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Press Clips: No Punditry For Old Men

Oct10

RedistrictingReturn of the Little Pulitzers: Scooplet of the Week honors to David G. Savage, who drilled down on the details of a case just accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court to report that California’s much-praised independent redistricting commission may be at risk.

SCOTUS, which seized power in a 2000 coup d’état agreed to hear a case involving a similar commission in Arizona, will decide whether state legislatures have exclusive power over drawing lines for congressional districts – regardless of a vote of the people, such as the 2008 approval by California voters of Proposition 11, which established the California Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Washington attorney Paul Clement, representing Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature, said voters’ decision in 2000 to put the redistricting power in the hands of a citizens commission was a “radical measure. ” The Legislature, he said, “is quite literally cut out of the process completely.”

Duh.

weinbergThe People United, or something: Proving anew that there are no bad stories, only bad reporters, old pal Carol Pogash showed how much can be done with a humble anniversary assignment by churning out a splendid feature marking the half-century commemoration of the Free Speech Movement in Bezerkely.

Featuring an interview with Jack Weinberg, who spent 32 hours in the back of an obstructed police car as demonstrators protested his arrest for handing out leaflets about the civil rights movement, the Pogash piece was a stylish yarn displaying her characteristic fine eye for telling detail: the 1964 protesters “politely removed their shoes — to avoid scratching the vehicle — before climbing to the roof of the patrol car”; the 300 or 400 who showed up to mark this week’s anniversary (“about half of them seemed to have been among the hundreds of students in the 1960s who were perceived as revolutionaries and troublemakers”) numbered far less than the 700 arrested in the original demo; the editor of the Daily Cal informed Pogash that while there may be less activism on campus today, “students are very passionate about animal rights, green energy, niche issues.’”

One nagging, unanswered question:  how, exactly, did Weinberg and the arresting officers handle waste management issues during his cop car imprisonment? (Update: A loyal reader notes that Jon Carroll provided at least a partial answer in a previous column on the subject).

megsmugeMeg, we hardly knew ‘ya: Not long after her Hindenburg-like performance in the 2010 governor’s race, Meg Whitman told us how odd and perplexing she had found the odd and perplexing customs of campaigning for office in California; we explained to her that the process was “very tribal.”

“It’s not my tribe,” she sniffed. Indeed.

So we were cheered to read how safely and securely cocooned ole’ eMeg now is among her own people (who apparently include the business press) via a kissy-poo feature by Timesman Quentin Hardy about her latest moves at H-P (“it appears that Ms. Whitman has found that vision”). There was one redeeming graf in the piece:

Ms. Whitman was equally focused on measurement during her gubernatorial campaign. An aide who worked with her there said Ms. Whitman obsessed about her poll numbers and wanted to personally lead fund-raising efforts, a level of micromanagement that campaign officials tried to discourage.

Bottom line: instead of all that obsessing and micromanaging, Your Megness, you’d have been better off just having dinner with Calbuzz.

hayden2Is that a Tomahawk in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? When last spotted in Calbuzz, former high-powered military officer, spook and major tool Michael Hayden was spouting sexist slurs at our favorite Senior Senator from California.

Now comes Hayden to put those selfsame macho insecurity chops to better use, this time splendidly labeling Barack Obama’s we piss-on-you-from-a-great-height airborne military strategy against ISIS exactly for what it is:

“The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment,” said retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of both the CIA and the National Security Agency. “We need to be wary of a strategy that puts emphasis on air power and air power alone.”

Pretty good line, even for a prig like Hayden.

Syrian pay-to-play: Amid growing signs that General Asshat is probably right, and that Obama’s Mideast adventurism will haunt us for a long time, we’re on the lookout for fine journalism to help demystify a millennia-old mess that has all the clarity of a graffiti-splattered M.C. Escher print. Best bet for visual learners: the Washpost’s nice take on the nine best graphic representations of Mideast alliances.

And for the cynically inclined, there’s this from Foreign Policy:

On Sept. 17, the House of Representatives granted President Barack Obama’s request to arm rebel groups in Syria by a vote of 273 to 156…

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I do wonder whether the arms industry put its thumb on the scale. Even a short involvement in Syria will be exceedingly profitable; the first round of air strikes this week reportedly cost $79 million, more than India’s mission to Mars. To “train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition,” as the amendment voted on by the House states, could cost much more, perhaps as much as $500 million.

So the arms industry had a lot on the line in Roll Call Vote 507. In the end, it passed easily. But those who voted for the amendment may have been much more beholden to the industry than those who did not. On average, the “Yea” voters had received more than $36,000 in contributions from the defense sector during the last campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The “Nay” voters had taken only about $22,000.

We’re not ones for conspiracy theories, either.

The purest form of flattery: Mega-kudos to Josh Richman and the Bay Area News Group for posting a piece Thursday about  Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Honda’s habit of claiming credit for legislation and funding for which he was, at best, marginally responsible. But wait – didn’t we read all that somewhere before? Hmm.

mikeharrisMike Harris, R.I.P. We were saddened to learn this week of the passing of Mike Harris, a great, old school gentleman reporter and veteran S.F. Chronicler. He was 92.

Whether they know it or not, and we sadly suspect many of them do not, every news hound and hen in California owes a huge debt to Mike, whose 1950s reporting led directly to the state’s open meeting Brown Act, a tale well told in Harris obits by Dave Perlman, Mike’s longtime pre-Hearst Chronicle friend and colleague, and Nels Johnson of the Marin I-J.

A few personal memories: the disappointed dad grimace he’d flash at a rookie reporter when  an infelicitous phrase made it into one of our stories in the morning paper (to this day, references to a campaign “kickoff” are banned in Calbuzz thanks to Harris), or his look of total, doe-eyed panic the morning a mischievous publisher came in early to hide Mike’s chair and the contents of his desk, tormenting him into believing he’d suddenly been sacked. Most of all, however, Harris’s encyclopedic erudition about…everything… which he was never shy about demonstrating.

When a future Calbuzzer served with Harris on the Chron editorial page, he was our go-to guy for foreign visitors; new diplomats posted to San Francisco routinely made a formal call on the paper, for reasons that never were clear. The practice consistently left us at a loss for semi-intelligent conversation starters, and our welcoming remarks typically lurched between, “So, how long you in town for?” and “What’s the weather like in Azerbaijan?”

Not so Harris, who seemed to spend his evenings poring over the Rand McNally World Atlas, J.M. Roberts’ The History of the World and Herodotus in the Greek. 

Memorably, he once bailed us out as we dithered for an ice-breaker with a newly assigned representative of the newly independent nation of Slovenia;  “Hey, how ‘bout those Niners?” was our first thought, when Mike saved the day by piping up to recall his World War II days navigating with the Army Air Corps over the Balkans, rhapsodizing over several interesting geophysical features he noticed from the air. Take that, Janko!

That’s -30-

 


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There are 2 comments for this post

  1. California’s Independent Redistricting should be at low risk. I have covered Arizona’s in depth and detail from the beginning of the 2011 cycle and posted more than 400 blog entries on the subject. Please feel free to check out the record at my linked website.

  2. avatar tonyseton says:

    Ya gotta think that Hayden has his casual sex while wearing his medals. Probably on his uniform. And instead of watching regular porn, he entertains himself with the heavy stuff like Grand Theft Auto.

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