Press Clips: Fun Facts & Fine Kerfuffles
Welcome to the NFL: Torey Van Oot, the rookie California blogger hired by the Bee to juice up its online “Capitol Alert” (which has flagged considerably since the departure for the L.A. Times of the indefatigable Shane Goldmacher) set off a fine kerfuffle Thursday over polling, politics and the smash-mouth issue of offshore oil drilling in California.
Van Oot put up an early morning post about the new PPIC poll’s finding that a majority of Californians now favor offshore oil drilling. The item included an attack on the institute’s survey methodology by anti-drilling Assemblyman Pedro Nava, who called the results “completely worthless” and opined that “PPIC should find another line of work, if this is the best they can do.”
For those who know PPIC president Mark Baldassare (along with the Field Poll’s Mark DiCamillo) as one of the smartest, most trustworthy and thoughtful pollsters in the nation, Nava’s wild man act was an hysteric, over-the-top, shoot-the-messenger rip job that ignored the rather important facts that a) PPIC has been asking the same question since 2003 and b) there’s undeniable evidence throughout their data that a significant shift in public opinion on the offshore issue has taken place (primarily among independents).
The piece was notable for one other reason: it carried not a word from Baldassare, or anyone at PPIC, responding to Nava’s charges, although he directly assailed the professionalism and competence of the San Francisco-based outfit.
A few hours later, apparently after Baldassare and the Bee Blogger had a full and frank exchange of views, Van Oot posted an update that included a 243-word response from the pollster, which looked like a billboard slapped up on the page, setting the record straight about his methodology:
“At the end of the day, we feel it’s our obligation to as accurately as possible reflect the opinions of all Californians in our polling, so particularly on controversial issues like this one, we take special care to use national survey questions and repeat questions over time to give us a sense of whether opinions are changing,” he concluded.
A few hours after that, Nava issued a press release walking back his direct criticism of PPIC. Transforming himself into a journalism critic, he instead insisted that the media had “misled” the public by writing too narrowly about the offshore drilling question instead of taking a broader approach to other data about environmental issues that “should have been the focus of yesterday’s stories.”
Yo! Perry White! Here’s a tip from the political desk: When you’re in a hole, first stop digging.
World’s First Legislator: The Handbook of Political Writing Cliches requires that all stories about California’s budget include at least one use of the phrase “draconian cuts,” as confirmed by a random check of recent budget yarns in the Bee-minus, the Chron and the By God L.A. Times, as well a quick Google search of “draconian cuts California budget” (126,000 hits).
Ever desperate for a fresh angle, Calbuzz assigned our highly trained and highly paid Department of Evolutionary Linguistics to get to the bottom of this hoary phrase. A wide-ranging investigation, including an in-depth check of Wikipedia, revealed that it derives, neither from Harry Potter pal Draco Malfoy nor Star Wars Imperial Knight Antares Draco, but rather from the uni-named Draco, credited as “the first legislator of ancient Athens.”
Besides his more or less direct responsibility for the free cars, per diem payments and fulltime salaries for part-time work afforded today’s California lawmakers, Mr. Draco also laid down the first written constitution, a rather harsh collection of laws that required debtors to be forced into slavery and called for capital punishment for even minor offenses.
Draco, according to Plutarch, “when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and that he had no greater punishment for more important ones.”
Eventually karmic justice caught up with Draco, who reportedly died after a demagogic performance at the Aeginetan theatre, when his supporters, in a traditional sign of approval, “threw so many hats and shirts and cloaks on his head that he suffocated, and was buried in that selfsame theatre.”
Now there’s an idea for a ballot initiative to rein in the Legislature.
More fun facts about language: Calbuzz’s political correctness antennae stood straight up when the redoubtable David Dayen over at Calitics referred to our most recent budget rant, not once but thrice, as “shrill.”
Now while it’s true that the members of the Calbuzz Executive Content Production Team are not technically, well, of the female persuasion, we have been around long enough to know that calling someone “shrill” is just asking to be denounced by sensitive souls, such as ourselves, for some type of “phobia” or “ism.”
But now comes Dayen, graciously concealing his smirk at our utter lack of hipness, to disclose that “shrill” represents a compliment in what you call your online blogging community, high praise for cutting to the bone instead of mealy-mouthing an issue, as explained here.
So little time, so much to learn.
How to fix California: A prolific sort, Dayen churned out an excellent thumb-sucker on a California constitutional convention, one of a pair of intriguing posts this week that highlight the vast ideological divide over the ways and means needed to fix the state.
Chris Reed over at Politicker offered the second, a brisk policy prescription for the excessive spending and trough-feeding public employees whom he perceives as the fundamental cause of the Mess in Sacramento, a package which includes a tight spending cap, pension reform and restrictions on political donations by unions.To Dayen, though, the problem is much more one of structure: “Right now, we have a progressive legislature and a conservative system, which frustrates efforts at accountability.”
And there it is, spectator sports fans: two looks at the dysfunction of state government from opposite ends of the telescope, a case study of the political chasm a con con will have to confront and bridge.
Must reads of the week: For those looking for one piece on California’s woe that puts it all together, Lou Cannon offers up a smart and stylish overview on Politics Daily that shows why he’s a Hall of Fame political writer…Nice scooplet by Anthony York at Capitol Weekly, who reports that the final vote on last week’s defeat of Arnold’s offshore oil drilling proposal mysteriously disappeared from the official record of the Assembly….Finally, Kevin Roderick, the City of Angels bard who never sleeps, dashed off this very Calbuzz kind of item that demonstrates the true power and importance of links:
From the Jewish Journal’s food blog, posted by editor Rob Eshman:
‘I just got a peek inside David Sax’s new book, “Save the Deli,“ due out Oct. 19, and can report that it is official: L.A. is the best deli city in America.
Bite that, New York….'”
Two comments: 1) Here’s another entry in The Handbook of Political Writing Cliches: You’ll never see the phrase public employee unions without the adjective “powerful” in front of it. Why is it that you never see “powerful” identifying the anti-tax groups that have tied our legislature in knots, or the business lobbyists that get tax breaks in the middle of budget crisis, or the oil companies that keep California from doing what every other state does–tax oil production?
2) Speaking of which, here’s a deal: Democrats support offshore drilling with environmental safeguards and Republicans support a tax on oil production.