Archive for the ‘Blogosphere Debate’ Category



Meyer Looks at Meg’s Big Bill (With Apologies to Ben)

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

“Silence is not always a sign of wisdom, but babbling is ever a folly,” Ben Franklin once said. Good advice in politics, especially as we watch the race for California governor. Jerry Brown’s Zen-like silence may or may not be an indication of wisdom: we’ll know soon enough. We’ll also know whether voters conclude that the $100 million or so Meg Whitman has spent on TV ads is nothing more than babbling.

Today, Calbuzz Editorial Pen Swordsman Tom Meyer memorably looks at In Meg We Trust.

Was It Something We Said? We now have the official, break-our-hearts turndown from the Whitman campaign. Jerry Brown accepted but eMeg won’t join us, FlashReport and Calitics in a debate. Here’s the break-up letter:

Silver bullet for silver fox? Mega-kudos to Brian Joseph, the OC Register’s man in Sacramento, who’s dug out one helluva’ story about Jerry Brown’s pension or, more precisely, the mystery surrounding Jerry Brown’s pension.

Joseph, who spent weeks trying to get to the bottom of how many actual public dollars Krusty is due for serving, variously, one term as secretary of state, two terms as governor and one term as attorney general, came up with one terrific yarn about a scam called the “Legislators Retirement System” which was so shady it got banned by Proposition 140, the 1990 term limits initiative. Almost, kinda, sort of…

Turns out that a handful of very lucky, past and present state officials are still benefiting from the LRS’s very generous terms including, apparently, one Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Seems that it’s impossible to report the exact terms of Gandolf’s pension because the administrators of the double secret pension fund are sworn to confidentiality about its workings, terms and beneficiaries. Move along, nothing to see here…

Sterling Clifford, Brown’s otherwise talented campaign flack, has been doing a lot of very intensive tap dancing, in a vain effort to deflect Joseph’s multiple and persistent questions about the matter, but his answers to date have been, to put it charitably, unsatisfactory.

Calbuzz sez: This is a very serious issue for Brown, and he needs to quickly, and with great transparency, get all the facts out into the public domain about a) what he’s getting; b) what’s he already got and; c) what’s he due to get in the future from state pension systems. As soon as possible. Also: really, really fast.

Brown has done textbook nice work in making hay about the one-for-the-books City of Bell scandal. With its outrageous details about local government salaries, benefits and tax rip-offs, Bell has become the highest of high-profile symbols of government profligacy, in a year of taxpayer utter disgust with government.

But if Brown doesn’t come clean, and soon, about the terms of his pension, this issue will bite him the ass, big time, for three key reasons:

1-Brown’s recent outrage and self-righteous investigations of the Bell matter are going to turn to dust, of the most hypocritical kind, if it turns out he’s been living large on exactly the same kind of scam as he’s publicly decrying – and probing – in that community.

2-The official secrecy surrounding Brown’s pension belies the narrative he’s pushing about his fundamental integrity and monkish frugality, in contrast to Meg Whitman’s corporate greedhead lavishness, in a way that will rebound to her considerable advantage in what you like to call your Reasonable Man Test.

3-Brown’s so-far brilliant, gravity-defying ability to position himself as the outsider to eMeg’s insider – using political ju-jitsu to use her extraordinary campaign spending to portray her as the de facto incumbent in the governor’s race – will fall to earth and crash.

Should she put a couple million bucks behind ads that assail him as a dissembling, evasive scumbag who, with his pension, is ripping off the public trust he’s proclaiming in public he’s working overtime to protect (not exactly a long shot possibility) Brown will spend the next month trying to explain the pension checks he’s cashed, not to mention the stubs sitting in the top drawer of his bureau.

Somebody – most logically the Orange County Register – should file a Public Records Act request to get all the documents and data pertaining to Brown’s state pension (damn the personnel information exemption). Calbuzz will gladly lend our extraordinary financial resources to assist any such legal effort as a friend of the court.

Ballad for a Friday night after getting dumped by eMeg:

Humpday: Bell Chimes for Krusty, eMeg in 2016!

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Back when George Stephanopoulos was peddling his memoir of life in the Clinton White House, he often began his stock talk to audiences with a classic joke premised on him defining the word “politics,” which went something like this:

“It derives from the Greek root ‘poli,’ meaning ‘the many,’” he’d say, then pause a beat. “And the word ‘tics,’ meaning, “blood sucking parasites.’”

Given this Calbuzzian weltanschauung, George would naturally be our top pick to interview Meg Whitman for “Good Morning America,” far better suited than the rest of the steel-bellied airheads who populate the network airwaves at that time of day. And when he faced off for a 4:33 sit-down with Her Megness early Tuesday, he did a pretty good job of asking a few tough questions within the patty cake parameters of the GMA genre.

Unfortunately for any viewer who hoped to learn something new or authentic about eMeg, she also performed well, slipping, sliding and dodging throughout, as she stayed relentlessly on her straight jacketed message and tediously stuck to her tiresome talking points.

For Calbuzz, the highlight came when Stephanopoulos asked her if she wanted to run for president, the first time we’re aware that any national type raised the issue since we warned the world to keep an eye on the burgeoning Our Meg in 2016 campaign.

Sorry to say, he loosely worded his question so to give the slippery eMeg an easy out, as she instantly chuckled the phoniest laugh since 1950, when LFN made its debut on the pioneering Hank McCune show.

GS: You win in November, you’re automatically at the top of the Republican party list, not only in California., but the country. Ever thought about running for president?

MW: No (big burst of head tossed back fake hilarity). I am here to run California. I want to fix California. Where goes California goes the country.

“Where goes California goes the country”? Really?

Calbuzz sez: Not exactly what you call your Shermanesque statement. Keep those “Meg 2016” buttons – they could be worth big bucks on eBay.

More on Meg in the morning:

1-eMeg first tried to duck the question of whether she supports congressional Republicans in pushing to extend the Bush tax cuts; when George S.interrupted her filibuster – “Let me get back to my question” – she promptly threw in with the Laffer Curve crowd: “I do.”

In between, she served her usual fog of gibberish about “targeted tax cuts” in California, a mumbo jumbo mashup she uses to disguise a supply side agenda of gifting corporations and billionaires like herself, as the superb financial writer Michael Hiltzik made clear in Sunday’s LAT.

2-Stephanopoulos asked an excellent question about the well-deserved dismal public image of corporate executives, but failed to follow up, letting eMeg off the hook for her own sleazy history of  dealings with Goldman Sachs and Craig’s List, not to mention her manhandling of a subordinate press aide at eBay.

GS: Why should the public trust business leaders any more than politicians? These days they see all of the shenanigans on Wall Street and there’s just as much distrust of the business world today as there is of politicians.

MW: I would tell people to look at my eBay experience, blah, blah, blah…

3-Interesting visual: In his lead-in to eMeg, GS said, “We continue our series of interview with new faces on the political scene,” over a graphic display of newcomers that included wannabe California Senator Carly Fiorina, South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, Tea Party Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul and…Jerry Brown.  “New face on the political scene”? No way. Way! Chalk up one for Gandolf.

The Bell tolls for thee: In a sudden burst of energy,  Brown this week showed off his consummate skill as a political ambulance chaser, breaking all land speed records to dive into the middle of the story surrounding the widening scandal of gold-plated salaries and benefits local officials paid themselves in the small Southland city of Bell.

Wearing his Attorney General hat, Krusty immediately launched an investigation of the rancid mess, uncovered through first-rate enterprise reporting by the By God L.A. Times, managing in one swell foop to a) garner reams of free media attention in what is Topic A in L.A.; b) thumb his nose at eMeg who keeps insisting she’s shocked – shocked! – at the notion of an attorney general getting political benefit from the exercise of his official duties and c) find a strong pony to ride in the campaign contest to exploit  outrage over public employee pay and benies, without offending his allies in labor.

Debate over debates: We’re feeling a bit confused over Tuesday’s exchange of fire over debates in the governor’s race, as eMeg said she was challenging Krusty to three, and he responded that he’d already challenged her to 10 so she owed him an answer on three, but one of those she accepted was not in the original 10, so yadayadayada.

We’ll leave the untangling of all this to others. All we know is that Our Meg snubbed the gracious  Calbuzz/Flashreport/Calitics invite for an historic Blogosphere Debate, which Brown earlier accepted. As the late Calbuzz Joseph Marie Eugene Sue was fond of saying:
“La vengeance se mange très-bien froide.”

Brown Accepts Blogosphere Debate, Nine Others

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Democrat Jerry Brown today accepted the invitation for the proposed Sept. 13 Blogosphere Debate with Republican Meg Whitman, featuring questioning by Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics. Brown also accepted nine other debate offers and called on Whitman to join him.

Sources in the Whitman campaign have not been encouraging to Calbuzz about their candidate’s participation in the Blogosphere Debate at San Jose State University, with sponsorship by SJSU, the School of Social Sciences and the Commonwealth Club silicon Valley. But now that Brown has accepted, perhaps they’ll take up the challenge.

Brown also accepted debate offers from: Faith Forum; CPR/KCRA/Univision/Sacramento Bee/ UC Davis; CBS; KTVU/Chronicle/KQED;  PPIC/CBA;  Dominican University/NBC;  La Opinion/KPCC;  The Women’s Conference, and ABC/League of Women Voters.

“Partisan bickering and attack-dog politics have created an awful mess in Sacramento, and I think Meg and I now have an opportunity to change the tenor of politics in California by conducting a responsible campaign that shows people there is a better way to do business,” Brown said in a written release.

“Every one of these debates is hosted by a credible organization, guaranteeing a fair and open forum,” Brown continued. “There is no reason not to participate, no reason not to say what we really mean, and show the voters who we are.”

UPDATE 3:40 PM:
From Sarah Pompei of the Whitman campaign — “We’re happy to see that Jerry Brown has finally accepted Meg’s challenge to debate at Dominican University in October. While Jerry Brown has been on the sidelines, Meg has been busily campaigning in front of real voters for a year and a half. We are excited to review every debate option on a case by case basis and we will be weighing in accordingly. The fact is there will be plenty of time for debates, and we are committed to having strong substantive debates, but we’re running out of time to hear what Jerry Brown plans to do about job creation, taxes, pension reform, government spending, and so many other issues.”

Press Clips: Hardnose vs Brown Nose Reporting

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

If the emperor has no clothes – simply avert your eyes: In a week when Michael Hastings reminded everyone what tough, hard nose reporting looks like, here comes David Brooks to offer a perfect glimpse of its polar opposite: brown-nose reporting.

As the world now knows, Hastings’ long-form piece in Rolling Stone not only uncovered a culture of arrogance, disrespect, and trash-talking of civilian leadership in the inner circle of General Stanley McChrystal, but also disclosed a festering conflict at the highest levels over U.S. policy in Afghanistan between and among senior military and government leaders.

But to Brooks, the mealy-mouthed moderate conservative columnist for the NYT, Hastings is simply a gossip-mongering ruffian without the refined sensibilities and fine feelings needed to appreciate and understand that matters such as a general’s actual candid words are never to be reported.

“The most interesting part of my job is that I get to observe powerful people at close quarters,” Brooks began (gag).

General McChrystal was excellent at his job. He had outstanding relations with the White House and entirely proper relationships with his various civilian partners in the State Department and beyond. He set up a superb decision-making apparatus that deftly used military and civilian expertise.

But McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.

Imagine – Hastings put it in the magazine. We can only imagine how much inside stuff Brooks gets to see and hear in the course of his days, but never bothers to share with his readers because then…he wouldn’t get to “observe powerful people at close quarters.”

This just in: Hastings fires back at Brooks:

More on McChrystal media: The pink-shirted, purple-tied Brooks wasn’t the only journo whose nose was put out of joint by the Hastings report. Jon Stewart’s crew put together a nice mash-up of Beltway MSM types tut-tutting about the bombshell piece.

When the camera cut back to him after the video clips, Stewart had donned a pair of black horn rims which he removed to solemnly announce, in best Cronkite-doing-JFK-assassination style: “At approximately 11:04 Eastern Standard Time, the American news media finally realized they kind of sucked.”

Politico also enmeshed itself in the thorny issue of journalistic ethical relativism, with a long report on the Rolling Stone piece that included this intriguing paragraph:

McChrystal, an expert on counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency, has long been thought to be uniquely qualified to lead in Afghanistan. But he is not known for being media savvy. Hastings, who has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for two years, according to the magazine, is not well-known within the Defense Department. And as a freelance reporter, Hastings would be considered a bigger risk to be given unfettered access, compared with a beat reporter, who would not risk burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks. (emph. ours)

In other words, a beat reporter would never be so craven as Hastings and actually report the truth – it might affect his access!

It’s instructive that a few hours after the piece was posted, Politico substituted a new version, with that very telling paragraph excised.  Jay Rosen had a swell time dissecting that move over at Press Think.

The Brooks/Politico journalism thought police were joined in their pecksniffian pronouncements by the Washington Post, which weighed in with a yarn quoting anonymous military sources accusing Rolling Stone of having violated rules of attribution in getting their scoop.

McChrystal was betrayed when the journalist quoted banter among the general and his staff, much of which they thought was off the record.

Hastings and his editor both vehemently deny this, but you can be sure that it’s only a matter of time before that view becomes received Beltway wisdom about the Rolling Stone piece. After all, if the story was worth reporting, surely someone worth knowing would have reported it.

Huh? Wuddhe say? Kudos to California Watch for their terrific new feature “Politics Verbatim” which provides horse’s mouth statements and speech excerpts from candidates in the 2010 campaigns. It’s a great resource because, with apologies to Joe Mathews, it really does matter what politicians say.

Because Calwatch is focused on the importance of language in politics, however, we were surprised to find this construction in their recent piece on Meg’s hypocritical new ad on immigration:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman set to work courting support among Latinos last week after a brutal GOP primary battle that forced her to take a loud and hard stance against immigration issues.

Forced her? Really?

Actually eMeg chose to follow Steve Poizner down the shameful road of immigrant bashing in the primary because she was far more worried about her own skin than in standing up and taking a principled position on the issue. And why not – she knew she could then just turn around and spend a couple million more trying to fool people into thinking that’s what she’d done all along. Forced? C’mon.

On the other hand, Joe: Hat tip to Joe Matthews for exposing some of the falsehoods in eMeg’s snappy 60-second, golden-oldies hit on Krusty the General. Under the Calbuzzworthy headline “Shocker! In New Ad Meg Whitman comes Out Against Prop 13″ Joe writes:

Should we feel sorry for Brown? Not in the least. By failing to level with voters about Prop 13 and the need to change the budget system it helped launch, Brown created this opening for Meg’s mischief. But Whitman is doing a disservice to the state and its voters (particularly those who don’t know or don’t remember the history) by misrepresenting a very important and relevant part of our state’s.

She should pull the ad. In the meantime, California TV stations, which have an obligation to serve the public, could honor that obligation by refusing to run it.

Say Cheez: The truth isn’t the only thing eMeg is doing violence to with her new ad:  Cheezburger Network, host of a batch of popular sites including FAIL blog, is crying rip-off. Cheezburger founder Ben Huh has issued an angry statement assailing the Whitman campaign for appropriating the look and feel of their “fail” schtick for the anti-Brown ad:

We want to make it VERY clear that FAIL Blog nor the Cheezburger Network had any involvement or knowledge of the Whitman campaign use of a screenshot of FAIL Blog. In fact, the screenshot portrayed in the video never existed because the Whitman campaign faked the content within the screenshot. FAIL Blog or the Cheezburger Network has never been involved in any endorsement of any candidate or political party and do not plan to do so….

We demand a written apology from the Whitman campaign and the removal of the video.

No response from Team eMeg on the demand.

No news is, eh, no news: Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics have received no word from Jerry Brown or Meg Whitman in response to our invitation for a Sept. 13 debate between them — with us as questioners.

The hall is booked at San Jose State; the university, the college of Social Sciences and Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley all have agreed to sponsor. But the candidates seem: 1) too scared of this group of questioners to step up; 2) sure it’s a bad idea to respond before knowing if the other camp is too chicken to respond; 3) not entirely happy with Calbuzz for all our, um, irreverence about them; 4) all of the above. No worries, we have Plan B up our sleeves. Stay tuned.

Redeem this, buster: Just what do you have to do to disqualify yourself for a job in the fancy-pants world of network and big-time cable news? Judging from CNN’s embrace of disgraced NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer, it seems like the Road to Redemption is getting shorter by the minute. It took Marv Albert two full years! (as if that was enough) before NBC put him back on the air calling NBA games after he plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery when, during his felony trial for forcible sodomy, DNA tests proved that bite marks on the victim’s back were his. Now CNN will give Spitzer a show with convenient conservative columnist Kathleen Parker (formerly of the San Jose Mercury News, btw) after the whoring former gov blogged for Slate and analyzed for MSNBC. Sheesh.

Calbuzz Video Premiere: Silicon Valley and Politics

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Today our Department of  Internets Digital Storytelling & Multi-Platform Cool Stuff is delighted to present the first Calbuzz News Channel report, written and produced by our new multimedia journalist,  Jennifer Fey.

A graduate student in Multimedia Communications at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Jennifer has previously reported for NRI Achievers Magazine and India West News. She has also worked for Google, Sapient and Worldcom, as well as The Anti-Defamation League and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, where she earned a master’s degree at the Divinity School after graduating from Macalester College in Minnesota (Walter Mondale ’50, Kofi Anan ’61).

Yeah, we can’t figure out why she’d want to hang out with us either.

Her first piece — a kind of warm-up pitch — focuses on the shifting political landscape of Silicon Valley, and looks at how wannabe governors Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown may, or may not, appeal to its economic interests, culture and values.

An interesting Silicon Valley sidebar:  posted by Newsweek: Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has rounded up financial support from a batch of Silicon Valley executives, including Cisco Systems Inc.’s John Chambers, Oracle Corp.’s Larry Ellison, Netflix Inc.’s Reed Hastings, and John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Tough luck for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — a real man bites dog story, kinda like when Bill Clinton won the support of John Young (then CEO of HP), John Scully (then CEO of Apple) and other SV bigwigs in 1992.

Another Sponsor for the First Ever All Blogosphere Debate: San Jose State University itself has signed on as a sponsor for the proposed Sept. 13 debate (at San Jose State) between the aforementioned Whitman and Brown featuring questioners from Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics — the three leading original content political web sites covering California politics.

We’re still waiting for a formal responses from the Whitman and Brown campaigns. But having SJSU as a sponsor adds to the glamor (dontja think?). Other sponsors: the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley and the College of Social Sciences at the university.

Did we say we promise to be really really nice? We promise.

BTW: That’s our new custom campaign logo draw for us by our new graphic artist, Ali Spagnola.