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Calbuzz New Deal: World Domination Looms

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

calbuzz_adSpaceAnd now a word from our (self) sponsors: Okay,  okay we admit that as branding slogans go, “Shooting the Wounded Since March 2009” doesn’t quite rank up there with “Just Do It,” “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” or “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” But we’re working on it, eye’ite?

That said, our Department of Weights, Measures and Worldwide Marketing is pleased to announce the launch of another big project: the Calbuzz New Deal.

Starting today, we’re offering a limited number of home page advertising positions for companies, campaigns and candidates working in the wacky world of California politics. (They’ll run as 120 x 90 pixel spot ads on the right side of the cover page, as in the example here, and on the jump pages.) We’re looking for a small number of preferred clients who want to get their messages in front of the eyeballs of our cognoscenti audience of decision makers, movers and shakers, insiders, flacks and other hacks.

At the risk of sounding earnest for a moment, we’ve been completely surprised by the response Calbuzz has received since we launched what we thought would be an occasionally updated, grumpy old guy blog back in March. From our first post -– a much-discussed analysis of why Dianne Feinstein won’t run for governor -– we’ve been extremely gratified by the interest, support and (mostly) positive feedback we’ve gotten from readers .

calbuzzartIn the months that have followed, Calbuzz has offered a steady stream of original reporting, analysis and commentaries –- ours, along with those of star political players — not to mention snarky cheap shots and the blinding insights of our staff psychiatrist, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack. Along the way, our stuff has been cited everywhere from the New York Times to NBC’s “First Read,” and we became the only non-partisan site selected by “The Fix,” the Washington Post’s influential insider’s blog, for its short list of top-rank, go-to online sources in California.

What began as a labor of love has become a passionate avocation, and the time has come for us to find ways to build and sustain the enterprise into the future. The Calbuzz New Deal offers a limited number of display ads on the right hand column of our home page, with preferred placement for those who sign up first.

Okay, that’s it –- no high pressure pitch (although we do know where you live). If you’re interested, please contact Anna Roberts, our advertising director, in our New York office in way cool TriBeCa (where she reports “you can see the Statute of Liberty if you hang out the window”). You can reach her by email at annacamiller@gmail.com or at (805)680-3029.

Thanks for listening. We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

shootinfoot

Circular firing squad alert: For decades, Democrats were mocked by Republicans for  their self-destructive zest for internecine warfare. Now, it appears, California’s GOP has finally been turned on to the appeal of the  intramural sport.

Over at Flashreport, our friend Jon Fleischman is leading a crusade to ban independents from voting in Republican primaries, a proposal that will come up for a vote at the state central committee meeting in a few weeks. Given that independents are the fastest-growing group of voters in California, while the GOP is fast becoming an endangered species, the move would seem, uh, a bit counter-intuitive, despite Fleischman’s characteristically vigorous argument in its favor.

Strictly observing our non-interventionist policy with sovereign states, Calbuzz takes no official stance on this partisan issue, but finds veteran wise man Tony Quinn’s thoughtful essay quite persuasive on the politics of the matter.

ramosMore bad news for Gavin: It seems appropriate that a Republican site is the first to call attention to the elephant in the room regarding Newsom’s bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

While Newsom’s famous “whether you like it or not” comment about gay marriage, and all it implies about his character, is most often viewed as his key weakness, the aforementioned Jon Fleischman today surfaces the case of “Newsom’s Willie Horton,” the Edwin Ramos case.

Ramos is an illegal immigrant who shot and killed an innocent father and two sons on a San Francisco street. Before the tragic episode , Ramos  committed several other violent crimes, but was shielded from deportation by the city’s liberal Sanctuary policy for immigrants. Newsom offered little more than a pro forma expression of sympathy to the men’s family, which sued the city.

Odd that Fleischman would sluice this out there now, unless his thinking is that Newsom poses a greater threat to a GOP candidate than does Jerry Brown. This is the kind of move you’d make now only if you want to knock the guy out of his primary (see South vs. Riodran, 1998 2002).

Foxy Brown Probes Drugs, Michael Jackson Docs

Friday, August 28th, 2009

jerryfoxUpdate 4 p.m. Attorney General and wannabe governor Jerry Brown announced Friday that agents from his office will conduct “an independent investigation” of doctors involved in the LAPD’s ongoing probe of Michael Jackson’s death. With the county coroner having ruled Jackson’s death a homicide, Brown said members of the AG’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement would pursue leads in the case, most likely involving prescription drugs and anesthesia administered to Jackson shortly before his death.

It is the second high-profile criminal matter that Brown has stepped into in recent days.

Calbuzz pleads guilty. . . To writing about Jerry Brown way more as a candidate for governor than as California’s Attorney General.

But when we saw that Crusty the General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, working with the Imperial County Narcotic Task Force, Imperial County District Attorney Otero, and Imperial County Sheriff Raymond Loera, had seized 550 pounds of cocaine and marijuana and indicted 16 people – “dealing a body blow to Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel” – we had to take note.

Not so much of the bust – although that was pretty impressive. But of the groovy name of the joint investigation: “Operation Silver Fox.”

Calbuzz is not making this up. (BNE coined the name, we’re told.) This is what you might call perceptual synchronicity – a perfect harmonic convergence of moniker and monikee, of label and labeled. And it gave the Silver Fox himself a chance to brag.

“This notorious cartel smuggled massive quantities of cocaine and marijuana into Southern California, fueling addiction and violence across the nation,” Brown said. “Through a very dangerous and courageous undercover operation, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and Imperial County Narcotic Task Force has dealt a body blow to this syndicate and seized hundreds of pounds of narcotics.”

According to Jerry’s press release:

“Initiated in January 2009, the investigation found that the Mexican cartel smuggled drugs into Southern California-often through the Calexico ports of entry using vehicles equipped with hidden compartments-and would subsequently distribute the drugs to buyers in cities throughout the United States and Canada.

“The 8-month investigation included more than 100 surveillance operations (carried out in Bell Gardens, Calexico, Colton, Fontana, Los Angeles, Ontario, Pacoima, Rialto, Riverside and San Diego), 30 undercover meetings and the execution of 6 search warrants. The operations resulted in the seizure of: 420 pounds of cocaine and 136 pound
s of marijuana, with a combined street value of more than $19 million; $1.7 million in U.S. currency; and 9 firearms, including 7 handguns and 2 assault rifles.”

They forgot to add:  “And, we got to give it a really cool name.”

stevepointing

It’s On: Accusing Meg Whitman of a “secret smear campaign,” Steve Poizner threw up a new, “myth-busting” web site Thursday, trying to counter a mash-up attack video, quietly shopped to the media by eMeg’s press secretary, that hits him on the issue of early release for felons.

The video, which is here, juxtaposes a clip of Poizner in 2004, when he was running for the Assembly, with audio tape from an interview he did this week with “John and Ken,” hosts of a conservative talk show in L.A. As a legislative candidate, Poizner said it’s reasonable for the state to grant early release to non-violent felons; as a candidate for governor, the Insurance Commish says that it’s a “terrible, terrible idea” and tries to make like John Wayne.

Whitman flack Sarah Pompei sent the video as an attachment to an (as yet) unidentified reporter on Wednesday. Below a subject line reading “Not for attribution” Pompei wrote “Here’s the video I was telling you about over the phone.” At which point the reporter appears to have forwarded it to Poizner flack Jarrod Agen; he smartly splashed Pompei’s email on Poizner’s new web site, under a big honking headline that reads “Meg’s Smear Campaign.”

“Attacks are fine but make them above board,” Agen told Calbuzz. “Whitman’s avoiding debates and interviews, then has this secret campaign going on, which she doesn’t want linked back to her.”

Pompei shrugged off the “secret smear” charge, noting in an email that “this is a very common practice in media relations,” then turned the attack back on Poizner: “Does our opponent really believe he can freely crisscross the state making statements that are completely at odds with his own record – and it wouldn’t be reported.?”

Armed with this set of facts, the Calbuzz Department of Justice and Janitorial Services issues this considered opinion:

1. The attack on Poizner over early release is totally legit, as were Pompei’s actions in pushing it out, but she loses major style points for getting busted on her email.

2. Agen did nice work in moving quickly in trying to make eMeg’s sneaky M.O. the issue instead of Poizner’s flip-flop on early release* but loses minor style points for hyperventilating rhetoric.

3. Props to both of them for not snitching out the reporter.

4. The abiding issue is that Her Megness is still ducking and hiding instead of coming out into the arena and playing the game. If she wants to accuse Poizner of being a flip-flopping weenie, fine, but have the stones to stand up and say it, instead of hiring Inspector Clouseau to plant the evidence.

*For the record, Poizner’s web site explains his change of position this way: “Since he first ran for the State Assembly in 2003, Steve Poizner has learned more about the serious problems facing California’s prisons, and believes that short-term fixes like the early release of inmates from state prisons cannot fundamentally solve our state’s corrections crisis.”

carlyglamourParis, Brit…and Carly? Back when she was, um, leading Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina briefly basked in the adoration of the nation’s business press, which dubbed her a “Celebrity CEO.” Now limbering up for a U.S. Senate run, Hurricane Carly, in a serendipitous turnabout, has hired on Strategic Perceptions Inc., the campaign media consultants who produced the famous “Celebrity” ad for John McCain in last year’s presidential race.

The McCain ad, which is here,  was produced by SPI chief Fred Davis, who performed a lovely work of political ju-jitsu, tagging Barack Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world,” while juxtaposing images of his rock-star trip to Europe with those of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Davis says on his web site that “the spot surpassed one million YouTube views in just 24 hours and instantly changed the national dialogue in that race.” And “The Battle for America 2008,” the terrific, newly published recap of the campaign pretty much affirms that analysis:

“The ad was mocked as petty, a diversion and the latest example of how far McCain had strayed from the kind of campaign he ran either years earlier,” write Washposters Dan Balz and Haynes Johnson. “And yet the commercial worked: It put McCain on offense and, despite the public’s apparent dismissal of the ad, threw the Obama team off its stride.”

Now that Carly the Celebrity is the client, it will be interesting to see what kind of Ju-Jitsu II move Davis devises to inoculate Fiorina against the same kind of charge he used to great effect against Obama. As they like to say over at Fortune magazine,  “flexibility is the key to survival.”

More on Hurricane Herself: The always readable Michael Hiltzik offers a full airing of the “I, Carly” issue in the By God L.A. Times, while a Central Coast Calbuzz correspondent repcalbuzzartorts that the excerpt of her new novel in Dr. H’s column the other day reminds him of the famous line from comic sci-fi writer Douglas Adams: “She looked cool and in charge, and if she could fool herself, she could fool anybody.”

Oh, can’t we open our presents now? As the countdown hits 24 hours, anticipation is building to fever pitch in advance of the big announcement of the Calbuzz New Deal.  See this space Saturday for full details.

3-Dot Thursday: Parsing New Polls and Old Laws

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

seabiscuitLet’s make things perfectly clear: Far be it from us to beat a dead horse – take that, Seabiscuit! – but the Calbuzz Department of Redundancy Department is feeling vindicated – and thus compelled to recall the righteous thrashing we delivered to the off the mark Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll when it proclaimed that the Jerry Brown-Gavin Newsom race was allegedly getting close.

While certain scribes (we name no names) at the time bought the Kos poll hook, line and sinker, Jim Moore’s much-publicized new survey of the Democratic primary race for governor demonstrates that far from “tightening,” Brown has actually increased his June lead over Newsom – when he was ahead 46-to-26 percent – to 49-to-20 percent in August.

The new JMM Research survey is based on actual likely voters, unlike the screwy Kos poll, which apparently used a sample-selection method that only makes sense in some alternate universe.

More on Moore: In June, when respondents were asked “Do you think Gavin Newsom has sufficient skills to be governor?” 41% said yes and 19% said no; in August it came back 39% yes and 29% no. Oops. Worse for the Prince, Brown’s numbers on the same question improved, from 69-to-7% in June to 78-to-10% in August.

Also, in projected match-ups against Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, Brown leads Whitman 42-to 32% and Poizner 45-to 32% while Newsom trails Whitman 34-to-41%. Moore’s gold standard survey interviewed 600 likely voters from the voter list (+/- 4%), including 355 Democrats (+/- 5%).

Chevy Tahoe Hybrid1R

Gas guzzling Gavin: Over at NBC Bay Area, the sharp-eyed Jackson West busts hizzoner for hypocrisy with a dandy little report on Mayor Mother Earth’s new whip:

“San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom might as well tote around town in a bus. His current ride, a Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUV [example shown here for illustration purposes only] equipped with the latest in mobile technology, has a bigger engine than the latest addition to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority’s buses.

With more horsepower than a bus, it’s no wonder that even with the gas-electric hybrid engine, it gets only slightly better mileage than the cutoff for the Federal Cash for Clunkers program.”

Maybe that’s why he’s running on fumes.

What are we missing? Joel Fox is a very nice fella with whom we often disagree on policy, but he may be on to something with his latest suggestion for reform over at Fox and Hounds.

Like all good conservatives, Fox likes that whole Back to the Future thing, in this case, reverting to what the Calbuzz constitutional cognoscenti know as the “Riley-Stewart amendment,” a long-repealed provision that required a two-thirds vote to pass a new budget in the Legislature only in cases when spending increased more than five percent.

A close reading of Riley-Stewart, however, shows the matter is slightly more complex than it appears at first blush.

For one thing, the five percent spending increase was measured over a two-year period – what your framers liked to call your “biennium” – not one year. On the other side of the ledger, however, RS also did not count spending for schools in the measure of increased appropriations.

The matter was researched and reported upon by California historian Amanda Meeker back in the 1990s, the last time constitutional revision was a matter of dinner table conversation in California:

“A major overhaul of the state’s fiscal system occurred in the 1933 with the Riley-Stewart amendment…It provided that funds for the public school system would be set aside before any other appropriations were made, thus making the budget process somewhat less flexible by increasing the percentage of state spending that was constitutionally fixed. The goal of this provision was to shift some of the school tax burden from the counties to the state…

“Most important for the budget process was the provision that general fund appropriations for any biennium, excluding school appropriations, could not exceed by more than 5 percent the appropriations for the previous biennium unless approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature.”

So, at a time when compromise on the two-thirds rule looks as likely as Glenn Beck starting to quote from The Age of Reason, the wily Fox may be pointing to the Third Way.

Call now – don’t lose your place in line: Even as you sit there thinking – Wow, I wish I could get ahold of some Calbuzz mojo and Google juice – our Department of Weights, Measures and Marketing is busy preparing to roll out a splendid new advertising opportunity for companies, campaigns and candidates wanting to cash in on our high-end eyeball stash of what you call your insiders and decision-makers in California politics. Watch this space Saturday for the Calbuzz New Deal.

Ted Kennedy: Remembering a Master Politician

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

TedKennedyBill Carrick, who once served as political director to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, recalls his former boss as a politician who “was obviously a master of big things – and so good at the small things, too”

One of California’s top campaign media consultants, Carrick worked in Kennedy’s failed bid for the presidency in 1980, then as his  political eyes and ears in the Senate office from 1982-87.

He was awakened early Wednesday by a phone call from another ex-aide, informing him the 77-year old Kennedy had died, succumbing to the brain cancer he had fought for more than a year.

“No matter how much you anticipate this stuff,” he said, “it never hits you until it happens.”

Carrick’s first gig in big league politics was running South Carolina and Texas operations for Kennedy’s 1980 challenge to Jimmy Carter, and he recalled how surprised he was upon meeting the Senator for the first time that year.

“The first thing I was struck by was how relaxed and easy he was to talk to,” Carrick said. “You grow up thinking of this iconic figure and then you meet him and think, ‘what a nice man.’”

When he went to work in the Senate office, “the workload was incredible,” he recalled, and no one worked harder than Kennedy.

“He had this big briefcase that everybody called ‘The Bag,’ he said. “And every night he would take home this huge pile of memos, draft bills, schedule requests, everything. And the next day, it would all come back with notes on it. I said, ‘wow, this is a different kind of deal.’

Carrick grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, where his parents were both Democratic activists. BillCarrickSenator Strom Thurmond lived there, too, and they would often run into him at the grocery store, where the ageless Republican would laugh and tell them,” ‘now don’t hurt me too much.’”

So in January 1983, when Kennedy grabbed him and told him to come along to a swearing-in reception being hosted by Thurmond, Carrick objected, saying that the arch-conservative Senator knew his family and that they had always opposed him politically.

“You’re my South Carolina man, you have to come with me,” Kennedy responded. “So what if you never voted for him – I never voted with him either.”

“Then he worked this whole room of South Carolinians, and Strom was, of course, incredibly flattered that “my friend Teddy” was there,” Carrick said.

While Kennedy was best known for big achievements – the Americans with Disabilities Act, his “the dream will never die” speech, his lifelong fight for health care legislation – his actions in more private matters showed his concern for people was not just a political pose, he said.

For example, when two colleagues, the late Senators John Sherman Cooper and Frank Church, were both suffering from long-term illnesses, “he’d drive out of his way into Georgetown and visit each of them once a week.”

“He had a special compassion for people who were sick or dealing with death,” Carrick added.

He got a first-hand taste of Kennedy’s personal touch in 2007, when a huge wildfire raged in Griffith Park, not far from Carrick’s Los Angeles home.

“I’m sitting there and the phone rings and he says, ‘I’m watching CNN – that’s a helluva’ fire – how close is it to you? I was getting worried.’”

kennedy brothersAs a political matter, the former Kennedy aide believes the Senator’s greatest strength was “his strong sense of the country” – a full understanding of the concerns and interests of colleagues from every state, forged by his personal background, his own presidential campaign and that of his assassinated brothers.

“He was always able to get everyone into the room and get them to talk together,” he said. “He had a real understanding of the country and I don’t think there’s a lot of that left.”

Another top political consultant we spoke to today — San Jose-bred Joe Trippi (who’s working with Jerry Brown on a possible campaign for governor) — also got his start in the big leagues working for Kennedy’s 1980 campaign and then at his Fund for a Democratic Majority. The last time Trippi  saw Kennedy was in his Senate office last Spring where, as he was leaving after a long visit, he turned and told his mentor, “You changed my life.” Trippi said he’s forever grateful he got that chance.

Dr. Hackenflack Returns: Special Carly Edition

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

dr-hackenflackCalbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack has been on a leave of absence, serving as a special consultant on health care reform to Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. He returns today to catch up on the Old Mailbag and answer reader questions on some recent political developments.

Dear Dr. Hackenflack,
I see that former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is running for the U.S. Senate and wondered why she’s known as “Hurricane Carly”?
– M. Whitman, Silicon Valley
Wherever she goes, she leaves destruction in her wake.

Attention: Dr. P.J. Hackenflack,
I thought the Calbuzz reference to Senator Kent Conrad as “a four-eyed, hose-nosed twit” very nearly almost came close to bordering on incivility. How do you respond?
– Earnest Bill, Superior, Wisc.
You should have seen it before the copy desk toned it down.

My Dearest Dr. Hackenflack,
I’ve enjoyed Senator Abel Maldonado’s fascinating tweets about what he eats during late-night legislative sessions but would like some information about what Assemblyman Chuck Devore does for snacks?
– Julia C., Montecito
Generally, he just chews on Carly Fiorina’s ankle.

Yo Hack!
Garry South said that Jerry Brown has had “more positions than the Kama Sutra.” What’s his favorite one?
– Ms. Cosmo, N.Y. N.Y.
Loosely translated it ‘s “Old Gray Stallion Trots to the Left Then Gallops to the Right,” according to Calbuzz’s Department of Sanskrit Documentation.

Dear Colleague: Is it true Steve Poizner recently had surgery?
– B. Casey, M.D., Hollywood
Yes. I’m happy to report he’s recovering nicely from a charisma bypass.

Dr. H,
I understand that as S.F. mayor, Gavin Newsom ignores and blows off the Board of Supervisors. What does that portend for how he’ll deal with the Legislature as Governor?
– Aaron P., Civic Center
How he’ll deal with the WHAT?

Mein Lieber Herr Hackenflack,
A friend of mine compared Carly Fiorina to Marie Antoinette. What in the world could these two have in common?
– Deborah B., Sacramento
Neither of them ever voted. Zut alors!

Doc,
I heard on the street that Meg Whitman is running her own campaign,  modeled on Lincoln’s 1858 Senate race. What’s her expert opinion on how Abe managed his election operation?
– Fleischman Flash, Gettsyburg, Pa.
She’s sure he blundered by agreeing to all those pesky debates with that guy Douglas.

Dear Mr. Big Shot Shrink,
So Tom Campbell says he should be governor cuz he’s a big brain Chicago School economist who trained with Milton Friedman. Big deal – I wonder how many of those guys it takes to change a light bulb.
– A. Bunker, Queens
None. If the light bulb needed changing the market would have already done it.

To whom it may concern,
I can’t thank you enough for publishing that short sample of Barbara Boxer’s new novel, which I greatly admired for its literary quality. Do you perchance have an excerpt of the roman a clef Carly Fiorina is supposedly writing?
– Bulwer Lytton, Knobworth House
Sure: “Cara Sneed caught an approving glimpse of herself in the glass reflection of the post office window. “Yum, you look good, girl,” she chuckled with amusement to herself.

Entering through the entrance door, she caught the admiring glimpse that the shabby tech geek standing on line gave her, and imagined to herself a little thought balloon bouncing in the air above his head – “Whoa, she looks good – I bet that woman can move some digital printers.” Then she softly tee-heed once again to herself.

She gently slipped her absentee ballot into the yawing maw of the patriotically colored mail box, and pivoted gracefully on her strappy Manolos to saunter out through the door, when a sudden flash of dread struck her in the tummy.

“Oh no,” she thought, “I forgot to put a stamp on it again.”