Press Clips: Three Columns and a Bird In the Hand

Oct30

none_skelton_Score one for old school: The best columnists are first and foremost good reporters, as George Skelton proved anew this week, with a splendid 848-word takedown of Meg Whitman for the latest in her string of brazen departures from the truth. Capturing the coveted Calbuzz Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry,  George did an honest day’s worth of Actual Reporting to absolutely nail eMeg with a piece called “Meg Whitman’s Radio Whoppers” (memo to copy desk: nice hed).

The L.A. Timesman painstakingly demolished her phony claim that state spending has increased 80 percent in 10 years – for those keeping score at home, the true, slightly smaller, figure is, um, 27 percent:

We instinctively grant latitude to advertisers, whether they’re peddling politicians, dog food or miracle paring knives. But we do expect that an ad will not flat-out lie…

Now, in the very first series of radio ads in the 2010 gubernatorial race, comes blatant baloney from billionaire political novice Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of EBay who is running for the Republican nomination.

Blatant baloney indeed. This is now at least the third time in a few weeks that Her Megness has been exposed as an almost total stranger to the truth. After her ceaseless dissembling about her disgraceful voting record and the bald-faced lie she told conservative radio yakker Eric Hogue in promising to debate Steve Poizner three times before winter, this latest bit of stinky cheese has the full aroma of something rancid.

As we used to say at the city desk, if it happens once it’s news, twice it’s a coincidence and three times, it’s a trend.

vidablueWeintraub Watch: Ahem, ahem (sound of ponderous throat-clearing):

The last time California elected a governor who was pro-life, Ronald Reagan was president, Vida Blue was pitching for the San Francisco Giants and Gavin Newsom, now San Francisco’s mayor, was a sophomore at the University of Santa Clara . It was 1986 when George Deukmejian beat Tom Bradley in a re-match of their 1982 nail-biter.

We offer that ersatz column lede as an antidote to this unfortunately real one:

“The last time California elected a governor from Northern California, John F. Kennedy was president, the San Francisco Giants had just won their first National League pennant, and Gavin Newsom, now San Francisco’s mayor, had not been born. It was 1962 when Gov. Edmund G. Brown won a second term by defeating Richard M. Nixon.”

Now, Calbuzz is simply delighted that Dan Weintraub got himself a forum in the ByGodAllMighty New York Times (even if only in the NYT’s skimpy Bay Area pages), but we really wish he’d borrow a page from Skelton’s book and do some actual reporting so he could write something relevant about California politics.

The stop-the-presses premise of last Sunday’s column – that the state in 2010 will elect a governor from Northern, not Southern, California – is nothing but fluffy flapdoodle. (Especially when, just the week before, Weintraub teed up a chin-stroker quoting a top legislator as saying, “The whole Northern California versus Southern California frame is so 1980s. It’s different now”).

Lest this seem unduly harsh, we hasten to add that we, of all people, understand how truly difficult it is to come up with ONE COLUMN A WEEK(!!!). Because we’re collegial and collaborative fellows who understand that There Is No “I” in T-E-A-M, here are some suggested ledes for future – strange but true! – political anomaly columns:

1-The 2010 governor’s race is the first in memory in which 60 percent of the candidates have first names with five letters  while only 40 percent have three, The Times has learned.

2-Next year’s election will mark the sixth consecutive contest for governor of California without a strong Armenian-American in the field, according to veteran political professionals on this coast.

3-For only the third time this century, a gubernatorial campaign will be conducted without a contender named Angelides strongly positioned to win his party’s nomination, sources said.

You could look it up.

joe_matthews280x350

Going, going, con-con: Our Department of Drill Down Policy Analysis and Professional Wonkery  is still working its way with a yellow highlighter through the 8,000 words of the second of two initiatives sponsored by the Bay Area Council aimed at convening a constitutional convention in California.

While awaiting what we like to call their work product deliverable, we deduce that the best online package put together on the proposals to date  may be found over at Fox and Hounds, where proprietor Joel Fox, the estimable Joe Mathews and the inevitable John Wildermuth cobbled together an examination of the matter from various perspectives.

The reliably nimble Mathews piece,which posits a batch of not-so-frequently-asked questions, is the best place to start, as he gets elbow deep in the crankcase grease of the thing, and pulls out some surprising spare parts:

So what’s not on the table?

Raising or reducing taxes and fees. Specifically, the convention’s revisions, amendments or suggested statutory changes “may not include new language, or alter existing language, that (1) directly imposes or reduces any taxes or fees; (2) sets the frequency at which real property is assessed or re-assessed; or (3) defines “change in ownership’ as it relates to any tax or fee.’”

Are you kidding?

It was just a few months ago that Calbuzz was defending con con sponsors in their dispute with Capitol Weekly, which had reported that Bay Area Council types were quietly maneuvering to banish debate about Proposition 13 from the convention agenda. Now it appears CapWeekly had it right along.

middle_fingerA Middle Finger Scoop: Mega-kudos to Tim Redmond, our mildly eccentric old friend at the SF Bay Guardian, who scooped the world with his blog post demonstrating that Governor Schwarzmuscle had issued a veto message about one of SF Assman Tom Ammiano’s bills that spelled out “I Fuck You” with the first letter of the first word in nine consecutive lines.

When we emailed Redmond (who apparently was not wearing a Dr, Hackenflack decoder ring) how he’d cracked the code, he said:

Honestly, I got a tip to look at it (as you know, once you’ve been doing this for 25 years people call with all kinds of stuff), and once you look at it it’s pretty clear. Amazing, huh?

Absolutely bro. Another amazing thing was that rival news organizations jumped in to follow Redmond’s scoop, rather than pooh-poohing it or pretending it didn’t exist, in direct violation of traditional San Francisco journalistic practice. The consistently quick off the mark S.F. Weekly, the Guardian’s chief rival, came back with its own scoop, reporting that a top  mathematician put the odds at  1 in 2 billion that the governor’s salute to Ammiano was a coincidence, while the dry-witted John Diaz at the Chron used the same technique to embed his own secret message to the governor (“grow up girlie-man”) in an editorial tut-tutting at Arnold for the stunt.

Good times.


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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. avatar Sac Economist says:

    RE: So what’s not on the table?

    When did we make Prop 13 the 11 Commandment? Any attempt at a constitution revision that doesn’t put all fiscal provisions on the table will be an exercise in futility. If anyone connected to this initiative is actually concerned about putting the state’s fiscal house in order they need to be honest and admit that voter-imposed tax and spend restrictions (with Prop 13 topping a long list) are the heart of the problem. Picking and choosing which ones to touch and not touch reveals a serious bias and represents a formidable blind spot. Abiding by this restriction will make the convention a spectacular “rearranging the deck chairs” event. Just look what happened with the Parsky Commission’s work when it made the same strategic blunder.

  2. avatar SezMe says:

    Tempest
    in a
    teapot.

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