas on the page are the only product an ecologically minded consumer should have to purchase. As a wordmonger, I tend to agree, but not entirely.
Like a lot of people, I’ve been thinking that the Earth would be a lot better off without plastic bags. At the time of their appearance in the consumer world, they were touted as cheaper, lighter, more durable and a blessing when it came to saving trees. Now, as is the case with many innovations, the blessing has been transformed into a curse: No matter where you live, plastic bags billow and blow like dried leaves across the landscape or clog up the rivers. Allegedly, 100 billion of them get tossed out annually, a one-use trip from the checkout line to the landfill.
Major cities in the West have taken action to ban the plastic bag, some going so far as to charge shoppers 10 cents and a nasty look if they must beg for paper. Last month, California became the first state to enact a ban.
During disposable-bag debates, I wonder if anyone is talking about the sheer volume of packaging being hauled away inside those plastic and paper hammocks that cradle the products we buy, not to mention the shipping cartons and reams of plastic wrap that arrive by the semi-load at every shopping outlet before the merchandise gets arranged as stock on every American retail shelf.
Yes, there’s plenty of waste to go around, but the burden of it manages to fall, once again, squarely in the shopper’s cart.
I try to remember my reusable bags when I go out. Just like the 15 pairs of reading glasses I tuck into every corner of my house, bags are stuffed all over my vehicle, into the trunk, under the seats and in the glove compartment. I compress them into the tiny pockets of my backpack, bicycle and scooter saddlebags. Yet somehow, inevitably, I sometimes end up standing bagless in the checkout line, forced to accept plastic bags, or if I’m really lucky, increasingly rare paper bags, which come in handy as garbage-can liners.
I’m guessing that this new set of regulations will only prompt human beings to find sneakier ways around them. Some cities that have banned the bag have already reported increases in shoplifting, thanks to the influx of personal reusable sacks in their stores. Sadly, as long as saving money is the bottom line, the planet will never be our No. 1 concern.
As a community, I know we should be more than semi-conscious about the problem, but then again, is anyone keeping track of how many customers reuse or recycle the plastic bags they collect in some form or another? I know we’re offered secondhand bags with every secondhand purchase we make at garage sales and thrift stores. Surely, education and not just banning plastic bags, is key to solving the problem. Or am I a Pollyanna?
Though I may be compost before the average plastic bag breaks down, I can’t help foreseeing a future city or coastline where mounds of tote bags—all discarded—have come to rest. Ah, someone tells me, this is our newest unnatural wonder, the great dunes of our good intentions.
David Feela is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News.
Insurance Available? For Many People, Covered California Is Still Open for Health-Insurance EnrollmentWritten by Larry Hicks
Editor's Note: While the Independent has a policy against running press releases, we've agreed to run this piece from Covered California, as it contains important information about the availability of health insurance—which can be a life-changing situation.
Despite the best-laid plans, life can sometimes throw you a curveball.
So it is with health care.
After months of planning, promotion and outreach, Covered California successfully completed its first open enrollment period of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—helping more than a million consumers gain health insurance coverage.
Some people, however, may have had a change in life circumstances since open enrollment ended on March 31, and suddenly, they have a new need for coverage. If so, the door is not closed. They can still gain coverage through Covered California’s special-enrollment option.
“We continue to remind people that we still are open for business,” said Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee.
Through Nov. 15, 2014, consumers can sign up for health insurance as long as they do so within 60 days of a qualifying life event. The following circumstances are among the more common reasons that make someone eligible:
• They lose their health care coverage because they’ve lost or changed jobs.
• They lose their Medi-Cal coverage.
• They get married or enter a domestic partnership.
• They have a baby, adopt a child, or place a child in adoption or in a foster home.
• They move and gain access to new Covered California health insurance plans that were not available where they previously lived.
• They become a citizen, national or lawfully present individual.
For other examples that may qualify you for coverage through special enrollment, visit www.CoveredCA.com/coverage-basics/special-enrollment.
You must report changes and select a plan within 60 days of the qualifying life event to purchase a Covered California health insurance plan outside of open enrollment. Medi-Cal is available all year, however, and no qualifying life event is required to enroll in Medi-Cal.
If you have additional questions about whether you qualify for a special-enrollment period, you can call the Covered California Service Center at (800) 300-1506.
How do I avoid gaps in coverage?
You will need to plan ahead to avoid gaps in health coverage. It helps to know that in general, the start date for coverage depends on the date you enroll. If you enroll by the 15th day of the month, your coverage will start on the first day of the next month. If you enroll after the 15th day of the month, your coverage will start on the first day of the second month. For example, if you enroll on Aug. 13, your coverage will start Sept. 1. If you enroll on Aug. 16, your coverage will start Oct. 1. You can use this rule as a guideline to help plan your new coverage and avoid gaps.
(Note: If you go without coverage for three consecutive months during the year, and you don’t fall under an exemption permitting you to do so, you will be subject to a tax penalty.)
For most qualifying life events, the start date for coverage depends on the date you enroll, as described above, but there are a few exceptions:
• If you lose your Medi-Cal coverage, job-based coverage or other coverage, and you use a special-enrollment period, your coverage would start on the first day of the next month following your plan selection, regardless of when during the month you make your plan selection.
• If you get married and use a special-enrollment period, your coverage will start on the first day of the next month following your plan selection, regardless of when during the month you make your plan selection.
• If you have a child, adopt a child or place a child in adoption or foster care, and you use a special-enrollment period, your coverage starts on the date of the birth, the adoption or the placement for adoption or foster care.
• On a case-by-case basis, Covered California may start your coverage earlier.
Larry Hicks is the public information officer for Covered California.
Ahhh—another fifth week!
Typically, there are no meetings and few events in the fifth week. If we organize our recurring to-do lists by the first and third week, or by the second and fourth (which I highly recommend), we should not have much on our lists this week, either!
So, what do we do with this week of freedom? I highly recommend giving yourself permission to get out and enjoy your garden!
That’s it! STOP reading this and GO OUTSIDE, before it gets too hot! Get!
It’s not only about the plants: Your pots can add a lot of interest and color to your surroundings—with or without plants!
We talked earlier this month about using succulents for your front gate pots. However, let’s face it: Succulents can sometimes be a little boring in color, as greens and grays echo the desert landscape.
However, you can plant them in pots that have colors that complement your home’s décor. For example, going back to the front gate, you can always make a first-time visitor feel welcome with turquoise pots.
When you combine colors, keep in mind the style you use inside your home. Keep color families together, and make sure the collection complements each other. When appropriate, relate the outside colors to the first colors people see when they enter your home.
On this week's invasive Independent comics page: The K Chronicles enjoys an episode of "Black Eye for the White Guy"; Jen Sorenson looks at the Paycheck Fairness Act; Red Meat examines the human body; and The City wonders how and why the NSA dropped the ball.
SAGEWorks has begun!
The LGBT Community Center of the Desert, aka The Center, is currently serving unemployed and underemployed LGBT adults 40 years old and up with computer training and job-skills classes. The course helps participants build the requisite skills to perform the basic tasks of a job search, and to expand computer knowledge and job skills.
SAGEWorks is being led by Bobbie McClain, a graduate of the first SAGEWorks, Palm Springs program in 2012. She credits the connections she made and the support she received at SAGEWorks with helping her find teaching positions both in the Coachella Valley and in Berkeley, Calif. She is particularly grateful for the opportunity to coordinate SAGEWorks, Palm Springs, in her new position at The Center.
"Losing a job, or being unemployed for a year or more, can be quite devastating, emotionally and financially," says McClain. "It was a lifesaver for me to find the SAGEWorks program and to meet others like me who needed to find work. Receiving updated training to expand on what we already know as older, experienced workers and having knowledgeable speakers who unselfishly donate time to train SAGEWorks students on how to interview, how to look for jobs in the new world of job searches, and how to locate needed resources to find employers who recognize the value of older workers was invaluable. I am grateful to my teachers and fellow students who supported me and gave me courage through a tough time."
SAGEWorks is offered at The Center three times each year: in the fall, winter and spring. Each session meets for eight weeks, with many guest lecturers from local agencies and businesses, offering students opportunities to meet with local employers.
SAGEWorks students will be offering two special presentations to the public, on Wednesday, April 30 and May 7. Lisa Middleton, the interim director of The Center will be speaking on "Transgender in the Workplace," and Lorraine D'Alessio and Thomas Joy of the D'Alessio Law Group will be speaking on "Working Legally in the United States." These lectures will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with a suggested donation of $10. Participants must register through SAGEWorks to attend either of these events.
The rains had been heavy on and off for weeks, soaking the ground, washing away the soil and undercutting our yard and those of our neighbors. This happened 45 years ago, when we lived on a steep mountain ridge in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Where once we had an ample yard, 15 feet of grass now separated our house from the precipitous edge of the slope. That led to anxious nights with images in my mind of our house sliding down the slope while I slept. Although our house never went over the edge, those feelings of anxiety sometimes recur during big storms.
A little research reveals that the worst storm ever recorded in California struck on Christmas Eve of 1861. The rains continued almost nonstop until February 1862, soaking California with almost four times its normal rainfall, and creating enormous brown lakes on the normally dry plains of Southern California. In the Sierra Nevada, the deluges filled rivers, transforming them into raging torrents that swept away entire communities and gold-mining settlements in the foothills.
In California’s enormous Central Valley—a region well more than 300 miles long and 20 miles wide—the floodwaters streaming from the Sierra produced an inland sea, covering farmlands and towns. Sacramento was submerged under 10 feet of brown, debris-laden water, forcing residents to move about the city by boat.
California wasn’t alone in its misery: Diary and newspaper accounts suggest that most of the West Coast, as well as inland areas in Nevada, Utah and Arizona, suffered their worst floods in history.
Then there’s drought. I recall living through the severest drought on record for many Western states, which happened during the winter of 1976-1977. In California, this period is known as “the year with no rain.”
I was a teenager, and for the first time, I had to confront the realization that water was a finite resource. My family had always used water liberally, with little thought about supply, but that year, every drop counted. Washing cars, watering lawns and taking baths or long showers were banned. These “sacrifices” paled in comparison to the far harsher impacts we heard about on the news, faced by farmers with little water, ski areas with no snow, and forests drying and burning.
This bipolar behavior of our Western climate left me wondering what a “normal” climate really was.
Today, I am one of a small cohort of scientists trying to answer that question, by searching for evidence of past droughts and floods, wildfires, periods of warmth and cold and so on, over the geologic past—the period before humans kept records in the West.
If we step back and view our climate history over a very long time period—say, hundreds to thousands of years—we begin to see the forest for the trees. We can pick out extreme events and how often they occur. This natural history is written not in paper and ink, but in the earth itself, in sediment, stone, trees and ice. Like investigators at a crime scene, we try to piece together seemingly random and unrelated clues about our past climate, and eventually, we begin to see patterns.
Our discoveries are occasionally surprising, sometimes unsettling, even anxiety-provoking. Evidence is mounting, for example, that two prolonged droughts, each lasting more than a century, gripped the Southwest during medieval times, about 650 to 1,100 years ago.
Decades-long droughts have also occurred more frequently and fairly regularly, telling us that these dry periods are a normal feature of our climate.
We have also found evidence of previous catastrophic floods in the region, suggesting that the “megaflood” in 1861-1862 was not a freak event. Our studies indicate that huge floods—much larger than we have experienced in the past century—occurred every 100 to 200 years over the past few thousand years.
It’s unsettling to think about the implications of extreme climate events—and the reality that global warming may make severe weather much more frequent and even more extreme. These days, of course, my adult mind can provide diversions, and some people are getting quite skillful at outright denial. This might alleviate unease in the short run, but I know that the best long-term solution is for scientists to prepare everyone living in our Western states for a future of unpredictable and extreme climate change.
B. Lynn Ingram is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News. She is a professor of earth science at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow.