Posts Tagged ‘bloggers’



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.

Obama Pantsed, Lobby Exposed, Calbuzz Menaced

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

With a cast of thousands, it’s hard to decide exactly who’s the biggest loser in the sad and sorry saga of Shirley Sherrod.

For those who’ve been resting on Uranus the last few days, she’s the Department of Agriculture staffer who got briefly fired when the Obama Administration panicked after the vicious right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a doctored video clip from a speech she gave to the NAACP.

In the cut up tape, she appeared to say she had given favored treatment to black farmers over whites; in fact, the point of her speech was to describe how an experience many years ago helped her  overcome her own bias and conclude that class, not race, is America’s crucial social marker.

Before that fact became abundantly clear, however, the Breitbart-to-Drudge-to-Fox-to-conservative blogosphere echo chamber succeeded, not only in stampeding most of the MSM into reporting on the phony tape as legitimate but also in intimidating the NAACP and Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture into falsely denouncing Sherrod.  As Calbuzzer Betty Medsger put it Thursday in a post-mortem email:

It’s about the gale force dangerous stupidity and injustice that can result when the mindless news judgment often caused by the 24-hour news cycle is mixed with the tendency of confidence-lacking liberals to fear extreme conservatives to the point of instantly asking how high they should jump.

Our vote for the biggest dumbo in the incident is Jim Messina, the White House deputy chief of staff who was dispensing high fives and attaboys at the staff meeting the morning after the firing, for the fine job of political rapid response they all performed in cynically tossing Sherrod under the bus.

The net effect of the actions of the self-infatuated political geniuses in the White House was a) to add even more weight to the increasingly inescapable conclusion that it’s amateur night on Team Barack and b) to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory by stomping all over the Administration’s story about passing financial reform legislation, the best news they’d had in weeks.

The best commentary churned out about the whole mess that we read came from Young Turk Cenk Uygur, who quite correctly compared Obama to the school kid who gives up his lunch money to the bully, and gets his pants tossed on top of the school bus in the bargain:

As we can all see now, when Fox says jump, the Obama administration asks how high? (Then jumps one inch less and considers it a progressive victory). Is there anyone Obama won’t fire or throw under the bus if Fox asks him to? What if they ask Obama to fire himself? Would he do it? Or would he just fire Biden and say he met them halfway?…

In Washington, Fox News is very important and you get judged by how quickly you handle the media maelstroms they create. That’s viewed as a barometer of how well you handle “bad news cycles.” So, the rest of the Washington press corps judges you by how quickly you drop to your knees to end the “bad news cycle.” Congratulations Obama administration, you’re now professionals!…

The only real damage that Fox can do is if they spread their poison to other news stations. That is why it’s so imperative to label them what they are — a conservative propaganda station (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They’re just not news. And they couldn’t have proved it any better than they did in this case. And what did the Obama administration do with this golden opportunity? They turned it into a massive loss. Who is fucking retarded now?

Here’s a transcript of what Sherrod actually said in her speech, courtesy of Joan Walsh at Slate.

The envelope please: Mega kudos to Karen de Sa of the Mercury News for a superb investigative series demonstrating and measuring the extent to which Sacramento lobbyists have been the biggest beneficiaries of term limits.

Methodically deconstructing the legislative session, de Sa disclosed that over one-third of the bills introduced in the Capitol originate with special interests and presented case-study reporting on how rookie lawmakers get sucked into the cycle of serving the whims of the Third House, then get rewarded with campaign contributions for their trouble.

It’s been an article of faith among pundits (we name no names) that with the 1990 term limits initiative, the lobbying corps supplanted the Legislature as the keeper of expertise and institutional knowledge at the Capitol. Now de Sa has firmly established the notion as fact.

Amid the constant stream of here-today-gone-tomorrow lawmakers obsessed with reaching for the next step of the political ladder, it’s easy to forget bygone days when when legislators  were around long enough – John Vasconcellos on the budget, Gary Hart on education and Peter Behr on the environment come to mind – to master the substance, complexities and nuances of public policy and how to pass it.

Complete with main bars, side bars, data bases and old school, got-the-reporter’s-back editorials, the entire Mercury News series can be accessed here.

Swimming with the sharks: No truth to the rumor being peddled by Flash Fleischman that eMeg finally agreed to meet Calbuzz for dinner if we agreed to swim out to her yacht.

The Poizner Effect: Is Jerry Brown Blowing It?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Four months before the November election, the  Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman race looks like a small band of desperadoes toting six shooters facing off  against a fully staffed division equipped with tanks, stinger missiles and .50 caliber machine guns.

Even so, we have to wonder if Brown doesn’t seem ruinously hellbent on employing the not-so-vaunted Poizner Strategy: keep your powder dry while constantly whining about how nasty and profligate the other side is, then fire everything you’ve got all at once, in a short burst at the end of the campaign.

Worked like a charm for The Commish, eh?

We at Calbuzz don’t pretend to be brilliant campaign strategists, and we freely stipulate that there are certain dynamics in the governor’s race that work strongly in Krusty’s favor. For starters, we hear that eMeg’s favorability is about 4-3 negative and – importantly – voters (especially Democrats and independents who might have been confused) understand after her bruising primary battle against Poizner that she is a Republican politician and a Wall Street insider, not some post-partisan Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

So, instead of being 10 points behind immediately coming out of the primary, which was the worst case for Brown, he came out of it 2-6 points ahead, depending on whose survey you believe. In a state that leans 8-10 points Democratic, Krusty’s not in a terrible position.

But, while he and his plucky little squad insist that eMeg’s multi-faceted, multi-million-dollar attack on him as a “failure” is a sign of weakness (because she first tried and failed to gain ground by running a positive ad), we would hereby like to state  the obvious: She’s on the air and he’s not!

Ergo: What she’s saying is being heard; what he’s saying (and believe us, there’s not much) is not being heard. By anyone.

And what’s Brown doing about this state of affairs? Pissing and moaning; Lord, ain’t life unfair:

The other side, kind of the apostles of darkness and ignorance, are well heeled. They have great political consultants. And they intend to bombard the airwaves. It’s almost like a hostile takeover of the public airwaves and of democracy itself. We gotta’ fight back and you’ve gotta fight back and I need your help.

Hey Krusty, it’s 2010. Your opponent’s a billionaire. Man up. A governor’s race is a no-whine zone.

Another problem: Remember that quaint old idea of a “news cycle,” from, oh, say 1974, when you could get something in the “morning papers” or on what they used to call “the evening news?” Brown seems to think those rules of media engagement still apply.

Memo to Team Krusty: when eMeg puts out an ad attacking you like she did last week, you’re not going to get into the story by putting out your point-by-point response in time for the next “news cycle.”

Because there is no more “news cycle.” It’s all happening now, in real time, on the internets. And you can’t comfort yourself by trying to argue that “nothing appeared in the papers, it was only on the web.” Memo II: Online news is no less penetrating than home-delivered and newsstand newspapers. In fact, the MSMs figure out what to say, in part, by reading the blogs, so your alleged “rapid response” was actually what you might call geezer response. BTW, we’re not the only ones to note this.

As Calbuzz has noted before, Brown’s main argument is that while he’s authentic, Whitman is artificial. As we’ve said, it goes like this:  “He’s the real deal; she’s a brand name. He’s meat and potatoes; she’s Mrs. Potato Head.”

“She’s a marketing creation,” said Brown campaign manager Steve Glazer. “The issues she purports to care so much about today, she never lifted a finger to do anything about in the past.”

True enough, but maybe irrelevant, if Whitman can bury her distant and even her recent past under a mountain of paid propaganda.

One important issue to watch: How she handles AB32. In order not to look too much like a Sierra Club symp in her primary battle against Poizner, Whitman called for suspending the state’s pioneering measure to roll back greenhouse gas emissions.

Now that a ballot measure has qualified to do just that, will Whitman have the stones to back the ballot measure that is backed by a whole host of nasty oil companies?

We asked eMeg’s spokeshuman, the volcanic Sarah Pompei, for the candidate’s position on the November ballot measure to undo AB 32 and got this response:

“Meg is carefully looking at the initiative now that it has qualified for the ballot.  In the meantime, she has proposed her own detailed plan to institute the one-year moratorium allowed by AB 32 to study the statute and ensure it will not lead to further job losses.”

Memo III: Instead of complaining about the inequities of campaign spending, this is  exactly the kind of issue Brown should be hitting on if he has any hope to getting sustained media coverage to counter-balance eMeg’s unrelenting (she was off the air for a total of two days!) advertising.

Why? A March Field Poll found California voters supporting AB32 58-38% and by a 69-29% margin, agreeing that “California can reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and expand jobs and economic prosperity at the same time.”

That’s exactly what eMeg says California cannot do. But if the Brown “campaign” had a big event pressing Meg on this issue, we must have missed it. (Which, of course, is possible, given that we’re just a couple of hacks plagued by early onset senility).

And while eMeg is spending $600,000 a week or so on Spanish-language advertising to try to convince Latinos that she’s not Pete Wilson (even if he is her campaign chairman), Brown’s campaign still has no one on staff in charge of outreach to the Hispanic community, leaving open the question of whether Brown does (as some Latinos believe) take the Latino vote for granted.

What Jerry has going for him is that the Republican brand gets only about 20% favorable among Latinos and the Spanish-language news media – at least what we’ve seen – don’t seem to eager to forgive Whitman’s polarizing talk about illegal immigration during the primary.

Here’s Brown’s dilemma: every day he and his merry band up in Oakland have to decide 1) when to engage, 2) what to say and 3) how much to put behind it. They can absorb a certain amount of negativity that will drive Brown’s favorability downward. But how far down can they afford to go before they change their strategic game plan?

It’s just a fact that Whitman is going to keep coming at Brown every day, in new ways, in different markets. True, the messenger has been somewhat discredited herself, but as the widely quoted Joseph Goebbels (and Morton’s Salt, Crest and Nike) proved, if you say something over and over, even if it’s not true, you can convince a lot of people of just about anything.

The pro-Brown independent expenditure committees are having this effect to some extent: they’re aimed at keeping Whitman from being able to build her favorability, which she desperately needs in order to get past 40-42% level of support in a head-to-head with Brown, who’s in the 46-48% range.

Brown argues that he’s got an outsider’s attitude and the experience to get California working again. Whitman argues that he’s a failure and that she’s got the experience to get California working again.

Bottom line: she’s making her case to millions of people every day and he’s not. It seems clear that it’s time for Brown to start talking concretely about how he would govern and how he would use the government to tweak California’s economy.

Or maybe nobody’s paying attention yet. We seem to recall Steve Poizner saying something to that effect.

Calbuzz, Web Partners Ask Gov Rivals to Debate

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Three of California’s leading political websites have invited the two major-party candidates for governor to participate in the state’s first Blogosphere Debate.

Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, in partnership with the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley, today sent a letter outlining the debate to Mike Murphy and Steve Glazer of the campaigns of Republican nominee Meg Whitman and Democratic nominee Jerry Brown.

Here’s the letter that was emailed today:

Dear Mike and Steve,

On behalf of Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics, we are pleased to invite Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown to participate in a two-person, first-ever California Blogosphere Debate. The College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University and the Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley will also serve as debate sponsors.

As you may know, the Washington Post has named Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics the three leading political web sites in California. Collectively we provide on a daily basis a full range of political perspectives and analysis, from conservative to moderate to progressive.

We have secured Morris Dailey auditorium at San Jose State University for the afternoon and evening of Monday September 13th (with back-up possibilities on the 14th and 15th). The specific time of the debate would be decided later in consultation with the campaigns, but we anticipate a 60-minute event, scheduled at a time between 4 pm and 7 pm. The format, with final details to be determined, would likely include the following:

– Moderator: John Myers of KQED (pending approval from KQED)
– One questioner each from Calbuzz, FlashReport and Calitics
– Two-minute opening and closing remarks from candidates
– One question for both candidates from each panelist with two-minute responses
– Two questions for each candidate from each panelist with two-minute responses
– One minute rebuttal from each candidate for each question
– Introduction, follow-ups as permitted by moderator and closing statements.

This means each candidate would field six questions: three common questions for both candidates and three questions specific to each candidate. Both candidates would have an opportunity for rebuttal on every question.

We envision candidates standing at podiums with television lighting. Neither candidate would use scripts, notes or props although they may take notes during the debate. A pre-arranged coin toss would determine the order, with the candidates given the option of opening first or closing last. We would offer a live feed to any television or radio station or online broadcaster interested in carrying the debate. We anticipate one pool camera crew to shoot the debate.

As you’re aware the news industry is in a state of radical transformation, with the internet steadily playing a larger and more significant role in setting the public agenda. We believe that our proposal offers a unique and historic opportunity for your campaigns to play an important role in shaping that agenda, and we hope you will give this invitation your most serious consideration. Please respond by 5 p.m., Friday, June 25.

Very truly yours,

Phil Trounstine, Jerry Roberts, Jon Fleischman, Brian Leubitz, Robert Cruickshank

Q&A with Mickey; Babs v Carly; Team Krusty Forming

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The best thing about Mickey Kaus’s hopeless bid for the U.S. Senate is that he’s the only candidate we’ve ever met who talks down expectations about his own chances. A contrarian counterintuitive (reverse those words? -ed.) Mr. Crankypants Kaus is a pioneering practitioner of online political journalism who is breaking new ground — the first Californian ever to carry the ballot designation of “blogger.” Seeing a cheap opportunity to squeeze into the footnotes of media history books, Calbuzz asked him five questions about his primary challenge to Barbara Boxer

1. What’s the over-under on your final percentage of the vote in the Dem primary?

My friend Jill Stewart of L.A. Weekly bet a friend dinner that I wouldn’t top 5%. But I don’t want to set expectations that high. I’d say anything over 3% is a startling rebuke of Barbara Boxer’s lockstep Democratic orthodoxy. Every vote for me makes that point. I don’t have to win to win.

2. What’s your beef with public employees getting good benefits and pensions?

I have no beef with good benefits and pensions. But, as Willie Brown said, the deal was always that public employees traded a bit of pay for security. Now they have the security plus more pay than the private sector. Many can retire in their 50s at more than they made working.  We need to restore a balance and not just spend more and more tax money on the same employees while cutting service to the public. Democrats are the party of government–we’re the ones who need to make it work at a price we can afford.

3. As a Senator, what specific steps would you push for the government to “secure the border”? Finish the dang fence?

Yes, I’d build the actual, physical fence–not the failed “virtual” fence promoted by those who opposed a physical fence. Physical fences work. We also need a) wide adoption of a system for verifying the legal status of new hires; b) stiff sanctions against employers who skirt the law; c) a system for tracking visa overstays; d) greater avenues for legal immigration, including immigration from Mexico. And we need to stop talking about amnesty until we’re sure all these things work.

4. It is alleged you believe that the Democratic Party is in the thrall of labor unions. How do you respond?

Guilty as charged. Every reporter I’ve talked to thinks the unions basically own the state party. That’s why we don’t get Obama’s “race-to-the-top” education money — teachers’ unions block reform. It’s why pension costs are threatening to bankrupt us. It’s why we bailed out the UAW without asking much sacrifice, and why the party still pursues the doomed, unpopular, bad idea of letting unions organize a workplace without a secret ballot.

5. You bear a heavy responsibility as the first person in California history to carry the ballot label of “blogger.” Has running for office been everything you dreamed?

I’ll have a better perspective on June 9. The idea was to make a point, not have a great time. It’s been hard work with some big rewards. I’ve been treated fairly, so far, by all sorts of people I was worried would be underhanded. Every time I talk to actual voters, it’s been great — especially voters who argue back. Starting arguments is the idea. I learn every day, even from the annoying ”friends” who say “you’re doing this all wrong.” Mass rallies with thousands cheering … well, they haven’t really happened for anyone, have they? There’s a week left! I’m not peaking too soon.

These two teams just don’t like each other: With Tom Campbell’s campaign apparently collapsing near the finish line, GOP Senate front-runner Carly Fiorina decided to jump start the general election race Tuesday.

Hurricane Carly threw a quick right elbow with the e-blast release of a TV ad attacking Senator Barbara Boxer as soft on terrorism; just 57 minutes later, however, Team Babs hit back with a tough 2,082 word rapid response bashing Fiorina over a host of issues, including one of our personal favorites, Hewlett Packard’s controversial third-party sales to Iran during her tenure as CEO.

Cowardly Fiorina handlers refused to provide details of their purported ad buy, which they claimed was “significant and statewide.” The spot features Carly, full face to the camera, mocking a brief 2007 news clip of Boxer saying that climate change is “one of the very important national security issues we face.”

“Terrorism kills and Barbara Boxer’s worried about the weather?” sez Carly.

Not a bad line, but as Boxer World quickly noted, the CIA last fall set up a center to investigate the interlocking problems of global warming and political instability around the world, a concern sounded publicly by a pack of military, national security and spook types.

“Fiorina obviously isn’t aware that in October 2009, the CIA established a Center for the Study of Climate Change and National Security,” sniffed Boxer, in her tome-sized counter-punch.

Woo hoo! Only 153 days until the election!

Dudley still doomed: As for Campbell, the favored candidate of editorial boards everywhere, we forecast two weeks ago that the combination of Fiorina’s late-breaking move to the wallet, and the host of independent expenditure attacks he was enduring, would position Carly to crack it open down the stretch.

With the new L.A. Times poll showing she apparently has done just that, it looks like Campbell’s chronically anemic fund-raising has now gone on total life support, as he pulled all his final week TV ads and announced his determination to win the campaign with phone calls and email. Good luck with that.

UPDATE 6 AM Thursday: Politico says Campbell is going back on the air with an ad that makes his best argument: That only he among the GOP candidates for Senate, can actually beat Barbara Boxer. We’ll see how much money Dudley has scraped together to make the case on TV. He’d need a few million, at least, we suspect.

United Front for Brown Forming: California Working Families 2010 — the pro-Jerry Brown independent group that already includes the California Professional Firefighters, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, SEIU California State Council, the Professional Engineers in California Government — today is expected to announce that they’re being joined by the Democratic Governors Association and its California Accountability Project.

That puts Emily DeRose of the DGA on the field for Brown, along with CAWF’s Roger Salazar. Level the Playing Field, with the likes of Ace Smith and Chris Lehane,  also has been active in the pro-Jerry-anti-Meg universe> But it’s beginning to look like CAWF is the Big Dog.

Of course, we don’t know yet what heaters like the California Teachers Association and California Correctional Peace Officers Association plan to do in the governor’s race. If anything.