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Archive for 2010



Calbuzz in the News on the Central Coast

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

After Calbuzz was named in the top 50 most influential forces in Sacramento by Capitol Weekly, KSBW-TV stopped by on Sunday to pick our brain — or what little of it there is to pick — about the state of politics in California. You can watch it here.

Meyer on Meg & Goldman Sachs; Press Clips

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

All the news that fits: Today’s Tom Meyer take on ‘eMeg’s Goldman Sachs connection offers some insight into the potential of the campaign issue that the billionaire business background of Her Megness hands to Jerry Brown; one sign of how effective the matter may be is the energy that Team Whitman is devoting to flogging Dan Walters’s oldie but goodie saga of Crusty’s financial connections to Indonesian oil.  And speaking of money and politics, LA Timesman Michael Rothfeld’s examination of when, exactly, eMeg became a candidate and what spending she should be required to report is a first-rate piece of campaign enterprise reporting.

Is that a spoon stuck up your nose or are you just happy to see me? Chroniclers Phil Matier and Andy Ross did a fine piece of Actual Reporting that offers a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes political calculations of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, whose aspirations to become attorney general are hardly helped by the widening drug lab scandal in the city, where hundreds of felony cases have been put at risk because a veteran police lab technician kept sniffing up all the evidence.

Harris, who insists she knew nothin’ about nothin’ for months after the top drug prosecutor in her office wrote a memo warning of the problems at the lab, has now booted the whole mess to AG Brown, because her ability to handle many of these cases has been compromised after many prosecutors were interviewed by the cops investigating the matter.

Harris is supposedly a strong front-runner in the crowded Democratic AG’s race, but the case of the mysterious disappearing cocaine, coupled with her starring role in releasing illegal immigrants charged with felonies into a jobs program  leads us to wonder if her campaign slogan will soon be:  “Kamala Harris – The Only D.A. FOR Crime.”

Don’t miss: Tony Quinn probably knows more about reapportionment than anyone else in California, and his splendid Fox and Hounds piece about the sleazy machinations involved in the Democrats’ attempt to repeal the Proposition 11 redistricting reform is a must read…Amid Abel Maldonado’s belated confirmation as lieutenant governor, it’s worth taking a second look at the well researched LAT op-ed by Garry South, who notes that it’s been 40 years since an appointed statewide official in California was elected to the office for which he had been tapped…We refuse to be the last to comment on our old friend Mark Leibovich’s superb profile of Mike Allen, star reporter for Politico , which has been dissected by at least 8 zillion blogs before it’s even been published as this Sunday’s NYT mag cover piece, but we do suggest you check out the yarn by Allen’s colleagues Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin deflating the media bubble around the Tea Party.

Sometimes a good read is just a good read: It’s got nothing to do with politics or media but N.R. Kleinfield’s piece on doormen in New York is just a lovely gem of feature writing that’s worth a read, as is Hudson Sangree’s atmospheric offering in the Sacbee on the Welcome Grove Lodge.

Just because: This is the greatest baseball play we’ve seen this season.

Kaboom! And a Happy Earth Day to You, Too!

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

It may be a tad early to assess the political impacts of the explosion and sinking of an BP oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, but it seems safe to say that the horrific images of the disaster won’t speed up the cause of the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project in California.

The strange bedfellow alliance among and between Governor Arnold, several Santa Barbara environmental groups and the Houston-based oil company PXP recently re-launched their effort to resurrect the project, after it was turned down by the State Lands Commission and the Legislature last year.

Now, the metastasizing oil spill*** in the Gulf of Mexico, and the apparent loss of the lives of at least 11 oil workers that followed a blow-out on a rig on Tuesday night – Earth Day – provide a sudden and grim reminder of the high stakes of offshore drilling.

The T-Ridge plan calls for the lands commission to award PXP a lease to drill in state waters, the first since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, from an existing platform in federal waters. Environmentalists on both sides of the internecine warfare over the issue insist that their position represents the  best way to prevent more spills like that now engulfing the Gulf.

In the move that split old alliances and fractured California’s environmental community, local groups in Santa Barbara have pushed the T-Ridge plan as a way to trade more drilling in the short run for less in the long run, exchanging their political support for a PXP lease to slant drill into state waters for the oil company’s legal promise – which they insist is ironclad – to cease all drilling from four federal platforms in the area within 14 years.

Amid all the political, legal and financial wrangling over the issue for the past two years, it’s hard to imagine a more powerful argument against  drilling than that presented by pictures of firefighters vainly battling the deadly and violent blaze that sunk the oil rig. It’s worth noting that the T-Ridge platform is located just over three miles from shore, far closer to land than the  Deepwater Horizon rig that sank about 50  miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Many backers of the governor’s proposal have argued that oil drilling operations have undergone huge technological advancements in the past 40 years, making unlikely a massive spill like that poisoned the Santa Barbara Channel in 1969.

Among those who have embraced the technology-makes-it-safe argument are Republican wannabe governor Steve Poizner and his front-running rival, Meg Whitman.

“When I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling,” Whitman told reporters in Santa Barbara last year, “and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells.”

For the record, Jerry Brown does not support the T-Ridge proposal. As Attorney General, and the lawyer for the State Lands Commission, Brown’s staff recommended that the commission reject PXP’s project last year. As a candidate, Brown “does not believe off-shore drilling is the answer to our problems,” said campaign flack Sterling Clifford.

*Update: Early fears of huge spill may be unfounded.

**Update II (4/24): Now they’ve found an underwater leak a senior Coast Guard official describes as “a game changer.”

***Update III (4/27): Spill now 40 miles X 50 miles - so much for “unfounded” fears.

****Update IV (4/29): Send in the Marines.

FYI: The Associated Press reports “Since 2001, there have been 69 offshore deaths, 1,349 injuries and 858 fires and explosions in the gulf, according to the Minerals Management Service. ”

Weed whacker alert: In order to jump start the T-Ridge proposal, PXP needs to file a new application for a hearing before the lands commission and, so far, has not done so, SLC executive officer Paul Thayer told Calbuzz.

Thayer said that the commission staff, analyzed a revised version of the agreement between PXP and the Environmental Defense Center several months ago. The commission rejected the original proposal last year and still has problems with it, despite some improvements, he said.

The “beneficial aspect” of the new agreement it reviewed is that it strengthens the state’s ability to intervene legally if PXP does not honor its terms, he said. But the final authority over end dates for drilling from facilities in federal waters still rests with the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service, not the state: “Ultimately, MMS controls what’s going on out there.”

Thayer also cited the “precedental value” of the existing 41-year old prohibition against any new drilling leases in state waters, which has been in force since the 1969 Santa Barbara spill.

“California’s congressional delegation has made use of that,” in fighting against expansion of drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, he said.

P.S. Kudos to KQED’s John Myers for getting Abel Maldonado on the record about his stance on T-Ridge this week, in advance of his confirmation vote for lieutenant governor, a post from which he gets a deciding vote on the project on the lands commission.

Live from the California Nurses Association: Queen Meg!

The latest in guerrilla theater from the CNA, Queen Meg, escorts, a horse-drawn carriage and a proclamation that reads:
“In honor of her $150 million campaign treasury, the people of California do hereby crown Meg Whitman as Queen Meg of California.  Her husband Griffith Harsh IV is crowned Prince Griffith of Palo Alto, and the Whitman-Harsh royal motto shall be ‘Healthcare for the nobility, Education for the few, Prisons for all.’”

New Polls: Poizner Inching Up, Tom Beating Carly

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

It’s not much to bank on, but Steve “The Commish” Poizner appears to have knocked eMeg Whitman down below 50% of the vote in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, according to a new public poll.

Following surveys in March from the Field Poll and the Public Policy Institute of California, both of which showed Whitman with better than 60% of the vote, a public poll by Capitol Weekly – this time with Republican and Democratic pollsters collaborating – finds eMeg leading The Commish 47-to-19%.

In addition, the Capitol Weekly survey found Tom Campbell solidly leading the GOP race for U.S. Senate, with 31% of the vote, ahead of Hurricane Carly Fiorina at 17% and Chuck DeVore, R-Stonehenge, at 14%, by far the strongest showing to date by the Orange County legislator.

“The good news for Jerry (Brown) is that Meg’s going to have to sweat this out,” said Ben Tulchin, the Democratic consultant on the poll. “In the Senate race. Fiorina is going to have to start bashing Campbell – she’s running out of time.”

There’s also a Rasmussen Poll – which Calbuzz dislikes because they do robo-calling and don’t disclose their methods – that shows Democrat Crusty the General Brown running ahead of eMeg in a November contest. More intriguing was Rasmussen’s finding that seven in 10 voters like Brown’s idea for three-way pre-primary debates with Whitman and Poizner.

Now, those numbers in the GOP governor’s race might not be much to brag on. But that didn’t stop Team Poizner Communications Director Jarrod Agen:

“Meg Whitman’s candidacy was always like one of those French soufflés one of her private chefs would cook up on her private jet — full of expensive air and destined to deflate.  All of Meg’s Goldman Sachs riches can’t convince California Republicans that we need a Barbara Boxer supporter as our nominee.  The numbers are moving as we expected, which means in this year’s general election Republicans will finally get a chance to vote for a Republican for Governor.”

The Whitman people – claiming that their internal polling has the race 55-24% for eMeg — smell desperation wafting out of the Poizner camp.

“In February, Steve Poizner had a favorable rating of only 15% and an unfavorable rating of 10%. Now, Steve Poizner’s favorable to unfavorable rating is 26% to 30%. For every one Republican voter that became positive to Steve Poizner two Republicans became negative,” wrote Whitman pollster John McLaughlin in a survey analysis.

“The fact of the matter is that Republican primary voters personally like Meg Whitman and when they get to know Poizner, they just dislike him. For that reason alone winning the Republican primary for Steve Poizner is hopeless and pointless,” McLaughlin said.

Conservative pollster Adam Probolsky surveyed 751  registered voters with a past history of voting April 10-13. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7%. Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin of San Francisco consulted on the survey, ensuring a partisan balance.

While the survey – based on a projected June primary electorate — did not include November match-ups, the pollsters did ask this question:

“Thinking about the economy and jobs, which candidate for Governor do you think would do the best job?”  Interestingly, Brown – a career politician — pulled 32.5%, compared to 30.5% for Whitman and 9.2% for Poizner – both of them Silicon Valley business veterans.

Predictably, 53% of the Democrats gave Brown the edge on the economy and jobs, compared to 14% for Whitman and 4% for Poizner. Among Republicans it was 54% for Whitman, 18% of Poizner and 7% for Brown.

But among independents and others it was 29% for Brown, 25% for Whitman and 6% for Poizner suggesting that — for whatever reason — when party is not a factor, voters appear to trust Brown more than the two business executives on the economy and jobs. At least for now.

Said Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford, with a touch of glee:  “There’s only one candidate in the race who’s actually guided the state through a recessionary period and who, in eight years, helped create 1.9 million jobs.”

Calbuzz Snubbed in GOP Debate; Payback Looms

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

This just in: Calbuzz was not chosen to be on the panel of reporters in the Great Debate between Republican candidates for governor Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner. We’re shocked – shocked! -  outraged and distraught. Cold revenge is on the menu.

For now, the debate is scheduled for 2 pm Sunday, May 2 at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, with KQED’s John Myers as moderator and panelists Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle, Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune, Jack Chang of the Sacramento Bee, Michael Blood of the Associated Press and Santiago Lucero of Univision. A solid enough lineup except for, well, you know . . .

Now Poizner is tweaking Whitman by arguing that she’s trying to limit exposure, and the California Accountability Project, sourcing a KTVU-TV report, is suggesting eMeg is lying about who picked the time. According to Sam Rodriguez at Comcast, the actual start time is still being discussed – by the campaigns.

Not that it’ll make much difference. Comcast is going to make the coordinates available to any TV station that wants them and they can broadcast it whenever they want to; Comcast will air it live on its Hometown Network, where it will be replayed many times; the California Channel is scheduled to air it live, as will others. Whether it’s at 2 pm or 5 pm on a Sunday makes little difference. More people will see it in the clips and the re-broadcast than will see it live no matter when it airs.

Why? Because it’s a “debate” between Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman ferheavensakes!

Which is why, for the entertainment value alone, Calbuzz is rooting for Jerry Brown’s drive – with a petition campaign started about 5 pm Sunday – to get eMeg to agree to join him and Steve in a series of three-way debates. Now that could be fun to watch.

So far, Meg’s not budging. (And why should she, really?) Even though Brown had racked up 4,500 signatures in the first 24 hours. “We’re hoping eventually to get 100 signatures for every million Meg Whitman has spent on her campaign,” said Brown flack Sterling Clifford. “We have 1,400 to go.”

Press clips – rant of the week: When we launched Calbuzz a little over a year ago, our Department of Churning It Out and Doing It Daily wrote that our role models were “Boys on the Bus” Hall of Fame partners Jules Witcover and Jack Germond (as noted at the time, we had little choice but to view ourselves as “the fat man in the middle seat,” the title of one of Germond’s campaign memoirs).

So we were delighted to find an online version of a dead-trees-and-ink column by Witcover, bringing his famed analytic powers  to the task of dissecting, um, online journalism.

Taking as his point of departure the recent announcement that the Library of Congress intends to start archiving hundreds of million of Twitter tweets, Witcover thundered against the evils of modernity, weaving into his screed the disgraceful case of CBSNews.com fronting a blog post that contained a quickly discredited assertion that Solicitor General and possible Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian:

The tweet, which seems too often to be an unedited burp from the mouth of a diner overfed with trivia, strikes me as a poor cousin of the blog, that unlimited and too often also unedited vomiting of opinion, diatribe, rumor or just plain bigotry and hate.

The magazine Wired quoted one Matt Raymond, identified as the Library of Congress’ blogger, saying: “I’m no Ph.D., but it boggles my mind to think what we might be able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from this wealth of data.” One also can only wonder, however, what we might be able to learn from more fully expressed ideas, particularly when submitted to responsible, professional editing…

When rumor, prospective slander, libel or just plain inaccuracy gets through, the credibility of all journalism suffers.

We have no argument with our hero on that point. Despite Witcover’s lament that it was otherwise, however, the plain fact is that in the Wild West world of new media, it’s the content consumer who’s running the show, not the content provider. So the bottom line is: let the buyer beware, while the market sorts it all out.

Three reasons we love newspapers: Margot Roosevelt’s report detailing the big bucks efforts of oil giants Valero, Tesoro and Occidental Petroleum to qualify an initiative rolling back AB 32;  fellow LATimeser George Skelton’s takedown of PG&E over Proposition 16, its outrageously phony rip-off measure that would enshrine a monopoly for the utility under the guise of the “taxpayer’s right to vote act”;  the SacBee’s Kevin Yamamura’s smart takeout on eMeg Whitman’s proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax, likely to become a campaign issue.

Three reasons we love the Internets: The Oracle of Cruickshank’s trenchant, from-the-left post-game analysis of the Democratic convention over at Calitics;  Steve Malanga’s from-the-right indictment of the role of public employee unions in California’s budget mess, at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal;  Danielle Crittendon’s ordinary folks look at what a shameful dog-and-pony wheeze Sarah Palin performs for big bucks in the hinterlands

We wish we’d said that: Better late than never kudos to Chronicler Debra Saunders for a clear-eyed look at the dust-up at San Jose’s Mt. Pleasant High School over Steve Poizner’s memoir of the year he spent teaching there.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Jamie Jungers and Bombshell McGree, together again.