Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category



Voters Turn to Web for Politics (Calbuzz Sets Pace)

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

All but overlooked in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll is some intriguing new data that shows a dramatic shift in how people get their political news in the state: web sites and blogs have now left newspapers in the dust as primary sources of such information.

“People more and more are getting their news and information about California politics and elections on the internet,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s CEO and director of the survey. “Television and newspapers are not what they used to be.”

The survey asked respondents to identify where, ”you get most of your information about what’s going on in politics today.” The results show that while TV remains the top choice for 37 percent of Californians, the internet is now in second place, at 24 percent, while newspapers lag  behind in third, with only 15 percent saying it is their main source for politics.

The findings cap a decade-long cultural trend: When PPIC asked the same question in 1999, 45 percent listed TV as their leading choice, while 30 percent said newspapers and only five percent pointed to the internet.

While the influence of political coverage in newspapers has sharply declined, however, there was some good news in the poll for the industry: Among those who use the internet for politics and elections news, 47 percent said they turn to newspaper web sites, only slightly fewer (50 percent) than those who said they use other types of websites (we name no names).

As for those who still consider newspapers their leading political source, nearly three in four (73 percent) said they read the paper version of the publication, a significant drop-off since 2007, when PPIC first asked the question, and 87 percent said they preferred the paper rather than the‘net.

The PPIC research is just the latest in an ever-accumulating mountain of evidence that shows the traditional MSM business model, which consisted of publishing or broadcasting a general interest news and information product to a mass audience which is then marketed to advertisers, continues to crumble.

With the rise of the internets, the mass audience has fragmented, and consumers now have a virtually unlimited number of niche news sources where they can find more in-depth and detailed information about specialized topics (we name no names).

The good news: a vast array of choices for readers and viewers. The bad news: consumers, citizens and voters never again have to read or watch something with which they disagree.

“People can now find many sources of information they agree with, instead of seeking a broader view,” said Baldassare. “The trend certainly has pluses and minuses.”

Late Edition: At our request, PPIC ran another crosstab which found that among those who have both a cellphone and land line, 34% get their political information from TV, 26% from the internet, 16% from newspapers and 11% from radio. Among those with a land line only, 62% get information from TV, 12% from the internet and 10% from newspapers. This is a HUGE difference and suggests that the shift to the internet for information is moving right along with the shift toward cell phones and away from land lines.

When it rains it pours: Speaking of digital technology, we can only hope that Her Megness found it amusing when her spokeshuman, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, made a one-letter URL error on a Twitter message she was forwarding from chief strategist Ned Beatty Mike Murphy, and accidentally directed the entire Golden State political press corps to a You Tube video of a Korean transvestite bass player.

The story about Pompei’s mis-tweet promptly went viral, though Calbuzz is not entirely certain that it counts as good news for a campaign in the closing days that the most popular message you put out is about a Korean transvestite bass player.

No word yet on who the guy is endorsing, and apparently no truth to the rumor that before he makes up his mind he’s demanding more info on eMeg’s position on intellectual property rights.

How dare you? Belated mega-kudos to our old friend Cathy Decker, High-Ranking News Sheriff and Ace Rewrite Person for the by-God L.A. Times’ vast political team, for neatly working the word “umbrage” into a recent analysis about the low-rent controversies, including the whole “whore” kerfuffle, that pockmark California’s campaign for governor:

It was not immediately clear who uttered the comment; the Brown campaign said it was not the candidate. The candidate was not heard disabusing the speaker, in any case.

Whitman’s campaign responded in full umbrage, calling the word choice “an insult to both Meg Whitman and to the women of California.”

“This is an appalling and unforgivable smear against Meg Whitman,” her spokeswoman, Sarah Pompei, said.

And yet the same Whitman campaign last June tried to dismiss as inconsequential reports that the candidate, during her tenure as chief of EBay, had cursed at and pushed a young woman underling.

Decker’s splendid adjectival construction provides an entry point into a re-examination of “umbrage politics.” In this silly political game, a candidate or campaign takes deliberately misconstrued, overdrawn or reductionist offense — of the “I’m shocked – shocked to find that gambling is going on in here” variety — at some statement or act by a rival (see: Fiorina, Carly; entire campaign).

Or as Michael Kinsley put it, in a lovely little piece called “Do People Really Want a Stupid President” over at Politico:

This puts us in the fashionable world of “umbrage politics,” where the game is to take as much offense as possible at something someone said or did. Usually this will involve giving the controversial statement or action an interpretation, or at least an importance, your victim obviously never intended and hiding the obvious fact that — far from being “saddened” or “outraged” — you are delighted to have this stick to beat him or her with.

Obama said that “facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day” at the moment “because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” (Columnist Michael) Gerson riffs on this: “Obama views himself as the neocortical leader —  the defender … of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression.” In short, he takes this single sentence from the president, deconstructs it thoroughly enough to qualify for tenure in many an English department and calls the result “some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.” Then he goes to town.

We’re shocked – shocked!- to find that umbrage politics is going on in this campaign.

Final word on whore: Better late than never, Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss breaks it down once and for all. Let us not speak of this matter again.

CapWeek Kudos; Whores v Klutzes; Lou’s Illegals

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Capitol Weekly preserves integrity: HT  to Anthony York of Capitol Weekly for taking a pass on a survey, done by Orange County Republican pollster Adam Probolsky, that York had intended to release through his respected web site. Turns out the Democratic pollster he had paired with Probolsky – Ben Tulchin of San Francisco, — had significant methodological problems with Probolsky’s survey and York didn’t want to risk his site’s good name with a bad poll.

While just about every pollster in the known universe has recently found the race with Jerry Brown up 5 or more points over Meg Whitman, Probolsky turned in a survey with a virtual dead heat: Brown 41% and Whitman 39%. The survey was taken Sept. 30-Oct 4 among 752 registered voters.

“We wanted a bipartisan poll but we didn’t have bipartisan sign-off,” said York. “This is Adam’s poll. They (Tulchin and Probolsky) couldn’t agree, so we didn’t want to put it out.”

Said Tulchin: “The results that Adam found were based on a sample that I felt was too conservative and too Caucasian and did not accurately represent a statewide sample.   As a result, I could not endorse the poll, so Adam decided to release it on his own.”

What particularly bothered Tulchin was not Probolsky’s projection of a 54.7% turnout, which Ben thought was “a bit conservative but not beyond the realm of possibility.” Rather, the survey under-represents Latinos and blacks, with just  12.8% Latino voters and 2.9% black, instead of 14-15% Latinos and at least 4% blacks, as expected.

“These are critical demographic groups,” Tulchin said.  “To undercount them in a survey has a direct impact on the poll results for the governor’s race.” Probolsky’s poll, he added, with a more conservative and Caucasian turnout model, resembled a Whitman campaign poll “that showed Brown with a slight lead and Gloria Allred with a 92% name ID, which is not very credible.”

As if to prove the point, guess who sent around the Probolsky poll to reporters on Thursday? And thank you for that, Ms. Pompei.

PS: In earlier versions of this post we had a picture of the wrong Anthony York up. Sorry for our stupid misgoogletake.

Gandalf vs. Technology, Round 32: Confronted with the complex and sophisticated 21st century challenge of hanging up the phone, Jerry Brown has failed miserably, the estimable Seema Mehta is reporting Thursday night, thus  setting off another kerfuffle in the governor’s race.

The 72-year old — and-getting-older-by-the-minute — Democratic nominee appears to have left a voicemail message at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Protective League last month, expressing frustration that the cop group planned to endorse eMeg after Krusty refused to exempt law enforcement from his call for reforming public employee pension plans — this after Ms. I’ll-tackle-the-status-quo agreed to enable the police union’s rules-are-different-for-us demands.

Whereupon Brown, the chief law enforcement official of the most populous state in the union, proved unequal to the task of HANGING UP THE TELEPHONE, thereby managing to leave on the cop union’s voice recorder the full, unadulterated contents of an ensuing, full and frank discussion of the political implications of the matter, during which one of Jerry Kid’s referred to eMeg as a “whore.”

No doubt, they meant it in the nicest possible way.

At press time, Team Brown’s Steve Glazer was apologizing profusely to Herself and the usual “anyone who may have been offended” suspects, while the volcanic Sarah Pompei  of Team Whitman was declaring the sexist slur “unforgivable and despicable.” Film at 11.

Next up: Jerry tries to navigate indoor plumbing.

Must read of the week: No word yet if the Legions of eMeg Communications Corps has turned to the task of e-blast, multiple platform dissemination of the cover story in the upcoming issue of The Nation, but if they haven’t, they really should.

In one of the toughest investigative takedowns in memory of a public figure who really had it coming, Isabel Macdonald rips the phony mask of self-righteousness from the immigrant-bashing Lou Dobbs, late of CNN, and in the process makes Our Meg look like a total piker in the employer of undocumented workers category.

Dobbs, who made himself rich and famous by blathering race-baiting demagoguery on cable TV, for quite some time has been living large in two huge and luxurious estates which support the major jones that his 22-year old daughter has for champion show jumper horses.

Turns out his truly sweet set-up is sustained by the labor of illegal immigrants, whom he never tired of bashing on his now-canceled program of self-described “fearless reporting and commentary.” In a piece aptly, if not subtly, titled “Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite,” Macdonald writes:

But with his relentless diatribes against “illegals” and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper…

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that “the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!”

Schadenfreude – sometimes it’s better than sex.

Update: Dobbs vs. Macdonald on MSNBC.

Testing 1, 2, 3: Nate Silver, the NYT’s boy genius of political polling and  statistical computational matters, has reset the betting line in his 538 blog and now makes Jerry Brown a 3-to-1 favorite to win the California governorship.

Written (or, far more likely, edited) into the most genteel Timespeak,  Silver’s item on the race notes that Krusty has become a 75 percent favorite after the column pegged him as the underdog just two weeks ago, and credits Nicky-gate as the reason for the switch:

Still, the allegations are obviously not helpful to Ms. Whitman, whose campaign has reacted with a certain lack of dexterity — with Ms. Whitman, for instance, having volunteered to take a polygraph test to rebut them. Such distractions may be relatively more difficult for a candidate like Ms. Whitman, who is running her first campaign for office, and who is used to writing her own script as the former chief executive of eBay.

Amid all the recent fuss about I-9′s and mileage payments for maids, we’d almost forgotten about last week’s quickly-retracted promise by eMeg to take a lie detector test to back up her story, but we’re glad Nate raised it since it resurfaced one of  our all-time favorite political quotes (h/t Bill Carrick).

Fritz Hollings, the ex-governor and former long-serving Senator from South Carolina, was once challenged by a soon-to-be-vanquished campaign rival to take a drug test. To which the famously blunt-spoken Hollings instantly replied: “I’ll take a drug test if you take an IQ test.”

Corporations are people too: Mega-kudos to Jack Dolan of the By God L.A. Times for digging out a truly outrageous $30 million sweetheart tax break deal in the Legislature’s compromise budget plan, a reeking piece of rancid fish festering deep inside the secretly negotiated spending plan for the financial benefit of one, and only one, rich and politically influential family.

The provision, which will allow the Humboldt Redwood Co. to deduct $20 million in old losses from future taxes, is also expected to cover penalties and interest for the firm co-owned by three sons of Donald G. Fisher, founder of the Gap and Banana Republic, said company Chairman Sandy Dean.

The tax break was inserted into the draft state spending plan during closed-door negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders, said people close to the talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secret nature of the deal-making.

While Krusty is working overtime to make the world safe for children’s bouncy houses and eMeg is trembling with fury about a few poor people who may have dared to leave the state while on welfare, we’re still waiting for the howls of outrage from either one of them over this single interest rip-off for one of California’s best-connected families.

Breaking: Dolan busts them on another one.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: On the list of Citizen Kane-wannabes who thought it would be fun to own a newspaper, there is tremendous competition for the title of biggest chucklehead, but it’s tough to top the utter idiocy of Chicago greedhead Sam Zell, who’s still in the process of ruining a whole batch of them, as David Carr reports in painful detail.

How the FPPC Should (and Shouldn’t) Meddle Online

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Calbuzz is generally not too keen on any regulatory movement, cause or organization, especially not one that’s intent on regulating us. But we have to say there are good reasons to extend – carefully — to the online world some of the disclosure requirements on political campaigns that now apply in the old media world of broadcast and print.

The trick is for California’s Fair Political Practices Commission to use a light touch so as not to kill the baby in the crib. Internet political communications still are in their infancy. You Tube, for example, by which so much of today’s online political messaging is conveyed, wasn’t even created until February 2005 and it didn’t really catch on in the political world until the 2008 cycle.

When the FPPC considers rule-making this fall, the fundamental principle should be this:

Keep the burden of disclosure on the candidates, campaigns and advocates without creating undue burdens on the media through which they choose to communicate. (Especially us.)

We agree with the FPPC report on this issue that:

When a committee or candidate engages in campaigning, the public should know that the communication is being paid for, regardless of the form that communication takes. In the current networked world, political communication by a regulated committee or candidate that occurs over the Internet is the functional equivalent of a broadcast ad, and an email is the functional equivalent of a mailer.

Fortunately, the FPPC and its staff have been cautious, open and deliberate as they approach the issue. They recognize, for example “that it is difficult to regulate a moving target. Innovation is not predictable and could be stifled by moving too quickly and regulating too strictly.”

Who’s paying for what: The FPPC report recognizes that you can’t require the same disclosure for a postage-stamp-sized web ad, a tweet or a Facebook message that you demand in a TV commercial. But you could require that a web ad or even the name of a tweeter or Facebooker  who’s pushing campaign communications should link to a page on which it’s disclosed who is behind the message so that an online reader understands where the message is coming from and who’s paying for it.

As the report noted:

Some paid advertising does not allow adequate room for disclaimers required by current law (e.g., some forms of electronic advertisements, twitter communication, etc.). In those cases, candidates and committees must provide information in ways that are practicable given the limitations of the medium (e.g., on the website that is accessed when one clicks on an ad; on pages providing information about the source of tweets; on appropriate places in social networking sites; through information that pops up when the mouse is rolled over word or phrase).

The Maryland Board of Elections recently passed new electronic media rules to provide just such flexibility. The Maryland regulations provide that if electronic media advertisements are too small (e.g., a micro bar, a button ad, a paid text advertisement that is 200 characters or less in length, or a small paid graphic or picture link) to contain an “authority line,” the ads will comply with the required disclosure of the political committee authorizing the message if the ad allows the viewer to click on the electronic media advertisement and the user is taken to a landing or home page that prominently displays the authority line information.

That makes sense to us.

Sock puppets and web whores: There’s one place where we’re not sure the FPPC goes far enough: requiring online communicators like bloggers to disclose if they are being paid by a campaign or political committee for more than the standard value of their advertising.

The rationale for not requiring disclosure by sock-puppet bloggers is this: 1) the FPPC does not want to dampen robust free speech on the internet and 2) payments to bloggers will be disclosed in the campaign or political committee’s expenditure reports.

We heartily agree with the principle of doing nothing to dampen free speech on the Internet,or anywhere else. But there is a big difference between Steve Poizner placing an ad on Calbuzz at the same rate that ad space is sold to anyone else, compared to Meg Whitman paying $15,000 a month to Green Faucet, the parent of the Red County blog, in order to secure a steady stream of favorable coverage and support masquerading as news coverage.

One is just a business transaction in which the web site selling advertising is not a paid mouthpiece for a campaign but instead a free agent on the Internet.

The other is little more than paid campaign communications. Blogs that are subsidized by a political committee – and who have thereby crossed the line into paid advocacy — ought to be required to make that clear to their readers.

Voluntary disclosure is not good enough. There are too many unscrupulous cheats out there and too many web whores. Moreover, it’s nothing for a campaign with big resources to set up a web site that looks like a neutral observer but which is, in reality, just an extension of the campaign.

At the very least, expenditure reports should be modified to specify  “internet communications,” and “online advertising.” Something along the lines in the FPPC report, which calls for:

…requiring that expenditure reports contain more detail of payments for activity on the Internet, including payments to bloggers, so that these payments can be more easily discerned. The brief description on the expenditure report would include the name of the recipient of payment for electronic communication, the purpose of the payment, and the name of website or other similar address where the communication (blog, tweet, Facebook page, etc.) appears.

For now, the report says:

We do not recommend requiring disclosure in blogs at this time because of our concern about stifling this robust and growing source of political discourse. We considered an alternative that would require bloggers compensated by a campaign committee to disclose on their blogs that they have material connections to a campaign. This was based, in part, on a recent Federal Trade Commission guideline requiring bloggers endorsing products to disclose their financial connections to the manufacturers of the product. Requiring disclosure of paid bloggers would also be analogous to Section 84511 of the PRA mandating disclosure of paid spokespersons in ballot measure ads.

We recommend instead that the Commission continue to monitor the development of activity on weblogs and assess whether disclosure through expenditure reports is sufficient to ensure voters know when a blogger is part of a political campaign and when she is acting as an interested citizen expressing her political views. If the Commission determines that the failure to require more disclosure of compensated political bloggers has undermined the right of the public to be informed about the course of political communication, the issue of appropriate regulation should be revisited.

Calbuzz prediction: unless the FPPC requires disclosure, plenty of unethical bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers will fail to tell readers who’s buying their loyalty.

In search of a bright line: There are some other issues still to be fleshed out. For example, who is to be considered “news media” and who is not.

The report says the Political Reform Act’s media exemption (on advocacy) “should be interpreted to include online media sources, whether or not they also participate in print or broadcast media.”

Importantly, however, blogging should not automatically be considered to trigger the media exemption unless the blog meets the standards for being considered part of the media. It is not necessary to expand the media exemption to include uncompensated bloggers who are unaffiliated with campaigns because they are protected by the exemption recommended above for volunteer uncompensated political communication.

This gets really tricky.

Relevant passages in the Political Reform Act define news media as “a regularly published newspaper, magazine or other periodical of general circulation which routinely carries news, articles and commentary of general interest” or “a federally regulated broadcast outlet” or certain kinds of newsletters or regularly published periodicals.

What does that make an online political news site like Calbuzz? Or partisan sites like Calitics or FlashReport? Or an aggregator like Rough & Tumble? All of which have or would gladly accept, advertising from candidates and political committees. What would you call Red County? Or California Majority Report? Do they “meet certain standards for being considered part of the media?” Or are they advocates for causes and candidates?

Click on the “eBay: Don’t Buy It Now” ad on this page and you get taken to California Working Families which tells you the page is “Paid for by California Working Families for Jerry Brown for Governor 2010, a Coalition of Public Employees, Firefighters, and Building Trades Organizations. I.D. # 1324632.  Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.” That’s the way it should work.

Likewise, if you click on “It’s Time for a New California” on the FlashReport home page, you get taken to Meg Whitman’s campaign home page which tells you at the bottom “Paid for by Meg Whitman For Governor 2010.” They probably ought to include their FPPC identification, but that’s a quibble.

But if you click on erichogue on Twitter, there’s no way to know that the screeching right-wing tweets from the conservative radio commentator just might be influenced by that $1,000 payment he got in the last reporting period from the Whitman campaign.

So what’s his Hogue News?  He’d like us to believe his site is “news media.” But he’s already proved he’s a for-rent mouth breather. Trouble is, the only people who know are those who’ve followed the arcane news about campaign finance or those who’ve read through Whitman’s expenditure reports and stumbled across the payment to him.

It won’t do for the FPPC to define “news media” in a way that includes only the dead and dying old media, as the current regulations do. But it also won’t do to ignore the fact that some online practitioners feel no compunction to level with the public about their status as paid advocates.

Plenty of free parking: Calbuzz would be happy to participate in further discussions with the FPPC on these issues. And if the FPPC would like to buy an ad on our site, they can find the rate card right here.