Category Archives: The NY Times Spins Another Cliche About The West

Somebody Get Those Protesters Some Ferry Boats

If they’re going to do stories like this, it would be neat if the NY Times would hire a reporter to cover the Bay Area who actually knows the Bay Area — specifically, the difference between the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge:

No central action was planned. A coalition of labor unions had asked Occupy Oakland, with its proven ability to turn out large numbers of militant activists, to blockade the Golden Gate Bridge, but then withdrew the request at the last minute.

via Oakland, the Last Refuge of Radical America – NYTimes.com.

“Amazingly”, Anyone Can Run For California Governor and Get Votes

Link: Same Race, Same Opponents, Three Decades Later

“Mr. Darling, you see, is running for governor, going head to graying head in the Democratic primary with Mr. Brown, a man he last challenged in 1978, when Mr. Brown was governor and Mr. Darling was trying to stitch up the San Andreas fault to prevent earthquakes. (More on this later.)

“Amazingly, Mr. Darling, who used a fake hand to greet voters and a pair of fake lips to kiss babies, got more than 60,000 votes in the 1978 primary.”

I guess you could call it “amazing” if a crackpot received 60,000 votes in a small city council election or something, but 6.9 million Californians voted in the gubernatorial election in 1978. That means that this guy got 0.87% of the vote — pretty much what you’d expect from a fringe candidate. It’s hardly fair to call that “amazing,” unless you’re working from a journalistic playbook that regularly characterizes California as provincial and backward. All things considered, I’ll take the occasional crackpot on the ballot over New York’s seemingly endless succession of corrupt and inept politicians any day of the week.

I’m actually in favor of this guy’s single issue (repealing the undemocratic and crippling prohibition on new taxes without a two-thirds majority in the legislature). But as the campaign for governor begins in earnest with the entry of Jerry Brown into the race, I’m concerned with the way that the national media lazily characterizes our politics. When national writers focus on quaint stereotypes of California it’s not only lazy, but more importantly, it screws up the political discourse.

Brown, in particular, often did not got a fair shake from the national press, who were often more interested in spinning up simple amusing anecdotes than covering actual issues. Focusing on the personal and ideological quirks of the various candidates — it makes news reporters complicit in the homogenization of political discourse, forcing readers to look at everything through a very narrow (and, essentially, conservative) lens. And a lot of Brown’s different thinking (such as Brown’s pledge during one of his presidential runs to only accept $100 donations from individuals — no donations from corporations or lobbyists — can only be characterized as genius).

It’s worth pointing out that the nonsensical and mindless nickname given to Brown by the national press was not something that came out of California (it was assigned to him by a Chicago columnist, Mike Ryoko, and was barely on the radar during the election of 1978 — it certainly didn’t hurt him in the election, since he won it handily). The writer of this piece, NY Times San Francisco bureau chief Jesse McKinley, resurrected this lazy and inept characterization in another piece written in March.

I’ve seen a few pieces that refer to Brown’s “comeback,” which is only half-true. He never really went anywhere — he’s dedicated his life to public service and has spent the last twelve years in elected office (as mayor of Oakland and state Attorney General).

Importantly for those who might characterize Brown as a far-left progressive, Brown has smartly gone on record as saying that he won’t approve new taxes without the approval of California voters. This is very smart, since it defuses the most likely Republican attack against him, although I worry that it may be the kind of campaign promise that backs him into a corner once he regains the governor’s office. We have serious problems in California that the mindless conservative mantra of empowering big business and lower taxes simply won’t solve.

San Jose Improves Its Airport; Now, Just Flights Lag

Link: San Jose Improves Its Airport; Now, Just Flights Lag – NYTimes.com

“It’s true of everything we do in San Jose — we’re overshadowed by San Francisco,” said Terry Christensen, a professor of political science at San Jose State University. “It’s a matter-of-fact, working town.”

The headline for this dumb NY Times piece lacks a certain something. I’m not sure whether I would have replaced it with “San Jose: It’s News To Us” or “Times Discovers Large San Francisco Suburb Has Own Population, Airport”.

Eat Local; Drink European

Link: The Pour – Eat Local; Drink European – NYTimes.com

A surprising number of Bay Area restaurants, including many dedicated to cooking with local ingredients, offer wine lists dominated by European bottles. What gives? Is this hypocrisy pure and simple?

“We recognize that it’s a tricky thing, and it’s a little hypocritical, but we also recognize there’s a certain style and authenticity that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Chris Deegan, the wine director at Nopa, a popular restaurant north of the Golden Gate panhandle. Nopa’s Web site declares, “We serve simple food created with seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors,” but its wine list is overwhelmingly European.

The message of this piece would seem to be, “YOU STUPID PROVINCIAL CALIFORNIA HIPPIES CLEARLY CAN’T BE TRUSTED TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN STUPID RULES ABOUT SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS EATING.”

Also, carpetbagger reporter du jour, what is this “Golden Gate Panhandle” you speak of? Could you be referring to the Golden Gate Park panhandle?

California Embroiled in a Battle Over the Budget

Link: California Embroiled in a Battle Over the Budget

Each August in California, there are several givens: Succulent heirloom tomatoes will overflow in farmer’s markets. A fire will rage somewhere. And state lawmakers will fight over the budget, weeks after the deadline for its closing.

Oh, those cheeky provincials, what with their conflagrations and their succulent agriculture and their souring economy. Pass me another bon-bon, Muffy, whilst our state’s governor figures out how to divide the spoils from our state’s billion-dollar budget surplus. Oh, wait. You say our state’s budget is hosed, too? Bother.

A Taste of ’08 in Fight to Split Electoral Votes

Link: A Taste of ’08 in Fight to Split Electoral Votes

"Ballot measures in California have long been proxies for local politicians’ hopes and dreams — just ask Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who rode a recall petition to the Statehouse."

Dear New Yorkers attempting to cover the occasional noteworthy news story that occurs in the western United States: California does not have a "Statehouse" like you sophisticated easterners do. We provincials must muddle through with a mere "state capitol".

The City of Napa, No Longer Willing to Be Left Behind

Link: The City of Napa, No Longer Willing to Be Left Behind

"The city of Napa is quickly catching up with its more famous neighbors farther north, like Yountville, St. Helena and Rutherford, adding wine-tasting rooms, upscale restaurants and hotels in its drive to remake itself into something of a Yountville South."

Yes: as everyone knows, the first thing that tourists from Kansas request when they step off the airplane at SFO is a ticket for the shuttle bus to Rutherford.

To New York Times Movie Reviewers, California = Hollywood

Link: Georgia Rule – Movies – Review – New York Times.

"’Georgia Rule,’ in which Jane Fonda washes Lindsay Lohan’s mouth out with soap, might easily have been a tepid, sudsy puddle of easy sentiment and soft comedy….Small-town values triumph over flashy, big-city California relativism, as happens exclusively (and frequently) in Hollywood movies. You’ve seen it all before."

Because, you know, there are no small towns in California. Or values, this would seem to imply.

I’m really, really hoping that the reviewer isn’t trying to use Lindsay Lohan as a metaphor for the supposed moral bankruptcy of Hollywood, since she’s a product of New York, not California. But we mustn’t let facts get in the way when we can spice up our lede with a lazy stereotype that has nothing to do with the actual movie we’re reviewing.

Highway Debris, Long an Eyesore, Grows as Hazard

Link: Highway Debris, Long an Eyesore, Grows as Hazard

"By dint of its climate, size, population, lengthy growing season, increasingly long commutes and, perhaps, its casual lifestyle, California is a road-debris leader. It is also home to the country’s largest number of registered vehicles — 32 million, twice that of No. 2 Texas — and roughly four million pickup trucks, the most of any state, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington."

This is a riot! What does "casual lifestyle" even mean, anyway, and how does it relate to crap that gets dumped on the side of the freeway? It makes you wonder if the writer has ever been west of the Mississippi.

What if the road debris problem were plaguing the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway? Would it be OK to assign blame to the notorious in-your-face New York attitude? It would make about as much sense.

California Gains Clout With Earlier Primary

Link: California Gains Clout With Earlier Primary

"In their travels the [presidential candidates] heard about, and talked about, issues that are dominating the politics of this polyglot state: immigration, stem-cell research, protecting public lands and — reflecting the acute concern of the influential Silicon Valley software industry — the Net neutrality debate over the allocation of Internet bandwidth."

It’s true: amazingly, California isn’t just about tree hugging; its quaint, simple folk are actually interested in many of the same political issues that people in the rest of country care about. Also, all Californians speak multiple languages, apparently.