Archive for 2012

How Geena Davis Hopes to Save Women’s Panel

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

By Susan Rose
Special to Calbuzz

Oscar-winning actor Geena Davis was recently elected chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women. Best known for her roles in “Thelma and Louise,” “A League of Their Own,” and “The Accidental Tourist, for which she won an Academy Award, Davis also was honored with a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the first woman president in the television series “Commander in Chief.”

A long time advocate for women and girls, six years ago she founded The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, which works with the entertainment industry to increase the presence and reduce the stereotyping of female characters in media aimed at children. She was appointed to the commission two years ago by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and elected chair last month. Governor Jerry Brown in his budget proposal has recommended eliminating the commission, so we asked Calbuzzer Susan Rose to interview Davis about the controversy and her work on behalf of women.

Q: What difference has the state Commission on the Status of Women made in the lives of  women?

A: The Commission has served as an important link between many communities and the government throughout its 47 year history, focusing on those who most need a voice—the working poor, those with limited English language ability, incarcerated women, and those with least access to state government and services. The Commission has partnered with numerous groups throughout California and held public hearings around the state, thus making state government both more accessible to these groups and benefiting state government by bringing these voices to Sacramento.

Q: What arguments can you make to try to convince Governor Brown to retain the Commission?

A: I realize the difficulties and challenges of the California state budget and financial crisis. However, Governor Brown has been a long time supporter of women and girls, so I’m looking forward to working with him and collaboratively developing a plan to save the commission.

The Commission gives a voice to the voiceless…It’s the only women’s organization that is an official branch of state government, sponsored by the state as a symbol of its commitment to women and girls. We have an obligation to continue our commitment to the 18.5 million women and girls in California.

Q: You’re in a position to work on any number of issues. Why women’s concerns over others?

A: I’ve been a lifelong advocate for women and girls, in part because I’ve been fortunate enough to play some roles that have resonated with women and girls. I became a Trustee of the Women’s Sports Foundation as a result of “A League of Their Own,” and joined the Board of the White House Project after playing the first female President on “Commander In Chief.” But when I first started watching children’s entertainments with my young daughter, as a mother, I became concerned at the lack of female characters in what our youngest children are seeing. By having female characters take up less than 50% of the space in fiction, we’re in effect, saying to kids that women and girls are less important than men and boys.

Q: What has The Geena Davis Institute done to improve the image of girls and women in the media?

A: I decided to use research to demonstrate the facts and use it as a tool to work directly with the leading content creators of children’s media to dramatically increase the number of female characters and reduce gender stereotyping in what children 11 and under are seeing. We have now sponsored the largest body of research on gender in media spanning over 20 years.



Susan Rose is a former Santa Barbara County Supervisor and served as Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.  She was a founding member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, an organization dedicated to helping women achieve elected and appointive office.


This Just In: Market Soars on Rumors of Calbuzz Sale

Friday, April 13th, 2012

To: Mark Zuckerberg
From: Dept of CB Radio Sales
Re: Opportunity Knocking

Dear Mark,

In a week when Calbuzz landed among the 1 million most popular websites in the world, Topic A in our executive suite has been  Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram.

The reason: In reading the financial analysis and commentary of the deal, we could not but be struck by the astonishing similarities between us and the company you just acquired for $1 billion.

To cite just a few examples, we offer a “simplicity of experience” for our customers (just ask Ernie and Chris!); although the “space is crowded” for what we do, we haven’t tried to “boil the ocean” (hell, we can barely boil water!); we rushed our “product to market as fast as possible” (in fact, we maybe spent five minutes – max – thinking about what we were doing before launch!).

Most importantly, just like Instagram we have a) no business model b) no revenue and c) no profits. Can you imagine a better fit for your fine company?

So just to let you know, we’ll wait by the phone this weekend for your call (if we don’t answer right away, it’s because we’re on the other line setting up dinner with Meg Whitman – maybe you know her from the “tech space?”). Or if you prefer, we can mail you a self-addressed stamped envelope to send us our check so we can begin “merging our cultures” ASAP. We can’t wait to get started!

Your new partners


Almost as good as real polling: Kudos to Dan Schnur and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences for their experimental leap into online polling, released Thursday after finding that on most questions, their internet instrument produced results similar to the telephone survey they run with the Los Angeles Times.

But there are some problems. Online polling of self-selected panelists does not start with a random sample of the likely voter population. Assigning a margin of error to the survey violates probability theory. And claiming that the online survey was a success because the results matched the USC/LAT telephone survey – which online polling is supposed to replace because telephone surveys are supposedly becoming increasingly unreliable – is logically, uh, illogical.

Still, the pollsters – Ben Tulchin, of the Democrat-leaning Tulchin Research, and Chris St. Hilaire, of the Republican-tilted M4 Strategies – deserve a tip of the hat for trying to develop a credible online survey model. We especially like the idea that they’re planning, in the future, to match their online panel with the voter file to try to ensure that their respondents are, in fact, registered voters.

Maybe the way to get a random sample would be to pull the sample first from the voter file and then, instead of calling people, reach them online. We don’t know, we’re just hacks who remain skeptical about online polling along with voice activated robo-calling.

Anyway, they came up with some interesting findings, one of which was this:

Although the new online survey does reflect findings from a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll conducted by phone that shows state voters give Obama poor marks for the way he has handled the issue [rising gasoline prices], the more detailed series of online questions indicates Californians are much more likely to blame oil companies and unrest in the Middle East for high gas prices than either the president or U.S. Congress.

The USC Dornsife online survey found that 63 percent of voters disapprove of President Obama’s handling of gas prices, and 27 percent approved. But only 13 percent of California voters said Obama was to blame for higher gas prices and about 6 percent blamed the U.S. Congress. In contrast, 21 percent of voters blamed “problems in the Middle East” and 38 percent blamed oil companies.

An advantage of online polling is that on Jerry Brown’s tax measure, they could provide respondents with the title and summary, not just a description.
You can find the survey here and all the crosstabs here.

You can’t take the Hoosier out of the boy: Back in the Dark Ages, or as we like to call it saeculum obscurum, when he was bouncing on Keith Bulen’s knee and simultaneously wiping Mitch Daniels’ nose, Dick Lugar got himself elected to the U.S. Senate from Indiana, defeating incumbent Democrat Vance Hartke (whom no Calbuzzer could ever forget.)

Lugar was the kind of Republican that both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan warmed to – seriously conservative but extremely smart, with nuanced positions on things like gay rights, abortion, immigration and foreign policy.

So what do you get these days if you’re a thinking man’s conservative? A challenge from the Neanderthal right, that’s what, in this case, from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock – who’s unhappy about Lugar’s support for spending and bailouts, amnesty for illegal immigrants and votes confirming Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Because all politics is local, it’s hard to get too weepy about Dick Lugar’s plight. He was, after all, partly responsible for creating Unigov – the “unified” metropolitan system of governing Indianapolis that brought 85,000 Republican voters into city elections (then  on the verge of being dominated by inner city blacks) while allowing the wealthy, white townships surrounding the city to keep their big fat tax bases all to themselves.

But that was 42 years ago. Since then, Lugar has served six terms as a thoughtful conservative Republican Senator — a guy who actually believes in governing, not just taking stands, protesting and gumming up the works. Exactly the kind of lawmaker the Tea Party know-nothings love to hate. Almost as much as they hate President Obama, women’s rights and tree-hugging, gun-controlling anti-nuclear-proliferationists, as we read this from NBC’s First Read:

Lugar “fighting for his political life” in Indiana: The pollster for Joe Donnelly (D), who is running for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, has released a survey showing that incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar leads his GOP primary opponent Richard Mourdock by just six points, 45%-39%.

From the pollster’s memo: “After more than 30 years as Indiana’s senator, Richard Lugar is fighting for his political life. Despite spending millions, Lugar continues to lose ground in the Republican primary and faces the very real possibility that on May 8, he will be out of a job.”

And this:

Conservative groups begin their fire on Lugar: In advance of Indiana’s May 8 primary, the conservative group Club for Growth is going up with a new TV ad hitting Dick Lugar (for voting for the bailouts, tax hikes, and Obama’s Supreme Court justices) and supporting GOP primary foe Richard Mourdock, according to Politico. And the National Rifle Association is going after him with this TV spot, which states that Lugar “has become the only Republican candidate in Indiana with an ‘F’ rating from the NRA.” The ad then shows a photo of Lugar standing next to Obama.

Up next: Tea Party geniuses eyes South Carolina’s Jim DeMint as dangerous sell-out squish.

Moving on up: Roger Salazar, a charter member of the Calbuzz Advisory Board of Leading Authorities on Practically Everything,  and co-founder of the Acosta|Salazar LLC consulting firm in Sacramento, is joining another member of the Calbuzz Consultanate, Adam Mendelsohn, over at Mercury LLC, a big honking public strategy firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

With former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez already on board at Mercury, there’s a good chance the firm will emerge as a leading strategy group on Latino and Spanish-language issues and public relations.

Before founding Acosta|Salazar with his middle-school pal Andrew Acosta, Salazar was a senior vice president for the public affairs firm Porter Novelli. He served as principal officer for California Working Families for Jerry Brown 2010 – the largest independent expenditure effort in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign; spokesman for the California Democratic Party; political spokesman for California State Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez; campaign press secretary for California Gov. Gray Davis; and served on the podium press team for the 2004 and 2008 Democratic National Conventions.

At one time or another he flacked and spun for President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Ag Secretary Dan Glickman U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard. Most important, he was part of the brilliant communications operation in Gov. Gray Davis’s admin that included such luminaries as Steve Maviglio, Jason Kinney, Ed Emerson, Carol Dahmen and Vince Duffy.

Calbuzz Panel: What Santorum’s Pullout Means

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

When the Ayatollah Santorum announced on Tuesday that he’s aborting his campaign for president, drivers of the Romney Campaign Juggernaut breathed a sigh of relief because they now can turn from crushing Santo under the wheels of their temple car to concentrating their fire power against President Obama.

And certainly the conventional wisdom is that Frothy’s pullout benefits Mitt the most. As one Republican member of our brilliant Calbuzz California Consultanate put it:

The benefit is all Romney’s. He can now focus on general election messaging and escape the idiotic culture wars that had been shaping the tenor of the primary process. Sewing up the nomination in first week of April provides ample time to move on to a new election framework. One might even say he can now shake the Etch A Sketch.

True, that, agreed one of our Democratic panelists:

The field is now essentially cleared for him (despite Newt’s vow to stay in until Tampa). American Crossroads has announced they are starting to spend their $20 million in ads in swing states against Obama. Mitt can now focus on replenishing his campaign coffers, retooling his message, and reintroducing himself to the general electorate.

He’s in a much better place than many predicted he would be even a few weeks ago. Imagine how much money he would have had to spend if the California primary had come into play for the nomination.

Or as one Republican rascal on our panel noted:

Santorum’s exit most assuredly helps Romney, as it hastens Mitt’s Etch-A-Sketch moment. Santorum in the race was helping Obama. Now Romney is no longer in the straightjacket of GOP orthodoxy — he is now merely in the straightjacket of Mitt the Mormon.

Unconventional wisdom: But Calbuzz and our Advisory Board of Leading Authorities on Practically Everything are anything but conventional. And it turns out there are some pretty good arguments about why Santorum’s campaignus interruptus could actually benefit Obama. Said one Democratic consultant:

I have a theory that Santo getting out actually helps Obama. The longer Santorum was out there shouting about how Romney isn’t a true conservative, the harder is gets for Democrats to hang the Tea Party and the rest of the far right around his neck. Romney wants a war with Iran, thinks Russia is the enemy, hates health care reform, and believes in trickle-down economics. But the press has been calling him the moderate in this race for more than a year. Better for that to be over.

Said another Democrat:

Obama benefits. Now the Obamaniacs [progressive Dems who have been carping about Obama from the left] can focus all their pent-up energy on “the enemy” instead of on what Obama may or may not have done for them.

Maybe. But Obama has already tied the Paul Ryan budget and the destruction of Medicare around Romney’s ankle and the Democrats have been blasting with both barrels at the war on women, self-deportation of Latinos, the Buffett Rule on taxation and just about anything with the stink of Tea Party on it. So it’s hard to see how losing a loser like Santorum makes Obama’s path to 270 electoral votes any easier.

Said one GOP panelist: “Suggesting that Obama somehow benefits from Santorum dropping out is Democratic spin in hyper-drive.  All advantage goes to Romney.  The gore-fest ends, the party unites behind him and the real campaign begins.”

We miss Rick already: Indeed, the Democrats were having a damn good time watching Santorum tie Romney in knots and drive him to the right. As one Democratic panelist put it in response to our question, “Who benefits most?”

Romney by a mile. He can start healing the rift with the conservative base instead of continuing to fight with it.  And he no longer has anyone pulling him to the right. More importantly Santorum had been doing major damage to the GOP brand with women.  His fight on contraception and abortion helped open up a huge gender gap between Romney and Obama. This is one fight that Democrats would have gladly urged on all the way to the convention. Very sad to see it all end so soon.

Some Democratic brainiacs have mixed emotions about seeing the GOP fight concluded:

I could make a case for both but I guess I come down on the side of Romney because it cuts his primary spending down and allows him to more seriously begin his march to November (ugh.)  Obviously Obama was enjoying the lack of a focused opponent.  

And, it really helps me.  Because if I spent one more moment listening to Washington Week, Face the Nation, Meet the Press or whatever the heck the ABC Sunday Morning show’s name is talk about at what precise moment Santorum would drop out I would have to do harm to someone or something.

Now the “when will Newt and Ron Paul finally give in” can begin and wow have I been waiting for that.

Dem Views Extra: 

— The obvious answer is now Romney can focus on the general election and begin etching new more moderate positions on issues — technically called a series of double reverse flip flops. In reality, Mittens now faces a much broader electorate and some really pissed off women. His crawl back towards the middle will draw intense media attention underlining his total lack of conviction to policy. And then he has to explain to seniors and near seniors (60% of likely voters) that he supports the Ryan plan to basically eliminate Medicare. Romney will play defense for the next several weeks or longer. Right wing pressure will heighten the VP discussion….emphasis again on Romney’s Waffle House campaign.

— Although it seems as if the GOP primary has gone on forever, it’s only April, giving Romney plenty of time to bring the Santorum conservatives into the fold and consolidate his base. If you doubt there’s time for Romney to recover, consider that in April 2008, Clinton and Obama were still debating (and Clinton was still winning states like Pennsylvania.) Just as important, the full force of Republican and right-wing SuperPAC firepower can now be turned to Obama. Of course, this means you need to ignore the other two remaining contestants, Newt (increasingly easy to dismiss) and Paul (running only to make a point).  Also, Santorum’s exit gives Romney a chance to repair his favorability ratings, which have taken a beating from attacks by both the Democratic establishment and his Republican opponents.

GOP Views Extra:

— Romney.  The bloodletting is over, the rush to the right is receding, and now the campaign can consolidate and focus on one target—Pres. Obama.

— This is the moment that Romney has waited nearly six years for.  He’s now the nominee despite the fact that part of his party isn’t sold on him.  Santorum dropping out means that argument is over and now Romney can focus in on the general election and Obama.  Everyday Santorum was still in the race was a good day for Obama.

Dem Diehard Bottom Line:

— Anything that ends the ugly primary season is good for Romney, but he probably has already been damaged irreparably by the process.  He made no real case for himself during the primaries, just played whack-a-mole with every other candidate who reared his/her head, using his superPAC and massive financial advantage to bludgeon them back into their hole.  He’s paid a heavy price for that — along with his many verbal and behavioral gaffes — and his favorability numbers are far underwater.  And Obama has barely started in on him yet.

— At this point doesn’t matter one way or the other – all of the damage is already done.  Romney has been pushed far to the right and exposed as a fundamentally weak candidate. People talk about parallels between this and the ’08 Democratic primary – but are ignoring the significant difference. Democrats came away from that primary believing that they had two good choices and either would have been fine in the end.  Not the case here – there are some seriously hurt feelings – a lot like sour residue left over from 1964 Republican convention.

For Mitt, the ‘Pivot’ is Never Having to Say He’s Sorry

Monday, April 9th, 2012

When he compared restarting his boss’s campaign to an Etch A Sketch, Eric Fehrnstrom, Mitt Romney’s flack, committed a gaffe in precisely the sense that journalist Michael Kinsley meant it – “when a politician tells the truth.” But the gaffe is less important than the fact it illuminates: that on the issues, Romney has more positions than the Kama Sutra (ht Garry South).

We love good gaffes because they’re like political exploding cigars, handshake buzzers or whoopee cushions. That’s why reporters, editors and politicians alike have such fun with them.

What worries us, however, is not whether Jon Stewart and David Letterman can make us laugh at Romney’s expense: it’s whether the mainstream media will routinely remind their readers and viewers of the stands on the issues that Romney has taken from when he was running for governor of Massachusetts right up through his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

For example, no self-respecting MSM outlet ever should publish or broadcast a story about Romney’s plans for the economy that fails to mention in some way that he advocated that the United States government should let General Motors to go bankrupt.

Any piece about the immigration issue that does not note that Romney has opposed a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and has said he would repeal the Dream Act would be journalistic malpractice.

In his zeal to capture the Neanderthal Republican nomination, and to outflank Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, Romney has taken positions so far right on so many vital concerns – the Paul Ryan budget, Medicare, funding Planned Parenthood and more – that he has degraded his standing with moderates, independents, women, Latinos and just about everyone else in the mainstream of the electorate.

The pinhead pivot: Candidates for president think they can get away with the “pivot” that they do between the primary and the general election because the national political press corps has had an unfortunate habit of letting them get away with it. Consider, for example, typical pieces looking at Romney’s upcoming maneuver by Ben Smith of Politico and Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post.

In “Republicans Brace For The Romney Pivot,” Smith quotes our old friend, USC’s Dan Schnur, a one-time presidential campaign flack for John McCain, noting: “There’s no possible way for him to be elected president without at some point distancing himself from Congress . . . He signed on to the Ryan Budget and he’s going to need to stick with it for a while, but at some point in late summer or early fall, the budget negotiations are going to take a turn that is going to force him to part ways with the House Republicans.”

And in “Will Romney move to the middle? Can he?,” Tumulty quotes former Ronald Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein, observing: “Romney’s twin challenges are to unify the Republican base, where significant elements remain unconvinced of the strength of his conservative philosophy, while at the same time not genuflecting so much that he can’t appeal to the independent vote that will ultimately decide the election.”

Get it? To political professionals, the “pivot” is an expected and acceptable political tactic. But if you believe that words have meaning and that commitment and consistence matter, then the MSM ought to make presidential candidates answer in September and October for the opportunistic positions they took in February and March.

For Romney, in particular, the notion of altering his positions is wholly unacceptable, not least because he has given his word to the conservative wing of his own party. That’s why Jonah Goldberg of the National Review found Fehrnstrom’s mention of an Etch A Sketch so humorous that he compared him to Basil Fawlty, played by the great John Cleese in “Fawlty Towers” who, when serving German patrons in his restaurant, keeps mentioning the one thing he’s not supposed to say – the war.

A matter of character: Trouble is, it’s not really funny. And as Romney’s protégé eMeg Whitman proved in the 2010 California governor’s race, taking extreme stands during the primary in order to keep from being outflanked on the right, and then trying to weasel away from them in the general doesn’t work, if the news media are vigilant.

Throughout the GOP presidential debates, Calbuzz warned that playing to a hall full of blood-thirsty knuckledraggers was a losing strategy for the Republican candidates. But, after first seeming to reject the tactic as employed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Romney –worried about Newt Gingrich and then Rick Santorum — made a strategic decision to suck up to the right-wing of his party.

So, to our brothers and sisters in the mainstream media, we offer this humble suggestion: the “pivot” is not just a campaign tactic — it’s a measure of character.

Update: In an NYT blog post on Monday,  Tom Edsall demonstrates precisely how Romney has begun making the pivot – without being called out by the MSM.