By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 0 Comments
The Harper government’s promise of a North American cap-and-trade market is now nearly sort of realized as California Governor Jerry Brown has formally approved linking California’s carbon market with Quebec.
Meanwhile, Erica Alini has a thorough guide to Alberta’s carbon levy.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, March 29, 2013 at 2:23 PM - 0 Comments
FRESNO, Calif. – A Central California science museum has recovered three of four reptiles…
FRESNO, Calif. – A Central California science museum has recovered three of four reptiles stolen in a burglary caught on surveillance video, and arrested a suspect in the heist.
The Discovery Center’s education co-ordinator Ian Goudelock says a 3 1/2-foot savannah monitor lizard, red-tailed boa constrictor and a ball python are back at the Fresno museum on Friday. A 3-foot-long ball python remains missing.
The suspect broke into the museum on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, smashed the tanks that held the four reptiles and made off with them in a garbage bag. The suspect also went into the centre’s gift shop and stole children’s toys, the phone system and the security monitor.
Fresno police says they made an arrest on suspicion of the burglary, but the suspect’s name was not immediately available.
By Erica Alini - Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
California got hammered by the recession. Now Gov. Jerry Brown has it roaring back — with help from America’s biggest oil field
Gabe Essoe is back to his busy self. “It’s eight days a week,” says the 67-year-old real estate broker from Pittsburg, Calif., a Bay Area town of 63,000 northeast of San Francisco. This year, he says, is going to be a good one. “I feel very optimistic in 2013.” Among Californians, Essoe is far from alone, something no one would have believed possible even two years ago.
Few states fell further than California during the great recession. The Golden State’s housing market collapsed amid a storm of foreclosures, but it wasn’t just housing. Public finances—both at the state and municipal level—were a mess. A host of cities, from Vallejo to Stockton to San Bernardino, unable to pay their bills, gave up and declared bankruptcy. But now, against all odds, California is racing back, golden, once again. California is adding jobs faster than any other state. And the state that in 2011 faced a budget hole of US$27 billion, announced in January that it will wipe out its deficit this year. Silicon Valley is booming, with twentysomething entrepreneurs snapping up vertiginously priced Bay Area property. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 4:35 PM - 0 Comments
“The cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emission allowances (SPEDE) is a major advance in the fight against climate change,” explained Yves-François Blanchet. “Europe, China, Australia and Japan are working in this direction. Québec and California are now leaders in this endeavour.” … “Discussions with our counterparts in California are extremely positive. I am confident that we will see a full linkage of the Québec and California markets during spring 2013 in anticipation of the first joint auction planned for August, 2013. Québec and California have agreed to work together closely so that Canadian provinces and U.S. states join the market. As a result of this agreement, Québec will be in a position to achieve its emission targets, and businesses will have an innovative and flexible tool enabling them to participate in the effort,” concluded Minister Blanchet
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
The state will hold its first auction of carbon credits today.
Gary Stern, market strategy and resource planning director for Southern California Edison, said the utility company expects to take part in Wednesday’s auction. ”We have always felt a market mechanism, like cap and trade, has the potential for being a lower-cost means of achieving the objectives on a national scale,” he said. “We’ve been supportive of the cap-and-trade program generally on a state basis, if it’s designed properly. So far, it appears to have.”
Quebec intends to link its cap-and-trade system with California’s.
By Julia Belluz - Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 5:02 PM - 0 Comments
Just when you thought Facebook couldn’t become any more omnipotent: In May, the social networking giant announced it would allow users to declare their organ donor status on their profiles and link to donor registries in the hopes
of becoming “a big part of helping solve the crisis out there,” as CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it then.
At the time, Science-ish mused about the role the social network could play in getting more people to donate. Today the tool launches in Canada, Mexico, Norway and Belgium—that’s 18 countries in total—and we actually have some preliminary data on the “Facebook effect.”
According to David Fleming
, CEO of Donate Life America, the initial response after Zuckerberg’s announcement “dwarf[ed] any past organ donation initiative.” In California, for example, 70 people each day usually register online as organ donors, while in the 24 hours following the Facebook announcement, 3,900 Californians did the same. But, according to a new report from the U.S., “the dramatic increase in registered organ donors was quickly followed by a dramatic decline. Within two weeks, the rate of registration of new organ donors returned to previous levels.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 4:10 PM - 0 Comments
From the headlines of Aug. 30-Sept. 6, 2012
North Korea is reportedly making significant reforms to collective agriculture. Foreigners cannot visit rural areas in the cloistered republic, but defectors say co-operative farms are being subdivided into smaller units, and farmers are being allowed to keep more of their crops for consumption or sale. Agriculture is always a bellwether in centrally planned economies, and the changes might signal a reformist appetite in the circle of Western-educated Kim Jong Un. But they’re good news in themselves, either way.
New rules requiring TV commercials to be no louder than the surrounding programming came into effect Sept. 1, one year after being promulgated by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission. Former chairman Konrad von Finckenstein’s 2011 call for comments was met by a deluge of support from viewers tired of “ear-splitting” ads. The new rules require broadcasters to abide by international ad-loudness standards, which are also being adopted by the U.S. this year.
By Anthony McCartney, The Associated Press - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 1:58 AM - 0 Comments
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Steve Wynn and porn producer Joe Francis faced off before…
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Steve Wynn and porn producer Joe Francis faced off before jurors Tuesday, with the casino mogul denying that he threatened to kill the “Girls Gone Wild” founder and saying the accusation is threatening his upscale casinos.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM - 0 Comments
Voter turnout for referendums and elections hovers around 45-55 per cent, comparable to our own elections — but there, voting happens constantly. Not just voting, but weighing and debating. “The whole society is in a constant state of discussion,” says Nik Nuspliger, North American correspondent for Zurich’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung. It’s built into Swiss life, like the legal system itself. Every law passed by parliament that affects the constitution must go to a referendum. Laws not affecting the constitution can also be sent to a referendum if 50,000 people sign a petition — out of population of 8 million. Votes can be based on “popular initiatives” if they’re supported by 100,000 names. That’s how minarets got on.
Parliament then debates and formulates a question and it can also put its own alternative on the ballot. Foreign treaties automatically get referendums. There are provisions for double majorities — both nationally and in cantons — in some cases, and time limits depending on issues. This is the sign of deep integration into normal political life: loads of rules.
The counter to any pro-referendum argument is, of course, California, which at least demonstrates the need to be very careful in designing any such system of direct democracy.
By Emma Teitel - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM - 0 Comments
A new bill wants to ban ‘conversion therapy’
California is in the gay rights spotlight once again, with a first-of-its kind ban on “conversion therapy” for gay youth. The bill, which is before final committee, is necessary, says its sponsor, Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu, because the therapy—popular with religious organizations like Exodus International and Manifested Glory Ministries—can lead to depression, guilt, even suicide. “Pray the gay away,” counselling and exorcisms are among therapy’s techniques. It has been denounced by the American Psychiatric Association. Some parents who enroll their kids in conversion therapy are “well meaning,” says Rebekah Orr, of Equality California, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, “but don’t know how psychologically damaging it is.”
Those in the so-called “ex-gay movement,” however, contend that gay people can purge themselves of their homosexuality. If passed, the bill would also force adults seeking conversion therapy to sign a release form confirming that they understand the potential psychological risks involved. “With conversion therapy, there are no happy endings,” says Wayne Besin, executive director of the U.S. gay rights group Truth Wins Out. “It’s an experiment that failed and left a trail of victims.”
By Erica Alini - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 6:35 PM - 0 Comments
Economists have long warned that current spending patterns have put Ontario on track for a fiscal doomsday. In an attempt to show Ontarians the way to economic salvation, Premier Dalton McGuinty appointed a commission on public-service reform last year, headed by former TD economist Don Drummond. His report, unveiled on Wednesday, is a 362-item long laundry list of cost-cutting (and a few revenue-boosting) measures the provincial government should consider to keep the public deficit from ballooning to $30.2 billion by 2017-18. The prescriptions go far beyond the usual calls for budget freezes and capping wage increases in the public sector; Drummond recommends scrapping all-day kindergarten, increasing class sizes, and shutting down casinos. To make Ontarians feel better about the coming age of austerity, we’ve put together a list of the five most unusual ideas other governments have considered or implemented to fix their own beleaguered finances.
By Peter Nowak - Friday, February 10, 2012 at 10:52 AM - 0 Comments
Can porn be copyrighted? It’s an unexpected question raised by a lawsuit filed in California by a woman accused of illegally downloading an adult film.
As TorrentFreak reports, Liuxia Wong has filed a harassment lawsuit against L.A.-based Hard Drive Productions, who she says wrongly accused her of sharing a film called Amateur Allure Jen on BitTorrent. The company sent her a letter saying she could be liable for up to $150,000, but that she could instead settle for $3,400.
By Jessica Allen - Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 5:33 PM - 32 Comments
I think my strawberry obsession has gone too far. Let me explain: there’s a green grocer right at the end of my street in the west end of Toronto that sells the plastic packs of California berries side by side with the local pints. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, July 15, 2011 at 4:21 PM - 0 Comments
Gov. Brown signs bill into law requiring schools to teach gay experience in America
California has become the first U.S. state to have its public schools teach gay history. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday that would require the contributions of LGBT Americans throughout history to be included the state’s educational syllabus. The bill was authored by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, and has drawn loud opposition from conservative and evangelical groups in the state. “It is an outrage that Governor Jerry Brown has opened the classroom door for homosexual activists to indoctrinate the minds of California’s youth, since no factual materials would be allowed to be presented,” said Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman and founder of the Traditional Values Coalition, which represents more than 43,000 churches. But California law already requires schools to teach students about the contributions of other minority groups, and Sen. Leno’s office cited research showing that schools that teach students about LGBT people and issues are perceived as more inclusive. “History should be honest,” said Gov. Brown in his statement following the signing of the bill into law.
By Patricia Treble - Friday, July 15, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
In California, even celebrities had to make a charitable donation to meet William and Kate
If the Canadian trip by Prince William and Catherine was focused on meeting the people of the Crown’s northern realm, then their 48-hour jaunt to Los Angeles was, in the words of one tabloid, “the ultimate pay-per-view.”
All the headline events were to support organizations or to raise money for charities that the royals either oversee or back. And in a city used to ladling out freebies to celebrities, this time everyone had to pay for the opportunity to be star-struck. On Saturday alone, William and Kate raised an estimated $7 million. First up was a polo match. A $100,000 cheque (and the ability to ride a horse) got a donor onto a polo pony, $4,000 bought lunch in the royal tent, while $400 got wannabes a seat in the stands and a brown-bagged meal. William “let loose,” as he put it, and scored four of his winning team’s five goals. All proceeds went to the American arm of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry that backs charities focused on youth, military families and the environment. That night he and Kate chatted up Hollywood’s equivalent of royalty, including Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and Nicole Kidman, at a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) gala where a table cost $16,000.
Though the trip was tightly scripted with few chances for informality, a mob of camera crews and reporters stalked the couple’s every move. Every moment of the celebrity-laden visit—William with David Beckham, Kate talking to Reese Witherspoon, the newlyweds studiously averting their eyes from J. Lo’s abs, visible in her cutaway dress—was photographed. The Today show devoted its prime slots to chef Giada De Laurentiis’s minute-by-minute recollection of serving lunch at the polo match. Her beef tenderloin crostini recipe appeared in People. Even the state of California cashed in on the visit, rushing a “what William and Kate should visit” commercial onto TV.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
Google lets you pay with your cellphone; California mistakenly releases hundreds of violent inmates
Upper house repair
The Tories plan to overhaul the Senate by introducing a bill later this month that will put term limits on senators—as low as eight or 10 years—and allow provinces to elect members when positions open up. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have long talked about Senate reform, but their actions lately have been anything but democratic. Harper recently appointed to the Senate three Tory candidates who had failed to get elected to the House of Commons in the May election. Real Senate reform means more democracy, less hypocrisy.
The fast lane
The Canadian economic recovery is alive and well. The economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.9 per cent in the first quarter—double the rate in the U.S. The manufacturing sector also received a vote of confidence as Chrysler paid back $1.7 billion in loans to Ottawa, and Fiat’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne, said this week his company is interested in buying Canada’s remaining shares in Chrysler. The bailout of Chrysler two years ago was widely criticized, but the automaker now appears to be back on the road to being a profitable, job-producing company.
In the name of hockey
In a show of hometown support, the Richmond, B.C.-based Boston Pizza will become “Vancouver Pizza” for the duration of the Stanley Cup playoffs. All restaurants will receive Vancouver Pizza banners to hang over their signage and Vancouver Pizza stickers for takeout containers. The strategy might play well outside B.C., too—a new Sportsnet poll shows 85 per cent of Canadian hockey followers are pulling for the team.
Pop till you drop
America’s knack for innovation keeps on giving. Google unveiled a mobile payment system called Google Wallet that allows shoppers to swipe their cellphones at registers to pay for purchases. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is rolling out touch-screen vending machines that offer customers a choice between more than 100 different pop flavours. The machines use ink-jet-like syrup mixers and send data about people’s preferences back to Coke headquarters. It’s never been a better time to be a consumer.
Yemen slipped closer to civil war as a ceasefire between government and opposition forces broke down. Fighting in the capital of Sanaa has led to over 100 deaths since President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to follow through on a pledge to resign. The government also bombed the city of Zinjibar after it was seized by Islamic militants. Saleh is accused of trying to curry favour with Western allies by exaggerating the militants’ connection to al-Qaeda, but there is little doubt the chaos raises dangerous instability. This is a black eye for the Arab Spring.
After nearly nine years locked inside the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Omar Khadr should be accustomed to dreary news. This week brought even more: his clemency claim has been denied. The Toronto native, who was captured in Afghanistan at the age of 15 and convicted of killing an American soldier, will be transferred to a Canadian penitentiary later this year. The failed clemency bid effectively rubber-stamps the eight-year sentence he received at his recent trial, and eliminates any hope that he could apply for early parole before June 2013.
Mailing it in
The union representing 50,000 Canada Post employees is threatening to strike unless workers can keep banking sick days and get a roughly three per cent raise annually for the next four years. These demands come despite a 17 per cent drop in letter mail—not to mention that employees begin with seven weeks vacation, earn $24 an hour to start, and can retire as early as age 55. The timing of the strike also couldn’t be worse. In B.C., the long overdue HST referendum would have to be delayed because three million mail-in ballots wouldn’t reach voters.
To catch a criminal
California mistakenly released hundreds of violent inmates after being ordered to limit overcrowding in prisons. Over 450 inmates “with a high risk of violence” were let out on unsupervised parole. At least on the other side of the country, police caught a lucky break. In Maine, a man wanted on two warrants accidently “pocket-dialled” 911 while doing yardwork. He was promptly tracked down by officers.
By Jane Switzer - Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
He’s no longer California governor, but Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be everywhere these days
When Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped down as governor of California in January after nearly eight years in office, he made Hollywood a promise: he’ll be back. Now, the actor-turned-politician is teaming up with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee to create The Governator, a children’s comic book and television series featuring Schwarzenegger’s crime-fighting alter ego. The Governator will battle the evil G.I.R.L.I.E. Men (Gangsters, Imposters, Racketeers, Liars and Irredeemable Ex-cons) with the help of a uniquely talented teenage quartet, including Zeke Muckerberg, a 13-year-old computer genius inspired by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Political pundits first nicknamed Schwarzenegger “the Governator”—a play on his popular Terminator movies—when he ran for office in 2003. Though sometimes used negatively by critics, Schwarzenegger told Entertainment Weekly he’s fond of the moniker: “When I ran for governor back in 2003 and I started hearing people talking about ‘the Governator,’ I thought the word was so cool,” he says. “The word ‘Governator’ combined two worlds: the world of politics and the movie world. And [the comic] brings everything together.”
Since leaving the governor’s Sacramento mansion, Schwarzenegger has maintained a presence on the international political scene. While en route to Cannes last week, the long-time Republican met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and addressed Conservative MPs before attending former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s star-studded 80th birthday party at Royal Albert Hall.
By Amy Rosen - Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 11:56 AM - 1 Comment
A Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., winery is producing the first-ever Canadian raisins
You can’t help noticing the raisins garnishing the cheese board at the tasting bar at Reif Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. They’re a little bit different, larger and darker-looking than their California kin. But that’s to be expected, as these are no ordinary raisins. In a Canadian first, the purchase of two Simcoe County tobacco kilns resulted in the first-ever production of Canadian raisins last year. Made from Ontario-grown seedless Sovereign Coronation grapes and produced by Reif Estates, they’re thicker-skinned and a different texture than your average Sun-Maid—and boast a complex flavour befitting the viniferous surroundings.
“Originally, the idea was to make an appassimento-style wine that involves the drying of grapes that is common in a region of Italy where they make Amarone-style wines,” explains Reif Estate winemaker Roberto DiDomenico. DiDomenico and Reif Estate owner Klaus Reif, a 13th-generation winemaker who immigrated from Germany in the early 1980s and bought his uncle’s Niagara winery in 1987, had some contacts in Simcoe’s tobacco country. “We learned that there would be some kilns available as the tobacco industry has been waning,” says DiDomenico. They purchased two refurbished kilns that were shipped up to Reif Estates in the spring of 2009. And that’s when the process began. Almost. Explains Reif, “Our grapes that we use for the appassimento winemaking process were not yet ready, so we had these two kilns sitting here and we thought, what should we do with them now?”
Wine is made from grapes with seeds while raisins are generally made from seedless grapes. Niagara is wine country, but as luck would have it, a friend of Reif’s, John Klassen, who grows table grapes for supermarkets, happened to stop by the winery for a visit. “He was telling us that his grapes were ripe, but the supermarkets didn’t want them anymore,” says Reif. With those plump, juicy Sovereign Coronation grapes destined for the birds, Reif said, “Bring them in; we’ll try to make raisins.” (While most raisins are made from green grapes, these Niagara raisins are made from red grapes.) DiDomenico and Reif put the grapes in the tobacco kilns for three to four weeks to raisin-up.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 12:11 PM - 35 Comments
As per Scott’s appeal,
here isthere was video of Defence Minister Peter MacKay denying the existence of the great states of Washington and Oregon. (The video seems, suddenly, to have been disappeared from the Internet. Here is the Star’s account of the flub.)
And here is the inevitable Liberal mockery.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM - 36 Comments
I had an interesting companion on my recent trip to California: Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein’s new book about the quarter-century feud between Richard Nixon and columnist Jack Anderson. Anderson lived until 2005, but is now quite forgotten, even though he once had a near-monopoly on investigative political journalism in the United States and has (along with his mentor Drew Pearson) no conceivable rival as the creator of the form.
If scruples were a breakfast cereal, Nixon and Anderson couldn’t have come up with a spoonful between the two of them. Anderson, a pure entrepreneur who syndicated his own work and had no editor, recognized hardly any ethical limits to his professional activity. Could one say that he was not above stealing secret documents, committing blackmail, spreading sexual slurs, perpetrating bribery, and publishing unfounded speculation? That would be like saying that a surgeon is not above cutting people open. Yet Anderson probably did more good than harm until his bundle of instincts and tricks began to fail him in his fifties. To some, the Washington press still seems purblind without him.
Nixon and Anderson were both products of California, and were branded by it. Both came from dirt-poor families who belonged to religious minorities, and who found disillusionment rather than the American dream in the far West. Nixon, a Quaker, was actuated in everything he did by a superego with a terrifying, suffocating grip; he wasn’t personally a god-botherer, but the “fear of God”, an omnipresent God of correction and retribution, is a good metaphor for the dominant element in his psyche. Anderson, by contrast, was an observant Mormon of stiffly upright personal habits who used a network of powerful Saints to help get scoops.
When Nixon, as president, needed to find a job for his lazy nitwit brother Donald, his people chose to lean on Mormon hotel magnate J.W. Marriott. Nixon was soon horrified to learn that Don, whose shady dealings with Howard Hughes had landed Nixon in Pearson’s column long before and arguably cost him the presidency in 1960, had arranged for a face-to-face meeting with Anderson. Thanks to some eleventh-hour spin, Anderson’s article ended up helping to insulate the administration, representing Donald as a freelancing, happy-go-lucky goofball whose brother had washed his hands of him. I reached this point in Feldstein’s book in the lobby of the L.A. Marriott, reading the tale under the watchful eye of old J.W. himself.
The California of today endows its citizens with complacency, optimism, and tolerance; the people I rapped with around the state wouldn’t recognize Nixon, or Anderson, as belonging to their species of humanity. The pair were creatures of a cruel, barren pre-aqueduct California that turned them loose on America like rodents in a sea of cheese. Feldstein’s outstanding book makes their confrontation seem inevitable, almost Shakespearean.
Anderson was the great thorn in the side of the Nixon cause until he blew the Watergate story (despite having it virtually gift-wrapped; he knew several of the burglars, and actually bumped into them at an airport while they were en route to the break-in). One of the more notable features of Poisoning the Press is that it takes the story that Nixon ordered Special Counsel Chuck Colson to plan the assassination of Anderson more seriously than previous Nixonologists have. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, Feldstein points out, confirmed each other’s claims that they had orders from Colson to kill Anderson and that they actually put him under surveillance for the purpose. Liddy is widely seen as an absurd right-wing curio nowadays, but his testimony about the shady stuff he got up to as the leader of Nixon’s “Plumbers” has usually been borne out.
There is no tape or document that confirms Nixon’s knowledge of any plot to kill Anderson, but then, there’s no signed paper that says Hitler ordered the Holocaust. Would Colson have balked at killing a journalist? Today’s Jesus-freak Colson would be the first to admit that the answer was “no”; he’s the guy who wanted to firebomb the Brookings Institution. Could Colson have talked Nixon into giving him tacit approval to do it? Goading Nixon was practically his job description, and his skill at that job shaped American history. A full generation after Watergate, we’re still exploring the outer limits of what John Mitchell called the “White House Horrors”.
By Colin Campbell - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
One Californian has registered over 1,000 Internet domain names, including marijuanapastry.com
With California voting this week on whether or not to legalize marijuana, some entrepreneurs have been anticipating a lucrative payoff. It’s not about selling drugs, but rather website addresses that contain the word “marijuana.” One Californian told the New York Times he has registered over 1,000 Internet domain names, including marijuanapastry.com and icecreammarijuana.com.
Buying and selling domain names has emerged as a big business in recent years (some sought-after addresses, like sex.com, can fetch millions of dollars). It’s also competitive, with domain name firms buying and selling thousands of addresses at auctions. The result of the California vote wasn’t known by press time, but regardless of the outcome, investing in pot-related domain names may prove to be more a long-term investment than a get-rich-quick scheme—a bet that interest in marijuana will keep growing over time, driving demand for pot-related businesses in need of websites.
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Meg Whitman’s campaign for California governor gets tripped up by allegations of hiring illegal labour
Hard work is the theme that has underpinned Meg Whitman’s political campaign. The Republican nominee for governor of California and former eBay CEO has often drawn on the image of her “intrepid and adventurous” mother Martha, a homemaker who sprang to action in the Second World War, learning how to overhaul jeep and airplane engines. “I am my mother’s daughter,” Whitman has said. Hard work is also what helped her become the fourth-wealthiest woman in California, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. She was a good student at Princeton University and Harvard Business School. She gained experience at some of America’s largest corporations, including Proctor & Gamble, and went on to build her own empire, turning the ﬂedgling online auctioneer eBay, with its 30 employees, into a 15,000-strong Silicon Valley powerhouse.
As governor, Whitman has promised she would apply that work ethic to fix California’s $19-billion deficit. By 2015, she would create two million new jobs—and they would not go to illegal migrants. Whitman has been tougher on immigration than her Democratic challenger, Jerry Brown, and has even called for stricter sanctions against employers who hire undocumented workers. “I am 100 per cent against amnesty for illegal immigrants. Period,” she said. But now, in the final days before the Nov. 2 gubernatorial election, allegations have surfaced that Whitman herself was actually the employer of an illegal immigrant. From 2000 to 2009, Nicandra Diaz Santillan worked as a housekeeper for Whitman and Whitman’s husband Griffith Harsh in their Silicon Valley mansion. Though Whitman says she fired Santillan in 2009, after learning that the maid from Mexico did not have legal status in America, Santillan claims that her boss knew she was undocumented since at least 2003.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, August 13, 2010 at 4:23 AM - 0 Comments
Don’t look now, but a twist has materialized in the legal epic of same-sex marriage in California. When U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker struck down the statute implementing the anti-SSM Proposition 8, even sophisticated observers began imagining the familiar capillary process whereby a quarrel migrates upward through increasingly mighty appellate courts.
But wait! Remember what the style of cause was in this lawsuit? That’s right: Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
The plaintiffs were two gays and two lesbians seeking California marriage licenses. The defendants were state officials obeying the dictates of Prop 8, as unwilling legislative automata, from the Governator on down. Those officials have no intention of appealing Walker’s ruling. Indeed, they barely presented a defence of “themselves” in the first place. The advocates of Proposition 8, whose clumsy evidence Judge Walker treated like a speed-bag in his decision, weren’t parties to the suit and didn’t ask to be. They were mere intervenors. So how can they obtain standing to appeal?
This wrinkle didn’t come to the attention of the general-interest press (or to me) until yesterday, when Walker addressed it in his handling of a request for a stay of his decision. The rule is that federal appeal courts, under Article III of the Constitution, can only hear legitimate, non-hypothetical “cases” and “controversies”. This means that intervenors and other observers have to meet a high standard in order to take a decision to U.S. Circuit Court without the aid of one of the original parties—aid that will certainly not be forthcoming in this instance.
Traditionally, in order to gain standing, non-parties have to show that they have suffered a concrete, specific injury as a result of the decision being appealed. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in 1997 that “An intervenor cannot step into the shoes of the original party unless the intervenor independently fulfills the requirements of Article III.” In no case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court has this happened.
The strangest quirk of all is this: the issue that will decide the feasibility of an appeal by private citizens advocating Prop 8 seems like the same one that came before Judge Walker in the first place. Namely, does the existence of same-sex marriage cause meaningful harm to anybody? Judge Walker, having found that it does not, is naturally skeptical of the intervenors’ ability to proceed. But what’s going to happen if the 9th Circuit turns those intervenors away? Is it quite fair for the judiciary as a class, having thwarted California’s voters, to say “Judge Walker’s ruling that gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody is impervious to appeal on technical grounds, because gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody”?
Me, I’m no bleeding-heart small-D democrat. But to the opponents of gay marriage, and perhaps even to unpersuaded moderates, this might seem like sharp dealing. It is one thing for the judiciary to block the will of the majority: hey, welcome to the U.S.A., tenderfoot. This, however, is a case where the judiciary may not only end up obstructing the volonté générale, but elbowing it good and hard in the vitals. Somehow, in California, a majority vote against same-sex marriage will have led directly to the near-permanent entrenchment of same-sex marriage.
This sort of counterintuitive outcome could surely lead to a backlash outside California. Who knows?—it might even create the impetus for an anti-SSM affort at constitutional amendment. The Democratic character of the Congress is a poor assurance of safety for the five (shortly to be six) states which have full, legal gay marriage. That institution still has never won a referendum in the U.S.; its win-loss record stands at 0-31. And the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies nationwide constitutional “full faith and credit” to same-sex marriages, was opposed by just 14 Senators and 67 Representatives not so long ago (1996).
Time and history are on the side of gay marriage. (This is especially true if it represents some sort of fatal Spenglerian decadence.) But it is unclear just how much of each will be needed.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 5:21 AM - 0 Comments
Yesterday afternoon a federal court struck down California Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that had banned same-sex marriages in the state. U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s Perry v. Schwarzenegger decision offers a fascinating overview of the American SSM fight. Subjecting Prop 8 to the strict and searching scrutiny that any overt act of state discrimination invites, Walker found the evidence of social harm resulting from gay marriage to be wretchedly meagre, and the evidence of any additional administrative burden on the state to be worse than nonexistent. (In a display of perversity surely more nauseating to many of us than mere sodomy, debt-addled California has been foregoing revenue from marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples and has been maintaining a distinct bureaucracy for the creation and oversight of “domestic partnerships”—a species invented in order to endow gays and lesbians with all the legal difficulties of civil marriage without entitling them to drink from the dregs of its social dignity.)
Walker, having entertained and weighed the evidence of a rational basis for Proposition 8, could find none—none beyond discrimination against gays and lesbians for its own sake, which he characterizes as a “private moral view” that, in the absence of a legitimate government interest, cannot be an appropriate subject of legislation under the due process and equal-protection provisions of the Constitution. So runs the argument. (I’m not a lawyer, but it feels to me like a rather Canadian, Oakes-y one, structurally.)
How airtight is the ruling? One objection that someone like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would make—for he has made it—is that all laws implement some “moral view”, and could be struck down by a judge the minute some protectable class were found to object to it. Laws against homicide discriminate against murderphiles, and so on. Of course, this isn’t very convincing. Even if you can show that there is such an inherent characteristic as “being a murderphile” and that people in no way choose membership in this class—which, in fact, is an argument you could probably win!—the compelling state interest in preventing murderphiles from murdering is a million times easier to show than anybody’s interest, anybody’s at all, in fretting over the nebulous effects of gay marriage.
This debate is over in Canada, except as a convenient way for kooks to define themselves, because how the heck could you possibly show that absolutely anybody’s life was affected irreversibly for the worse on the exact date of July 20, 2005? I’ve given pro-lifers generous helpings of hassle over the years, but they’ve at least got the “Abortion Stops A Beating Heart” thing to fall back on. If you were picking a similar slogan for the anti-SSM movement, where would you even start? Gay Marriage…Makes A Gorge Rise? Gets A Dander Up? Sticks In A Craw?
The punchline to all this is that Justice Scalia is so forthright, confident, and frankly plain ornery in his views that he inadvertently supplied Judge Walker with a grace note for his magnum opus. Back in 2003, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh pointed out that the then-fresh Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision annulling that state’s sodomy law featured a little sideshow he thought relevant to the future of the gay-marriage struggle.
In today’s Lawrence decision, Justice O’Connor refuses a general right to sexual autonomy, but concludes that banning only homosexual sodomy violates the Equal Protection Clause—there’s just no rational basis for such discrimination besides “a…desire to harm a politically unpopular group,” she says. What about gay marriage, one might ask her? She anticipates this, by suggesting that “preserving the traditional institution of marriage” is a “legitimate state interest.” “Unlike the moral disapproval of same-sex relations—the asserted state interest in this case—other reasons exist to promote the institution of marriage beyond mere moral disapproval of an excluded group.”
Justice Scalia derides this—”[Justice O'Connor's reasoning] leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples,” because “‘preserving the traditional institution of marriage’ is just a kinder way of describing the State’s moral disapproval of same-sex couples” [emphasis in original]. But wait: Isn’t that the usual argument of those who criticize the heterosexual-only marriage rule?
In his tirade against “a Court…that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda”, Scalia gave the game away. Allergic to O’Connor’s cop-out, he argued that there was no need for hetero-only marriage to stand on any basis but “moral disapproval”—and took the extra step, regarded as dangerous by many in his camp, of denying that it could possibly have any other basis. It was an admission, a rather gay-friendly admission really, that any search for objective harms or administrative excuses with which to bash same-sex marriage would be nonsensical and futile.
And lo and behold, in the year of our Lord 2010, the Volokh prophecy has come to pass; Scalia’s grenade has landed right smack in paragraph 21 of Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
Lawrence v. Texas, 539 US 558, 604-05 (2003) (Scalia, J, dissenting): “If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing that conduct…what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “the liberty protected by the Constitution”? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.”
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Wireless technology that beams advertising onto drivers’ licence plates
California’s mounting budget shortfall—now US$19 billion—has overtaken highway gridlock, and the smog it generates, as drawbacks to living in the Golden State. But one Democratic senator, Curren Price, thinks he has found a solution via Silicon Valley: wireless technology that beams advertising onto drivers’ licence plates.