Tag Archives: California

The grass IS greener in Hollywood: Aerial photos expose how stars are wasting water to keep their gardens lush despite state’s worst drought in history

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Daily Mail: California is currently in the fourth year of its worst drought in history, but the rich and famous residents of Los Angeles are still keeping up with the Kardashians when it comes to their over-the-top landscaping.

Residents across California have been demolishing pools, cutting back on showers and letting their lawns turn brown after experts estimated that there will be less than a year’s worth of drinking water left in the state’s reservoirs by the end of 2015.

But for the residents of Los Angeles’ wealthy enclaves, a $100 fine for wasting water is chump change and a fee they are apparently glad to pay in order to maintain their almost fluorescent green lawns.

Photographer John Chapple recently went out in a helicopter to photograph these private oasis and found the mega-mansions owned by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and heiress Petra Eccelstone to be among the worst.

‘The Kardashian flowers and hedges are right in our face,’ a neighbor of West and Kardashian in Hidden Hills told the New York Post. ‘It’s disgusting. You walk by and you can smell the freshness.’  The reality star previously claimed that she was washing her hair only every five days in response to the drought, a move she called ‘a little excessive, maybe.’

Sister Khloe Kardashian may be alienating some of her new neighbors with the ever-green landscaping at the Calabasas mansion she purchased from pop-star Justin Bieber last year.

Signs of the crippling drought were not at all sight at the homes of singers Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson either.

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A neighbor of Lopez says the American Idol judge has been approached before to tame down her lawns but didn’t seem to care. ‘She has been pretty dismissive. She has said, “Oh, so I’ll just pay some fines, what are they going to do?”‘ the source told the Post.

And of course the lawns at the notorious Playboy Mansion remain well manicured, where magazine mogul Hugh Hefner keeps residence with his 60 years younger wife.

While this devotion to appearances may not be entirely unexpected from style-obsessed stars like the Kardashians, it is shocking to see Barbra Streisand’s yard just as green when she has been a proponent for energy conservation. A spokesman for Streisand issued a statement to the Post, claiming she had cut down her water usage by over 50 per cent in the past several months but it certainly doesn’t show by her full pool and manicured lawn.

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Meanwhile, British Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone’s estate is as green as ever though she reportedly doesn’t spend much time in Los Angeles. Ecclestone bought the estate in 2011 for $85million from Aaron Spelling’s widow Candy.

But the grass wasn’t always greener on the celebrity’s side of the fence. Jennifer Aniston pulled out the water-sucking vineyard on her Bel-Air estate and planted drought-resistant succulent plants across the property instead. And while singer Cher’s relatively-small yard of grass was very well watered, she has also opted for an orchard of water-saving palm trees in her front yard.

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Actress Julia Roberts, perhaps inspired by her role as environmental advocate Erin Brokovich, has started to let patches of her lawn turn brown and has also installed solar panels on her roof.

And other celebrities have taken alternative measures to contribute to the water-conservation effort. Former X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne, 62, said she and her husband Ozzy, of Black Sabbath, reserve flushing the toilet as much as possible. ‘When I pee, I don’t flush,’ Osbourne said. That sentiment was echoed by Cameron Diaz. The 42-year-old said: ‘Only when I do number two, I flush. If it’s yellow leave it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down.’

Others have written checks to help the thirsty state. William Shatner launched a campaign to raise $30billion for a pipeline from rainy Seattle to California (perhaps ill-advised since Washington State is also going through a drought) while Lady Gaga donated $25,000 to a water supply study.

In response to the crippling drought, Gov Jerry Brown has enacted even tighter rules on water consumption calling for an up to 36 per cent cut.

Las Virgenes Municpal Water District which, supplies many of these opulent homes with their water supplies, says they are trying to get A-listers ‘on the bus’ but that a maximum fine of $100 dollars doesn’t exactly inspire huge motivation to millionaires.

Gov Brown promised to get new legislation passed that could up the penalty to a $10,000 fine, though no such bill has been introduced as of yet.

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Shocker, not: Audit finds California departments break law, game personnel system for money

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Sacramento Bee: A new state audit concludes that California state departments illegally pad their budgets with millions of tax dollars earmarked for employee salaries by manipulating their payroll to make it appear they have more employees than they do.

The report released Friday on the Department of Finance’s website did not include an estimate of how much money departments hoard by breaking the law, but it confirms a 2014 Sacramento Bee investigation that concluded tens of millions of tax dollars earmarked to pay workers is hoarded and funneled to other purposes.

By law, departments are supposed to forfeit money for a position that goes unfilled for six months, returning it to its source fund for reallocation. But as The Bee’s report and the new state audit found, departments deceptively move employees between jobs ahead of the six-month deadline. They accomplish the phony transfers by altering the identifying job numbers to make it appear that a position was filled with a transferred employee, thus avoiding a cut to their budgets.

The unspent salary can then be used for other operating costs, such as paying off leave balances, covering office rent, purchasing new equipment or funding employee raises. The Bee found instances of employees “transferring” between positions in as little as two days. In one instance, a Department of Food and Agriculture worker moved 14 times through nine positions in one fiscal year. Her title and workplace never changed, but the serial numbers the state used to identify her position changed repeatedly.

The audit was based on a sample of 798 “transactions” in which multiple transfers occurred in 10 departments. It found “widespread noncompliance” with the law: 58 percent of the transactions “lacked adequate justification or documentation to determine compliance or were found to be noncompliant.” It did not name individual departments.

It also described a “general lack of commitment” by managers and other top department officials to follow the vacancy rules. It said they plotted about how to avoid them.  “We observed a culture at some departments where circumvention of the code was commonplace and even encouraged by management,” the audit read.

Among the other findings:

  • At one department, the same employee was transferred into multiple positions. The department could offer no justification for the transfers and “noted that these types of transfers were typically initiated to preserve the positions.”
  •  Most transfers of employees to vacant positions lacked adequate documentations. At one department, 104 of 118 transfers lacked supporting documentations.
  • Several departments changed employees’ position numbers, even if there were no changes in an employee’s job description or funding source.
  • In one department, units routinely swapped vacant positions closing in on the six-month threshold with positions that had been vacant for a shorter amount of time. There are no state policies regulating the movement of vacant positions within a department.
  • The state rule is based on the honor system. All 10 departments said they complied with the rule. Auditors, though, found that nine were not in full compliance.

The audit noted that departments face no penalties for violating the law. “In the absence of specific accountability measures, consequences or penalties, departments appear willing to circumvent the code to preserve positions,” the audit read.

Some departments justified the vacancy shuffling by telling auditors it sometimes took longer than six months to fill a position. Departments have the ability to restore a position that has been eliminated, but department managers viewed that process as onerous and with no guarantees that they would get the position back, the audit said. “Instead, departments have chosen noncompliance out of convenience and to reduce the risk of permanently losing the positions,” the audit said.

The report notably lacks any estimate of how much money the illegal vacancy maneuvers diverted from other state programs and uses. The Bee 2014 investigation estimated, conservatively, that the average total pay shielded by illegal transfers in 2012 and 2013 was at least $80 million.

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The audit offered several recommendations. Officials could abolish the 2012 rule and create a new one that includes a process for monitoring departments’ compliance, it said. Or officials could increase oversight of departments’ compliance with the existing rule.

Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for the California Government Operations Agency, said the administration will present its response next month. “The state must focus on recruiting and retaining the best available workforce and the May Revision will include specific proposals to respond to the issues raised in the audit,” she said in a statement.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the practice lets the government hide money. “The state has been caught red-handed engaging in what appears to be intentional personnel mismanagement,” he said. “It’s contrary to the notion of transparency in government. This practice has got the stop and those responsible for it held accountable and reprimanded.”

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Gun rights groups await judge’s ruling on California’s ‘microstamping’ law

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Fox News: California’s gun laws are among the nation’s strictest, but a looming decision in a federal lawsuit could effectively ban handguns altogether in the Golden State, according to plaintiffs who want a judge to toss out a state law requiring all new handguns to be equipped with technology that “stamps” each shell casing with a traceable mark.

The problem with the “microstamping” law, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 but only took effect in 2013, is that it relies on an unworkable technology, according to gun manufacturers and attorneys for the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation. If guns without the technology can’t be sold in California, and gun manufacturers can’t implement the technology, the law is, for practical purposes, a handgun ban that violates the Second Amendment, goes the argument.

“This is about the state trying to eliminate the handgun market,” said Alan Gura, the lead attorney in Pena v. Lindley, filed on behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation against the Chief of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms. “The evidence submitted by the manufacturers shows this is science fiction and there is not a practical way to implement the law. At some point gun sales will cease,” he added.

Judge Mueller

Judge Mueller

California Eastern District Judge Kimberly Mueller is considering Gura’s request for her to enjoin the state from imposing a ban on the sale of new handguns based on lack of compliance with the microstamping law while the case, first filed in 2009, until the technological challenges are resolved. Although Mueller has not said when she will issue a decision, Second Amendment Foundation officials believe it could come any day.

Since the law took effect in 2013, no manufacturer has made a new firearm that complies with the requirement. Two major manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co., announced last year they would stop selling new firearms in the California market, and blamed the microstamping law. The technology has been demonstrated, but gunmakers say requirements that each new model, or even modification, must be re-tested for compliance makes the entire scheme unworkable.

Mike Feuer

Mike Feuer

The microstamping bill was introduced by the state lawmaker and current Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer (Democrat), who insists the technology is not only workable, it will make it much easier to solve gun crimes.

“When we know who bought the crime gun, that’s a significant lead for law enforcement,” said Feuer co-founder of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. If the law were expanded throughout the country, Feuer believes the technology could help solve the approximately 45 percent of gun crimes in the country that go unsolved.

Dr. Dallas Stout, president of the California Brady Chapters, also endorsed the law after pushing for its passage, saying it will “provide law enforcement with an important tool to track down armed criminals and help solve gun crimes.”

Both ballistic identification and microstamping systems help law enforcement investigate gun crimes because cartridge cases are much more likely to be recovered at the scene of a shooting than the gun itself, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence maintained.

However, the theory that the law will actually help solve crimes remains untested. A spokesperson for Long Beach’s Police Forensic Sciences Services Division said the department has no such statistics because there are no firearms that actually use the technology yet. And even law enforcement authorities have wavered on whether it will work: The California Police Chiefs Association, which originally supported the legislation in 2007, changed its position in 2009.

“Publicly available, peer-reviewed studies conducted by independent research organizations conclude that the technology does not function reliably and that criminals can remove the markings easily in mere seconds,” the California Police Chiefs Association said in a letter to then state Attorney General and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

Feuer blames the gun lobby for the change in position, saying it “has engaged in an outrageous, last ditch effort to try and thwart a law broadly supported by law enforcement.”

Without action by Mueller, there will be no way for a California resident to buy a new firearm until the case is ultimately decided, perhaps by the U.S. Supreme Court, said Gene Hoffman, co-founder of Calguns Foundation. “Any new semi-automatic gun that we want to carry for self defense or purchase as collectors will not be available to us at all,” Hoffman said.

If new guns can’t be purchased, older ones that are grandfathered in under the microstamping law will cost more, said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. That takes square aim at the Second Amendment rights of the poor, he said.

“The problem is the people who need guns the most and benefit the most from owning gun, poor individuals in high crime areas, are priced out of the market,” Lott said. “Who do they think they are disarming as a result of the law? It is minorities in poor crime areas, not some wealthy guy who can afford to purchase the firearms at a higher cost.”

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Why Are Californian Republicans Such Sniveling Cowards?

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There were two excellent candidates for governor in California’s June primary: Tim Donnely, a pro-family, pro-life, pro-Constitution, liberty-loving Tea Party Republican, and Robert Newman, a pro-family, pro-life, pro-Constitution independent.

So who did Californian Republicans vote for? Neel Kashkari, a Republican-in-name-only who supports Obamacare and admits he voted for aka-Obama, who once worked as a junior banker for Goldman Sachs, and who, in 2008, was given control of $700 billion of tax-payer money which he handed out to the banking industry, including his former employer, Goldman Sachs.

Ask Republicans why they voted for a such a candidate and their immediate response is, “We have to win in November.” And yet they keep losing.

Ever been to a Californian Republican meeting? I have, several times. Half the time is spent arguing over procedural matters, and the other half consists of members, who just happen to work for companies like Nation Builder, pitching their services, which just happen to be extremely expensive.

If someone has the temerity to suggest that the party embrace their conservative roots by coming out in strong support of the Constitution, the pro-life movement, traditional marriage, etc., they are applauded by most in attendance, but then told by the “leaders” that they are being “unrealistic.” “We have to win in November,” they say, and yet they keep losing.

Ever volunteered to work for the Republican Party? I have, several times. No one returned any of my phone calls or emails.

California Republicans loathe the Tea Party. They see the Tea Party as a threat to their established ways. They claim the Tea Party does not represent their members. And yet they keep losing.

In California there are numerous races in which the Republican Party does not even bother to run a candidate. “No chance to win,” they say. “We have to be realistic.” And yet they keep losing.

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Orly Taitz ran for Attorney General as an independent in the June primary. Possessed with infinite courage and wisdom, Taitz would have done everything she could to clean house and expose political corruption. Did Republicans vote for her? No, they didn’t have the guts.

If you voted for Neel Kashkari in California’s primary, I’m calling you out. Why did you betray your state, your country, your family, and yourself by voting for such a man? Why are you such a damn, sniveling coward?

http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2011/07/02/the-gop-went-over-to-the-dark-side/

http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2012/11/15/why-the-gop-will-not-do-anything-about-vote-fraud/

Bill Encourages Schools To Teach About Racial Significance Of Obama’s Presidency

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CBS Sacramento: A bill that passed the Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support Thursday encourages California schools to teach students about the racial significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The Assembly approved AB1912 with a 71-0 vote and no debate or discussion. It now heads to the state Senate.

The bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, asks state education officials to include Obama’s election in history and social studies standards laying out what students are expected to learn.

High school history students already learn about recent presidents. But Holden says lessons about Obama also should focus on what his election meant for racial equality and civil rights.

He said on the Assembly floor that the 2008 election “should not just be a mere footnote within textbooks, but rather focus on the significance of Americans overcoming our nation’s past and acknowledging that Americans are moving in the right direction.”

The bill says the election was a “historic step in the effort towards equality in the United States” and that previous elections in the nation involved intimidation and physical violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting. It also commends Obama for his work as a community organizer who registered voters after he graduated from Harvard Law School.

The state Board of Education is expected to update academic standards during the 2015-16 school year and does not have to follow lawmakers’ recommendations. Textbooks could be updated within five years, likely after Obama leaves office.

The state hasn’t updated its guidelines for teaching social studies classes since 2005. A 2009 effort was cancelled because of limited money.

The state education department must first finish guidelines for schools to implement rigorous new expectations for math and language arts under Common Core State Standards before addressing social studies.

I wonder if the new textbooks will cover these topics?

“What his election meant for racial equality”

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“Americans are moving in the right direction”

How's that "hopeandchange" working out?

How’s that “hopeandchange” working out?

“Intimidation and physical violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting”

Billy cub-wielding Black Panthers at a Philadelphia polling station, 2008

Billy cub-wielding Black Panthers at a Philadelphia polling station, 2008

May I suggest a textbook cover?

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DCG

California State government errors give employees $6.3 million in unearned leave

Tax dollars at work...

Tax dollars at work…

Sacramento Bee: State agencies gave their employees nearly 200,000 hours of unearned leave credits worth almost $6.4 million over five years, and the self-inflicted taxpayer expense will only grow until the government fixes the errors, according to a new state audit.

Accounting mistakes, misinterpretations of labor contract requirements and a lack of accounting controls at state agencies and the California State University are to blame, State Auditor Elaine Howle said in the report. Meanwhile, it’s likely that some overpayments to departed employees can’t be recouped, she said, because the recovery law is vague.

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Chiang ranting about Hope and Change or something like that.

Most departments highlighted in the audit agreed to fix their leave-accounting systems. State Controller John Chiang’s office, which collects the leave data that auditors analyzed, embraced some fixes but said others were unworkable or redundant and questioned the audit methodology.

Chiang’s acting chief administrative officer Tom Yowell also said in a response to the audit that the number of problems is so small compared to the billions of dollars in leave credits tracked that Howle’s audit “suggests that the leave accounting process is operating at over 99.99% accuracy.” (Common Core math: $6.4 million waste + employees not reporting overpayments = excellent accuracy!)

Auditors found that from 2008 through 2012, employee holiday-leave mistakes in 79 agencies resulted in 127,000 hours of unearned leave credits with a value of $4.1 million as of last December. Wrongly applied furlough leave, sick time, floating holidays, vacation leave and annual leave (taken in lieu of vacation and sick time) accounted for another $2.2 million of unearned credits to employees.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, gave one unnamed employee 516 hours of holiday credit for a single month in 2008. He was entitled to 16 hours. Officials didn’t catch the mistake until after the employee retired 11 months later and received $17,660 for the unearned credits on top of $12,200 he received for legitimately accrued leave. The Chula Vista Veterans Home incorrectly doubled some employees’ holiday credits.

The auditor said departments need guidance on applying leave balances, to improve accounting processes and suggested lawmakers need to clarify the law for recovering overpaid leave credits.

Fun fact about Chiang:

“California State Controller John Chiang became a hero to 200,000 state workers in 2008 when he defied Governor Schwarzenegger’s order to cut their paychecks to the federal minimum wage due to a budget impasse with the legislature had ended. (Brown later dropped the suit.)

Chiang called state workers at a Los Angeles rally the “innocent victims of a political struggle”.

Both the trial and appellate courts ruled that Chiang had violated the law in defying the Governor’s orders, but those rulings came down long after the budget impasse was over. On July 1, 2010 the state legislature again failed to pass a budget on time and Schwarzenegger again ordered Chiang to cut wages to the federal minimum. Chiang said he couldn’t carry out the order due to an antiquated payroll system.

“This is not a simple software problem,” he said. “Reducing pay and then restoring it in a timely manner once the budget is enacted cannot be done without gross violations of law unless and until the state completes its overhaul of the state payroll system and payroll laws are changed.”

Chiang became active in the Democratic Party after moving to Los Angeles in 1987 where he began his career as an IRS tax law specialist.

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CA lawmakers pass firearm safety, ammunition bill

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KCRA.com: California lawmakers on Friday acted on bills that tackle firearm safety and add rules for ammunition sales.

The Senate unanimously passed SB505 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. It would require officers to search the state’s database of gun purchases when checking on whether someone may be a danger to themselves or others. Jackson says searching the gun database could help prevent tragedies such as the May shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her bill now goes to the governor.

“This bill would help ensure that law enforcement agencies are using all the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others,” Jackson said in a statement.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office deputies were criticized for not searching Elliot Rodger’s apartment during a welfare check in April after his parents became concerned about his postings on YouTube. The 22-year-old community college student killed six university students and himself in Isla Vista weeks later.

A database search could have helped them better assess the danger Rodger posed to himself and others, Jackson said.

Separately, the Assembly approved a bill creating a way to better track ammunition. SB53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires ammunition vendors to be licensed and people buying ammunition to pass background checks. According to his office, the state Department of Justice will be required to keep a list of all authorized ammunition purchasers to make sure ammunition will only be accessible to lawful gun owners and not dangerous criminals.

De Leon’s office stated that while California has enacted legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; little has been done to prevent them from getting ammunition. Supporters estimated that millions of rounds of ammunition are being sold to criminals each year.

The bill passed 42-26 and returns to the Senate.

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