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More Thunder from eMeg’s Right; Carla Held Hostage

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Little noticed among all the Ken und John Sturm und Drang came  another right-wing whack at Meg Whitman’s campaign prevarications, from a less  cacophonous, but arguably more consequential, conservative quarter.

Peter Foy, a Ventura County supervisor and a favorite of Tea Party and other hardline precincts, took eMeg to task in a SignOnSan Diego piece (h/t Jon Fleischman) for her flip-flopping flexibility on immigration and climate change, a post showing that conservative dismay with Our Meg is not limited to the yakkers and shouters on the AM band.

Foy played a high-profile role in sinking Governor Schwarzmuscle’s budget plan in last year’s special election, characterizing both Whitman and Steve Poizner as “squishy” on that and other fiscal matters in an interview with Calbuzz at a time when he was taking a semi-serious look at running for the big job himself.

In his new piece, Foy declared himself “a Whitman supporter,” but was unstinting and surgical in slicing her in the very spots where she was pounded last week on talk radio.

It’s troubling that Meg Whitman – the billionaire first-time candidate seeking to become California’s next governor – is running the most conventional of too-clever-by-half campaigns. If she stubbornly continues this aloof tactical venture she will almost surely lose and won’t deserve to win…

While Whitman and her advisers understand the need to reach out to diverse constituencies, ham-handed efforts to woo Latinos (and other favored groups) are likely to both fail to launch and even blow up in their face…

They are likely to see this for the kaleidoscopic approach it is – inviting people to see what they want to see – and could punish Whitman even more severely than they would a different politician.

Here’s why. Whitman obviously has special appeal and the independent, outsider profile many voters say they are looking for. But if she’s simply going to advance the most expensive version of a bargain-basement campaign, Whitman is literally inviting voters to view her as calculating and even manipulative. While this is dangerous for a veteran politician, it’s lethal for a newcomer.

Over at Fox and Hounds, the estimable Joe Mathews argues that Meg’s appearance on John and Ken was a “Sister Souljah” moment that will help her image among independent voters by showing she’s not afraid to stand up to the most raucous elements of her party. We say: Not so much.

Unlike the talk show boys, Foy is a well-starched, perfectly respectable, establishment arch-conservative. As a political matter, it’s significant that he not only sounds the same  themes as John and Ken but also echoes the argument, made by independent voices like ours, plus progressive sites like Calitics, that Meg’s tell-everyone-what-they-want-to-hear pattern of behavior is most troubling, not as a policy issue, but as a character flaw.

…Their hearts and minds will follow: Maybe eMeg should stop with all the too clever by half moves and be more like Linda McMahon in taking a more ballsy approach.

Just askin’: Has there ever been a goofier idea by a news organization than the Chronicle’s effort to goose print circulation by delaying for 48 hours the posting of some of its best stories on SFGate?

A half-baked hybrid version of Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to force readers to pay for content one way or another (which itself is not exactly off to a roaring start) the Hearst Chron’s strategy of holding its own Sunday edition journalism hostage seems to be having three main effects:

1) it keeps some of the best work of its reporters out of the real-time conversation that drives the 24/7 news cycle;

2) it gives more eyeballs to the competition, as folks in search of new news head to the L.A. Times or SacBee to find it;

3) it drives traffic to aggregation sites which find and post the Chron’s stories despite the paper’s delusional notion that it can exercise singular control over the flow of online information.

For example, this Sunday the Chron kept Willie Brown’s column off the web, so readers in search of his latest take on the governor’s race (“Nerdy Jerry Brown a Formidable Opponent,” read the good hed, which was all a reader could read) was directed to this note:

This story is exclusive to the Chronicle’s Sunday print edition and will not appear on SFGate.com until 4:00 AM on Tuesday, August 10. To buy an electronic version of the Sunday paper now, go to…Print subscribers can go to…to sign up for free e-editions.

Hold your horses, Maude! Let’s forget that picnic and hike in the Berkeley hills – I really need to spend half the day navigating the Chron’s web site to read “Willie’s World.”

Readers encountered a similar M.C. Escher-like maze if they clicked on Carla Marinucci’s Sunday blog post (hopefully through the link on the Calbuzz Blogroll of Honor) where she offered a sketchy version of Jerry Brown’s just-released jobs plan, then appended this sad little lose-friends-and-don’t influence people note:

UPDATE: Check today’s San Francisco Chronicle for a “print-only” exclusive analysis of the jobs proposals being offered by both gubernatorial candidates, Brown and Whitman, as well as the candidates for U.S. Senate — Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer and GOP challenger Carly Fiorina. The “print only” exclusive will be released to the web on Tuesday morning…

Rather than wait until Tuesday morning, however, political junkies who cared found the very good, “exclusive analysis” of the jobs issue, which Marinucci co-wrote with boy wonder Drew Joseph, over at Jack Kavanagh’s Rough & Tumble , where it was posted more than 24 hours before it appeared “exclusively” on SFGate.

While the pathway the story took to R&T is not entirely clear, at least one key thing is: keeping information barricaded behind walls is kind of like running the 100-yard dash with water cupped safely in your hands.

Update 7:41 a.m. Rough and Tumble’s Jack Kavanagh checks in with this on the Chron/48-hour delay imbroglio:

I never link to Chronicle stories that are being withheld from the Internet on Sunday.

I only link to items readily available on the Chronicle site or the Chronicle politics blog.

The story you referenced by Carla was either available on the site or on the blog.

By the time the stories that are withheld by the Chronicle on Sunday are released on the following Wednesday, I generally ignore them mainly because by that time they are generally pretty stale.

Emphasis in original. We rest our case.

Memo to Frank Vega: Great Cesar’s Ghost, man! Free Willie, Carla, Drew, Phil, Andy and all political prisoners!

Conservative Yakkers: eMeg “Lying” on Immigration

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

The ferocious pounding that high-profile conservative talk show hosts John and Ken delivered to Meg Whitman over the L.A. airwaves this week clearly shows that her blatant untruthiness isn’t playing any better on the right than it is on the left.

“If she’s going to lie to us during the engagement process then the hell with her,” said John Kobylt, one half of the dynamic duo featured on the “John and Ken Show.”

“Schwarzenegger did it after he was elected twice and then he screwed us over on taxes… She’s lying about immigration already.”

Broadcast with partner Ken Chiampou, the popular 2-7 p.m. weekday show on KFI-AM 640 is a loud megaphone for hardcore conservative views, and a Southern California touchstone for right-wing true believers. Mindful of offending the base of the party, Republican candidates of all stripes, including eMeg, covet the political blessing of the frequently entertaining, if ideologically reflexive, pair, who routinely savage GOP apostates by calling for their “heads on a pike.”

This week, their own heads exploded over the recent spectacle of Her Megness gussying herself up as some kind of moderate on immigration issues, mounting a lavish, Spanish language multi-media campaign to woo Latino voters with kissy poo noises after portraying herself in the GOP primary as the fiercest scourge of illegals since Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

John and Ken’s outrage over Whitman’s transparent, 180-degree pandering was the focus of verbal assaults from them and their radio callers this week, as they also festooned their home page with a huge “Stop the Pandering” headline above a call to action for listeners to contact the Whitman campaign and “tell her not to take your vote for granted and to stop pandering to the open borders crowd!”

Worse for Whitman, the pair sputtered their splenetic outrage on the evening newscast of mainstream KTLA-TV, where they also have a regular gig. In the episode, which the Brown campaign posted on its You Tube page the yakkers railed at eMeg for trumpeting her opposition to Prop. 187, for claiming in a Spanish language op-ed that she and Krusty are virtually identical on immigration – “Jerry Brown is for amnesty!” – and for running away from the tough stances she struck in competing for right-wing support against the vanquished Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. Said John:

She’s saying one thing in Spanish and the exact opposite in English…She is going to lose white, black and Asian votes and she’s going to lose a lot of conservative and independent votes, if she’s acting as if she’s two-faced, and she’s acting like she’s two-faced…You can’t believe the anger coming out of the phone lines.

Said Whitman spokeshuman Sarah Pompei:  “Meg is the best candidate for Californians who want to see the laws enforced and our borders secure.”

Up next: eMeg unveils new $2 million ad buy charging John and Ken, Calitics and the CNA are conspiring to stop her – She refuses to be stopped! – from letting California fail.

Three dot lounge: Interesting to note that Carly Fiorina’s sudden flip flop on unemployment insurance legislation in the Senate comes the same day a new Field Poll shows that 53 percent of her supporters – not to mention 71 percent of independents – agree with Roe v. Wade, which the Hurricane has promised to undo. Must be getting kinda’ lonely out there on the far right, despite what horse’s ass George Will sez about how mainstream she is…

You know you’re in trouble when the New York Times enlists recalled governor Gray Davis to give you advice on how to save your sinking presidency…News to us that you can still watch the great Watergate-era newspaper show “Lou Grant” in reruns. Where the hell are Rossi and Billy when you need ‘em?…Kudos to Coco Timesman Steve Harmon for flying the MSM flag  on calling eMeg to account for her Pinocchio prevarications.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Major bust for minor blockbuster.

Michael Jackson State Park: No Thriller for Locals

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

By William Etling
Special to Calbuzz

The two families braving 93 degree heat to visit the Neverland Ranch gate over the weekend were all in favor of making the late Michael Jackson’s estate near Santa Barbara a California State Park.

Peace-and-quiet-loving citizens in the neighborhood are not so blithe.

Nicolai, Birgitte, Lea, Jonas and Anton Bentzen came all the way from Denmark to see the place, and were a little bummed that only the guard shack is visible from the road.

Maria Martinez and nieces Gabriella, Denea, and Samantha live just up the road in Santa Maria, where Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges a few years ago.  “It’ll be great for the kids,” Maria said of the state park proposal.

A year after the ruckus surrounding the death of the King of Pop, the laid back residents of the Santa Ynez Valley had just begun to think they could turn their back on Neverland.

Then came the recent statement by Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-L.A., that the California Department of Parks and Recreation should look at taking over the property.   Davis, who said NAACP president Alice Huffman approached him with the idea, is poised to pursue the idea when lawmakers return from a month-long recess in August, a possibility that’s generated a round of head-shaking among locals.

The 2,676 acre estate is five miles from the tiny town of Los Olivos where Sideways was filmed, bordered by other large ranches and Midland, an exclusive prep school. The Los Padres National Forest is nearby.

The state park project would be in the district of Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr, who said, “I think the idea is problematic in several respects because of the state’s fiscal woes, the lack of infrastructure locally to support it and what would probably be significant community opposition.”

Solvang mayor Jim Richardson said, “I like the idea of more tourists for Solvang, but I’m opposed to the traffic it would cause on Figueroa Mountain Road, and it would change the character of Los Olivos – that would be a sad day for the Valley.”

The Los Olivos Business Organization reprised the same objections they voiced last year at this time when fans called for a MJ museum:

We believe that a concept like this would be a significant detriment to the unique character and well being of our town, would not be good for the majority of businesses in our town, and would overwhelm our rural infrastructure.

This project would also jeopardize the Agricultural Zoning that keeps the wineries, horse ranches, and agricultural producers that our economy is based on viable. Like Michael Jackson, the majority of residents in the Santa Ynez Valley chose to live here for the tranquil settings and rural character that it provides.

Bob Field, spokesperson for Never!, a group formed to prevent a Graceland style attraction, said “Our position on the inappropriateness of any such development has not changed.”

One local who probably loves the idea is globetrotting investor Tom Barrack, who controls MJ’s former fantasy ranch through the private equity firm Colony Capital.  Barrack owned a ranch in this sleepy village even before he was a deputy under-secretary in the Department of the Interior in the Reagan administration in 1983.

Barrack converted the pop star’s amusement park area into a series of gardens and is renovating other parts of the estate, according to Bloomberg News. He says he’ll sell Neverland when the real estate market recovers, hopefully for more than $100 million. According to the Santa Barbara county recorder’s office, Colony paid $35 million in a joint venture with Jackson in November of 2008.

Fighting the local tide of frowns was Santa Ynez Valley Real Estate Company broker Allan Jones. He said, “Let the current owner do with it what he wants. I hope I sell it.”

Journalist and Calbuzzer William Etling has been prominently featured in national media reports about Michael Jackson and the late pop star’s Neverland estate. He has written more than 400 columns and articles about the Santa Ynez Valley, and is the author of Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley.



But what about the hot tubs? Before Monday, the most attention that Washington Post feature writer Manuel Roig-Franzia ever attracted in his career came when his editor punched him in the face in the newsroom.

From now on, though, Roig-Franzia will also be known for penning the worst profile of Jerry Brown in history.

Given his latest accomplishment, it’s a little ironic that he got smacked in the puss by Pulitzer Prize-winning editor Henry Allen after defending a female colleague whom Allen had accused of writing “the second worst story” he’d ever seen. The fact that Roig-Franzia’s gallant defense of his colleague consisted of telling Allen “not to be such a cocksucker” injected a layer of moral ambiguity to the incident, however.

In any case, the 68-year old Allen has since taken a buyout from the paper, while the punked out Roig Franzia was allowed to continue plying his craft, a management decision which resulted in the unfortunate piece on Brown that the Post inexplicably chose to publish on Monday.

As a professional matter, it’s not easy to write a 2,532 word story that contains not a single shred of new information. Our man Manuel managed not only that trick, but also the feat of larding on every tired cliché about California and Brown in the process, starting with this dreckful lede:

Hate to break this to you: Time’s whizzing by. You’re getting older.
Need proof? Brace yourself.
Jerry Brown is 72 years old.

Stop the presses, Maude: Manuel Roig-Franzia’s performing his own special brand of journalism again!

Things went downhill after that.

Apparently Brown in his early days was an “endless summer wonder boy” and a “bliss-following political son who was soo California cool.” Also: he dated Linda Ronstadt, has an “abstract, slightly dazed portrait” hanging in the Capitol, practices yoga, is a notorious tightwad who rented an apartment instead of living in the governor’s mansion and – get this – was dubbed “Governor Moonbeam” by Mike Royko.

As for California, how about those whacky New Age Left Coasters!

Apparently it was once “the empire of the laid back,” but now when people here “talk about being underwater, they’re referring to their mortgages, not afternoon dips off Malibu,” even though the state “still has Google and the movies.”

Memo to Style section: Next time save the expense money for this guy to punch his ticket to California and let him write from the office. Trust us, you won’t notice the difference.


The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Perhaps it’s just a case of wishful nostalgia, but it seems to us that before the rise of Fox News, Rovian manipulation and the abnegation by certain people of fact-based reality, there was some sort of agreed-upon truth that was adjudicated daily by the mainstream media.

A candidate couldn’t say one thing one day – like, for example, that they were opposed to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — and another thing another day – like they basically agree with an opponent who favors a path to citizenship. They’d be afraid of being called a liar in the papers, and that would actually matter.

But in the California governor’s race it now appears that we are witnessing the Death of Truth. From a cosmic perspective, this has come about because:

– The attention span of the average citizen, never very long, has been hyper-accelerated by the rise of new media, including the Internets, where something is old before it is barely new — and certainly not fully digested — and everyone is off on the next new thing. Beyond that, the rise of ideologically-sated outlets like FOX and MSNBC ensures that partisans will never again have to watch something with which they disagree.

– The lugubrious mainstream media is often strangled by self-imposed, on-the-one-hand-on-the-the-hand, false-equivalency “balance,” in part intimidated by loud, if unfounded accusations of “bias” most frequently lobbed  by the right-wing. Thus the MSM at times seems unable and/or unwilling to cut through the miasma and call a lie a lie or a liar a liar. (Even Jerry Brown won’t call a spade a spade, referring instead to Meg Whitman’s “intentional, terminological inexactitude.”)

– It’s now clear that a candidate with unlimited resources can and will blow off complaints, critiques and factual analyses of those who dare to speak up and will instead declare that the truth is whatever he or she says it is — in their paid advertising and the assertions of their mercenary prevaricators.

All of this feeds the corrosive cynicism that infects our politics, demonstrated most visibly in low voter turnout. Even among those who vote, healthy skepticism is often supplanted with a smart-ass, know-it-all facile sophistication that assumes all politicians are liars (they’re not) and that everyone in public life only wants to do well (we still believe there are some who want to do good).

Cynicism, of course, breeds further alienation and disgust, causing a downward spiral of disengagement from the process, leaving voting (and caring) to the true-believing wing-nuts who are certain they know the truth because they read or watch it at one of the ideologically-determined web sites or stations that conclusively confirms their prior held beliefs.

Exhibit A for the Death of Truth is Her Megness, eMeg Whitman herself.

Let’s be clear: Krusty the General (Gandalf) Brown and his Merry Pranksters in Oakland are guilty of their own special brand of spin. But it’s pretty much your normal, basic campaign (wink-wink) re-framing like you’d get from Gov. Schwarzmuscle, President Oybama or Golden Gate Feinstein.

Brown has failed to level with voters about how he’d deal with the state budget (we think he’d shift all the responsibility for services back to cities, counties school districts, with a local option to raise taxes, and get the locals off the state’s books), among most other issues. But his guy Sterling Clifford has a point when he argues that “Meg Whitman is trying to paper over her lies and deceptions with dollar bills.”

Indeed, when it comes to killing truth, eMeg is miles ahead in felony flip-floppery. The pro-Brown California Working Families tried to drive that point home last week with the release of an online ad titled “Lies.” detailing just a few recent examples of Megspeak:

– She was for double furloughs for state employees before she was against furloughs altogether.

– She was for a path to citizenship before she knew what it meant, and then she was vehemently against it, before she declared herself aligned with Brown, who’s for it.

– She was for sending state agents into work places to hunt down and arrest illegal immigrant workers until she decided she was against that (probably illegal) idea.

– She was against extending benefits to children of illegal immigrants (like admission to state universities and colleges) before she was . . . wait, maybe she’s still against that, but OK with letting illegal immigrant offspring get treated at a hospital.

– In the primary she said, “We have to prosecute illegal aliens and criminal illegal aliens in all of our cities in every part of California.” Now she says, “What has bothered Latinos for too long is the harsh rhetoric around the immigration debate. Too often, the debate has been tinged with hurtful words signaling intolerance or worse to many Latinos.”

If a candidate changes his or her position from A to B, he or she can be accused of flip-flopping (or changing his or her mind). What makes the Whitman campaign’s changes so special is that her paid mouthpieces are out there insisting that eMeg has NOT changed her position one iota. She’s entirely consistent and not a rank opportunist, they argue.

Calbuzz has been harping on this lack of truthiness by the Whitman camp for some time, and we’ve catalogued a partial list of prevarications. But where are the other non-partisan voices willing to hold Meg’s feet to the fire? Why isn’t every editorial page and columnist in the state thundering with indignation, instead of equating Brown’s admittedly infuriating avoidance of staking clear positions on policy with Whitman’s corporate style, black-is-white daily deceits and deceptions?

The beyond standard quantum limit nature of Whitman’s spending so far has enabled her, like no California candidate in history, to take advantage of Calbuzzer Mark Twain’s timeless dictum: “A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.”

So far, eMeg has circled the globe several times, while the too-often-timid California media are still struggling in the dark to find their trousers.

Jerry Brown Sex Scandal Meets eMeg’s Pixel Dust

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

This just in – 34 years after the fact.

Former White House Press Secretary and  Calbuzz old friend Mike McCurry on Thursday revealed that his first job in politics was working for Jerry Brown’s 1976 stop-Jimmy Carter campaign for president in New Jersey, where Mike had just graduated from Princeton.

McCurry shared some juicy dish from those long-ago days, as he held forth at Brews & Views, the micro-public affairs forum that Lenny Mendoca of McKinsey and Co. organizes at his Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.

It was kind of a homecoming for McCurry, who used to fish off the Pillar Point Pier in nearby Princeton-by-the Sea when he was a San Carlos teenager at the late Ravenswood High School. Sipping a  Mavericks and answering questions, he noted that his first political gig included picking up Brown one morning at his hotel, where there was a bit of a stir because the bachelor California governor had had a sleep-over visitor in his room: Linda Ronstadt.

How synchronous that Jerry’s young driver would one day go on to serve as press secretary for Bill Clinton, against whom Brown would also run in 1992, and with whom Krusty famously nearly came to blows during a presidential debate.

My page views are bigger than your page views: Must read of the week is Ken McLaughlin’s take out on Meg Whitman’s extensive use of new technology tools, the best piece we’ve read detailing the scope and specifics of how Team eMeg is adapting them for campaign purposes.

Most intriguing to us is their practice of live streaming video from Brown’s campaign events back to their headquarters, which enables them to respond in real time to his every flip, flop and foible; coincidentally, Ken’s piece ran the same day we reported on Krusty’s caterwauling about being constantly recorded by the Empire of Meg, a wheeze that underscores the considerable distance between the communications capabilities of the Democrat and Republican candidates.

The former eBay CEO’s carpet-bombing of the airwaves generated the most political buzz during her $80 million march to victory over Steve Poizner in the GOP primary. But behind the scenes, her campaign served as a laboratory for new technology that will be unleashed against her Democratic rival, Jerry Brown, in the months leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

A glimpse into Whitman’s tech spending is startling: The latest campaign expenditure reports show she had spent $2.7 million through May 22 on website development and information technology alone — seven times more than Brown spent on his entire campaign.

“The incredible amount of money Whitman is spending allows her to buy every bell and whistle ever invented,” said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political science professor. “And it fosters the perception that Jerry Brown is late to the party.”

Gee, we must have missed his arrival.

Jack Chang’s good yarn comparing and contrasting the two campaign’s ops  touched some of the same ground, but was most notable for the extraordinary exertions of Tucker Bounds, who actually portrayed Her Megness – presumably with a straight face – as the leader of “a movement.”

We’ve been innovative in the way we communicate, and that’s a product of the campaign trying to be as effective as possible in building support for what we see as a movement type of candidate,” said campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds.

He’s right, of course: listening to Meg, we can almost the strains of Dr. King: “Rich at last, rich at last, thank God Almighty, I’m obscenely rich at last.”

There he goes being thoughtful again: NYU’s Jay Rosen is one of the most imaginative, original and articulate thinkers about the future of the news industry, and the intersection of new media, old media and politics, and his recent essay, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right: On the actual ideology of the American press,” despite its windy title, is worth a read for newsroom rats and political hacks alike.

Rosen rejects the clashing conventional wisdoms of the political right and left, that hold that political reporters are either a) liberal ideologues or b) corporate handmaidens, in favor of a perspective and vocabulary that examines the press as tribal creatures far more interested in the values and good opinions of peer members of what he calls “the church of the savvy” than any  belief system based on mere politics.

The Church of the Savvy…is my name for the actual belief system that prevails in political journalism….

Prohibited from joining in political struggles, dedicated to observing what is, regardless of whether it ought to be, the savvy believe that these disciplines afford them a special view of the arena, cured of excess sentiment, useless passon, ideological certitude and other defects of vision that players in the system routinely exhibit. As I wrote on Twitter the other day, “the savvy don’t say: I have a better argument than you… They say: I am closer to reality than you. And more mature.”

Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sighted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what’s so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.

Calbuzz sez check it out.

Seema seems everywhere: The ubiquitous Seema Mehta penned the best analysis of the whys and wherefores of Whitman picking a fight with the California Nurses Association as the forward shot of a broader attack to scapegoat unions as the source of most of California’s problems.

Laden with foreshadowing is the kicker of the piece, a strong quote from SacDem consultant Gale Kaufman, who led labor’s successful beat back of  Governor Schwarzmuscle’s attempt to make the same play back in 2005:

“She’s very used to getting her own way, and she’s used to buying things. Those two parts of her personality have become pretty clear during this campaign,” Kaufman said. “She just assumes that somehow if she bullies the unions, the unions are going to back off. Well, she doesn’t know the nurses, because they never back off.”

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: White House press corps goes completely native.