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Allred: Whitman’s Huz Made Notes on the “Never Received” SSA Letter

September 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Whitman’s statement that she and her husband never got the 2003 letter
from the Social Security Administration relating to the possible undocumented immigration status of her housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, and Whitman’s further claim that Nicky “might have” intercepted the letter in question, appears to be false.

At the noon press conference, Allred showed, not only the letter, but the what are reported to be hand-written notes that Whitman’s husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh, reportedly made on the letter.


Over to you, Meg.

The Sac Bee has this.

Zach Behrens at LAist reports on the press conference and asks some interesting questions.



However, he maintains it was not a red flag to him suggesting that housekeeper Nicky had falsified her papers.

Allred has mentioned she has additional evidence.

LAist has the the latest on the story.



Evidently, the latest is that her spokeswoman told the SF Chron’s Carla Marinucci, that eMeg will do it, when Nicky AND Jerry Brown take a lie detector test as well. In other words, that would be never.

(Jerry Brown? About…um….what?)

Posted in immigration | 40 Comments »

The Whitman Housekeeper Kerfuffle (& Other Pressing Matters)

September 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Okay, so Meg Whitman’s housekeeper of 9 years duration
turns out not to have been legally here in California.

The housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan, or Nicky, as her new attorney Gloria Allred calls her, says that there’s no way Whitman could not have known—or at the very least, strongly suspected all these years that she was illegal.

The smoking gun—if there is smoke and/or a gun—is supposed to be letters that the Whitman’s may or amy not have received from the Social Security Administration as far back as 2003, informing them that Diaz Santillan’s SS# didn’t match up with her name.

Diaz Santillan says she saw at least one of the letters open in the house. Whitman says that she and her husband got no such letters and that they were utterly blindsided when Nicki came to them in June of last year and confessed her status—at which point they terminated her, feeling that they had no choice but to do so.

Okay, all this you likely know already.

So here’s my question, if Nicky is telling the whole truth and nothing but, why in the world didn’t Allred get a copy of at least one of the damned letters from the Social Security Administration before holding a press conference?

My inner evil twin would really like to believe that Whitman is this much of a hypocrite, as I don’t want to see her elected governor. And, hey, perhaps it is true.

But perhaps not. And putting the burden of proof on the accused—aka Whitman—as Allred attempted to do on Tuesday when she waved around the accusation to reporters, is not how our justice system works (at least that’s not how it’s supposed to work), nor should it be the way we carry on with our public—or our political—discourse.

One would like to think that attorney Gloria Allred knows that.

Here’s the LA Times story on the matter. And here’s the story from the AP.


The California Attorney General’s office (that would be Brown’s office) stepped in late on Wednesday afternoon and called off the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown Jr., scheduled for Thursday, September 30 at 9 p.m., The AG’s office caved after the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s protocol for lethal injection has not been adequately sorted out.

Everyone will take up the matter again next year when the CDCR has a new supply of drugs for the lethal three-drug cocktail, and there is more time to sort out the various appeals.

Or as the Fresno Bee put it:

There will be no executions in California until next year at the earliest because prison officials looked in the medicine cabinet the other day and noticed that its supply of one of the drugs used for lethal injections expires Friday, and more will not be available until 2011.


CNN’S Supreme Court producer Bill Mears has a rundown of five of the biggest case that the Supremes will here in the upcoming 2010-2011 term—including the constitutionality of the AZ immigration law, the rights (or lack thereof) of vile creeps to disrupt military funerals, an intriguing death penalty case, a schools and religion case and, from California, a free speech dispute over one of our state laws that bans sale of violent video games to children.

And there are likely to be more legally juicy cases as the year wears on.

Naturally, we will be staying tuned.

Posted in elections, immigration | 43 Comments »

Talking About the Suicide of 5th Grade Teacher Rigoberto Ruelas

September 30th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

The funeral for Rigoberto Ruelas,
the Miramonte Elementary School 5th grade teacher who killed himself over the weekend, was held on Wednesday at 5 pm.

It is still not clear whether the fact that Ruelas got an unfavorable rating according the LA Times online data base was among the reasons Ruelas decided to end his life by jumping off a bridge in Big Tujunga Canyon. Friends have reportedly said that Ruelas was “very concerned” about the ratings.

The situation was made somehow sadder and more confusing when an LAUSD administrator announced earlier this week that, in his final district evaluation, Ruelas received a “great performance ranking.”

Also on Wednesday, Larry Mantle of KPCC had a good and sober-minded discussion about whether or not the LA Times should have published the value-added teacher ratings in question, in light of the adverse emotional affect the public airing of those ratings may have on the teachers who received less than stellar scores.

The most affecting moment in the show was when Ruelas’ brother called in to talk.

You may find a podcast of the discussion here.

Posted in Education, Los Angeles Times | 7 Comments »

Rainbow Evening

September 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

There was actually a very, very faint double rainbow arching over much of the western end of LA County tonight, But it it was too faint to photograph with my iPhone—at least from my vantage point on the front porch.

Single or double, I hope you saw it. Several of my neighbors and I wandered out of our respective houses and marveled.

Posted in Life in general | 5 Comments »

Brown v. Whitman: Who Won?

September 29th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

So who won Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate?

Look, I admit I’m not terribly objective. I don’t like Meg Whitman at all as a candidate. Whereas, I’ve known Jerry Brown for 34 years and think that he’s still one of the most interesting people in California political life, and assuredly one of the brightest in this or any other state. Yeah, he’s got flaws (everybody does), but he was a governor who advanced a list of prescient policies that both Republicans and Democrats have cribbed from for several decades. More recently, he’s been a tough and excellent attorney general—more so, I think, than the public generally knows. More to the point, it may very well be that EGB Jr. is readier than he has ever been in his life to do the job for which he is running.

Plus, at 72, he still has enough energy to light several medium sized cities.

With regard to Whitman, I am bothered by several things. For one thing, I don’t like that she makes sh*t up. Virtually all of her attacks against Brown involve either straight out falsities, or taking facts out of context in such a way that they become false, by definition.

To give you an example of the latter, Whitman says Brown took a $6 billion surplus and turned it into a $1 billion deficit—the implication being that Brown walked into office when California had a surplus and spent himself and the state into the red. However, Whitman fails to mention the inconvenient facts that it was well-known fiscal conservative Jerry Brown who created the surplus in the first place. As for the deficit, after the passage of Prop. 13, it was only Brown’s surplus, combined with his savvy budgeting, that allowed the state to avoid huge deficits—without slashing such basics as schools and highways.

In addition, in watching the debate, I saw that Whitman was well rehearsed, whereas Jerry has a bone-deep grasp of issues.

That is not to say that Jerry didn’t misstep. I think it was a mistake to only talk only about green jobs, while Whitman gave the impression that she has ways to create jobs in the broader sense—although she is short on practical details as to how she would accomplish all this job creation.

In general, Whitman made promises that are not within her power to deliver. Shwarzenegger made a lot of promises too and, unlike Whitman, whom I find disingenuous, I think he fully intended to keep them—but he had no idea how to get the cooperation of the legislature. In that Whitman’s management experience has been limited to the context of a employees who depend upon her for their paychecks, there is nothing that tells us she could do any better. Yet she comes to the task with the same narcissistic arrogance.

But, like I said, I’m biased. I know and like him. I don’t like her.

So….what did you think? Who do you feel won the debate and why?

While you’re contemplating the question, some debate highlights:


(It was noted that Brown ran for president of the United States twice before, one of those times when he was only a year into his term as governor. So what kind of assurances could Jerry offer the voters that he would focus solely on the job of being mayor?)


Hell, if I was younger you know I would be running again.

One more thing, I now have a wife. You know, I come home at night. I don’t try to close down the bars in Sacramento like I used to when I was governor of California….


WHITMAN: I will appoint very conservative judges to the bench….


(Combating Whitman’s accusation that Brown was beholden to special interests.)

BROWN: This is a little bit like the kettle calling the pot black….

(First of all, it is the “pot” that calls the “kettle”….. ….. But whatever. We know Jerry meant that Whitman was the sooty kettle, but that leaves him as the pot? And what is our takeaway from that exactly? “I’m screwed but she is too?”)


(Brown talking about how he wouldn’t take his pension until he was 80 if he served two terms.)

BROWN: I’m the best pension buy California has ever seen.


(About whether her opponent can stand up to the state’s powerful unions.)

WHITMAN: It’s like putting Count Dracula in charge of the blood bank!”


BROWN: Two “Hells” and one “damn.”

So there you have it. Opinions?

(Photo by Hector Amezcua / Reuters)


The LA Times has the story.

A federal judge Tuesday ordered a halt to the execution of convicted rapist and murderer Albert Greenwood Brown, saying there was “no way” the court could conduct a proper review of new lethal injection procedures before the inmate was scheduled to die Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel reversed a decision he handed down Friday that the execution could go forward if the state gave Brown the option of dying by a single-injection method used in other states, rather than the three-drug cocktail prescribed by California’s new regulations.

Here’s the rest.

Posted in Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (Jerry), elections | 23 Comments »

Governor Pushes Back Execution, 9th Circuit Chides Judge

September 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Governor Schwarzenegger has pushed back the execution of convicted murderer Albert Greenwood Brown
for another couple of days in order to give the court—actually three courts—time to once more review appeals.

Just to be clear, no one is suggesting that the state has the wrong man in Albert Brown.

Brown was convicted of raping and murdering 15-year-old Susan Louise Jordan in 1982 and there seems to be no doubt of his guilt.

The delay concerns the question of whether or not the state’s existing 3-drug lethal injection technology is still so tortuous that it should be considered a violation of the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

As things stand now, the deliberations on the issue seem to have sunk into a quicksand of complications.

For one thing, even the company that makes sodium thiopental, one of the three drugs used in California’s lethal mix, has—according to the AP—informed prison officials across the country, “we do not support the use of any of our products in capital punishment procedures.”

And, remember, this is from the folks who stand to make money off the deal.

Moreover, the delay puts the execution within hours of the expiration date of the state’s entire supply of sodium thiopental.

(If none of the appeals are successful, Mr. Brown will die on Thursday morning at 9 a.m.)

And then if the sell-by date passes, the state can’t get any more of the stuff at all this year. It seems the factory is backed up with production problems, meaning there is a shortage of the drug, so we cannot resupply until some time in early 2011.


Then, last Friday, things got genuinely weird when U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, who was asked to stay the execution, declined to do so, but asked the condemned man what kind death cocktail he would prefer: one drug or three?

A startled Brown said he didn’t know. So, Fogel told him if he chose one drug, and the state insisted on three, then he Fogel would call off the execution.

On Monday, Brown’s attorneys took the matter to another judge-–who also declined to stay the execution, but offered no Lady or the Tiger choices about how many drugs would be used to kill Brown.

Still later on Monday, an unhappy 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in and said that the thingy about giving the condemned a choice of one injection or three was not, in fact, okay.

The justices ordered U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel to do his damn job and figure out whether Brown’s appeal for a stay of execution was valid or not. (or words to that effect).

That is where things stood as of midnight Monday night


Meanwhile, using the delay as a jumping off point, the San Jose Mercury News has published an exasperated editorial opposing capital punishment in California altogether.

Here’s the heart of it:

Most death penalty supporters say it deters crime, but proof of that claim is scarce. And even as it fails in its central mission — preventing crime — the death penalty costs billions. California spends an estimated $125 million a year to administer it. Brown’s 28 years on death row, according to the ACLU, have cost $4.8 million more than we’d have paid if his sentence were life without parole.

So California has spent about a half-billion dollars the past four years without executing a single prisoner, not to mention the $400 million it’s spending to build a 1,400-bed death row and $853,000 for a sparkling new death chamber. Wouldn’t that money be better used to hire more police, beef up crime labs and assist victims?

Some say these costs could be avoided if the state would just speed things up. Doing so, however, would cost tens of millions more, since the reason for the bottleneck is that there aren’t enough lawyers and court staff to handle the necessary appeals.

But now is not the time to hit the accelerator. More than 100 people have been freed from death row in the past 35 years, including five last year. A criminal in Alameda County is six times more likely to get the death penalty than one in San Mateo County. Black defendants have received a third of all death sentences in the state but are less than 7 percent of the population.

California spends billions on a system that is so convoluted and archaic that it has resorted to asking a prisoner to choose which type of lethal injection he would prefer. It’s time to stop tinkering and abolish the death penalty.

Yeah. What they said.

Posted in Death Penalty | 19 Comments »

FBI Wants to Wiretap the Internet (It’s Worse Than You Think)

September 28th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

As you may or may not have heard,
the FBI is now very worried that bad guys are texting and Skype-ing and Facebook-messaging each other (Duh!), and that law enforcement can’t wiretap these forms of communication the way they can cell phones, land lines, email and the like.

Okay, one can understand the concern.

As a consequence the feds want to change a one or two things.

Many critics are flagging this as a privacy issue. But it’s much worse than that.

What the FBI and other law enforcement agencies involved are really looking for is the ability to control the design of the technology itself.

Charlie Savage of the NY Times has a very good grip on the basics of what is being proposed. So begin by reading his story.

Here’s how it opens:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.


James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.

“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

Dempsey is not exaggerating.

The Feds are asking to change and approve the next generation architecture of such technologies as Skype, Facebook. and others, in such a way that limits peer-to-peer communication.

Not good.

The discussion Monday on Patt Morrison’s show was particularly good—and alarming— on the topic. So listen.

(Susan Landau, formerly of Sun Microsystems, now at Harvard, and Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Initiative, are both especially good on the show.)

This is only the beginning of the conversation. It is an issue that is very much worth your attention.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, consumer affairs, FBI, Freedom of Information | 10 Comments »

The New Homeless: Rodger Jacobs, Part 2 – Moving

September 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

On Sunday, the Las Vegas Sun ran the second installment of the story of LA writer, Rodger Jacobs
who, like an ever-increasing number of people in America, has been teetering at the edge of homelessness.

In this installment, Rodger— together with his girlfriend, freelance editor Lela Michael—moves from the rental house from which they were evicted, into a week-to-week rental at the Budget Suites of America. The couple hopes to stay at the Budget Suites while they attempt to gather the wherewithal to move back to LA on or around Nov. 15.

In LA, while the cost of living may be higher, Rodger writes that he and Lela have more “reliable social network [in LA] and greater opportunities in general.”

Gathering the needed funds is, of course, the challenge. But the move to the Budget Suites has visibly buoyed Rodger’s spirits. Both he and Lela have picked up some freelance gigs. He has even managed to get his hair cut, the hair cutter a woman at Walmart who confesses to him that she was recently homeless herself.


When you read Part 2, you’ll note that the LV Sun has now instituted a new system of comment moderation. This is due in large part to the flood of unusually vituperative comments the paper received after they ran Part I of Rodger’s story,

One of the things I found astonishing about the hostile comments is that so many people focused with blind fury on the small personal details of Rodger’s dilemma, as if they themselves were entirely foible and error free.

Many commenters also seemed outraged that he’d had the nerve to write about his troubles at all, as if the writing itself constituted some kind of whining, when actually the narratives were examples of skillful and courageous storytelling, particularly in that Rodger made no attempt to sanitize his predicament, but simply told his story as it was, without literary Photoshopping, so to speak.

It should also be noted that, by writing his story for the LV Sun, Rodger was behaving proactively. He was using his talents to fashion the scary circumstances he was living through into an income-producing piece of work—which also has the advantage of shining a light on a larger issue.


These are uneasy times. One in every seven Americans is now living below the poverty line, according to figures released earlier this month. Unemployment rates remain in double digits, with no sign yet of dropping. Kids coming out of college are now routinely doing free internships for extended periods because the paying jobs they assumed would be theirs have vanished.

So maybe all these angry commenters are ranting to keep their own fears at bay. But to do so, they must convince themselves that Rodger’s difficulties are of his own making. That way they can more easily believe the fiction that they could never, ever wind up in a similar predicament.

It is a form of whistling in the dark.

Anyway, read Part 2.

And let us hope that Rodger’s still-precarious situation continues to improve…..and that Rodger continues to share his progress with us in writing.

PS: Joseph Mailander has written more about Rodger Jacobs and the comments here.

Posted in Homelessness, writers and writing | 3 Comments »

Monday Must Reads (3 Quickies)

September 27th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon


A South Gate fifth grade teacher, named Rigoberto Ruelas, who has been missing for a week was found dead at the foot a bridge in the Angeles Forest. Friends and family say that the teacher had talked about stress at work, and was upset by his low score in the controversial LA Times so-called value added teacher ratings.

There is not necessarily a cause and effect here, but there’s lots of speculation. This sad story is one to keep an eye on. (Although I don’t think it’s helpful or seemly for A.J. Duffy to already be waving around the death of the dead school teacher, as if it is a blood-stain flag.)

ABC has the story, as does Kevin Roderick at LA Observed.


The Beverly Hills Courier reported the incident, which occurred on Sunday:

A Los Angeles police officer today fired two nonlethal bean bag rounds at a knife-wielding woman in the same Westlake district where a Guatemalan day laborer with a knife was fatally shot Sept. 5.

An officer ordered the woman, who was stopped near Sixth and Coronado streets about 4:40 a.m., to “put the knife down’ and, when she refused, an officer fired two bean bag rounds at her, Sgt. Melvin Gamble of the Rampart Station said.

The woman reportedly dropped the knife.


The Wall Street Journal has the story:

In one of the cases, says the WSJ, “the court is to consider whether states can bar minors from buying violent videogames, on the theory that these games cause damage to developing minds and this outweighs young people’s constitutional rights….”

The other involves the loathsome church that has been “picketing military funerals with vulgar placards and insulting fallen soldiers’ survivors in online screeds.”

Posted in Must Reads | No Comments »

GLOW Santa Monica Happening Tonight, 9/25

September 25th, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

The event known as GLOW Santa Monica will take place Saturday night
, from dusk ’till dawn (7 pm – 3 am). It’s free and features 20 original light installations, art displays and exhibits created by an array of local and international artists for one night and one night only—on Santa Monica Beach, the Santa Monica Pier and Palisades Park.

(The LA Times has more.)

Art….meets beach….meets light. (What’s not to like?)

As to why I’m promoting this? No reason. It just looks like a wonderful thing to do with one’s time on a heat-wave-ish late September Saturday night.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Posted in art and culture, arts | 3 Comments »

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