William Smithers and the Wizard of Sacramento : An E-Book Review

As explained in my previous post lately I have been communicating with performers from Star Trek : The Original Series.  Last week I received a reply from William Smithers who played Captain Merik in the second season episode “Bread and Circuses” which Roddenberry intended to be the final proper episode of Star Trek before the backdoor pilot “Assignment Earth” launched a new series.

Mr. Smithers, now 93 years old, was kind enough to sign a photograph of himself in character and included a business card with a link to his website.  From here I learned that in 2018 he published an e-book called “The Wizard of Sacramento”, which analyzes the political career and leadership style of former California Governor Jerry Brown.  I also saw that Mr. Smithers enjoys it when readers interact with the document and publish reviews.  Considering he was kind enough to sign an autograph for me, the least I could do was read his book.

The cost of entry is not onerous.  American Amazon sells the e-book for .99 cents, while the Canadian side sells it for $1.32 Canadian.  As I do not have a kindle I purchased the pdf version on Smashwords, and was even gifted a coupon for my first purchase.

Coming in at 35 pages, this document can easily be read in one short sitting.  As Smithers himself explains this document is much too long to be an op-ed piece, and to short to publish as a traditional book, but modern digital publication standards provide a nice middle ground.

Smithers carefully limits the scope of this publication.  It is not a biography, but rather an independent assessment of Jerry Brown’s performance as Governor of California, with particular attention to his most recent years in office.

At first glance the title may suggest to the reader that Mr. Smithers is enamored by the California Governor. However, this publication is not a hagiography.

While never directly calling the governor corrupt, Smither tees up examples from Brown’s administration to allow the reader to inevitably reach this conclusion themselves.  While never directly saying it, Smithers appears to object to the role of money within the American political system and the necessity of Brown and the Democratic Party to bend to the will of the energy companies in order to obtain the capital necessary for political survival.

Smithers juxtaposes Brown’s reputation as an effective leader who turned around California’s ailing economy using environmental deregulation, with the negative environmental and health externalities his decisions have downloaded onto California’s less affluent and often minority populations.  This is touched upon in Chapter Two where he describes how working-class families in California’s less affluent Kern County watched toxic disposal facilities created near their homes and farms.  Smithers uses Kern county as the canary in the coal mine for Brown’s leadership style – that it signaled his reelection did not require low income nonwhite farmers – and that his continued deregulation and nonexistent oversight of California’s energy companies systematically endangered the health and lives of Californians.

Chapter Three of the document is among the most effective.  In this part of the book Smithers explains how nonexistent legal oversight was replaced by a significantly watered-down bill requiring oil and gas companies to test their sites and the waste water they generated and provided a long grace period for these companies to build the infrastructure and human capital required to ensure compliance.  Never-the-less as Smithers explains using material from the Los Angeles Times, many of these companies did not bother complying with the testing or reporting requirements, or when they did feign compliance much of the required data was missing from their reports.  Smithers’ writing suggests the governor’s strategic inaction effectively invalidated any attempts to hold the oil and gas companies accountable.

This brings us to Chapter Four, a short two-page chapter where Smithers recounts a class action lawsuit filed by Californians against Governor Brown to allege his administration was engaged in racketeering.  In this example Brown is complicit in the oil and gas companies flouting reporting requirements in exchange for political donations.

The document continues by mapping out the scandals Brown experienced in office.  One of the scandals actually involved a literal map, where Governor Brown allegedly used state resources to have a graphic analysis of land he owned created to be analyzed for potential oil wells, with the obvious conclusion that Brown wanted to enrich himself by cashing-in on his own deregulation program.  Smithers’ expands that Governor Brown’s justification of his use of public resources for this purpose – that all Californians can request such a service – is shattered by the fact that there is no evidence of anyone else receiving the same service, others who requested the same service were refused, and that Brown’s own staff in the agency filed a whistleblower complaint against him.

Chapter Six consists of extensive quotations related to a watchdog analysis of Brown, and by extension the Democratic Party of California.   This suggests that Brown and the Democratic Party were focused on campaign revenue at the expense of environmental protection – even suggesting that the party was using questionable measures to evade existent campaign contribution limitations.

Chapter Seven describes environmental damage caused by industry inaction in Aliso county, and suggests that Brown’s inaction to rectify the situation, and his strangely timed announcement of a state of emergency were caused by the appearance of the Governor’s sister on the board of the offending oil and gas company, Sempa Energy. While Smithers’ never outright calls this either nepotism or corruption, the reader is clearly directed to this conclusion.

Smithers’ conclusive writing in Chapter Nine is some of his most effective and I will quote it here:

“…Brown, throughout his second occupancy of California’s state house, has bathed in the financial rewards oil/gas/energy conglomerates provided his campaigns, Oakland charter schools, preferred ballot measures and media coverage, while in return he has assured almost every program, legislative agenda, governmental appointment, regulatory posture and regulatory inaction desired by them. And in so doing he endangered the health, safety and lives of many Californians”.

Having summarized some of Mr. Smithers’ writing and conclusions, I should now analyze the publication itself on its merits.

Ultimately, at 35 pages this document is not a deep dive into California politics or the Governing philosophy of Jerry Brown. While never directly calling Brown or his administration corrupt, obligated to monied interests in the oil and gas industry, or uninterested in environmental and minority protection, Smithers’ uses his research to create a roadmap for the audience to reach this conclusion via their interaction with the text.  At-times the organization of the document is uneven.  Some chapters are heavy on analysis, while others are drowning in quotations from other publications.

This document is not a landmark publication on the subject, rather it is a jumping off point to aid the reader in future research into California politics in general, and Governor Brown in particular.    In the end, I believe this is what William Smithers was aiming for, and he has effectively executed that goal.

“The Wizard of Sacramento : Governor Jerry Brown” by William Smithers is available digitally from both Amazon and Smashwords.  Mr. Smithers’ official website, with more information about his career, including an enormous archive of his Santa Barbara talk show can also be found at http://williamsmithers.com.  Those who enjoyed this document can also find free of charge a large selection of Mr. Smithers’ op-ed pieces republished on his website.  While this publication is perhaps only tangentially interesting to fans of the Star Trek television series, anyone with an interest in environmentalism, government, and politics will enjoy reading it.

I would like to finish this blogpost by again thanking Mr. Smithers for responding to my autograph request, for being part of a series which has given me great enjoyment in my life, and for his long-dedication to holding a mirror to the society in which he lives.

 

Star Trek

Growing up I always enjoyed the Star Trek television series.  The CBC used to play episodes of The Original Series on the weekends.  I distinctly remember seeing the episode “Arena” and thinking the Gorn Captain looked silly. I also remember enjoying the episode “Space Seed” with Ricardo Montalban where Captain Kirk wonders aloud what will become of Khan after he and his crew are marooned on a distant planet.  Thankfully I watched this episode before watching the second movie which answers this question.

My generation grew up with Star Trek The Next Generation in syndication on cable, and Star Trek Voyager regularly running on local TV stations.  In hindsight Voyager was a missed opportunity.  The show involves crews from two different factions thrown together on the opposite side of the galaxy forced to work together to get home.  The concept has a lot of potential, but in execution there is very little interpersonal conflict between any of the Voyager Crew.

Unlike Deep Space Nine which features a stable of recurring characters, Voyager is peppered with abandoned possibilities. By the late 90s and early 2000s the reruns of The Original Series had been replaced with reruns of The Next Generation, so there are numerous episodes I’ve never seen.

Lately with the addition of The Original Series on Netflix I have been working thru watching all 79 of them.  I’ve concluded that Star Trek episodes are a bit like musicals.  When done right they are very good and hold up in a timeless way.  When they are done badly, they are terrible.

The worst episode of them all was “Spock’s Brain”.  Marj Dusay plays an alien who beams aboard the Enterprise, and steals Spock’s brain out of his head.  Then the Enterprise crew has to find her and put Spock’s brain back into his head.

That’s it.  That’s the entire episode.

During the early 2000s Marj played the villain Vanessa Cortland on the soap opera All My Children which I used to watch during lunch in high school.  For some reason I decided I wanted to contact her and get her autograph.  Unfortunately, Marj died before she could respond.

Now am I attempting to contact as many actors from the Original Series and collect their autographs as I can before they are all lost to history.  It is surprisingly early to locate their addresses online and many have been kind enough to respond.

It has been an enjoyable hobby.  Occasionally I will open my mailbox and find one of my self-addressed stamped envelopes has boomeranged back.

My friends Mike, Josh and Tim perform the podcast Two and Change where they discuss politics and current events, while Mike and Tim throw in Star Trek references whenever possible.  Tim and his wife Laura even got married in a Klingon ceremony complete with battling using Klingon Bat’leths, suggesting a dedication to fandom that I don’t possess.

Josh, however, didn’t grow up with Star Trek and tells me that if you are not watching it with nostalgia goggles it looks very silly.

So, I have come up with a new project and a use for all these autographed photos.  Me, Mike, Josh and Tim are planning on watching episodes of the Original Series and discussing them with Josh to get a fresh perspective on an old subject matter.  The current plan is if we use a video component, we are going to decorate the “set” with these autographs.

Tentatively we are thinking of calling the show Nerding Out With My Friend, and I think we should start with some of the better episodes like “The City on the Edge of Forever” or “The Trouble with Tribbles” before we introduce Josh to episodes like Spock’s Brain.  If we don’t foster a love of Star Trek in our friend, at least we will have a great time and produce something creative.

In the meantime, here are some of the autographs the Star Trek actors have been kind enough to send me.

 

Pandemic Birthday

I was born on the 4th of July.  As a Canadian child it was a relief that I didn’t live in the United States, because this meant that other kids could come to my birthday party.  Now that I’m getting older it is less of a celebration and more a sense of dread from my quickly approaching middle-age.  At least, unlike my grandfather, I still have all my hair intact, even if it is graying quickly.

Never-the-less I normally try and celebrate with friends, usually with dinner at my favorite pub, sometimes followed by a movie.  Some cinemas in Canada allow you a free movie ticket on your birthday and it seems a shame to waste the opportunity.

Current circumstances mean this isn’t possible.

Instead a slept until noon, and spent the day listening to podcasts and binging British crime shows.

One tradition I wouldn’t give up is my birthday cake from Dairy Queen.  We’ve been getting a Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake every year since I was a child, and since the stores are open this is one tradition I can still take part in.  I hauled by twin-brother in the car and we picked up a rather too large cake, then I consumed far too many calories while watching yet more British crime shows.

Evidently, I am getting to the age where I just want to be left alone to celebrate on my own.  Perhaps I am turning into a curmudgeon prematurely.

Oh well.  Happy Birthday to me.  Hopefully next year I can celebrate my birthday on a beach.

 

Jordan's birthday cake
One tradition I can keep alive during a global pandemic

Canada Day in Isolation

I wouldn’t consider myself to be overly nationalistic.  I also don’t think I have very many traditions or rituals the I follow.  Never-the-less, on Canada Day you can usually find me at Labatt Park watching the London Majors play a baseball game, followed by fireworks over the Thames River.

In fact, I can only think of a few times in my life when this wasn’t the case.  There was a Canada Day as a teenager when my family was spending the summer in England and we toured a ruined castle.  We questioned why the castle was flying a Canadian Flag, and the tour guide reminded us that it was Canada Day – we were so jet lagged we lost track of what day it was…come to think of it we also forgot my birthday that year.

When I was 19 I spent Kanada Tag in Germany with some friends while on a high school student exchange.  I honestly can’t remember if we did any kind of celebration.  We probably waved flags and drank beer in the back yard.

Finally, when I was in Australia I spent Canada Day with hundreds of Canadians celebrating in North Sydney organized by a wonderful group of people called “Network Canada”.  They bill themselves as the largest Canada Day celebration outside of Canada.  It is complete with artificially created snow, a giant inflatable snowman, Poutine, Perogies, imported Moosehead and Caesar cocktails. I even won a prize, which I think was a package of Tim Horton’s coffee.

Last year I went downtown minus and hat or sunscreen which I quickly corrected via the exchange of money in a variety store, then I mingled downtown before following the traditional baseball game along with some friends.

But this year is different.  Due to the COVID19 Virus, the baseball game and the fireworks are both cancelled.  With nothing else to do, I picked up a full shift at work and I will be making double time-and-a-half today.  When that’s done I will probably sit in a Muskoka Chair in the backyard, listen to a podcast and halfheartedly wave a tiny Canadian flag.  This Canada Day I will earn some extra money so that I can take a vacation when this pandemic is over, and hopefully next year we all go back to our Canada Day traditions.

For now, here is a photo of me at last year’s Canada Day in an enormous Muskoka Chair, and another one of me with a government issued Canadian flag and an awkwardly placed Blue Jays hat.

 

 

Recalled to life, again

It’s been a few years since I last posted on this site. I had such grand plans about doing a travel blog during my time in Australia, and instead I focused on traveling and enjoying myself rather than meticulously documenting every experience.
I’ve continued to dutifully pay to keep the jordandrew.ca domain each year and given that we are all currently stuck at home, I’ve decided I am going to try to post occasional brain drippings onto this site. If anyone is reading this, please don’t expect them all to be very interesting.
Lets set a goal that I will post something, anything, once a week and at the end of July we shall see if anything comes of it.
Given that I’ve been away for a while, here are some photos of me to bring you up to speed:

Working Holiday in Australia : Part One – Getting to Australia

About ten years ago I was shoveling an enormous amount of snow when in frustration I yelled into the howling Canadian cold front “fuck this, I’m moving to Australia”. In the meantime I obtained a couple of degrees and my empty threat to escape winter went nowhere. Never-the-less a sense of wanderlust continued, and it remained in the back of my head that eventually I would spend a year in Australia.

I finally did it.

I obtained what is called a Working Holiday Visa. Just a little about this visa. It is a youth mobility scheme. I turned 31 years old in July and the visa at the time was only available until the age of 30 (it has since been changed to 35). For this reason I obtained the visa in May 2016. One of the conditions of the visa is that the holder must has sufficient funds to carry themselves for a while while looking for work. Australia considers $5000 to be sufficient. The visa application was straightforward. I had to go online and answer a few questions, one of which was essentially “are you a terrorist” and pay a $400 processing fee and wait. I didn’t have to wait long as my visa was issued in about 15 minutes.

I then spent much of the next year getting ready financially. I saved tens of thousands of dollars in preparation for this trip just in case I ran into trouble. I also knew I had to account for airline travel and travel insurance.

I have used a points credit card for several years and as it turned out I had obtained more than enough points to redeem a free flight from Toronto to Australia. There, one problem checked off.

Secondly I needed travel insurance. I asked friends that knew insurance and I settled on a company called Travel Nomads. The insurance ended up costing me about $900 but it covers me for a year out here. Interestingly it includes coverage for accidents involving air guitar at no additional cost.

Although I trained as a librarian I have spent several years working for a large bank, and my director was kind enough to give me a one year unpaid leave, which means I have a job waiting for me in Canada. Additionally I keep some of my health benefits, pension entitlements and employee ownership stock matching. Thanks to my director this final youthful hurrah is not as career jarring as it could have been. My direct manager made me set a day and I ended up using up this years vacation time in the three weeks before my departure. I intended to use it to relax but in reality went into work and banked overtime money just to be even more prepared.

Finally the day came. My friend Mike drove me to Toronto. The day before we had a snap snowstorm
(in March) and I was given a helpful reminder of why I was going abroad. Pearson airport was uneventful. Although I was transiting through the United States for less than 24 hours they still stamped my passport. In the airport terminal I met mostly Americans on their way home to Denver.

My route was a bit of a milk run. Toronto to Denver, Denver to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Melbourne. The plane was delayed in Denver and I ended up missing the flight to Melbourne so I was quickly rerouted to a flight to Sydney. By this I mean I spent less than ten minutes physically inside LAX which was spent running to a terminal.

I flew Air Canada to Denver, United to LA and Australia, and was put on a Virgin Airlines flight to Melbourne. When I arrived in Sydney I was greeted with long forgotten summer weather and quickly realized I would have to purchase some clothes as most of my wardrobe is thick Canadian clothing. The heat was a welcome realization that I had done the right thing.

One I reached Melbourne I had been traveling for about 30 hours. I have since learned that there was a bus I could have taken to my hostel but I just jumped in the first taxi that spoke to me. It cost about $60 Dollars to get across town but one I crawled into bed I didn’t care, I was so relieved to be horizontal.

I meant on keeping a blog journal more regularly but never got around to it. I will attempt to bring everyone up to date over the weekend.

Returned to Life

It has been two years since I last posted on this blog.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  I like to polish my posts until they are perfect, and although I have had numerous ideas for what to post about I never found the time to follow thru on them.

Never-the-less my current situation calls upon me to revive this platform.

While searching online I came across a movement called OERu, the Open Educational Resources University.  This is a partnership of several universities around the world to provide distance education courses at minimal cost, using open educational resources (often licensed under creative commons).  I have missed learning in a formal environment and this appealed to me.

For the past couple of months I have been taking an undergraduate course via the University of the People, an organization which also provides courses at minimal cost using OER materials.  While I have enjoyed the interaction with other class members I am finding the material not challenging enough.  My last exam was supposed to take 30 minutes, and I had completed it in under five.  Ultimately I want to obtain another graduate level qualification.  UoPeople is planning to create an MBA program but has not launched it yet.

The good news is the University of Wollongong in Australia is about to start a Graduate Certificate in Global Citizenship delivered via OERu.  Since I have been on vacation from work this week I have used this time to get a head start on the readings and videos, as well as planning out some of the written material.

The first course is on the UN, Global Governance and Diplomacy. One of the requirements of taking this course is to create 4 blog posts on the topics presented in the course, and I am already finding getting back into creative thinking mode to be enjoyable.  It also requires increased use of twitter, and thanks to twitter I learned that General Romeo Dallaire would be speaking at my Alma Mater.  With about an hour of notice I was able to attend his speech “Does a leading middle power have a leadership role in conflict prevention?”.

Dallaire photo
My Brother and I with Romeo Dallaire at King’s University College March 2016

Dallaire was an enjoyable speaker, and was kind enough to take a photo with me and my brother after the speech.  Hopefully I will be able to incorporate some of his themes into my written work for this course.

In Summary, I’m back !

Thoughts on European Citizenship Part 3 – The Scottish Proposal

What would citizenship of an independent Scotland look like?
What would citizenship of an independent Scotland look like?

The purpose of this three part series has been to analyze how member countries of the European Union having no central standards for citizenship has lead to problems.  Part 1 looked at Malta’s attempt to raise capital by selling it citizenship.  Part 2 looked at Spain’s proposal to give citizenship to descendants of those expelled over 500 years ago.

This third post will look at the citizenship policy proposed by the Scottish National Party should the independence referendum on September 18th result in a Yes vote and compare it to the practices of other European Union countries.

As usual I would like to point out that I am a Librarian with a degree in political science, not a Lawyer and nothing in this post constitutes legal advice.

As we already know EU citizenship is supplemental to National Citizenship.  It is the fundamental right of every country to determine who is, and who is not, a citizen of that country.  The problem exposed by this post is that people of Scottish heritage are at a disadvantage to those with heritage in countries that make more liberal use of their Diasporas.

Currently Scotland is a constituent country of the United Kingdom.  Although some powers such as agriculture and education were devolved to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, authority for citizenship policy remains centralized at the Westminster Parliament in London.  Explaining all the caveats and asterisks associated with UK nationality law is too complicated to go into in much detail.  For the purposes of this post I am only going to analyze citizenship by decent, that is, the ability of one generation to transmit citizenship to the next generation.

Since being modernized in 1983 citizenship of the United Kingdom can only be transmitted to the first generation born abroad.  There are asterisks involved if the transmitting parent is male or female, or for if the parents were married, but this is far too complicated for our purposes.  As a constituent country of the United Kingdom Scotland is bound by the terms set by Westminster.

The United Kingdom’s first generation rule is in stark contrast to other countries in the European Union that have traditionally been population exporting countries.  Mary Robinson made what many people feel to be a successful organization of the worldwide Irish diaspora during her term as President of the that Country.  Something working in her favour is that the Republic of Ireland allows anyone with an Irish-born grandparent to register as a citizen of that country.  It is interesting to note that this can continue in perpetuity if each subsequent generation registered for citizenship prior to the birth of the next generation.  Given the European Union’s rules of freedom of movement this means that anyone with an Irish grandparent can live, work, and study in Scotland, while someone with a Scottish born grandparent cannot.  A couple of years ago this led to an interesting situation involving the tuition free education Scottish residents receive.

In England the Westminster Government has allowed the cost of University tuition to spiral.  The Scottish Government meanwhile has prioritized providing free education to UK Citizens resident in Scotland.  Due to EU rules, Scotland can impose fees on UK citizens from outside Scotland, but must treat citizens of other EU countries the same as Scottish residents.  This functionally meant that a citizen of Ireland could study for free at a Scottish University, but a citizen of the United Kingdom resident in England, Wales or Northern Ireland could not.

However, for political reasons the Republic of Ireland claims rights to the entire territory of the Island of Ireland, so anyone born in Northern Ireland also qualifies for a Republic of Ireland passport .  This means anyone born in Northern Ireland, who is by definition a citizen of the United Kingdom, could study for free in Scotland using their Irish passport, while those in England and Wales could not.  The Scottish government passed a law requiring Northern Irish students with Republic of Ireland passports to be resident for three months outside Northern Ireland before they could qualify for free tuition.  While there is not much evidence that this loophole was even being exploited, it serves as an interesting example of the problems with competing legal frameworks within a transnational organization.

Another example is Italy, which allows for people born abroad with an Italian-born Great-Grandfather to register for citizenship.  This has caveats specifically related to date of death, date of birth, the transmitting line being male or female, and requires the transmitting line to be unbroken meaning that the great-grandfather must have fathered the grandfather prior to naturalizing in the host country (this rule was abolished when Italy allowed dual citizenship in the 1990s but was not retroactive).

The newest EU country Croatia allows their citizenship to be obtained via a Croatian born grandparent.  Therefore my ex-girlfriend whose grandparents were born in what is now Croatia has the potential to register as a citizen of that country and in time exercise her mobility rights to live and work in Scotland.

It is difficult for me to remain detached from this subject.  As someone with a Scottish Grandparent it just seems to me that I should have as much right to contribute to Scotland as someone with Irish, Italian or Yugoslav heritage.  At the moment this is not the case because of the intersection between EU and UK law.

This leads me to the proposal by the Scottish National Party.  On September 18th 2014 people living in Scotland will vote in a referendum answering the question “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?”.  The White Paper “Scotland’s Future” released by the Scottish Government proposes that just like the Republic of Ireland an independent Scotland would allow anyone with a Scottish born Grandparent to register as a Scottish citizen.

When analyzing this it is useful to refer back to Viviane Reding’s assertion that EU countries should only provide citizenship in “a spirit of sincere cooperation with the other member states…[and] should only award citizenship to persons where there is a genuine link or genuine connection to the country in question”.  Does this proposal meet that criteria?  Under this proposal I would have the ability to instantly become a Scottish/EU citizen by completing some paperwork.  This is despite the fact that the closest I have ever been to Scotland was sitting on Hadrian’s Wall about 15 years ago.  Do I have a genuine link or genuine connection to Scotland?

If you asked me the question “Do You Feel Scottish” I would say yes.  I actually knew my Scottish born Grandmother, and have some vague memories of my Scottish-born Great-Grandmother.

Speaking for myself, if the referendum is successful and this law does eventually pass I probably would become a Scottish passport holder.  Would I uproot myself and move to Glasgow the next day?  Probably not.  But nor would I uproot myself tomorrow and move to Alberta.  As a Canadian who lives and works in Ontario I have the potential to bring my talents and energies to another province if that is where my life directed me.  This proposal would allow me to do the same in Scotland, and depending on how successor countries are treated by the European Union, potentially to the rest of Europe.

At the moment as the grandson of a Scottish-born person I could apply for a UK Ancestry Visa.  This would allow me to live and work in the UK for 5 years.  While I recognize it was forward thinking of the Westminster government to devise this scheme we are still left with people of British ancestry being at a disadvantage to those of non-British ancestry.  While I could apply for a visa and then apply for a job, I would be limited to working in the United Kingdom.  Someone with an Irish or Italian grand-parent could live and work anywhere in the EU, including Scotland.  While the very existence of the European Union opens up questions about diluting the meaning of national citizenship, it is clear that the current political establishment in Scotland sees the potential benefit of a more liberal citizenship policy putting their country on an equal footing as other EU countries.

There is no direct financial gain for Scotland to adopt a more liberal citizenship policy so I doubt this direction would create the backlash we witnessed in the Maltese proposal.  While I can make the argument that the Spanish proposal is taking citizenship by descent much too far, most countries are in agreement that a generation or two is a genuine link to the country.

At the moment this is entirely academic.  Opinion polling suggests that the referendum is probably going to be a victory for the “No” side.  Even if 50% of the voters vote yes, the soonest Scotland could actually become an independent country is 2016, and even then some speculate that this is not nearly enough time to negotiate the breakup of a country.  Furthermore the question on the referendum is about independence itself.  The “Scotland’s Future” whitepaper that sets out this proposal is a political platform that would only be adopted in the event that the Scottish National Party forms a government following separation.

Although there have been vague promises of more powers being devolved to Scotland if the Better Together side wins, I suspect citizenship powers would remain centralized in Westminster.  At the moment David Cameron seems less interested in debating the future of Scotland and more interested in a futile effort to ban internet pornography.

Interestingly, with all the debate surrounding the “IndyRef” next month I have seen very little debate on the subject of this citizenship policy.  What we can conclude from this is debatable.  It could be that the the big ticket issues like currency, oil revenue and the democratic deficit are of more pressing concern to the Scottish electorate.  Or it could be that this proposal is really not that controversial when Ireland has an almost identical law.

We shall see what happens on September 18th.

Thoughts on European Citizenship Part 2 – The Spanish Proposal

The Spanish proposal could create millions of new Spanish citizens
The Spanish proposal could create millions of new Spanish citizens

In Part 1 on this series I examined the proposal by Malta to essentially sell its citizenship to

high paying investor immigrants without requiring much substantive investment, residence, or connection to the country.  In this post I would like to look at the proposal by Spain to give their citizenship to descendants of Sephardi Jews who were banished from the country during the Inquisition.

During the uproar over the Maltese proposal, Viviane Reding said in her capacity as European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship that the EU expects member states to award citizenship in “a spirit of sincere cooperation with the other member states…[and] should only award citizenship to persons where there is a genuine link or genuine connection to the country in question”.

Before I got any further with this post I would like to stress that I am a Librarian, not a lawyer.  I am just an amateur researcher interested in this topic and no information found on this blog should be considered legal advice.

My research on this topic is complicated by two things : Firstly I do not speak or read Spanish so I am reliant on English language Media.  Secondly, this bill has not yet become law.  In short I am analyzing media reports of a bill which I have not independently reviewed.

The European History that provides the reasoning for this bill could fill a book. In summary on the 31st of March 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain issued the Alhambra Decree (alternatively known as the Edict of Expulsion), which ordered that the Jewish population of Spain (known as Sephardi) to either convert to Christianity or face expulsion from Spain.  In July 1492 those who did not convert were expelled from the Kingdom.  The actual number of people in the exiled Jewish population is unknown.  The site I link to above estimates it at 200,000.    This article estimates that there were 300,000 Jews in Spain in 1492.  This article estimates 225,000.  Whatever the number, many of them fled to Portugal where they were expelled again in 1496, and also to North Africa and the Ottoman Empire.  In a symbolic gesture similar to Galileo being pardoned, the Alhambra Degree was formally revoked in the 1960s.

Since the 1960s the various Spanish governments have taken an official position of reconciliation.  Current Spanish naturalization rules already take this into account as Sephardi Jews need only live in Spain for two years to apply for naturalization, in comparison to ten years for those without a Spanish or Iberoamerican connection.

This proposal takes it to the next step.  Under current Spanish naturalization rules one can be “Spanish by Origin” or “Spanish Not By Origin”, with Origin meaning a person being naturalized is a citizen of former Spanish territorial possession such as Portugal or much of South America.  Those who naturalize as Spanish by Origin can be dual citizens, whereas those who are Spanish Not By Origin must renounce their alternative citizenship.  Currently those naturalizing under Sephardi rules are naturalizing Not By Origin.

In 2014 a bill was proposed in Spain which would replace the naturalization rules for Sephardi Jews with a new rule providing full Citizenship by Origin to descendants of the original Sephardi exiles.  According to some reports this would be Citizenship by Origin allowing the new Spanish citizen to keep their original passport.  Naturally this has generated significant interest in Israel where approximately 1.4 million Sephardi Jews live.

So what exactly would be required to obtain Spanish Citizenship in this way?  Until the bill actually becomes law its anyone’s guess.  Would one have to actually be Jewish in order to qualify or is descent enough?  How does one actually prove descent?  Since there are no firm records of who was expelled how would descent be traced back?  Even if one is probably descended from someone who was exiled  genealogy records can be notoriously spotty, especially around World War II, and become progressively more difficult the further you go back.  Proposed episodes of the celebrity genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are have had to be cancelled because no records for those with Jewish ancestry could be found.  The work and luck required to be able to trace your lineage back more than 3 or 4 generations is immense.  How will people be able to go back 522 years?  Would genetic testing results be enough to prove descent?

When I think about the possible ramifications of this proposal I think about a French-Canadian man named Zacharie Cloutier.  Cloutier was born around 1590 and had five surviving children.  By the year 1800 he had at least 10,850 descendants.  As the centuries have continued that number  of people descendant from Zacharie has become astronomical to the point where Zacharie Cloutier is a common ancestor of the Duchess of Cornwall, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Madonna, Hillary Clinton and Anjelina Jolie to name just a few.

The blog Sephardic Geneaology has a helpful post analyzing the actual text of the draft proposal as it existed in February 2014.  According to this post there would be six methods by which one could claim citizenship under this bill :

1. A certificate from the General Secretariat of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain saying the applicant is of Sephardic origin.

2. A certificate from the Rabbinical Authority legally recognized in the country in which the applicant resides.

3. Family names, languages, or other evidence of applicants connection to the Sephardic Community.

4. If said person was included in a list of Sephardic families protected by Spain such as the decree of December 29th, 1948 or those who obtained special naturalization through the royal decree of December 20th, 1924.

5. The applicant can prove linkage to person or family member who the previous stipulation applies to.

6. In the event the application is sent to the civil registry office in charge of the residence of the applicant it will consider any applicant’s sign of belonging to the Spanish community in their area.

In March Spain’s Minister of Justice gave a speech in New York City where he provided some information.  He repeated the often quoted proposal that having a common Sephardi surname would be grounds for citizenship, and that applicants would be asked to submit certifications for local Rabbis.  A list of common Sephardi surnames was picked up by several news organizations and incorrectly identified as an official Spanish government list.  Interestingly this created a stir in the Philippines where many people with those surnames suddenly thought they could become Spanish Citizens, although chances of a Filipino having actual Sephardi exile lineage is slim.  When asked about the case of Syrian Jews, many of whom consider themselves Sephardi although most are not descended from those exiled in 1492 the Justice Minister said that the government’s intent was not to be overly strict and “we are opening a door”.

 

This brings me back to Vivian Reding’s assertion that EU citizenship should only be awarded to those with a genuine connection to an EU country.  Do the people who could be covered by this proposed law have a genuine connection with Spain?    For comparison, since 1949 German law has allowed descendants of Jews who fled during the holocaust to have their citizenship restored, and approximately 100,000 Israeli’s hold German passports.  In both cases the stated objective of providing citizenship is to right a historical wrong.  The difference is that less than a century has passed since Germany stripped its Jewish population of its citizenship.  It is easy to make the case that those covered by the German rules have a genuine connection to Germany.  In most cases the generation whose citizenship was stripped is within living memory.

Traditionally a generation has been defined as about 20 years, but modern scholars think of it being around 25 years.  Even if we are generous and consider a generation to be 25 years that means that 20 generations have passed since the original exiles left Spain.  I have no idea what my ancestry is like 20+ generations ago.  For all I know I might qualify under this proposal.

The way I see it, this proposal could go two ways.  One, the rules will be so restrictive that the new law will be functionally symbolic or Two, the rules will be loose enough that it will open up citizenship to an enormous pool of people.

Some articles suggest this could create upwards of 3 million Spanish citizens although as the example of Zacharie Cloutier points out the actual number of descendants could be astronomical.  Just like those who might obtain passports via the Maltese proposal all these people will have the right to live and work in any of the 28 EU countries.  Some have suggested that this proposal is little more than a vehicle to create a pool of people who can invest and buy property in Spain to revive its shattered economy.

So why did the Maltese proposal create such an instant backlash, whereas this proposal did not?  Is it the fact the citizenship is not being directly exchanged for money, but rather for the hypothetical potential of future investment?  Granted Jewish history in Europe is littered with violence and this is naturally a source of historical facepalming, but this proposal has the potential to give millions of people the right to live and work in the EU with no requirement that they have any financial or residential ties to the country providing them the passport, just like the Maltese proposal.

This article by the Economist suggests that with Spain’s current economic crisis few people who qualify will actually take up residence in Spain.  But this does not preclude someone from taking up Spain’s offer of a Passport and setting up residency in England, Germany or any other strong European economy.

Perhaps it was the overly financial overtones of the Maltese proposal that caused the backlash?  Perhaps this proposal will face a backlash once the actual criteria for inclusion are widely know.

In Part 3 of this series I will take a look at Scotland’s proposal for citizenship should its referendum in September be successful, and compare that proposal to how other European countries make citizens.

As a final note I did not link to this article anywhere in the post but I recommend reading this article from the Jewish Daily Forward.

Thoughs on European Citizenship – Part 1 The Maltese Proposal

Citizenship for sale? - image source http://www.gov.mt
Citizenship for sale? – image source http://www.gov.mt

Today I would like to look into the problems associated by the European Union having no standard policy on citizenship.  In Part one I will examine the problems associated with Malta’s proposal to sell their citizenship to a handful of wealthy clients.  In Part 2 I will examine Spain’s proposal to give away their passports to potentially millions of descendants of exiled Spaniards.  In Part 3 I will examine the proposal of Alex Salmond’s government to provide Scottish citizenship to the third generation born abroad should Scotland’s referendum prove successful in September.

Before you read this I want to emphasize that I am a Librarian who is an amateur researcher on this subject.  Nothing in this post, or indeed this blog, should be considered to be legal advise or binding legal analysis.

In 1992 an EU treaty created the concept of European Union citizenship.  EU citizens have certain rights in all countries of the EU, including the right to vote in European wide and municipal elections, but more importantly the ability to live and work in any member state of the Union.  Fundamentally, EU citizenship is supplemental to national citizenship.  This means that one is British, or French, of German, or Swedish first and European second.  It is impossible to be a citizens of the European Union without also, and first, being a citizen of one of the now 28 member countries of the Union.  The ability to create rules about who is, and who is not, a citizen of your country is something that has never been relinquished by the member states and consequently European nations have no standardization in their citizenship and nationality laws.

The Economic crisis has shattered the fragile economies of many of Europe’s smaller countries and consequently they have been looking at new ways of generating revenue.  Both the Maltese and Spanish proposals I am going to analyze appear to be at some level about generating potential revenue, but they differ is how their directness.

Recently the Republic of Malta was heavily criticized by other EU countries for a proposal that would alter Maltese law to allow the country to provide Maltese citizenship (and its supplementary EU citizenship) to wealthy investors.  The cost of Maltese citizenship was reported to be 650 thousand Euros (nearly 1 million Canadian dollars).  News reports on this program suggest the sale would bring in anywhere from 30 million to 1 billion Euros for the Maltese treasury.

It is hardly unusual for countries to provide a mechanism for the wealthy to immigrate.  Canada had its Economic Investor Program for a decade until it stopped taking new applicants in 2012 and is scheduled to be concluded in 2014 amid criticism that it did not bring in sufficient long term benefit to Canada.  For political reasons too long to get into here Quebec also runs a parallel program which allows residency to those who loan the Canadian economy 800 thousand Canadians dollars interest free for a period of time.  The major criticism of Quebec’s program is that while Quebec keeps the cash, most of the immigrants accepted to the program promptly settle in other provinces, primarily in Vancouver, British Columbia.

This was the danger of Malta’s proposed program.

The original proposal from Malta would provide almost instant citizenship in Malta (and the European Union) for anyone wealthy enough to pay for it.  Citizenship for dependents of the main consumer would also be purchased at 25 thousand Euros each.  After this, the program did not require any sort of investment or residency in Malta itself.

It is not unreasonable to see why members of the European parliament spent over an hour complaining about this proposal.  To most anyone viewing this from the outside, the Maltese proposal was an attempt to do exactly what the Quebecois program was criticized for : economic advantage of immigration enjoyed by one state/province with all its associated costs born by another.  The Canadian/Quebecois program only provided residency, after which citizenship could be obtained after a few years of living in Canada as a Permanent Resident.  The Maltese proposal would have given instant citizenship of the European Union to anyone with a large enough bank account without any incentives for that person to establish roots in Malta.  Just like the Canadian example its a quick deduction that anyone wealthy enough to buy citizenship would establish themselves in larger/wealthier countries of the EU, most likely the United Kingdom and Germany.

Ultimately the Maltese government’s proposal crumbled against EU pressure, and has been amended so that rather than outright buying passports, the Maltese plan will be more similar to the program managed by other countries, namely by exchanging cash for permanent resident status and the ability to naturalize after a short period of time.  In Malta’s case this would allow for naturalization after one year (in comparison anyone going the regular route must wait 5 years before naturalization).

This concession was announced in a joint statement by the Maltese government and the European Commission, and supposedly this brings the Maltese experiment in line with the wishes of the wider European community by requiring some level of commitment and residency in Malta by the investor citizens.  According to a speech by Viviane Reding the current European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, the EU expects member states to award citizenship in “a spirit of sincere cooperation with the other member states….[and] should only award citizenship to persons where there is a genuine link or genuine connection to the country in question”.

Does 365 days spent in a country create a genuine connection or a genuine link to Malta?  If this is the case why must people who are not wealthy wait 1825 days before becoming Maltese?  The one-year-rule compromise simply means that Malta will have to live with the cost of these investor immigrations for one year before these people can ultimately use Malta as a stepping stone to a preferred European destination.  In the end, regardless of the speeches about sincere cooperation and genuine connection the attraction of spending up to a million Canadian dollars on this program will be quick and permanent access to the 28 European Union member states and all the potential the European Union citizenship provides

In my next post I am going to contrast the Maltese proposal with the proposed Spanish passport giveaway.