Clickbait starts here: While our Sports Department’s Division of Slushy Snow and Curling Brooms has found many fascinating story lines to pursue during the Winter Olympics (Will Bode Miller cry more if Tonya Harding whacks his bum knee with a pipe? How did Putin let double luge sneak into his anti-gay games? Do we really have to watch ice dancing, dear?) there frankly wasn’t much for political junkies to focus on – until the Cossacks showed up with the horse whips.
Oh sure, we’ve had the suspenseful narrative about the crippling conjunctivitis afflicting NBC host Bob Costas (memo to Matt Lauer: you’re wayyy too old to wear those skinny pants, dude); for political theater, however, nothing can top the spectacle of Putin’s thugs proving Pussy Riot’s critique of Russia by beating its members in public for the benefit of three billion viewers worldwide.
We already were much impressed with the seriousness of purpose of PR, even before two members of the performance art collective/punk band turned up on Colbert a few weeks back. But it wasn’t until we saw the Russian special police forces wailing on them in the streets of Sochi that their personal courage and passionate commitment became fully clear.
In the global media avalanche that followed – at post time, Google News reported 227 million links – it was no big surprise that Murdoch’s N.Y. Post won the gold for single copy, newsrack sales headline (see above), but it was left to the NYT, which finished behind the competition in the pander-meter rankings, to score an op-ed from Pussy Rioter Maria Alyokhina that clearly explained what all the fuss was about:
This week in Sochi, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, another member of Pussy Riot, and I were detained three times and then, on Wednesday, assaulted by Cossack militiamen with whips and pepper spray. Mr. Putin will teach you how to love the motherland…
Those who are writing about the Olympics and who are currently present at the Games should not fall into this forgetfulness, because it is fatal. When you talk about the Olympics — whether you like it or not — you are talking about Russia. For this is a country where people are arrested for waving umbrellas and little flags, where they are sent to penal colonies, like the environmental activist Evgeny Vitishko, for writing a slogan like “the forest is for everybody” on a governor’s fence, and where they may be sentenced to five or six years in prison for voicing their dissent against the status quo.
Cossacks? Horse whips? Really?
“I would only make one condition,” pursued the old prince”…Let everyone who advocates war be enrolled in a special regiment of advance-guards, for the front of every storm, of every attack, to lead them all!’”
“But they’d run,” said Dolly, “they’d only be in the way.”
“Oh, if they ran away, then we’d have grape-shot or Cossacks with whips behind them,” said the prince.
“But that’s a joke, a poor one too, if you’ll excuse my saying so, prince,” said Sergey Ivanovitch.
A poor one, indeed.
Life in the incubator, Chapter 32: While Hearst Chronicle execs have the editorial workin’ stiffs hunkered down in their awesome and amazing discover-the-future incubator, the paper keeps getting its clock cleaned in coverage of the current biggest story in its own town.
This time, it’s a Financial Times (reg. required) scoop about Google buying a 35,000 square foot building at the foot of Potrero Hill, five minutes from the Chronicle building, to house some of its recently purchased start-ups (the building used to be owned by a, um, newspaper and catalog printer. But we digress).
Google’s move is the latest example of the growing trend of Silicon Valley internet companies expanding their presence in the city of San Francisco. In an intense war for tech talent, companies are hoping to improve their appeal to new employees by allowing them to live and work in desirable areas of the city rather than make the hour-long commute to Silicon Valley towns such as Mountain View, Palo Alto and Cupertino. The city is particularly popular among consumer technology companies with Twitter, Square and Pinterest all headquartered here.
You don’t say.
Of course, the erstwhile Voice of the West came roaring back with
an aggressive folo a “Chronicle News Services” brief, rewritten from the FT, (cough, cough) two days later. Sigh Here’s the thing: It’s a swell and exemplary idea for Hearst to re-educate its troops about how to deliver the news digitally and on different platforms; but if there’s less substance to deliver, what’s the point?
Once upon a time, there were fax machines. Nice work by John Hrabe over at CalNewsroom, unearthing “Schnur Shots,” a snarky newsletter produced by Secretary of State wannabe Dan Schnur in a previous incarnation, back when he was still a humble mud wrestler and before he’d reinvented himself as an earnest and high-minded political reformer. Kudos, too, to Hrabe for his determination to treat Schnur like any other candidate, avoiding the yuck-yuck, back-slapping coverage of other ink-slingers who’ve leaned on Schnur as a deadline quote machine for decades.
Aqua Pura putter: No less a figure than the (all rise) Environmental Programs Director of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America estimates that an 18-hole course on average needs about 20 million gallons of water a year. Which means that the two California desert courses that President Obama played over three days last weekend - Sunnylands in Palm Springs and Larry Ellison’s private, Porcupine Creek playground in Rancho Mirage – annually consume enough water to supply a family of four for more than 80 years.
This after Obama parachuted in Fresno for a few hours to roll up his sleeves and strike his best pose, gazing across some farmer’s cracked and bone-dry fallowed fields. Also: drought platitudes.
“Water has been seen as a zero-sum game: agriculture against urban, north against south,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure out how to play a different game…We can’t afford years of litigation and no real action.”
Now why didn’t we think of that?
“Now, water politics in California traditionally, I know, has been pretty easy,” Obama said, going for and getting a cheap laugh at a photo-op during his brief Fresno stop. “And I told the Governor I’m not going to wade into this because I want to get out of here alive on Valentine’s Day.”
Ha, ha, ha.
Difi drone update: Still no word from official agencies, five weeks after Senator Difi’s formal testimony about an astonishing personal confrontation with a manned drone she said crashed to earth. Now, at least, comes another independent-minded politico to make clear he understands the dread of being tracked by one of the flying buggers.
Ex wrestler and Minnesota gov Jesse Ventura told CNBC that he’s living at “an undisclosed location” in Mexico to avoid exactly the kind of airborne harassment that was aimed at our senior Senator.
“I’m off the grid. I move about with my TV show so that the drones can’t find me and you won’t know exactly where I am.”