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Posts Tagged ‘Death of Truth’



Here’s to 2010: The Top 10 Stories of the Year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

As Tom Meyer presents his right brain look back at the political detritus of 2010, the left progressive brain types in our Department of Belles-Lettres and Fine Writing Done Cheap wish you all the best for a new decade with this update of our annual New Year’s column:

The hoariest cliché in the news business – besides  Where Are They Now, the Irrelevant Anniversary yarn and frying an egg on the sidewalk during a heat wave – is the end-of-year Top 10 list.

And at Calbuzz, we’re nothing if not hoary clichés. Or maybe clichéd whores. Whatever.

As you find yourself face down in a bowl of gelatinous guacamole on New Year’s morn, trying to remember why you’re wearing rubber underwear and Raider wrist bands, here’s some bathroom reading, the Calbuzz Top 10 stories of the year, a 2011 primer for those who got drunk and missed 2010.

(Click the cartoon  for a larger image)

GOP awakens the sleeping giant. From Steve Poizner’s demagoguery on illegal immigration  to Meg Whitman’s serial mishandling of her own housekeeper scandal, Republicans worked overtime in the 2010 campaigns to alienate Latino voters throughout California. In the end, their no-path-to-citizenship kow-towing to the right-wing  proved an utter disaster, as Democrats reaped big totals among the state’s increasingly crucial electoral bloc, which represented nearly one in four votes on election day.

eMeg’s secret diary. When a slow news day spurred our fervid imaginations to post a spoof version of Meg Whitman’s private thoughts, we had no way of knowing that it would become a case study of life in imitation of art. But her real-life treatment of the help, coupled with her corner-cutting business ethics and rules-don’t apply to me campaign style combined to transform the race for governor into a referendum on her character, which voters decided they didn’t much like.

The triumph of St. Ignatius. When a national political reporter asked Jerry Brown early in the campaign how he would deal with eMeg’s mega-bucks spending, the governor drew deeply upon his Catholic  education and sniffed that he would respond with “Ignatian indifference.” His subsequent decision  to essentially ignore Whitman’s summer-long assault on him, along with the aid of some independent expenditure advertising by labor allies, made Saint Iggie look like a genius as Krusty wrote yet another new chapter in the half-century saga of his political evolution.

Scientists measure standard quantum limit of money. Along with the rest of the political world, Calbuzz watched in endless fascination as Her Megness shattered all previous records for a self-funded candidate; desperate for a metaphor to help measure its ultimate impact, we turned to the field of theoretical physics. When the deal went down, Herself forked out more than $200K every 24 hours for every day she was in the race, and the only ones who had much to show for it were the vast legions of consultants and hangers-on who took her to the cleaners.

California’s got the blues. In a mid-term election when national Republicans opened an extra-large can of wupass on Democrats, contrary Golden State voters proved solid gold for the party of donkeys and jackasses. Amid waves of wise and well-intentioned advice on what they might do differently, state GOPers decided to double down on idiocy as they shunned candidates who might actually be electable and turned Senate wannabe Carly Fiorina into an angry, snarling parody of a right-winger mouthing political stands more befitting the state of Utah and proving anew  that ideology is more important to Californians than gender.

Truth, no consequences. After death panels, the birther movement and the consistently sensational ratings of Fox News, we shouldn’t have been surprised that California’s airwaves filled to bursting with misrepresentations, half-truths and lies. Naifs that we are, it took a while to understand that we were witnessing nothing less than the death of truth in politics.

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass. There were few better examples of the truth-is-always-fungible politics than Governor Schwarzmuscle’s endless exertions aimed at portraying his years in office as an era of splendid success. In case you missed our in-depth one-word analysis of his record – FAIL – you can find more dispassionate and detailed, but no less damning, takes on the matter here, and here.

Tree huggers ascendant. Amid 12+ % unemployment in the state, some cynical smokestack types tried to reignite the economic growth vs.  environmental protection conflict. California voters not only saw through the either-or argument on climate change but also broke off their brief flirtation with offshore oil drilling after the Earth Day Deepwater Horizon disaster led Arnold to abandon his ill-laid plans to award the first state lease in more than 40 years.

Reform on life support. Amid a trove of smart proposals for political, governance and budget reform,  all the good ideas went exactly nowhere. Fueled by corporate cynicism, the contradictory views of voters and the steady transformation of democracy into a plutocracy the forces of the status quo won out yet again.

ABC: Always Believe Calbuzz. Reporting more than 3 million page views in 2010, an analysis by our Department of Weights and Measures advises that along with the heavily-hyphenated-meat-and-potatoes-sizzle-and-steak-cheeseburger-and-fries-day-in-day-out political coverage our readers look for, loyal Calbuzzers also count on our special-brand-of-journalism-you-won’t-find-it-anywhere-but-here-world-exclusive scoops, whether it’s the inside story of Jerry Brown’s secret eyebrow makeover, prize winning reporting on John Burton’s foul mouth or world-class forecasting on Major League Baseball (Giants win!).

With all best wishes for a happy and safe amateur night celebration, we thank you all for reading. See you in 2011.

Cocodrilo Tears re Latinos & a Sad Farewell to Truth

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

We had to laugh when we saw Rob Stutzman, one of Meg Whitman’s top strategists, telling columnist George Skelton that Republicans in California need to demonstrate some “empathy” for Latinos if they hope ever to convince them to vote for one of their candidates.

Not because his comments were funny, mind you, but because they were breathtakingly ironic.

For under his guidance, Stutzman’s candidate eMeg:

– Kicked her Latina housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, to the curb when she confessed she was an illegal immigrant, eventually calling for the woman’s  deportation.
– Flipped-flopped on whether undocumented immigrants should have a path to legalization (concluding they should not).
– Endorsed Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law (for Arizona, not California, a distinction that meant little to Latinos).
– Told a young Latina honors student she was taking up space at Fresno State that rightfully belonged to a California citizen.
– Relied on former Gov. Pete (“Hijo de Puta”) Wilson as her campaign chairman and third-party validator.

No wonder Latinos voted 80-15% for Brown over Whitman, 75% had an unfavorable view of her and 65% said they didn’t even consider voting for her, according to the USC/LA Times post-election survey.

But what’s got to worry Stutzman and every other Republican going forward is this: 34% of Latino voters told the USC/Times they “would never consider voting for a Republican.”  That’s one third of the Latino vote that is off the table even before they hear what the candidate has to say.

As Calbuzz noted throughout the election, in plenty of time for Whitman and her campaign geniuses to take it seriously and even after Nicky Diaz made news, Whitman made a strategic error by opposing a pathway to citizenship – a position that at least eight and perhaps as many as nine in 10 Latinos view as a threshold issue.

What that means is this: if a candidate is opposed to allowing undocumented workers an opportunity to go through a process to become legal residents, Latinos don’t even care what their position is on the economy, jobs, education or anything else. They can’t get past the threshold.

It’s not about “empathy” — it’s about concrete stands on real-life issues. Which is why Calbuzz gently suggested the California GOP needs to change its position on a pathway to citizenship if it ever hopes to become relevant.

Just as the Republican Party was the Northern standard-bearer for the abolition of slavery in the 1850s and 1860s, so could the California Republican Party become the advocate for citizenship for honest working men and women who have come to the U.S. to make better lives for themselves and their families.

Another reason we laughed when we read Stutzman’s argument: “We’ve got to stop looking at it as purely a legal issue . . . If you want to make it a moral issue, we should appreciate the virtue of men and women trying to make the best life possible for their families.”

At least Stutzman has the cerebros y cojones to face up to the problem, unlike numbnuts like Michael Der Manouel, Jr., who wrote over at FlashReport:

I think there are plenty of Republicans and conservatives, like me, that appreciate all hard working people, regardless of country of origin and skin color.  Making a case that this is somehow a gateway to getting Hispanic votes is not only simplistic, but ignores the fact that 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics seems to be, well, just as leftist as leftists . . .

And this nonsense about ignoring our immigration laws in order to curry favor with one voting block (sic) is just nonsense.  I guess if we really needed the Muslim vote Stutzman would be advising us to go soft on terrorism too . . .

It seems to me that a pattern of voting for the wrong person has emerged in the Latino community.  Until they truly feel the pain of their poor decision making, we are at their political mercy.  Instead of “appealing to them” we should spend what few dollars we have on a permandent (sic) educational campaign highlighting the conservative platform, to all voters, including Latinos.  This would be much more effective than “understanding” people.  Give me a break.

This is exactly the kind of stupid, dead-elephant thinking that will continue to render the California Republican Party a permanent minority.

Mr. Scopes, Meet Mr. Fleischman: The fact that a majority of Republicans still believe in the “theory” of creationism, positing that God put humans on earth within the past 10,000 years, is the clearest evidence yet that facts, science and rationality are increasingly lacking to political debate in the U.S.

The new Gallup Poll research demonstrating widespread disbelief in the science of evolution, coupled with a just-released University of Maryland study showing that Fox News viewers become more ignorant the more they watch Fox News, suggests that Neo-Luddism will only grow more popular when the GOP takes control of the House next month, empowering political giants like Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, who’ll bring his climate change denial stance to the Science Committee; Ron Paul, poised to demand a return to the Gold Standard as an overseer of the Federal Reserve and Peter King, who plans to launch a wide-ranging investigation of American Muslims as chair of the Committee on Homeland Security.

Alas, this distressing trend, part of a broad political shift which Calbuzz has dissected as the Death of Truth, flourishes as well in California, where the hate-government crowd routinely substitutes opinion for fact in decrying our fiscal woes, recklessly asserting that the state stands on the brink of bankruptcy because of an orgy of public spending, a huge, bloated government bureaucracy and a vast exodus of businesses fleeing a blood-sucking burden of regulation.

Now comes Treasurer Bill Lockyer, joined by economist Steve Levy, to put the lie to each of these canards, in a splendid op-ed that should be required reading in the re-education of every yahoo in Sacramento:

Critics have suggested the state will default on its debt payments, that it is addicted to spending and that it has a hostile business climate. The criticism is long on inflammatory rhetoric, but it lacks any evidentiary foundation…

Our critics say we are addicted to spending. But the numbers show that isn’t true. Thirty years ago, general fund expenditures totaled about $7.43 for every $100 of personal income. In the 2009-10 fiscal year, that ratio was almost $2 less, at $5.52 for every $100 of personal income. In the current fiscal year, per capita general fund expenditures will total $2,246, less than the $2,289 spent 10 years ago and roughly equal to the inflation-adjusted level of 15 years ago.

Moreover, state and local government has grown slimmer relative to California’s population. In 2009, the state had 107 state employees per 10,000 residents, the fourth-lowest proportion in the nation and 25% below the national average. California also has the sixth-lowest combined number of state and local government employees relative to population, 12% below the national average and 16% below Texas.

Sadly, demonstrable fact matters little to the know-nothing dervishes whirling in the mosh pit of ape dance debate over state finance, a lamentable state of affairs spanning a nation beset by the strange triumph of failed ideas.

Queen Kamala II: Those lusty screams that shattered windows on the executive floors of Calbuzz World Headquarters came from loyal fans of Attorney General-elect Kamala Harris, who expressed the view that our dispassionate analysis of Herself’s transition operation was somewhat, um, asymmetrical (Lock up the kids, Maude – there’s hyperbole on the internets!).

Deeply committed as ever to doing all we can to lower the temperature on the kind of inflammatory, name-calling, ad hominem cheap shot politics and media that makes our blood boil and which we oppose with every fiber of our beings, we encourage readers to avail themselves of an opposing view about the matter. All hail the Empress of River City!

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.