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Archive for 2010



Meyer Does Hair & Hitler; Duncan Boothby Goes MIA

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

It’s been a couple days since a California candidate stepped in muck or stuffed a foot in her mouth, but the indefatigable Tom Meyer won’t let that hamper the exercise of his constitutional right to cruel and vicious political mockery.

The far-famed, well-coiffed and handsomely recompensed political cartoonist and Calbuzzer has made good use of the time, memorializing the best gaffes made at the starting line of the 2010 general election races.

So today we present Meyer’s uniquely twisted take on Hurricane Carly’s Mean Girls complex, Krusty Brown’s Third Reich fetish and the all-star Houdini act of California’s voters.

P.S. If you’re interested in having a full-color print of one of Meyer’s cartoons to frame and hang on your wall – just in time for the holidays! send us a note at calbuzzer@gmail.com and we’ll fix you up in a jiffy.

Paging Ron Ziegler: General Stanley McChrystal was forced to perform career seppuku for the brain-dead comments he and his Animal House entourage made to Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings – but at least Canned Stan could explain his nit wit indiscretion on having been snot-flying drunk at the time.

But what about the press guy – what’s his excuse?

The big brain behind giving Hastings unlimited access to McChrystal and his guys is a somewhat shadowy figure with a limey accent named Duncan Boothby (a phony name is there ever was one), who’s described in news accounts as a “civilian senior adviser” to the general, and who previously worked in the region for Lt. General William Caldwell:

Caldwell became a proponent of using “new media” to communicate with targeted audiences, and he began collecting civilian public affairs specialists, including Boothby, to expand the work of the military’s rigid public affairs system and to maximize the “strategic impact of new media” through a program call CAC Stratcomms. “He wanted to use media as a weapon,” one officer explained.

How’s that workin’ out for you general?

Boothby got fired about 12 seconds after the Rolling Stone piece made its way onto the web, and appears to have fled Afghanistan one step ahead of the posse.

But seriously, does having to leave Afghanistan seem like sufficient sanction for such a felony stupid move? Shouldn’t Duncan have to answer for this bloody mess and explain, you know, WTF WERE YOU THINKING???

Great news, sir! I’ve arranged for a Rolling Stone reporter to hang out with you and the gang for a month!

Rolling Stone? Isn’t that where Hunter Thompson used to work?

No worries, sir. Completely different publication today. Plus, my sources tell me Lady GaGa and her machine gun tatas will be on the cover so nobody will read the piece anyway.

The boys’ll still be able to kick back when they’re off duty, though?

Absolutely, sir. No problem at all.

While an eager ation awaits the big book contract and inevitable surfacing of Boothby, perhaps as a military affairs analyst for the Rachel Maddow show, we propose that the Public Relations Society of America immediately endow an annual prize, to be called The Duncan, to be presented each year to the flack who screws up his boss’s career in the most hideous way.

If no one’s performance meets the Boothby standard of excellence, the association can present the award for outstanding historic work (What about the unnamed genius who put Michael Dukakis in the tank? Who thought it was a great idea to have Sarah Palin interviewed in front of turkeys being slaughtered? Or who told BP’s CEO, “no sweat, Tony, just relax and have a good time at the yacht race”? ) – or even give it posthumously.

“Nonsense, Mr. President, you and Mrs. Lincoln deserve some time to yourselves – have a great time at the theater.”

Why Carly and eMeg Aren’t Like Thelma and Louise

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This just in – GOP admits women: Barring a political miracle, around 8:01 p.m. next Tuesday, Meg Whitman will be declared the California Republican party’s nominee for governor. Not long after, it appears today,  Carly Fiorina will win the GOP slot in the Senate race against Barbara Boxer.

It will be an historic evening, if all goes according to form, as the two uber rich  former Silicon Valley executives become the first Republican women ever nominated for either of the two offices, let alone performing the feat in the same election, factoids confirmed by state party spokeshuman Mark Standriff.

In a year when Sarah Palin is crisscrossing the country, calling for the election of GOP “Mama Grizzlies,” the eMeg-Carly narrative will no doubt prove as irresistible to the national media as the “Thelma and Louise” storyline did back in 1992, when Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer pulled off a similar historic trick by simultaneously winning election to the U.S. Senate in what was then hyped as “the year of the woman.”

It was our late, great colleague Susan Yoachum who memorably pinned the movie moniker on Babs and DiFi, but before the brilliant Beltway Wizards latch onto such a narrative line with Carly and Meg, Calbuzz feels duty bound to quash any such non-analogous comparison to what Herb Caen once dubbed “Bitch Cassidy and the Sundress Kid.”

Two working-class women seeking to break away? Not. Strength through sisterhood? No friggin’ way. Feminist rage? C’mon.

Just one example knocks it down: “I won’t let California fail”  – eMeg’s hubris-infected assertion — just doesn’t have the power of Louise’s famous “You get what you settle for.”

Even Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri couldn’t turn these two wealthy, privileged, and uptight business execs into a pair of gun-totin’ road-runnin’ outlaw fempals. They may wind up flying off a cliff, but even if they do, they’ll land softly on their big fat bank accounts and their elitist lives.

Whitman and Fiorina have pandered and slummed, lurched and lunged so far to the right to win their party’s favor, that the big action for them from June to November will be trying to convince independents, moderates, women and Latinos that they didn’t really mean all those knuckle-dragging statements they made in order to win the primaries.

As the Schnur Turns: Politics writers up and down California were weeping, wailing, tearing their hair and rending their garments Tuesday after word emerged that Gov. Arnold Schwartzmuscle has named our friend Dan Schnur to finish the seven months remaining in Ross Johnson’s term as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Where will we go for a clever quote,” one reporter wondered. Whined another: “Who can I call on deadline who will say what I want to say myself but can’t unless it comes from a source’s mouth?”A third cried out: “But I don’t know any other Republicans!”

Schnur, former media adviser and spinner for John McCain, Pete Wilson and others, has worked to put his partisan past behind him for several years as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and, most recently, as head of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

Not Dan Schnur

Not Dan Schnur

As chairman of the FPPC, Schnur will oversee the agency that enforces state campaign finance and campaign disclosure laws. He’ll fill out the term of former state senator Johnson, who stepped down for health reasons, and plans to return to USC in January.

Schnur said his partisan past will be no more of an impediment than it was for Johnson or former Chairwoman Karen Getman, a Democratic campaign lawyer who served under Gray Davis. “Both did an excellent job of setting aside their personal political leanings,” he said.

Yo, Dan! We’re still waiting for the punch line.

We need to talk: Calbuzzers who fondly remember Al and Tipper snogging over breakfast in the Dunster House dining hall back in the day (this just in: he did inhale) couldn’t help but get a little misty Tuesday at word that ex-vice president and former Second Lady Gore are breaking up.

Even those who don’t know the couple or,  for that matter, never really gave them much thought, felt a pang of rainy day sadness  as they processed the news that the Gores’ 40-year, kissy poo marriage was outlasted by the Clintons, fercrineoutloud.

While wits like Andy Borowitz set about thinking up fake N.Y. Post headlines for the split – “Global Cooling!” (h/t Jim Bettinger) – more gimlet-eyed types at L.A. Biz Observed quickly turned their focus to more bottom line matters:

Now that Al and Tipper have announced plans to separate, they’ll have to deal with their $8.8 million Montecito home that was purchased a couple of months ago. It has an ocean view on 1 1/2 acres with a swimming pool, five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six fireplaces, a family room, wine cellar and spa. Montecito, of course, is quite the spot for the rich and famous: Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, and the golfer Fred Couples, among many others.

Talk about your inconvenient truth.

Head Fake of the Day: After sitting happily on the sidelines while Republicans Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner fire at one another, Democrat Jerry Brown slapped together a cheesy 30-second spot decrying all the money being spent on negativity while Sacramento is still broken. Calbuzz tried to get Brown Boys Glazer and Clifford to say how much actual TV air time this sad little puppy will see. No comment, basically. So we figure it’s nothing but a web ad that will have no effect on the race for governor. If you want to see it, here’s the link. If they decide to put it on television, we’ll take it seriously. They did manage to bamboozle the online ops at the SF Chronicle, LA Times and Sac Bee into declaring it Brown’s first TV ad, before they caught on that it was just a head fake. (The boys over at Calitics gave it the back of their hand, too.)

Hounding Fox: Hey Joel — saying an opinion poll “was correct” because it reported numbers three weeks ago that happen to be in the ballpark as those found today is a little like saying that the Giants beat the Dodgers because they led 1-0 in the first inning. As the cliche goes, polls are snapshots in time, and we’ll stand by our snarky comments about yours.

eMeg’s Pander on the Right Hurts Her Against Brown

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

By lurching to the right to defeat Steve Poizner for the Republican nomination for governor, Meg Whitman has eroded her standing among  independents and moderates, women and Latinos – all key constituencies in a general election against Democrat Jerry Brown.

In March, before she pulled out all the stops to outflank Poizner among conservatives over illegal immigration, abortion and taxes, to name a few issues, Whitman’s favorable-to-unfavorable ratings were 25-21% among independents, 29-25% among moderates, 30-21% among women and 25-12% among Latinos, according to the USC/LA Times poll.

But in the May survey, eMeg’s favorable-unfavorable standings were 25-39% among independents, 29-42% among moderates, 28-37% among women and 22-31% among Latinos. (Get a pdf of the crosstabs here.)

Likewise, in March Whitman was running ahead of Brown 44-41% in a simulated general election match-up, including 40-39% among independents and 44-38% among women. But she now trails Brown 44-38% overall, 48-30% among independents and 46-34% among women.

“It’s not irretrievable,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “But it puts her in a hole going forward.”

By comparison, Democrat Jerry Brown, who has been able to avoid the crossfire between Whitman and Poizner, has maintained positive favorability ratings among these key groups – 33-26% among independents, 38-29% among moderates, 38-29% among women and 33-16% among Latinos.

In a conference call with reporters last week, Whitman’s chief strategist, Mike Murphy, addressed the issue of his candidate’s loss of support among Latinos, arguing that the former eBay CEO would not suffer permanently because Latinos are not single-issue voters.

But Whitman’s embrace of the Neanderthal Wing of the GOP has only barely been driven home to key constituencies, and only from the right – not yet from the left. Except for the populist attacks on her by Poizner and the California Democratic Party over her connections to Goldman Sachs, most of the TV ads aimed at her have tried to make her out to be a squishy liberal.

While Poizner has apparently bet his entire end-game strategy on the belief that one’s stand on the Arizona anti-immigration law – he’s for it, Whitman’s against it — has become the dividing line in the Republican primary, that idea seems wrong-headed.

According to the survey, 50% of registered voters support the Arizona law, including 77% of Republicans. But Whitman is beating Poizner among those who favor the law by 54-29%. He actually does better – 46-29% — among those who oppose the law.

But the sharp divide on the Arizona law helps to illuminate how Whitman’s efforts to look tough on immigration have hurt her in the general election. Among those who support the law, she beats Brown 55-30%. But among those who oppose the law, Brown leads by a huge margin of 61-19%.

The USC/LA Times survey suggests some areas where Brown has yet to make a mark. While he led Whitman among Latinos 52-29% in March, his standing slipped to 40-31% in May. And while upwards of 85% of voters 45 and older have an opinion about Brown (4-5 points favorable), only 34% of those 18-19 years old know enough about Brown even to express an opinion.

As we’ve noted before, however, Krusty the General has yet to remind Latinos that he put Cruz Reynoso on the California Supreme Court, Mario Obledo in his cabinet, marched with Caesar Cesar Chavez, created the Agricultural Relations Board and dated Linda Ronstadt. Nor has he yet told younger voters about Whitman’s flip-flops on offshore oil drilling or her stance against California’s pioneering law to address climate change.

And we’re still not sure how Brown, who opposes the legalize-and-tax marijuana initiative on the November ballot, will play the dope card. Being attorney general and all (and having been a pretty straight-laced Jesuit school boy as a youth) it’s hard to figure how he will make use of this factoid from the USC/LA Times poll:

Among those who opposed the legalization of marijuana (41% of voters), Whitman leads Brown 45-35%. But among those who favor legalization (49%), Brown leads 53-33%. And among those who used marijuana in the past year, Brown smokes Whitman 60-34%. Hey campers, want some Fritos with that precinct list?

Memorial Day: Mystery, Militarism, Meg’s Mendacity

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Remind me again why we’re firing up the barbie? With best Memorial Day wishes, our Dustbin of History Department’s Division of  Holiday Research unearths this entry from the May 25, 2009 edition:

Limbering up for some rigorous holiday chillin’, Calbuzz made a quick online check to find the origin of Memorial Day, figuring we’d just casually…drop it in…to the barbecue conversation; as with most things political, however, the answer came neither quickly nor clearly, as it turns out bragging rights are in dispute and break down along red state-blue state lines.

The holiday formerly known as Decoration Day was started by freed slaves in celebration of Union soldiers who died in prison camps, according to Newsweek, but a Purdue history professor in a new book traces it to Southern ladies honoring Confederate troops. The official, establishment version, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has it both ways, stating that Yankees and Rebs alike got flowers on their graves at Decoration Day I in 1868. Maybe we won’t mention it after all.

Not sure how the NYT missed this one: Mega-kudos to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who appears to be one of the few politicians in America to use Memorial Day as an opportunity to think seriously about the costs and benefits of our current military policy.

Beyond the 5,000 lives of American service members that have been lost in Iraq – seven years after W. strutted across that carrier deck – and Afghanistan – launched Oct. 7, 2001 -Schakowsky reports that, as of Sunday, the nation has spent $1 trillion – (twelve zeros cq) – on the two conflicts:

This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.

The only clear winner of the Iraq war is Iran. Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shiites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.

And then there’s Afghanistan, which, after nearly a decade of war, represents the longest continuous U.S. military engagement ever. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently declared the situation in Afghanistan as a “deteriorating security situation and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight.” And the U.S. military just suffered its 1,000th casualty in Afghanistan on Friday.

So the real question is: What have we bought for $1 trillion? Are we safer? As our troops and treasure are still locked down in Iraq and Afghanistan, terrorists are training, recruiting and organizing in Somalia, Yemen and dozens of other places around the globe. While it appears that we have made significant progress in weakening Al Qaeda’s network, we have increasing concerns about homegrown terrorists.

Oil, oil everywhere: As long as we’re talking awful, intractable problems, no less a figure than Obama environment and energy adviser Carol Browner has now declared that the ongoing, day-to-day horror show of the Deepwater Horizon disaster is “probably the worst environmental disaster we’ve ever faced in this country.”

“Probably?” Really? “Probably?” Ya’ think?

On the day the offshore rig exploded and sank, we wrote that at the very least, the tragedy would doom efforts to expand offshore drilling in California’s state waters (citing the incident, Schwarzenegger gave up on his pet Tranquillon Ridge project not long after); not wanting to seem ghoulish at the time, we said it was too early then to assess the broader political implications.

It’s now clear that it is a true, catastrophic event that will have policy and political reverberations for decades to come; one thing that seems certain already is that it has inflicted serious, potentially fatal, damage to Obama’s presidency.

The White House communications operation, which already failed the president during the stimulus, health care and financial reform debates, has disgraced itself once again; combined with Obama’s too-cool-for-school personal style, the Administration’s utter failure to display a shred of forceful leadership in the crisis has not only put the lie to his claims of competence but once again undercut his promise to take back control of the government from corporate interests, leaving him to appear weak, hapless and way over his head, reminding us of nothing so much as Jimmy Carter’s impotent, failed performance during the Iran hostage crisis.

We want Hillary.

Whitman lies: Even as the L.A. Times poll has restored the mantle of inevitability to Meg Whitman’ quest for the Republican nomination for governor, it’s becoming clearer by the day that eMeg has but a passing acquaintance with the truth.

Having previously dissembled about her voting record, her residency in California, her cynical pandering on immigration, her ties to Goldman Sachs and the release of her tax returns, among other issues, Her Megness is now claiming with a straight face that she’s always opposed offshore oil drilling.

Aw, come on.

Calbuzz has asked Whitman face-to-face about offshore oil drilling twice, once on Sept. 1, 2009 and again on May 20, 2010, following the disaster in the Gulf, when she acknowledged she’d changed her position.

Here’s what she said the first time:

We have to say times have changed and we’ve got to look at this again…

I would say that when I started this process, I was against offshore oil drilling and then I began to understand deeply the new technology that is available to extract oil from existing wells – slant drilling and other things and I think we ought to look at this very carefully because there’s no question that the resources off the coast of California and other parts of the country can help us rescue our dependence on foreign oil.

Here’s what she said the second time:

Historically I was against offshore oil drilling, but I am the living example of someone who believes technology can enable you to do things you’d never dream you could do. So I wanted to look into slant drilling…and convene a group to say, you know, ‘is this possible to do with zero to minimal environmental risk?’

I will say what has happened in Louisiana I think has raised the bar on what, you know, technology is going to be able to have to do, and what we can assure ourselves of. Because, gosh, you look at what has happened in the Gulf, the economic devastation of the shrimpers, the fishermen. I mean you’re starting to see it now go on the north shore of the coast of Florida there, the hospitality industry is at risk.

So I think it has absolutely raised the bar in terms of what we would need to feel comfortable with to go forward. So right now, I’m a no on offshore oil drilling.

So, according to her own chronology, eMeg a) was “historically” against offshore drilling; b) changed her mind after she started running for governor because she “began to understand deeply the new technology that is available”; c) changed her mind again after Deepwater Horizon and is currently against coastal drilling.

For “right now,” anyway.