Politics

Chris Reed's Calwhine.com Battles Baloney in Golden State…

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Actual photo of Gov. Jerry Brown.

…and probably in your state too. 

San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer Chris Reed, who hosted KOGO radio's weeknight Top Story talk show until he was ousted on orders from the Trilateral Commission, has been covering California since the gold rush. But just as a shotgun blast to the abdomen only pissed Wilford Brimley off more, Reed's encyclopedic grasp of governmental arcana just makes his rage clearer and more entertaining. 

Reed's new site Calwhine.com features plenty to whine about in these here United States. In a recent post Reed wonders why failed Energy Secretary Steven Chu seems to have a better understanding of how cap'n trade will suppress California's economy than do the state's own fibromyalgic journalists. 

Today Reed shows how a CYA panic over the casually pepperspraying cop incident has prompted seven different investigations: 

The proliferation of investigations into an incident that was caught on tape and that involved a handful of officers and their bosses has become a self-parody of the labored, bureaucratic way that liberal institutions fall all over themselves to send out the loudest possible message: We care about this very very much and we're just going to keep throwing money and resources at this until you understand we care about this very very much!

According to published reports, here's who is already investigating or considering investigating the assault on the students: the Kroll Consulting firm; the California Assembly, the California Senate, UC Davis, the UC Davis Academic Senate; state Attorney General Kamala Harris, and now a 12-person task force named by University of California President Mark G. Yudof.

Once again, I'm not downplaying the horrible and idiotic actions of the UC Davis police. It's just that this reflexively bureaucratic reaction to a finite incident with an uncomplicated back story is just so telling. Why stop at seven investigations? Why not have 31?

In another recent post, Reed makes an educated guess that the media are waking from the California High-Speed Rail pipe dream. Reality has been rough on reporters' ability to believe in the bullet train: A new Legislative Analyst's Office report [pdf] notes that the estimated cost of the project's first phase has more than doubled, from $43 billion to $99 billion; criticizes the High Speed Rail Authority's business plan as "insufficiently detailed;" rejects its funding plan as a violation of Prop 1A, the ballot initiative that created bonds for the project; and so on. 

Fly California? I thought you wanted people to take the train!

The bad news doesn't end there. Although everybody involved knows that the high-speed rail line will never actually exist, the Rail Authority is in the position of an enlisted sailor ordered by Franklin Roosevelt to root out homosexuals: It has to keep moving ahead while hoping (or not?) that SPs will break down the door and make an arrest before the dreaded consummation happens. 

Most recently, the CHSRA put forward its plan for the Fresno-Merced alignment (formerly the Corcoran-Borden alignment, and by any name a train to and from nowhere that is not even scheduled to run once it's built). L.A. Times' transit reporter Ralph Vartabedian notes that this alignment would "destroy churches, schools, private homes, shelters for low-income people, animal processing plants, warehouses, banks, medical offices, auto parts stores, factories, farm fields, mobile home parks, apartment buildings and much else as it cuts through the richest agricultural belt in the nation and through some of the most depressed cities in California."

You can see how the CHSRA's relationship with local media has declined (and also get a whiff of internal Sacramento scuffling after the Authority got taken to the cleaners by the vast, overrated PR firm Ogilvy) in the new attention that is being paid to how much the Authority spends on public relations. The San Francisco Chronicle's Matier & Ross name a few of the political bigwigs the CHSRA has been paying to run interference. And the Sacramento Bee's David Siders explains that the propaganda campaign encompasses not only the $3 million given to Ogilvy but "millions of dollars more in lucrative, publicly funded outreach contracts embedded in agency engineering contracts."

The visible results of all that flacking aren't very impressive. Dig this non-professional-level op-ed in which a CHSRA contractor identified as Rich Robinson rails against the "whining" of "morons," "sheepish leaders," and "Citizens Against Virtually Everything (CAVE) people." 

But the CHSRA does get a lot of success in muting clear opposition. Another Legislative Analyst's report earlier this year shredded the CHSRA and recommended dismantling the agency itself. That bombshell was ignored by everybody. One very prominent high speed rail opponent politely put me off the other day by saying that talking to an extremist publication like Reason would add fuel to the CHSRA's "whispering campaigns." Finally, the focus of the Authority's media campaign is not on transit-beat reporters – of whom only the Chron's Michael Cabanatuan still seems to be on the reservation – but on the opinion pages. The CHSRA courts editorial boards tirelessly, getting results like this recent journalistic embarrassment from Nick Goldberg's table of fools at the L.A Times

California's media/government complex may be more energetically rotten than other states', but there's always room at the bottom. Whether you're interested in West Coast corruption specifically or Kingfish-style politics in general, Calwhine is for you