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Archive for 2010



Meyer to Jerry: Crank Up the Volume; Press Clips

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Jerry Brown kicked off Labor Day week with his first TV ad and a radio spot as well opening with narrator Peter Coyote telling us, “Never accused of following conventional wisdom, Jerry Brown took on the status quo,” a statement pregnant with understatement.

But as soon as Krusty the General launched his ads, the Armies of eMeg fired back with their own blast from the past — a  devastating 1992 debate clip of Bill Clinton smacking Jerry down for leaving California broke.

C’est la guerre. Calbuzzer Chief Editorial Cartoonist Tom Meyer picks up on the disparity in amplification between Brown and the Meg Whitman campaign, suggesting Jerry’s sitar just might get drowned out by THE HUGE SPEAKERS THAT WHITMAN CAN AFFORD.

Calbuzz Hits the Big Time: You know you’ve made it onto the radar when Andrew Breitbart, the king of the Neanderthal Wing of the Blogosphere publishes a 794-word essay attacking you, which, we are delighted to report, is exactly what has happened to Calbuzz.

In a piece written by Warner Todd Huston (and you know you should never trust anybody with three last names, especially when he’s got a blog, Publius Forum, that sounds like a social disease), who bills himself “as Chicago based freelance writer [who] has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001,” Calbuzz got 20 mentions and several links amid a brutal assault on our character, integrity and ancestry, which met the same high standards of high-quality journalism as Brietbart’s infamous attack on Shirley Sherrod.

Amid the horrible things WTH had to say about us were these libels:
– “Widely read.”
– “Calbuzz gets a lot of respect from California’s Old Media and political establishment.”
– “Calbuzz is one of the first stops for so many in the Old Media and Sacramento.”

Actually, a comment from a reader named “Petroglyph” hurt most: “Nobody reads this piece of crap Calbuzz unless it’s Jerry himself.” Sadly, we have it on good authority that Jerry hardly ever reads us unless Anne or Steve clips us for him.

Still and all, we’re delighted to have attracted the attention of the right-wing lap dogs of imperialism. Thanks for the props, Andrew.

Press Clips

All you need to know about the state of MSM (h/t to H.D. Palmer, who had it before Drudge).

Seema Mehta and Maeve Reston, the hardest-working women in show business, were everywhere at once over Labor Day weekend and still found  time to file a solid situationer for the tiny handful of Californians who haven’t  been paying close attention to the campaign.

Given the indefatigable labors of the dynamic duo, it’s unfair to the rest of us that the LAT  has the wily veteran Cathy Decker coming off the bench to make perfect sense of PPIC’s latest data dump.

Joe Garofoli busts Krusty big-time traveling between past lives.

Must read: Tim Noah’s series on income inequality, only the most important undercovered issue in American politics.

For those too bored to penetrate Charlie Cook’s pontifications about the mid-terms, here’s a handy list of the 50 races that matter.

For those who are even lazier, here’s a good, Hearstian mini-list of 10.

Swell analytical work by the Viet Cong Star’s Timm Herdt pulling together the multiple strands of the political reform debate.

Glenn Beck: more honest that you’ve ever seen him.

Meg Sics Bubba on Jerry (Ouch!); Carly Sniffin’ Koch

Friday, September 10th, 2010

The new Meg Whitman TV ad featuring Bill Clinton attacking Jerry Brown in one of their 1992 presidential campaign debates is compelling stuff that – whether it’s accurate or not —  could have a powerful impact on whether independents and younger voters see Brown as honest.

You have to consider the source, of course. The charge is made by President Bubba who looked America in the eye and said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” But even if he’s a proven liar, Clinton remains popular with a lot of Californians.

So using Clinton as a third-party validator is killer effective. And the fact is Brown didn’t do a great job of refuting Clinton’s charges during that 1992 debate, though the evidence suggests that the CNN report Clinton cited was off the mark and that, in fact, Brown lowered taxes when he was governor exclusive of the effects of Proposition 13.

Whitman’s (and Clinton’s) evidence is a report by CNN’s Brooks Jackson; Brown’s claim that taxes were cut by about $16 billion during his tenure (not counting Prop. 13) cites the 1981 Economic Report of the Governor from the California Department of Finance.

But this is a political knife fight, not a dinner party. And the Clinton ad is a sharp stab in Brown’s throat. We have already decried the Death of Truth and no one should expect Mike Murphy and his Army of eMeggers to pay much attention to niggling details. That’s not what he’s getting paid $90,000 a month for.

The Brown camp’s response is simple: “The CNN report was wrong when Bill Clinton cited it and it’s wrong now. The tax burden was lower when Jerry Brown left office than it was before he took office, not counting Proposition 13,” said Brown flack Sterling Clifford.

Weak sauce. Better they should get Clinton to cut an ad supporting Brown and talking about how democracy would be ill served by electing someone who used her position in a major corporation to score IPOs that she flipped for a huge profit – before the practice became illegal.

But don’t hold your breath.

Carly all Koch-ed up: Hurricane Carly Fiorina is the latest conservative beneficiary of the political largesse of David and Charles Koch, the low-profile oil and gas magnates who are among the richest men in America – and who have quietly contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the activities of the Tea Party and other right-wing and libertarian organizations.

Koch (pronounced “coke”) Industries PAC is among the major sponsors of a fundraiser the National Republican Senatorial Committee is tossing for Fiorina in Washington on September 23 to boost her campaign against incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer in a race that may prove decisive in the battle for control of the Senate.

In California, the Kochs also have become active in the campaign to pass Proposition 23, which would suspend the state’s greenhouse gas emissions law. A subsidiary of their company contributed $1 million to the Prop. 23 effort last week , on the same day that Fiorina announced she also was supporting the initiative.

The Kochs own the second-largest privately held company in the nation. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are the only Americans worth more than the brothers’ combined fortune of $35 billion, according to “Covert Operations – the billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama,” Jane Mayer’s superb 10,000-word investigation of them published in the August 30 issue of the New Yorker.

The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry—especially environmental regulation. These views dovetail with the brothers’ corporate interests. In a study released this spring, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Political Economy Research Institute named Koch Industries one of the top ten air polluters in the United States.

And Greenpeace issued a report identifying the company as a “kingpin of climate science denial.” The report showed that, from 2005 to 2008, the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

The previously minmially-reported political influence activities of the Kochs have drawn considerably more attention since Mayer’s expose. Dan Morain reported in his SacBee column this week, for example, how their money  played a huge role in passing California’s 1990 term limits law, and also underwrote an initiative effort to get voters to approve education vouchers in the state.

One of their latest projects is Americans for Prosperity, a group that has helped fund the tea party movement nationally, and has pushed candidates to sign a “No climate tax pledge.”

Several California Republicans have signed the pledges, including Rep. Wally Herger of Chico, Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove, state Sen. Jess Denham, seeking a congressional seat from Merced, and Doug LaMalfa, a candidate for the California state Senate from Richvale.

Should make for some interesting exchanges when  Fiorina and Boxer meet for their just-scheduled second debate on September 29.

At that event, Calbuzz dearly hopes that Fiorina seizes the opportunity to connect her critique of Boxer’s views on the economy with the mental state of Marcus Stanley, Babs’ former “senior economic adviser,” whom she swiftly fired this week after he was busted bringing weed into the Capitol.

As one prominent Carly backer put it: “Republicans are always saying you’d have to be smoking something to think the stimulus was a success and it turns out, we were right: Her economic adviser was!”

Politico has a round up of lame Boxer pot jokes – “It does stunt your growth and clearly something made her 4 feet tall” – here.

Puerile Polls, Pennant Races and Pigeon Hearts

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Calbuzz has made no secret that we think the Rasmussen Poll, with its automated calling, God-knows-what sampling technique and conservative bias, is basically crap. So we don’t pay much attention to it, even when its results seem in the ballpark. You know: a monkey typing for an infinite amount of time could produce Hamlet, etc.

So two weeks ago, when Rasmussen had the California governor’s race with Meg Whitman at 51% and Jerry Brown at 43%, and Whitman’s guard dog Mike Murphy predicted we’d trash the poll, we just said, “Why bother?” And we were going to just pay no nevermind again when, on Wednesday, we saw that Rasmussen now has the race at 48-45% for Whitman — although exactly NOTHING happened between the two surveys to move the needle (Brown’s new ad wasn’t even up yet).

But for some unknown reason, some media outlets give credence to Rasmussen, so we thought we’d just note a couple of findings that ought to steer our esteemed colleagues away from circulating this survey swill.

Here’s all you need to know: the new Rasmussen poll has Whitman beating Brown among liberals 62-35%. That’s absurd. At the same time a poll from CNN, done by Opinion Research Corp., has Meg over Jerry 48-46%, with liberals voting for Brown 80-16%, which sounds about right.

Rasmussen also has Whitman beating Brown 62-31% among voters 65 and older, compared to the CNN poll which has Brown over Whitman 50-47% in the same age group. Another stupid Rasmussen result.

Mark our words: when it gets down to the wire, and reputable pollsters have weighed in with serious results from legitimate polling, outfits like Rasmussen and Survey USA will post surveys right on the money. However they get there.

P.S.For a more complete discussion of the Calbuzz Standards for Polling, Decency and Free Lunch see this discussion from our Department of Weights and Measures.

Political pennant races: In the final week of August, the San Diego Padres led major league baseball’s Western Division by a comfortable 6.5 games, Vegas oddsmakers made them a 97.2% lock to make the playoffs and their fans were buzzing about probable post-season pitching rotations.

Then they lost 10 games in a row.

At the start of play last night, the Pads led the never-quit Giants by exactly one game, amid the caterwauling and hair-pulling of fans desperate to figure out why their team had suddenly collapsed.

The answer was simple. The Padres had merely run up against one of the venerable unwritten rules of baseball: The pennant race doesn’t start until September.

Baseball’s long history of amazing stretch runs – the ’51 Giants, the ’78 Yankees and the ’95 Mariners for starters – came to mind amid the quickly cementing Beltway conventional wisdom that Republicans are guaranteed to seize control of the House in November and, most likely,  the Senate as well.

A series of national polls, which show that voters strongly prefer a generic GOP congressional candidate over a Democratic one, has generated widespread mockery of a purportedly failed president and ignited (sheesh) created a tsunami of GOP/Fox News triumphalism, summed up best by the single fact that a Google search of John Boehner, the GOP House leader and wannabe Speaker, and the words “measuring the drapes” yields 31,900 hits.

Calbuzz would never presume to claim the unfailing wisdom of the godlike Larry Sabato or the clairvoyance of the sage Charlie Cook.  All we know is a) generic polls don’t mean squat in a local congressional district dogfight; b) trash talking in the clubhouse don’t win games on the field; c) that’s why they have horse races.

So while we’re not making any predictions about the congressional mid-terms, we do note Chris Cillizza’s pretty clear-eyed observation that the  real battle will come down to who wins the definitional fight to frame what the races are about  – a national referendum on the Administration or a district-by-district, state-by-state comparison between two competing candidates.

Oh, and did we mention that the only poll that matters is the one on election day?

Annals of weenie-hood: The Calbuzz Department of Ethical Standards and Goo-Goo Meritorious Service presents gold badges of honor to Mark Yudof and Jack Scott, UC president and community college system chancellor respectively, for resigning from the state Chamber of Commerce board of directors to protest that august body’s taking sides in the race for governor. (CSU president Charles Reed, who remains on the board, apparently has more elastic standards).

Said Scott:

I do not believe the board is using sound judgment by catapulting the California Chamber of Commerce into the center of a fierce political contest…It is destructive to the chamber’s core mission and the businesses it represents when it becomes a partisan operation.

While we admire Scott’s pluck, not to mention his choice of the woefully underused verb “catapult,” we have no beef with the Chamber looking out for their member’s interests by endorsing Republican Meg Whitman and her tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Nor do we begrudge them their decision to spend big bucks running TV ads trashing Jerry Brown.

What does rankle, however, is their lily-livered, pigeon-hearted, weak-kneed, yellow-bellied, gutless spinelessness in hiding behind the skirts of the phony pretense that what they’re putting on the air is some kind of “issue ad.”

These guys and eMeg spend half their lives whining about the injustice of unions airing independent expenditure committee spots in support of Brown, but at least the labor goons have enough courage in their convictions to identify themselves on campaign spending reports.

C’mon Zaremberg, get those weenies on your board to man up for once in their craven, cowardly lives.

Three dot lounge: Must have been an off-year for Dick: Senator Difi clocks in only at #10 on the list of the richest members of Congress…We don’t understand why Denis Thierault appears to have been the only one to report on a fascinating study that shows Democrat counties send Sacramento more in revenue than they get back in services, while GOP counties represented by anti-government types end up on the plus side of the ledger; drown the baby in the bathtub indeed…We’re glad we’re not the only ones grumbling about Fred Thompson peddling reverse mortgages on late night cable for a company that preys on old folks…Amid all the brouhaha about Krusty’s  terms as mayor of Oakland, Steve Harmon has written the best reported piece on his record we’ve seen…Bad taste costs no more

eMeg’s Tale of Woe About PayPal Expansion is Bull

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

In a softball interview with Fox News  sycophant host Neil Cavuto last May, Meg Whitman explained what it is about the sorry state of things that made her decide that she must “refuse to let California fail.”

Said eMeg: “The first thing we have to do is, we have to streamline government.” And to make it easier for business to grow? “Well, the first thing you do is, we have got to streamline regulation.

“The permitting process, the competing agencies that try to regulate — we built a building in Sunnyvale for PayPal, two-and-a-half years to break ground. We had to hire three consultants to navigate the labyrinth of California regulations.”

Powerful testimony to the debilitating roadblocks plucky little eBay faced as it sought to build a new home for PayPal. It’s a story Whitman has repeated often – portraying it as one of the principal experiences that compelled her to get into politics.

There’s only one problem. It’s what Harry G. Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton, eMeg’s alma mater, calls “bullshit.”

Since at least one Calbuzzer covered land-use planning issues in Silicon Valley for a good part of his career, we knew this was a serious allegation against Sunnyvale. So we tried repeatedly to get clarification or comment about any of this from Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s spokeswoman, and from eBay and PayPal. Despite many, many phone calls and emails, we got nothing. Pompei so wants nothing to do with this story that she decided not even to return our calls with a “no comment.”

So let’s break down Meg’s fantasy, with what we were able to find out with some actual reporting:

First off, the folks at City Hall in Sunnyvale aren’t too happy about Meg slandering their building-permit process. Especially since the PayPal expansion wasn’t in Sunnyvale – it was in San Jose.

Sunnyvale Mayor Melinda Hamilton and City Manager Gary Luebbers, sound pretty pissed off. In an email to Hamilton, who asked him to track it down, Luebbers wrote:

“We have taken considerable time trying to ferret out this assertion. In fact our research shows absolutely no record of ANY contact with PayPal. I think she may have just pulled Sunnyvale out of thin air. PayPal is in San Jose. And that may have been the case there. This is very unfortunate in light of the significant effort we expend in being the best and continually polishing this image.”

But it wasn’t the case in San Jose either. In fact, in March 2008, Whitman commended San Jose in a speech she delivered at City Hall, saying:

Our partnership with the office of the mayor, the city council, the city staff and the office of economic development is a testament to San Jose’s status as a world class place to grow and operate a business. We could not be prouder to be one of the companies that was born in San Jose and stays in San Jose . . . The City of San Jose has always been extremely flexible in helping to anticipate and meet our rapidly changing needs. It’s been a tremendous partnership between the city and our company . . . So this commendation is truly one of the highlights of my career, having come out to join eBay in March of 1998. And I will never forget the honor.

“At least until I confuse it with something in Sunnyvale,” she might have added.

According to City of San Jose records, which Santa Clara County Supervisor David Cortese, formerly the vice-mayor of San Jose, got his hands on only after submitting a public records request, eBay submitted its preliminary review for a General Plan change (to alter the then-existing height-limitation in the North San Jose Industrial Redevelopment Area) on May 8, 2003.

eBay submitted its actual GP amendment change on June 2. A site development permit was submitted a month later, and environment impact review was circulated starting August 29 and by December 2, when the council considered GP amendments, eBay’s development permit was  approved.

For those who don’t follow city planning, Cortese explains: “It’s a huge deal to change the general plan. That’s the blueprint for how the city is going to be built out over a 10 to 20 year horizon.” eBay’s GP change sped through the process like grass through a goose.

Once the general plan had been changed, it was up to eBay (not the city or any state agency) to develop building plans for the project – adding to their existing facility to accommodate PayPal. eBay didn’t submit building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical plans to San Jose until March 2006; fire and haz-mat plans came shortly thereafter. After the typical process of submissions, review, resubmissions and sign-offs, eBay’s building permit was approved July 28, 2006 and the final fire approval was made August 21.

“I remember the hoopla more than anything,” Cortese recalls. “It was billed by the Economic Development Department as the fastest permit-approval of its kind in the history of the city.”

The charge that excessive regulation and bureaucracy held up the PayPal project? “It’s absolutely absurd,” Cortese said. “She personally came into the new city hall and said this is the finest management staff I’ve ever seen . . . With her, political expediency apparently trumps everything, including her past testimonials.”

Cortese, of course, is a Democrat, as was his father Dominic, a former Assemblyman who also served as a county supervisor. But these are pro-business, conservative Democrats who don’t take cheap shots at Republicans.

So for Dave Cortese, it’s no small thing to say of Whitman’s charge: “Obviously, these statements are totally inconsistent with her campaign spin that California is a bad place to do business. And they are offensive to all of us from San Jose who made things work and are now the brunt of her rhetoric.”

We don’t know how many consultants eBay hired. Frankly, who cares? And yes, the general plan change was submitted in June 2003 and the building permit was issued in July 2006. That’s not just two-and-a-half years – it’s three years.

And excessive regulations (and Sunnyvale) had exactly nothing to do with any of it.

Jerry ‘Been There, Done That’ Brown Hits the Air

Monday, September 6th, 2010

After months of being pounded on TV by Meg Whitman and her allies, Jerry Brown takes to the airwaves this week, introducing himself to younger voters, reminding older voters of better times and reassuring them all – especially moderate and independent swing voters — that he will not raise taxes without a vote of the people. His first ad is here.

Krusty the General’s first 30-second spot – released at 7 a.m. on Labor Day — asserts that when he was governor in the 1970s and 80s, “He cut waste, got rid of the mansion and the limo; budgets were balanced; four billion in tax cuts; world-class schools and universities; clean energy promoted; one-point nine million new jobs created. California was working.”

Then Brown tells viewers, “California needs major changes. We have to live within our means. We have to return power and decision-making to the local level, closer to the people. And no new taxes without voter approval.”

The takeaway (we still wonder if it’s really sticky) is delivered by a voice-over: “Jerry Brown: the knowledge and know-how to get California working again.”

eMeg spent about $24 million over the summer portraying the attorney general and former governor as a failed and hypocritical tax-and-spend liberal. But Krusty’s allies in the labor movement spent about $10 million over the same period attacking Whitman to keep Brown from falling hopelessly behind — as Kathleen Brown and Phil Angelides did in earlier contests. As a result, the race has remained – in most reliable polls – nearly a dead heat.

The question insiders have been wondering all summer was this: Once Brown takes to the air, what will he say? What’s his message?

The release of his first TV ad (we hear the buy is more than $1.5 million for the first six days) begins to answer that question. Brown is in effect saying – especially to crucial swing voters – “I’m a safe alternative to that woman who has been assaulting your senses all summer. California was working when I was governor and I’ll make it work again. I’m frugal, experienced and I know what I’m doing.”

Made by longtime Brown ally and media meister Joe Trippi, the ad seeks to convince voters that Brown was and remains a tightwad with the experience and integrity to govern California at a time of crisis. Brown’s campaign brain trust – after much polling and many focus groups – understands that the No. 1 concern about him among independents is whether he’ll raise taxes and spend like a drunken sailor.

Calbuzz was only somewhat surprised that Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” wasn’t the soundtrack, with Jerry twanging:

A self-ordained professor’s tongue, too serious to fool,
Spouted out that liberty is just equality in school.
“Equality,” I spoke the word, as if a wedding vow.
Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

While footage for this ad was shot in San Francisco, other footage, still to be stitched into commercials, was shot at director Francis Ford Coppola’s private facility in Napa.

What the Brown ad campaign still lacks is a tight, strategic message like “Change You Can Believe In,” “Compassionate Conservative,” or “A New Deal.” Brown’s bumper stickers just say “Jerry Brown,” suggesting that the man is the message.

Always seeking to be helpful, we’ve consulted Calbuzzers G.K. Chesterton, St. Ignatius, Pierre Teillhard de Chardin and E.F. Schumacher to come up with some proposals that are a bit snappier than “Let’s Get California Working Again”:

– “Jerry Brown: Been There, Done That.”

– “Too Cheap to Fail.”

– “This Time I’ll Get it Right.”

– “Jerry Brown: No Sale on My Watch.”

– “Too Old to Lose.”

– “Age Quod Agis.”

Update: A couple of other notes:

1-Krusty wisely got a serious eyebrow job before taping the spot. The e-blast press release that was sent out with the ad trumpets Brown’s “energy,” among several references aimed at heading off the Gandalf issue, a message that would be seriously undercut without the key cosmetic fix you read about here first, which takes about 900 years off his face.

2-The ad is narrated by actor Peter Coyote, a long-time pal of Brown’s whom he appointed to the California Arts Council in his first turn as governor, a board that became very controversial during the same era, after Krusty also  appointed Jane Fonda, then widely known as “Hanoi Jane.”

3-Don’t be shocked if the “no new taxes without voter approval” kicker becomes a point of contention between him and eMeg.

Along with his call for returning power to the “local level,” Brown appears to be offering the framework for a proposal, kicked around the Legislature in several forms, to return responsibility to cities and counties for some programs the state took over funding after passage of Prop. 13; the trade-off would be letting local voters decide about financing them.

When we asked Whitman about the idea during the Republican state convention last March, after it had been raised by state senate Democrats, she flatly opposed the notion, saying no taxes should be raised, whether local voters approved them or not.

Update II: Three hours after Brown’s ad was released, an under assistant deputy flack from eMeg sent out a response reprising her summer attacks on Brown, saying he “is the last person we can trust for ‘major change’ in Sacramento.”

After 40 years in politics protecting the status quo, it’s no surprise that Jerry Brown is kicking off his campaign with a misleading historic renovation of his own record.

And for anyone who’s ever remodeled their house, or even just seen “The Money Pit,” you know how painful those historic renovations can be.