Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

CA GOP On Knife Edge; USC Pollsters, LAT Weasel

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

kashkaridonnellyCalifornia Republicans stand at a crossroads: Will they join the ranks of voters in Kentucky, Georgia, Oregon and other states who have chosen Establishment conservatives over Tea Party knuckledraggers? Or will they add California to the roster of states like Nevada, Missouri and Illinois who chose teabaggers who later got skunked by Democrats.

Until this weekend, polls were suggesting that Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the Tea Party “patriot” was on his way to becoming the GOP standard bearer by defeating former U.S. Treasury operative Neel Kashkari, the Establishment’s choice, in the open primary.

Neither of them has a prayer against Gov. Jerry Brown in November. No non-incumbent Republican has been elected governor of California after a primary election since Pete Wilson won against token opposition nearly a quarter century ago.

But the USC Dornsife/LA Times poll University of released over the weekend found Kashkari slightly ahead of Donnelly in the race for second place and the right to lose to Brown in November.

“Among likely voters in the primary election, Democratic incumbent Brown has 50 percent of the vote, compared to 18 percent for Kashkari and 13 percent for Donnelly, with 10 percent of likely voters still undecided,” USC/LAT reported.

LATgraphicFun with numbers: So at odds with other recent polls was the result, that the survey’s directors and the LA Times itself weasley weasely called the race for second place “a statistical tie” and a “dead heat” – which they did because their finding was so close to the margin of error for likely voters in their poll.

In other words, the pollsters weren’t confident enough in their own results (or their model of likely voters*) to assert that Kashkari has surged ahead of Donnelly. “It’s too close to call, but Kashkari has some momentum going into the final stretch,” Dave Kanevsky of American Viewpoint, the Republican firm that conducted the poll along with the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, told the LA Times.

And our friends Seema Mehta and Michael Finnegan (or their editors) at the Times chose not to buy into the survey’s actual findings, hedging their bets, writing: “The difference between the two vying for the second slot in the general election was within the poll’s margin of error.”

But according to the results released by USC, Kashkari’s 5-point lead among likely voters is actually just outside of the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent for likely voters.

The race could be called a dead heat if you were looking at all the registered voters in the survey, where the results had Kashkari at 13 percent and Donnelly at 12 percent with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 percent. But then, you wouldn’t be relying on the voters you expect to be a part of the final tally. Moreover, among those who told the pollsters they’d already voted, Kashkari led 15-12 percent.

If you’re going to reject your own poll’s findings, you really ought to explain why.

Bottom line: Most Establishment Republicans are hoping and praying for Kashkari to win second place on Tuesday so they can avoid the inevitable investigative story that would follow a Donnelly victory – into whether their candidate actually has an opposable thumb.

*P.S. On Monday, after this post went online, our pal Timm Herdt at the Ventura Star, posted an item that came out of a media call the pollsters did with reporters that may shed some light on why the Times was hinkey about standing by their poll findings:

…predicting voter turnout in an election that most analysts believe will approach or exceed record-low turnout is a fairly dicey proposition. In a conference call with USC’s pollsters today (Scott Tiell of the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and David Kanevsky of the Republican firm American Viewpoint), they noted the poll’s “likely voter” universe represented 41 percent of their sample of 1,511 registered voters. Given the rate of mail-in-ballot returns so far, no serious political observer expects actual turnout to even approach 41 percent of registered voters. The consensus is 30 percent, plus-or-minus a couple percentage points. The pollsters did the best they could, as they counted as “likely voters” only respondents who had voted in at least one of the two most recent statewide primaries and who said they had either already voted or were almost certain that they would vote.

“Still, it seems likely the poll counted a fair amount of people who won’t actually vote. Perhaps the most instructive number came from the response of those who said they had already voted, and it showed a virtual dead heat: 15 percent for Kashkari, 12 percent for Donnelly.

John Vasconcellos: Mensch Who Fought for Decency

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

John-Vasconcellos2-772x350If you didn’t know John Vasconcellos, the former Assemblyman and state Senator from Santa Clara who died last weekend at age 82, you might think, from all of the tributes written about how “humane” and “caring” he was, that he was a gentle soul.

You would be wrong.

He was voluble and irascible, passionate and fierce. All in the cause of his lifelong quest to do good in the world. He strove for a personal and civil politics of love and truth, decency and integrity.

Vasco didn’t just wear his liberalism on his sleeve: he waved it like a bloody banner. He was, perhaps, the last honest man in Sacramento. Which is why people from all walks of life and both sides of the political aisle loved him.

In 1986, when cartoonist Garry Trudeau lampooned him as a flake in “Doonesbury” for his “California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem, Personal and Social Responsibility,” Vasconcellos reveled in the attention – for his ego was ginormous – and parlayed the limelight into TV and radio appearances and a spread in People magazine.

Today, few criminologists, sociologists or even politicians would argue with the assertion Vasco made then – for which he was ridiculed – that low self-esteem among young people is a crucial element in addiction, murder, mental illness, bullying and suicide.

Vasconcellos was willing to take the flak that inevitably came his way in pursuit of the greater good. In his personal as well as his political life. As our friend David Early wrote in the San Jose Mercury News:

Vasconcellos was a thunderous presence, almost from the day of his election to the state Assembly in 1966. He was always searching for ways to salve his tempestuous inner demons. He publicly employed an array of “human potential movement” therapies, including psychosynthesis and gestalt, hoping to release rage, tension and fear.

A Truly Human Being Vasconcellos was “the most human man I’ve ever known, a believer in mankind who strove to his last day for a political system of government that was value-based, forgiving, honest,” said his friend, former SF Chronicle reporter Mark Simon in a moving Facebook tribute.

“His friends knew him as a truly decent man who has always based his politics on the notion that humans are basically good and that public policy that stimulates and encourages the good in humankind — he calls it the politics of trust — should be the guiding principle for those who make the laws and develop governmental programs and policies,” our old pal, retired reporter Lee Quarnstrom, told the Mercury News.

Vasco wanted to be governor. But he was enough of a realist to understand that he was not a good match for the scheduling, ass kissing and especially the fund raising required to run a statewide campaign. Nor did he relish the cut-throat and negative tactical politics that is inevitably involved.

He was dedicated to human potential, not potential inhumanity. There won’t be another one like him.

Tale of Two Papers: Mass Murder and Student Media

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

dailynexus1The Daily Nexus, the independent, student-run newspaper at UC Santa Barbara, posted its first story about the mass murders in Isla Vista at 10:27 p.m. Friday night, one hour after the earliest law enforcement report of  ”shots fired.”  The paper’s reporters, photographers and editors haven’t stopped working since.

The Bottom Line, their student government-financed, journalistic rival, posted its first story two days later, an op-ed that carried this stunning headline: “Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting.”

Whenever tragedy strikes, emergency responders and journalists are some of the first on scene and are, consequently, more likely to suffer from emotional trauma because of it. As stated in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a code we at The Bottom Line strive to uphold every day in our reporting, we are to minimize harm, whether physical or emotional. Ethical “journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

After extensive discussions among our Editorial Staff, advisor and alumni, we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists. Before we are journalists, we are Gauchos and feel we need our time to mourn, process and recover from this senseless violence.

Paging Walter Burns.

nexusTragedy and tropes: Last weekend’s murder spree by a 23-22-year old, non-university resident of Isla Vista, the tiny, unincorporated beach neighborhood adjoining UCSB, swiftly generated in the media a host of by now sadly familiar national debates and tropes about gun control, mental illness, social media, bullying, parenting, cultural values, violent video games, Hollywood, law enforcement blunders, moral decay and pathological narcissism.

In that context, the contrasting approaches of two papers run by students to sudden and senseless, up-close-and-personal horror offers a rare and stark case study of how news media may approach – or avoid — the plague of such murderous episodes.

(Full disclosure: The writer of this post was employed by UCSB as student Publications Manager from 2007-10, serving as day-to-day publisher of the Nexus, in charge of keeping a struggling enterprise economically afloat. There is no department of journalism, or even a single course, at UCSB, so a prized student newsroom staff post involves a lot of learning on the job. A few days after starting in his new business-side position, your future Calbuzzer asked fourth year student and Editor in Chief Kaitlin Pike how he also might help student journalists with his 30 years of newspaper editorial experience: “Stay the fuck out of the newsroom” is a cleaned-up version of what she answered. And so, he almost always did).

The Nexus lineage traces to the 1930s, when the paper was “The Eagle” and UCSB was Santa Barbara State College. Loosely linked historically to Associated Students, the elected student government, the paper severed its ties with AS in the early 1970s, in the wake of bitter campus divisions and fierce anti-war demonstrations, including the iconic burning of the Bank of America branch in Isla Vista. The Nexus now publishes three print editions a week, plus frequent online postings and updates, operating mostly on ad revenue, supplemented by a small “lock-in fee” that requires a majority vote of approval by the student body every two years.

tblAn adversarial relationship: These days, the toughest coverage in the Nexus is reserved for AS, specifically the ways and means by which its elected leaders choose to spend millions of dollars in student activity fees that finance everything from a large campus recreation center to small musical performances and cultural and ethnic clubs.

Following a particularly long and nasty battle with the Nexus, AS decided in 2007 to start its own paper.

Among other things, the weekly Bottom Line in its mission statement states that it, “provides a printed space for investigative journalism, culturally and socially aware commentary, and engaging reporting that addresses the diverse concerns of our readership, including UCSB and its surrounding community. ”

Presumably, it was the paper’s “culturally and socially aware” values that led to its radical decision not to cover the murders on its news site (one of its intrepid reporters tweeted some coverage on his own).

Tragedy porn: Not surprisingly, that action, more precisely inaction, drew considerable condemnation on Facebook pages frequented by journalists – local and state, student and professional, working and retired: “Total abdication of responsibility to their staff and readers,” was a typical comment.

More surprising, however, The Bottom Line also received some thoughtful expressions of support, which traveled to the question of whether news media is culpable in such tragedies with its predictable blanket coverage and tried-and-true story budgets. La Tricia Ransom, a former editor at the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:

I respect that they don’t want to contribute to the tragedy porn the media too eagerly wallow in.

I also like some beliefs that if the news stopped naming the attackers, perhaps copycats will cease to see terrorism as a way to make a name for themselves. media remember the killers’ names, but not the victims.

dailynexus2Tragic Commodities: And this, reported by the weekly Santa Barbara Independent:

In front of the memorial that has grown for Chris Michael-Martinez on Pardall Road, students have raised signs that read “Stop Filming Our Tears,” “News Crew Go Home,” “Our Tragedy Is Not Your Commodity” to protest the constant presence of TV news crews, cameras, and vans in Isla Vista.

Starting about 3:30 p.m., four protesters arrived with seven-foot signs, and the protest has doubled since then, as reporters get ready for their latest evening broadcast about the seven killed Friday night.

Initially, a number of TV crews left the site when the protesters arrived, and the remaining reporters explained they were just doing their jobs and that they wanted to show the memorial. The residents replied that the news organizations were making money from their pain and that they wanted them to leave. The broadcasters ended up making their reports standing with the protest as a backdrop.

A couple of other takeaways:

SPJ and ethics: In announcing their decision not to cover the murders as a breaking news story, the Bottom Line justified their action by citing an SPJ Code of Ethics fundamental principle to “Minimize Harm.”

Whenever tragedy strikes, emergency responders and journalists are some of the first on scene and are, consequently, more likely to suffer from emotional trauma because of it. As stated in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a code we at The Bottom Line strive to uphold every day in our reporting, we are to minimize harm, whether physical or emotional. Ethical “journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

Longtime SPJ leader Peter Sussman, who played a major role in writing the society’s current code (now being revised), took issue with that interpretation of the document:

That certainly wasn’t one of the intended readings of that code section, and it’s commonly balanced with another core principle in the code, “Seek truth and report it.” They seem to have ignored the latter, and along with it, the obligation to shed whatever unique light the students themselves could have cast on the tragedy in their midst.

tumblr_static_tw-sign6Triggers: The murders come at a time when “trigger warnings,” a buzzword that suddenly seems wildly inappropriate, have become a high-profile issue among students at UCSB and elsewhere.

“Trigger warnings” are start-of-class disclaimers which some students have sought professors to provide about potentially uncomfortable discussion or reading content in classes, such as suicide, rape or racism, “that may trigger the onset of symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

It’s impossible to escape the conclusion that The Bottom Line’s decision arose from its fundamentally conflicted identity as both a purveyor of campus news and an organ for elected student body leaders and, presumably, their constituents.

Old School: From where we sit — having covered the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk, Jonestown, Loma Prieta Earthquake, mass slayings and many more tragedies — The Bottom Line simply doesn’t understand the bottom line. The paper surely has done no favors for anyone on its staff who aspires to be a working journalist by abandoning the field, along with its role as a community news source. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The Nexus, which resumes print publication tomorrow, performed with distinction the duties of a news organization. When the deal goes down, privileges extended under freedom of the press suddenly transform into arduous, painful and exhausting responsibilities of the press.

Mega-kudos Nexites.

PPIC Poll: Kashkari Gaining But Running Out of Time

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

govraceThere’s little doubt that Gov. Jerry Brown not only will win about half the statewide vote in the June 3 open primary election but also will be re-elected in November.

The big question is which Republican – Tim Donnelly, the gun-toting arch conservative and Tea Party favorite, or Neel Kashkari, the former Treasury official and Establishment choice – will carry the GOP banner in the fall.

It matters to Republicans, who are worried that having Donnelly as their candidate – with his extremist stands on immigration, gun control and government in general – will further erode the GOP’s brand in California, where fewer than 30% of voters identify with the party.

Why? As our old friend Garry South, the Democratic strategist, put it in the Sac B-:  ”If Democratic legislative candidates are smart – and they are – they will make Donnelly a centerpiece of their campaign. How? By demanding that their GOP opponent either say they are voting for Donnelly, and thereby align themselves with his far-right views that are completely out of sync with most California voters. Or, distance themselves from him and denounce those views, and thereby risk alienating their own conservative Republican base voters.”

The latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that while Kashkari – who is spending $2 million of his own money on TV ads and has enlisted endorsements from GOP Respectables like Pete Wilson, Mitt Romney and Condi Rice – has improved his standing, he may be running out of time.

In three months, Kashkari has moved to 10% in May, up 8 percentage points from March, when he was at 2%. Donnelly, meanwhile, stands at 15% in May, up 7 points from March. Both lag far behind Gov. Brown who pulls 48% in May, compared to 47% in March.

Where Kashkari has made inroads is among likely Republican voters. In May, he has won support from 21% of the GOP voters, up 17 percentage points from March. By comparison, Donnelly pulls 30% of the Republican vote, up 10% from March.

In other words, among Republicans, Kashkari is closing the gap with Donnelly.

govrace2Among independents, Kashkari has 8%, up 6 points from March, and Donnelly has 16%, up 5 points from March.

The big question is can Kashkari tap into the 34% of GOP voters in particular and perhaps the 35% of independents as well, who remain undecided?

If he could afford statewide media, featuring some of the respected Republicans supporting him and warning against support for Donnelly, Kashkari might have a chance to win second place on June 3. But as long as Donnelly holds onto the base conservative vote and nothing makes enough news to cause undecided voters to act differently than already-decided voters, he should be able to win the chance to move onto November.

PPIC surveyed 1,702 California adult residents, including 1,192 interviewed on landline telephones and 510 interviewed on cell phones May 8–15, 2014. . The sampling error for 1,038 respondents identified as likely voters, it is ±4.6 percent; for the 901 primary likely voters, it is ±4.9 percent.

Tune In, Turn Out: A User’s Guide to State Primary

Monday, May 19th, 2014

dr-evil-268x3001If current trends continue, the universe of voters for California’s June 3 primary will consist of 16 people in Alpine County, 9 in Indio and a couple of guys who live in Weed.

The alignment of three key factors is pointing to the lowest primary turnout in state history: Sacramento pols previously pushed all popular ballot measures to November; no less brilliant a political scientist than our friend Eric McGhee has concluded that the Top Two primary to date has not increased turnout, notwithstanding sponsors’ promises; the year’s most exciting race is for Secretary of State, fercrineoutloud.

Just 16 days before the primary, however, your Calbuzz Department of Goo Goo Reforms and Electoral Machinery Repair is here to save the day with a plan that all but guarantees the highest voter turnout since August 3, 2003, when 99.9 percent of North Korean voters went to the polls to deliver a ringing confirmation of confidence for Kim Jong Il’s platform of widespread fuel and food shortages.

Our simple, two-part fix:

1- The 17,660,486 California citizens who are registered adopt a “Vote the Story” strategy and back the Calbuzz Reporters Relief Act Ticket.

2-Outgoing secretary of state Debra Bowen ensures her legacy by immediately beginning statewide broadcast of a superb get-off-your-ass-and-vote ad produced by the government of Denmark.

danishpastryThat extraordinary ad – which Wonkette cogently described as “Danish Parliament Releases X-Rated Leather-Daddy Orgiastic Fellatio Cartoon, For Voting” – may be found here.

The 90-second animated ad features Voteman, a muscleman who decapitates, beats up, and interrupts a couple having sex so he can chuck them into the voting booth. At one point, he’s seen in bed with five women receiving a blowjob.

Oh sure, widespread Jutland public outrage forced the ad off the air just 24 hours after it went up, but we feel certain the voters in, say, Bakersfield will be much more open to its message than the prudish Danes.

All power to the story: As for the Calbuzz endorsements, our experience has been that while the news media are often accused of bias (sometimes correctly, like the commies of MSNBC and the fascists of Fox) the overwhelming majority of newspersons are biased in favor of only one thing: a good story.

Which is why we’ve spent literally tens of minutes exhaustively researching the so-called primary election Official Voter Information Guide (certified for “correctness” – really! — by SOS Bowen) to come up the Calbuzz Reporters’ Dream Team Ticket.

tim-donnelly-adGovernor: Tim Donnelly, Republican.

An obvious choice. How can any fan of politics as entertainment NOT vote for the guy who tried to smuggle a handgun into an airport, who sees immigrants from Mexico as an invading army that has to be met with lethal force, who attacks his Hindu opponent for supporting Islamic Sharia law and who says he “owns only one suit” but has appeared in public in at least half-a-dozen?

Sure, Neel Kashkari, the guy who helped bail out Goldman Sachs and all the banks too big to fail, has widespread Establishment GOP support.  Karl RovePete Wilson, Condi Rice are just a few of the Big Name Republicans supporting Mr. Cash and Carry. But why? One and only one reason: because he’s not a complete whack job.

In the end, whoever the top Republican is in June won’t matter anyway, because Jerry Brown is going to roll up a vast majority likely to threaten the aforementioned Mr. Kim’s 100 percent. In the meantime, however, journalistic hilarity looms ’round the clock – along with the distinct possibility that newspapers make an astonishing economic comeback as readers return in droves to check on the latest from Mr. Armed and Dangerous.

Not to mention, Calbuzz will push to the head of the line to serve on the panel of reporters enlisted to question the finalists in at least one of the dozens of debates we expect Governor Brown will be more than pleased to engage in with Donnelly.

korevaarLieutenant Governor: Eric Korevaar, Democrat.

Gavin Newsom has done little as lite governor except express his disdain for the office, which he’s repeatedly made clear is beneath the enormous talents that are obvious to, uh, him, and a couple of coat carriers.

We like Korevaar, a San Diego tech guy with a nice-looking family –  with the big added plus of being a “member of the Optical Society of America” — for one key reason: he’s the only one in the race who points toward fulfillment of the Calbuzz Lieutenant Governor agenda of abolishing this utterly unnecessary office.

There is no reason that the Lieutenant Governor’s office needs its current budget or staffing level to help with the responsibilities of the office, and I will get the job done for half of its current cost.

Hey, it’s a start.

orly-taitz-1-sizedAttorney General: Orly Taitz, No Party Preference.

A perfect Nut Case Party running mate for Donnelly, Taitz not only promises to nullify NSA spying, the use of Google and Obamacare taxes, but also vows to prosecute other state officials “who ignored all evidence brought by law enforcement and experts showing Obama to possess citizenship in Indonesia, fabricated Selective Service certificate, fabricated birth certificate and a CT Social Security number.”

We’re fans of Kamala Harris, but Calbuzz got on the Dr. Taitz AG bandwagon early, not least because we see her nomination as a boon to the state economy, as planeloads of Beltway Wizards fly out and use their bloated expense accounts to pay for over-priced hotels and consume mass quantities of rich restaurant food while writing their mandatory Fruits and Nuts of the Left Coast stories.


Secretary of State: Leland Yee, Democrat (Indicted)

The only state senator dumber than Ron Calderon, Yee officially has withdrawn from the race, but his name will still appear on the ballot. And what a great yarn it would be if voters said to hell with all those petty gun-running and bribery charges and pulled the great man back into the contest, along with Shrimp Boy, a bunch of gangstas and other little fish in San Francisco’s political cesspool.

Normally, our self-interest would make us vote for access (our own), by which backing old friend and former GOP flack Dan Schnur, who claims now to be a non-partisan. But the potential of this story to attract national attention trumps even selfishness, so we’re going with Uncle Leland.

tammyblairController: Tammy Blair (Democrat).

Conventional wisdom holds that outgoing Speaker John Perez and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen will square off in November, but we like Blair, a self-identified “administrator,” if only because her campaign home page blares, “Nothing Found,” right below her smiling face and logo. There’s more: her site’s “The $$ Dollar Campaign $$” page offers a simple but splendid rationale for her candidacy:

We figure that everyone can donate a dollar. You can donate whatever you wish, but really, we’re just asking for a dollar. We need you to pass along this information to everyone you know. It would be interesting to see how many people it reaches and how much money is raised.

Damned interesting, indeed. More red meat for reporters: She’s the only candidate in any race who’s for both a statewide ban on plastic bags and teaching creationism in public schools.

ellenbrownTreasurer: Ellen H. Brown (Green).

By fall, everyone expects this one to be an incredibly boring John Chiang Democratic walkover contest against Republican CPA Greg Conlon. So why not vote now to nominate someone running on a platform of having California join North Dakota as the only states to establish and operate publicly owned banks:

Currently the nation’s only state-owned depository bank, the Bank of North Dakota has been a stellar success and has been going strong ever since 1919. In Green vs. Frazier, 253 U.S. 233 (1920), the US Supreme Court upheld the bank’s constitutionality against a Fourteenth Amendment challenge and deferred to the state court on the state constitutional issues, which had been decided in the state’s favor.

You could look it up. For a couple of washed-up journalistic relics, few things would be sweeter than watching a parade of smarmy correspondents from Bloomberg, Forbes and the Journal trekking out to interview Brown, the Ron Paul of the left, about the gold standard, the National Bank Act and colonial paper money. Calbuzz gets results!

hriziInsurance Commissioner: Nathalie Hrizi (Peace and Freedom).

Growing deeper into our dotage, your Calbuzzards spend more and more time lost in dreams of our crispy salad days, imagining ourselves smoking dope after SDS meetings and getting evicted from University Hall. Maybe that’s why there’s something about a woman yelling into a megaphone that sends a Tweety Bird “thrill up our legs.”

All you need to need about Hrizi: a) she wants to abolish insurance companies; b) she’s campaigning for free, universal health care; c) did we mention she wants to abolish insurance companies?

Also: she’s all that stands between a deep sleep snoozer between Democratic incumbent Dave Jones and Republican sacrificial lamb Ted Gaines.

slide1Superintendent of Schools: Lydia Gutierrez, No Party Preference. 

This office ranks right up there with Lieutenant Governor as one that ought to done away with, the sooner the better, but as long as the sinecure exists, it might as well go to someone like Gutierrez, a teacher whose heart seems to be in the right place:

What needs to come back into the classroom is music, art, literature and vocational trade skills and they should play an active role in every school.

She also seems to be on the right track with her campaign button, a reversal on the old saw dissing teachers: “Those Who Can, Teach/Those Who Can’t, Write Common Core Standards.”

Don’t forget to vote.