Archive for 2010



Independence Day: Happy Birthday to Cool Calvin

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

On this, the 234th anniversary of our nation’s breakaway, Calbuzz gives a big shout out to Calvin Coolidge, the only president born on the Fourth of July.

Sure, Cal  (July 4, 1872-Jan. 4, 1933) had his share of controversies, what with calling out the militia to smash a police strike in Boston, vetoing anti-Prohibition legislation and that whole usher-in-the-Depression laissez faire government thing.

But how you can dis a guy whose biographer says he “represents the genius of the average,” who was both the first president to deliver a speech on radio and the first to appear in a film with sound, and who also held more press conferences  – 529 – than any president before or since.

All that multi-media stuff belies his reputation as “Silent Cal,” as do historic reports of his pretty good sense of humor.

As the story goes, the satirist and professional smart ass Dorothy Parker once sat next to him at a dinner, and announced, “Mr. Coolidge, I’ve made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you.” To which our guy famously replied: “You lose.”

Parker got back at Coolidge a few years later, though, when a reporter asked for her reaction to the news that he had died: “How can they tell?” she said.

So, as we throw another knockwurst on the barbie, inhaling our 13th or 14th Red Stripe as July 4th blends into the early morning hours of July 5than extra Monday holiday! – we’ll lift a couple for not-so-Silent Cal.

Happy Independence Day(s) from Calbuzz.

P.S. This extraordinary series of images reminds us that until all creatures are liberated from the tyranny of man, none of us will truly be free.

Jerry Brown Sex Scandal Meets eMeg’s Pixel Dust

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

This just in – 34 years after the fact.

Former White House Press Secretary and  Calbuzz old friend Mike McCurry on Thursday revealed that his first job in politics was working for Jerry Brown’s 1976 stop-Jimmy Carter campaign for president in New Jersey, where Mike had just graduated from Princeton.

McCurry shared some juicy dish from those long-ago days, as he held forth at Brews & Views, the micro-public affairs forum that Lenny Mendoca of McKinsey and Co. organizes at his Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

It was kind of a homecoming for McCurry, who used to fish off the Pillar Point Pier in nearby Princeton-by-the Sea when he was a San Carlos teenager at the late Ravenswood High School. Sipping a  Mavericks and answering questions, he noted that his first political gig included picking up Brown one morning at his hotel, where there was a bit of a stir because the bachelor California governor had had a sleep-over visitor in his room: Linda Ronstadt.

How synchronous that Jerry’s young driver would one day go on to serve as press secretary for Bill Clinton, against whom Brown would also run in 1992, and with whom Krusty famously nearly came to blows during a presidential debate.

My page views are bigger than your page views: Must read of the week is Ken McLaughlin’s take out on Meg Whitman’s extensive use of new technology tools, the best piece we’ve read detailing the scope and specifics of how Team eMeg is adapting them for campaign purposes.

Most intriguing to us is their practice of live streaming video from Brown’s campaign events back to their headquarters, which enables them to respond in real time to his every flip, flop and foible; coincidentally, Ken’s piece ran the same day we reported on Krusty’s caterwauling about being constantly recorded by the Empire of Meg, a wheeze that underscores the considerable distance between the communications capabilities of the Democrat and Republican candidates.

The former eBay CEO’s carpet-bombing of the airwaves generated the most political buzz during her $80 million march to victory over Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. But behind the scenes, her campaign served as a laboratory for new technology that will be unleashed against her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, in the months leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

A glimpse into Whitman’s tech spending is startling: The latest campaign expenditure reports show she had spent $2.7 million through May 22 on website development and information technology alone — seven times more than Brown spent on his entire campaign.

“The incredible amount of money Whitman is spending allows her to buy every bell and whistle ever invented,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political science professor. “And it fosters the perception that Jerry Brown is late to the party.”

Gee, we must have missed his arrival.

Jack Chang’s good yarn comparing and contrasting the two campaign’s ops  touched some of the same ground, but was most notable for the extraordinary exertions of Tucker Bounds, who actually portrayed Her Megness – presumably with a straight face – as the leader of “a movement.”

We’ve been innovative in the way we communicate, and that’s a product of the campaign trying to be as effective as possible in building support for what we see as a movement type of candidate,” said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

He’s right, of course: listening to Meg, we can almost the strains of Dr. King: “Rich at last, rich at last, thank God Almighty, I’m obscenely rich at last.”

There he goes being thoughtful again: NYU’s Jay Rosen is one of the most imaginative, original and articulate thinkers about the future of the news industry, and the intersection of new media, old media and politics, and his recent essay, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: On the actual ideology of the American press,” despite its windy title, is worth a read for newsroom rats and political hacks alike.

Rosen rejects the clashing conventional wisdoms of the political right and left, that hold that political reporters are either a) liberal ideologues or b) corporate handmaidens, in favor of a perspective and vocabulary that examines the press as tribal creatures far more interested in the values and good opinions of peer members of what he calls “the church of the savvy” than any  belief system based on mere politics.

The Church of the Savvy…is my name for the actual belief system that prevails in political journalism….

Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passon, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. As I wrote on Twitter the other day, “the savvy don’t say: I have a better argument than you… They say: I am closer to reality than you. And more mature.”

Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.

Calbuzz sez check it out.

Seema seems everywhere: The ubiquitous Seema Mehta penned the best analysis of the whys and wherefores of Whitman picking a fight with the California Nurses Association as the forward shot of a broader attack to scapegoat unions as the source of most of California’s problems.

Laden with foreshadowing is the kicker of the piece, a strong quote from SacDem consultant Gale Kaufman, who led labor’s successful beat back of  Governor Schwarzmuscle’s attempt to make the same play back in 2005:

“She’s very used to getting her own way, and she’s used to buying things. Those two parts of her personality have become pretty clear during this campaign,” Kaufman said. “She just assumes that somehow if she bullies the unions, the unions are going to back off. Well, she doesn’t know the nurses, because they never back off.”

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: White House press corps goes completely native.

Fishwrap: Jerry as Mel Brooks; eMeg’s Nose Grows

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Not since the supermarket scanner flummoxed George Bush I in 1992 has a politician worked as hard as Jerry Brown to make sense of the here and now.

Given his ’90s retro web site and his campaign’s Geezer Speed attack response team, of course, it’s not surprising that the 2000-year old man is just now hearing that in the 21st century, political rivals send operatives out to record campaign events of their foes – and then put them on the internets! Can you say “macaca”?

Krusty got sandbagged this week, when Team eMeg sent a spy to one of his speeches. The plant captured him foolishly saying he doesn’t want to “rock the boat” as governor and then promptly posted to it to You Tube, a Whitman tactic about which he complained in his weekly on-air interview with KGO-radio:

She’s very good at recording. Everywhere I go, she has one of her little kind of unidentifiable gnomes that have their iPhone and they pop it up and they put it up on their Internet. Everywhere I go, it goes directly into her campaign. It’s kind of an eerie feeling, but I’m getting used to it.

Hold the phone, ma! What’s next – electric movin’ pitchurs that come right into the house?

P.S. Props to Seema Mehta of the By God LA Times for catching Krusty’s comments on KTTV’s “Good Day LA,” including this gem about why he opposes the legalization of marijuana:  “We got to compete with China, and if everybody’s stoned, how the hell are we going to make it?”

eMeg’s latest lies: Fortunately for Brown, at least some of the mysteries of the world of online digital content are working in his favor. On Friday, Fact Check.org, the web’s premier political verisimilitude verification outfit, gave a big thumbs down to “Legacy of Failure,” Whitman’s latest 60-second attack ad on him.

Financed by the Annenberg Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, and honchoed by the terrific investigative reporter Brooks Jackson, the site flatly declares that “Meg Whitman’s attack ad fails to tell the truth.”

Citing 29 independent sources, Fact Check reports that a number of the claims made in the Whitman are simply untrue, while others are taken way out of context, a practice we call “lying with the facts.”

Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown Jr., the Democratic candidate for governor of California, has been involved in politics for more than four decades. And it’s all been a “failure,” according to an ad from Meg Whitman, his GOP opponent. But it’s Whitman who fails when it comes to the facts.

Jeez, paired with Meg’s previous Pinocchio performance, this latest is almost enough to make you think there is something to that eMeg-Goebbels comparison that Brown rather unfortunately raised a few weeks back, a notion not lost on the ever-resourceful comedy writer Chris Kelly.

But what analogy should Brown have used? On the one hand, comparing people to Nazis is kind of ignorant and shrill (see Beck, Glenn) on the other hand, when you’re looking for an example of someone putting a lot of time, money and effort into repeating a set of lies for political gain, J. Goebbels is your almost-too-obvious go-to.

Kelly’s intriguing answer to the essay question – Whitman and Goebbels – compare and contrast – may be found here.

We’re sorry we brought the whole thing up: Calbuzz didn’t really mean to stir up a tea time tempest when we reported – and then retracted – Brown’s false claim that he had “sold” the state plane during his first stint as governor (h/t Dan Walters).

But after the Stone Agers’ favorite blog belatedly picked up on our correction, and the Minions of Meg started bashing Krusty for claiming credit for a budget-saving measure actually taken by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, the reliable Anthony York was forced to come in and clean up the whole mess on the L.A. Times site.

York got it almost right. He correctly reported that while Reagan sold the plane, Brown ended the state’s lease for it, giving Krusty leave to parse the matter by saying he “got rid of the jet,” but incorrectly identified the broadcaster who voiced the incorrect factoid in a long-ago TV story about Brown; it’s Morley Safer, not Walter Cronkite whose stentorian tones may be heard on the disputed tape at the center of the kerfuffle.

Quick hits:

It’s an undeniable fact that Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga have never been spotted in the same room.

Our hero Dale Peterson suddenly finds himself with some high firepower competition for best ad of the year.

Life in imitation of art: John Boehner fights the tyranny of the tanning tax.

Bad Quote Duel: Brown & Burton Meet eMeg & Ron

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

From  the accounts we’ve seen, GOP state chairman Ron Nehring had it all over Democratic party chief John Burton at their mano-a-mano insult fest at the Sacramento Press Club this week.

That’s not entirely surprising, of course, given that the tightly wound Republican enjoys two, big natural advantages over his unwound rival: 1) Nehring is actually capable of speaking in complete sentences and 2) he’s not battling a heartbreaking case of  Tourette Syndrome.

While Nehring bashed Democrats Barbara Boxer and and Jerry Brown with some pretty good lines — “When Boxer was first elected to Congress in 1982, ‘The A-Team’ was a TV show and not in a movie, and I think Jerry Brown’s registration card was in Roman numerals” — Burton criticized GOP wannabe governor eMeg Whitman for being over-reliant on consultants by proving anew that bad taste costs no more: “I don’t know if she’s alone when she goes to the bathroom.”

Yuk yuk.

And when Nehring, 40, argued that because the diverse Republican statewide ticket looks more like California’s population, “the political jet streams will be in our favor,” in the November election, the 112-year old Burton responded with this gas-bag, head-scratching pronouncement:

Changes of winds and winds of change, who the hell knows where the wind goes. It tends to change. Do you ever watch the weather report? The wind’s coming here, but they go there?

Yeah, well, there is that.

Krunching Krusty: More troubling for Democrats than the latest creaky performance of their, um, grizzled leader, was a stinging comment Nehring made about Brown, which seemed to us to carry considerable political resonance:

Nehring said he’s not surprised Brown is calling for a number of debates.

“If I was Jerry Brown, I’d do anything I could to hit the reset button as often as I could,” Nehring said. “He’s the de facto incumbent. The guy’s gotta do something to change the direction of the campaign. Quirkiness is not a strategy. It’s not working for him so far.”

Indeed.

As if on cue, Brown uncorked a series of oddball utterances that not only underlined the point about the inherent weakness of strategic quirkiness, but also handed eMeg some fresh material with which to attack him as the same old same old and position herself as the agent of change.

In a Tuesday address to the California District Attorney’s Association, Brown, for reasons that remain unclear, portrayed himself as the defender of the status quo, recalling a conversation he had during his first turn as governor with the late, long-serving state senator Randolph Collier:

When I was up there reforming and upsetting the apple cart, he said, “Young man, why do you stir all these things up?”…He said, “Don’t stir things up,” he said “Don’t try to make too many changes”…

I can’t remember his exact words, but it was “Don’t rock the boat,” and you know, there’s a lot of wisdom to that. There is. Now I’ll rock it a little bit because you got to get it on an even keel.

Don’t rock the boat? Really? In a year when veteran politicians are only slightly less popular than rabid skunks,  Mr. New Age Future Lies Ahead wants to run on a platform of “Don’t Rock the Boat”?

Oy.

The Empire struck back within moments of the comment with a volcanic eblast attacking Brown for having “no plans to shake up the status quo.” The eMegs jumped him with the same play Wednesday, when he again left himself wide open to the charge that he’s a status quo insider, as he was pressed in a TV interview for specifics of how he would address the budget mess.

As previously, Brown responded to the line of questioning with nothing but tired bromides about getting all the legislators in a room and going through the budget line by line blah blah blah, ending with this exchange with CNBC’s Jane Wells:

When will we get a specific plan?
Well the plan is to go over each item of the budget.
But when will we…
That is the plan. The plan is the process.

Ah. Yes, it all makes sense now:

The plan is the process.
The process is the plan.
I am the walrus.
Goo goo g’joob.

eMeg plays go fetch: Not to be outdone by any measure, Whitman held up her end of the inane comment sweepstakes, when she was asked at a Roseville event what she would do as governor, after she criticized lawmakers for taking their summer break with the budget unresolved.

Whitman also said all lawmakers should stay in Sacramento during the upcoming July recess and forgo their per diem. Legislative leaders have said they will likely send most legislators home during the break – without per diem – while the budget committee and leaders hash out the budget.

“What I would do is take this Legislature and say, ‘OK, 10 of you go find money here, 10 go find money here, 10 go find money here,’ ” Whitman said.

By golly, our Meg’s got it! We can hear the Democratic leadership already: “We’ll solve the budget crisis by having a treasure hunt! Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Hurrah for Meg!”

Or not.

And don’t call me chief! Senator Barbara Boxer won a procedural victory Wednesday, when her Environment and Public Works Committee moved legislation she favors to remove the liability cap on oil companies that cause spills.

But Republican rival Carly Fiorina’s backers on Capitol Hill were gleefully sending around this excerpt from the hearing, which they see as standing up their argument that Babs is an arrogant, ideologically isolated player who even alienates members of her own party, as evidenced by 1) fellow Democrat and Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus lecturing her with a not very subtle jab for pandering legislation that is more “message” than substance and 2) Herself responding by putting on a most frightful version of her best Don’t-Call-Me-Ma’am frown.

Daily Kos Pollster Busted; The Shame of Lara Logan

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

We’re sorry to say Calbuzz was not all that surprised to hear that Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas on Tuesday announced he plans to sue Maryland based pollster Research 2000 for fraud, charging, in essence, that surveys the firm did for the liberal blog were cooked.

Loyal readers will recall that last summer, in a post jointly published in the Los Angeles Times, Calbuzz threw gallons of cold water on a Survey 2000 poll for Daily Kos that said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had pulled within nine points of Attorney General Jerry Brown in what was then a primary campaign for governor.

We noted then, among other problems, that the Survey 2000 poll had a screwy method of deciding who was a registered voter – including some voodoo statistical dancing and prancing to supplement their list of voters with “self-identified” Dems and Reeps.

So Markos is surely on solid ground when he says: “We were defrauded by Research 2000, and while we don’t know if some or all of the data was fabricated or manipulated beyond recognition, we know we can’t trust it.”

That’s how we felt about the Daily Kos results back in May, which had Jerry Brown’s favorable/unfavorable at 48-43% and Meg Whitman’s at 47-38%. It just made no sense.

We have, in the Calbuzz library, a copy of Michael Wheeler’s important 1976 book titled “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics,” which owes its title to a saying attributed to both Benjamin Disraeli and Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics.”

But since at least half of us has worked in the polling business, we know it’s possible to field public opinion surveys that actually measure public opinion. On the other hand, we also know there are some people who claim to be pollsters who really are hucksters. Looks like Daily Kos bought into one of them.

Toldja II: We’re also sorry that it didn’t take long for our prophecy to be fulfilled  about the journalism geniuses in Washington pulling a Lord of the Flies number on Michael Hastings, whose superb Rolling Stone report about Afghanistan instantly rebooted the national debate over the longest war in U.S. history.

Because Hastings, a mere freelancer, managed in the process to skunk and show up all the sycophantic, self-important establishment reporters on the beat, they naturally had to try and make him look bad, with Howard Kurtz,  high priest of the temple of MSM Beltway journalism, leading the charge.

Kurtz is a walking conflict of interest who gets paid by the Washpost to cover media affairs, including those involving CNN, his other employer.   Conveniently for CNN, they also pay the oleaginous Kurtz for hosting “Reliable Sources,” a Sunday morning gab fest about the media, and a powerful pulpit that he used this week to undercut the legitimacy of Hastings’ reporting.

The show began with a long distance interview with Hastings, who was then still in Afghanistan, in which Kurtz tried to channel Mike Wallace, asking the writer a series of confrontational questions, and consistently interrupting when Hastings tried to answer.

He followed with a segment featuring Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, whom he noticeably did not interrupt, instead letting her spout off freely and proceed to basically call Hastings a two-faced liar and challenge his otherwise undisputed reporting.

Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there no ground rules laid out.* And, I mean, that just doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me….I mean, I know these people. They never let their guard down like that. To me, something doesn’t add up here. I just – I just don’t believe it.

Well, all righty then. If Lara Logan doesn’t believe it, notwithstanding that she has no, you know, facts to sustain her very strong feelings, hell that’s good enough for us.

Not content to hurl mere fusillades of innuendo at Hastings, the dynamic duo followed with this colloquy:

KURTZ: When you are out with the troops and you’re living together and sleeping together, is there an unspoken agreement –
LOGAN: Absolutely.
K: – that you’re not going to embarrass them by reporting insults and banter?
L: Yes.
K: Tell me about that.
L: Yes, absolutely. There is an element of trust. And what I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion and, you know, he’s laid out there what his game is. That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don’t – I don’t go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life.

Where, oh where do we start?

First, here and throughout the interview (the transcript is here) Logan absolutely makes the case, argued by Hastings among others,  that MSM types like her owe their first loyalty to their sources, and see their role as being part of the team – rather than being, first and foremost, the eyes and ears of their readers and viewers.

Second, listening to Lara Logan hold forth about “trust” is kind of like hearing Meg Whitman lecture on the virtues of poverty, given that LL is a notorious home wrecker who was square in the middle of the infamous  “Steamy Baghdad love triangle” a few years back.

That sordid little bit of business ended with her married to a guy who happens to be a top-drawer State Department military contractor, which makes her objectivity on this whole war effort thing more than a little suspect.

“Living together and sleeping together,” indeed.

*(Hastings never said there were no ground rules. He said that everything he reported was on the record, and that if someone asked him to keep something off the record, he did).

Must reading: Matt Taibbi’s head absolutely exploded over Logan’s shameless performance, and he responded by dealing her one of the best body slam take downs (delicately titled “Lara Logan Sucks”) in memory, while Geoffrey Dunn’s skewering of her is somewhat more surgical but no less effective and Charles Calderon at Yahoo News has the best links and overall takeout on the continuing controversy.

Today’s sign that civilization is getting better all the time: I’ll have the meat lovers combo!