Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tom Jacobs Salsipuedes

Scene writer Tom Jacobs has has "gotten out while he can" and left the News-Press for the Rubicon Theater Communications Director position in Ventura. He will be missed. Although I am sure there are other stories -- George has the scoop at I'm Not One to Blog.

That leaves maybe Nora Wallace as perhaps the only "Original Cindy" (ontology anyone?)....the war of attrition is almost complete. Karl Marx and maybe even Malcolm X would have a lot to say about the subjugation of the working class by The Man or in this case -- The Blond(e) Publisher. If everyone ends up getting another job -- how can the NLRB ruling be enforced? How can SBNP management get away with going months without following a court order? Oh, the sweet sensibility of that drawn out process called the appeal...likely costs more than hiring all these folks back for a year, but you will sure prove that you are right, hunh?


Santa Barbara Syndrome

Saw this rather intellectual blog posting at today and got a noodge from a reader -- good stuff that's worth a read. Here's a snippet -- but I'd urge you to read the whole posting from the link above:

People who are comfortable do not want change, since that may lead to discomfort.

This "law" was first presented to me by a seat companion on a flight from Santa Barbara to Chicago. She told me that psychiatrists had begun to talk about the "Santa Barbara syndrome." This was a particular form of depression that grew out of the premise that "life was perfect in Santa Barbara." The primary symptom was the total lack of ability to take any significant action, since that action might lead to having to leave Santa Barbara and thus abandoning the state of perfection one had attained! My own corollary generalizes on this little lesson. There are lots of places you can be comfortable; but, once you are comfortable, you want to "freeze" it into a "permanent state." As Isaiah Berlin has observed, this is the "tragic flaw" (Aristotle's language, not Berlin's) of utopianism. More recently Russ Feingold has picked up on the corollary in his argument that Congress was more interested in "political comfort" than in the will of their electorate.

However, the corollary gives rise to another law that looks at change from the other side of the coin:

People who are uncomfortable do not have a voice.

Are we in a cryogenic state because we don't want change? Is NIMBYism a by-product of the SB Syndrome? When personal change, growth and development is affected by our environs and need for stasis (as we spend so much time and money to stay here) -- are we not destined for trouble? How do Einstein's theories relate?

Dude -- this is metaphysical and I putting the spliff down amongst yourselves.


Paparazzi Sites and Dr. Laura

I've been wondering why Dr. Laura, who so often is a cheerleader for personal responsibility, has apparently left the News-Press for good. I am not so naive to think that local, public pressure from this and other blogs would have had any effect at all as so many of us are anonymous (even though Dr. Laura announced her column in the News-Press through an anonymous blog host).

I figured it out when my sister from out-of-state, who does not know I am SDLG, sent me the following about Dr. Laura's son Deryk and asked what was going on back in SB. When you have made the paparazzi-style sites -- your future becomes very uncertain. It seems this blogger contacted the Army and got a Lt. Colonel to say that the MySpace page was "very disturbing".

Dr. Laura's PR reps are still standing by their initial contention that the MySpace page could be fake -- of course it could, but is it? It seems the burden of proof would sit with Deryk to prove that it wasn't....I have to say I wouldn't want to be Dr. Laura right now. What would you say to your son who is otherwise serving our country? For this kind of thing -- the fact that he is serving our country is not a large enough cloak of invisibility, but I wonder if this will go any further than it has.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cameron Benson New Creeks Manager

Short leash but six-figure salary? Perhaps it's a good trade-off...this in from the City of Santa Barbara (via a citizen stringer -- thanks!):


*SANTA BARBARA, CA – 5/29/2007 – *

The City of Santa Barbara is pleased to announce that, after a statewide search, Cameron Benson will be appointed as the new Creeks Restoration/Clean Water Manager in the Parks and Recreation Department. The Creeks Manager oversees a broad range of creek and ocean water quality, riparian and wetland habitat restoration, and public education and outreach programs.

Mr. Benson brings many skills and strengths to the position. As a Santa Barbara resident for nearly 25 years, Mr. Benson has contributed to the protection and enhancement of the region’s natural resources and public open spaces. From his role as Executive Director of the Environmental Defense Center as well as District Director for Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, Mr. Benson has an established background in organizational management as well as extensive experience working with
diverse stakeholders to address complex environmental policy concerns.

Mr. Benson begins his position with the City on Monday July 9.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Owl Makes Front Page/New Craigslist Posting

Did anyone find it strange that there was a front page article in the News-Press yesterday about supporting mental health services for our troops just a day after Dr. Laura left? It was right next to the owl that somehow was important enough to ursurp other world leaders and local news for the front page.

On another note, Craigslist seems to be where people are getting work these days -- this showed up for at least an hour today. A citizen stringer passed it on:
Associate Editor-Owner (Because Journalism Doesn't Pay!)

Being a reporter and enjoying the art of writing intelligent, well researched news articles pays poorly, as you probably well know. Local Santa Barbara newspapers typically pay $15 to $20 an hour, with little chance of increases beyond tiny incremental raises every few years. The only way to make a decent living is to own the publication.

If you're interested in immediate equity in a local news publication, with serious upside in the form of ad revenue generated by a website that will archive the content, this may be the ideal opportunity for you. Please reply with an e-mail containing a resume and your journalism experience. Note: All replies will be kept in strictest confidence!

Location: Santa Barbara
Compensation: $2000 month+
Telecommuting is ok.
This is a part-time job.
This is a contract job.
This is an internship job
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Time for District Elections?

The Grand Jury wants the City of Santa Barbara to have district elections and strangely wants an at-large Vice-Mayor? What does that accomplish? In any event, their "hybrid" system is discussed in more detail in their report (PDF). Lanny Ebenstein wrote a piece on the subject in The Independent in April as well saying that it created more diversity.

I've never really been supportive of district elections because it is forcing an outcome that the voters should be taking care of themselves if that is what they want. This kind of social engineering always has unintended outcomes -- which is probably why voters chose to go back to at-large elections in Santa Barbara several years ago. If we want more Latino representation -- let's do some voter registration drives, concentrate some get-out-the-vote efforts, etc. Most campaigns have given up on this angle because they aren't seeing the results. If we want younger people to run -- let's raise the pay of council! How many non-retired or not wealthy people can run today unless they are willing to make huge sacrifices?

Slightly off issue --I am told the News-Press covered the story and strangely tacked on an unrelated piece on boards and commissions at the end. It also seems that councilmembers have put heating pads on their cold shoulders -- Blum, Barnwell and House are quoted in the article. Maybe they feel they have no choice? That may be another post for another day....

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Found on Craigslist Santa Barbara


Reply to:
Date: 2007-05-22, 1:40PM PDT

Scene, the weekly arts and entertainment magazine of the Santa Barbara News-Press, is looking for a local writer with a foodie background to serve as its restaurant critic. The ideal candidate will have journalism experience and a food or restaurant background. We're looking for someone to write straightforward critiques of local restaurants, with an authoritative and unbiased voice that gives credit when it's due, but isn't afraid to explain why something just doesn't work. This is a freelance position. The writer-reporter will eat at each restaurant at least twice, and will conduct original research and interviews. One article will be published each week, for $125, which includes dining expenses. Please respond to Keri Bradford, Arts & Entertainment Editor, at

Ex-Public Defender Sues County

Apparently County CEO Mike Brown will have some 'splainin to do in court. Former Public Defender Jim Egar filed a 51-page lawsuit las Friday which accuses Brown of intimidation, profanity and even spitting.

Here's the Santa Maria Times article on the subject.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Social Host" Party Ordinance to Fine Parents

Santa Barbara Newsroom has an article today about a proposed City of Santa Barbara ordinance which would fine parents for hosting parties for teens where underage drinking is allowed. In the article, Mayor Blum describes one party where teens were charged admission. At the risk of sounding snarky, what weren those parents thinking? How irresponsible can you get? It's one thing to allow a glass of wine for your older teen at Thanksgiving or a major family gathering and teach responsible drinking habits -- another to promote heavy drinking among their peers.

My name isn't boB -- but doesn't that encourage bad habits and potential alcoholism because the parents are saying "It's okay to get trashed as long as you are at my house?" What about other people's kids? The "they'll find another way" argument doesn't work here for me...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dr. Laura Controversy in Salt Lake

The following article from the Salt Lake City Tribune quotes Dr. Laura as saying military wives shouldn't whine.

"He could come back without arms, legs or eyeballs, and you're bitching?" Schlessinger asked before taking the stage at the base theater to host her daily program on ethics, morals and values. "You're not dodging bullets, so I don't want to hear any whining - that's my message to them."

If that wasn't enough, Deryk Schlessignger's MySpace account has allegedly been taken down following a comment on the Tribune's blog accusing Deryk of homicidal tendencies:

daisyblue102: So, when she says that two years of obligatory military training could prevent incidents like the Virginia Tech shooting, she must be saying that because of her son's similar homicidal tendencies to that of the Virginia Tech shooter. How do I know about these tendencies? Go look at her son't myspace profile:

Another reference to his MySpace account with a dead link from another blog:
scienceblogs comment: This is Deryk Schlessinger's myspace account. She keeps doing interviews about he is such a hero...more like a homicidal maniac. Look at the disgusting pictures he draws. The government should not be supplying him with guns.

A citizen stringer provided me with some of the above information and also an example of one of Deryk's MySpace friends retreived before Deryk's page was deleted.

For her part -- Dr. Laura refutes this account and much of the SLC Tribune's blog is devoted to her supporters saying so. Also, to be fair, MySpace pages and profiles can certainly be forged. It will be interesting to see in coming days whether more information comes out on Dr. Laura's comments and her son's alleged drawings...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Those Who Print Are "Screwed"

That's an actual quote and I believe a technical use of the term....a citizen stringer passed along this Editor and Publisher article that has Craigslist founder Craig Newmark telling the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention:

...this is a time of "creative destruction" and that he has a "great deal of sympathy for people who run the printing presses. They are screwed." It's not that journalism is becoming obsolete; rather the delivery methods are changing: "Even the kids realize news is important. The problem is paper is too expensive," he said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Slugger On Your Radio

Don't you know you can't get near me
You can only hope to hear me on your radio
On your radio
You're gonna hear me on your radio.

Ex-teachers still coming through to me
Tough kids don't stop trying to kick me to the ground
I don't care
Go on just do what you do to me
You look so sick when youre pushing me around
You're nowhere

Kudos to the first reader who can name that tune and artist....

Da Mayor Marty Blum is now on the radio every Saturday on KTMS 1490 AM. Ironically, KTMS was a News-Press station at one time and was actually broadcast from De la Guerra Plaza. Now, she who has been banned from 1290 AM has one hour a week on KTMS. Classic.

The show will deliver what the News-Press doesn't much of these days -- City Hall news. Da Mayor will take a few calls at 879-5867 every Saturday from Noon to 1:00 p.m.

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ABR Chair Bait and Switch?

This little tidbit appeared on today related to the Agricultural -- errr, Architectural Board of Review meeting about the St. Francis Medical Center site:

Yesterday, at the meeting of the Architectural Board of Review on the development of the St. Francis Medical Center site, observers were stunned to watch ABR chairman Mark Wienke get up from his chairman’s seat and walk around the table, sit down with the architectural team designing the St. Francis project, and advocate for the project before the board he chairs. This flabbergasting appearance of conflict of interest becomes even more suspicious when one considers that Wienke was added to Cottage’s the team of architects AFTER he became chair of the ARB. It leaves one wondering what is going on here?

One of the problems with how ABR is contructed is that not many architects either:

1) Live in the City of Santa Barbara and can be on this commission -- although I have some recollection of talk that the rules might be changed so that more members could be from neighboring cities. The cost of living in Santa Barbara keeps many people who could serve from serving.


2) Do not have potential conflicts with local projects. Not many, however, are chair of the commission.

Strictly speaking, Weinke can recuse himself and it would be perfectly legal. Taking off your ABR hat and putting on your St. Francis hat, however, appears like a bait and switch. This can't instill confidence in the public that decisions are made fairly and if Weinke voted on this project last year at a time that was close to him being hired by Cottage Hospital -- one would have to wonder which came first.

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Paper Not Plastic -- 9/80 Work Week

The City of Santa Barbara made some changes this week and took some initiative in the fight against global warming.

The Santa Barbara Newsroom reports that the City of Santa Barbara may ban plastic bags. Good for them -- and I think Helene Schneider is correct that further study is warranted as to the cost to small businesses.

The city also adopted a 9/80 work week like most county workers have had for awhile. Again, good for the environment, traffic and morale of workers. You can check out this story at The Daily Sound's May 16th edition.


TKA Back in the Saddle

News-Press editor Travis Armstrong returned to the editorial pages today after a several week hiatus that was left unexplained.

Taking a somewhat humble tone about his DUI sentence -- Armstrong still couldn't let go of an opportunity to promote his quest for a non-biased, now one reporter for the South Coast newsroom. Comparing ourselves to others is a pitfall that is too easy to fall into but he does so with vigor by visualizing his victimhood for us.

Other public figures have gotten DUIs and it should be reported -- but only individuals can take responsibility for what happened without pointing the finger at others. To keep the wall up between the newsroom and editorial would have been the right thing to do -- whether or not he could have anticipated a lack of coverage of other public figure DUIs. Hindsight is of course 20/20.

Like "snarky" pointed out in a comment on an earlier post -- it is ironic that Armstrong blasts progresives for childish taunts considering a long history of such in his editorials, but perhaps it is incumbent of us to be the adults here and refrain from that kind of language today. No matter what we think about how he handled his DUI and the ensuing attempt to cover it in his own paper -- he did go through a great deal in the process and has hopefully learned a few life lessons we should all be thoughtful of.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Lou Cannon on News-Press Mess

Here's a link to Lou Cannon's piece on the Mess today in the Los Angeles Times.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Effort Really a Retraction?

Craig Smith went to Las Vegas on Earth Day weekend and the News-Press printed their non-bylined article which smeared Jerry Roberts. I spent time relaxing with my family this weekend and honoring my mother and today the News-Press printed a retraction which may be really a very weak clarification on the smear article. Of couse, it was printed on a day which not many will read the newspaper -- which is pretty typical of McCaw and Company's damage control public relations game.

Interestingly, the News-Press denies that the article could represent an accusation of Jerry Roberts even though no other former users or people who could have had access to the computer were named in the article. Circular in logic, the retraction states that "persons" had access but does not name who those "persons" are. Why then name Roberts? Doesn't this "retraction" really just continue their smear campaign against him? If you are going to name one, who you happen to be in litigation with, you better name them all in some effort of fairness and integrity.

The piece goes on to quote Roberts' attorney in clarifying Raul Gil's declaration that at least two other editors and possibly an ex-business editor had access. No statement affirming or denying this quote was made in the piece. They are basically saying it is true by how it was written but how is a reader to know that for sure without their direct confirmation? Weak. Look for whether this was a statement verifying this point in court someday.

Finally, without mentioning their failure to interview Roberts for the article in question, they point to a police report that says Roberts "criminal attorney" (was that intentional?) told the SBPD that his client had no knowledge of the pornography. So, is the message he must be guilty if he speaks through his "criminal attorney"?

Strangely, the piece ends with an invitation to publish Mr. Robert's counsel's, why would his counsel jeopardize their arbitration by doing so? By putting the ball in Roberts' court, the News-Press first fails to acknowledge that they did not do a good job at reporting the issue in the first place and, second; that to actually publish Roberts' opinion could jeopardize his case. Where's the bias?

Roberts said he would sue for libel if there was not a retraction within thirty days -- does this suffice? I think not, you may think not -- but would it suffice in court?

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Gone for the Weekend

Just a quick post that I will not likely be able to moderate this weekend as I have family coming into town. Happy Mother's Day and I'll be back online Sunday night!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Carbajal on COLAB Report

A quick note that Joe Armenderiz will be hosting the COLAB Report on AM 1290, Thursday at 2pm. First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal will be his guest speaker. It might be a good listen and call in opportunity!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

SB Newsroom Fights the Long Leash of Attrition

A citizen stringer pointed out to me that Santa Barbara Newsroom is now accepting donations for their operating expenses and to help make ends meet. It looks as though the request in the form of a "Commentary" was posted late last night. Here's the main quote:

Time is not on our side in this lopsided contest in the courts with Wendy McCaw, the owner of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Even though she fired all of us eight reporters illegally, and even though we know the courts will eventually rule in our favor, the truth is that the labor laws of this country give employers a long leash to exercise their abuse of power.

Perhaps for the first time, we also get an indication that The Teamsters have spent into six figures to protect these reporters...basically dues from truck drivers and construction workers around the country are funding the defense of an industry that is completely foreign to them. All the while, McCaw has eight experienced and well-paid law firms that have been attacking these reporters and many of us that oppose their intransigence, incessantly.

At the risk of sounding trite; this inspires me as I, within this context, know what it takes to keep going in the face of opposition. I do not know, however, what it is like to not know how I can pay my mortage, health insurance and other necessities of life because Ampersand Publishing will do all that it takes. I can only imagine under the guise of anonymity and what I have experienced under the vise of one of these overly-paid firms for a short while -- what these reporters have been experiencing daily.

Checks can be sent to the following address or electronically via PayPal -- please give what you can:

Santa Barbara Union Defense Fund
PO Box 30041
Santa Barbara, CA 93130


Monday, May 07, 2007

Is It Still a Paid Subscription if the Sales-Person Gets a 100% Commission?

by David Pritchett, guest commentator (with a face for radio)

While this provocative question for the blog posting title here may seem like it came directly from, it actually was inspired through an observation by Paul Berenson that he reported yesterday (05May) as host of "Santa Barbara's Only Progressive Talk Radio!" show.

At about 40% into the length of this ever-lively, amusing, and informative 48-minute radio show interview (as part of the third hour of his weekly show), Berenson tells of his discussion with a NewsPress sales representative who was (or still is) giving away freebie issues and selling subscriptions while camped out in front of a local grocery store.

The deal, offered by the dudes camped in front of the stores, is that a 3-month subscription to the NewsPress sells for $20, or at 22 cents per day. That is lower than the 24 cents per day price for a long-term subscription as the "Manager's Special" advertised on yellow cards distributed in the NewsPress racks. Those cards often are seen blowing along the sidewalks, into the gutters, and then down the stormdrain pipes to cause water pollution in Mission Creek and Arroyo Burro, yielding pulpy paper litter on the beaches and in the coastal wetland lagoons.

Back to the subject: The dudes selling the subscriptions told Berenson that they keep the full $20 of the subscription selling price. In other words, they earn a 100% sales commission on the final selling price of the subscription. In even other words, that means the subscription really is given away by the NewsPress.

Do the circulation figures reported by the News-Press, for the audits, count that giveaway of 91 daily issues (3 months) as a freebie, or as a paid subscription?? What about the stacks of newspapers delivered to local schools on weekends??

Here is the link to streaming audio of this radio interview with this report by Berenson. Let it download and then slide the scroll bar to 40% across for the bit about the 100% commission on "paid" subscriptions. If one is really brave and/or bored, then listen to the whole show from the start...

Just prior to the bit about 100% commission on the NewsPress subscription "sales" of $20, this episode of the Paul Berenson Show also includes a caller who suggests that --although Wendy McCaw herself likely would not call in-- McCaw just might enter blog comments if the web site for the show ( included interactive blog commenting. The caller was not sure if "Nelville Flynn" would be the nom de guerre, though.

Blogabarbara is mentioned several times in this 48-minute radio interview, which at the web site most thankfully is free of the commercials and Fox News breaks that interrupt the live broadcast.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Opinion: Clean Money for Even-Year Terms

I've been reading a few articles about the possible change in city elections with great interest:

Santa Barbara Newsroom
Santa Barbara Daily Sound
The Santa Barbara Independent
The Santa Barbara Independent (2)

In this scenario, the City would conduct its own election only once to bring about even year election cycles which would save the City $300,000. Nothing to sneeze at and I have to wonder if this effort is also fueled by the recent city election for the unnecessary Measure P. Why, city officials must have asked, are we spending 100s of thousands on a measure which tells the Police Department to do what they pretty much already do?

The total cost for this November's election is estimated at $600,000 because the County Clerk says new requirements will make them more expensive. With an outside consultant, council thinks they can hold an election for half that cost. As a one-time deal for three incumbents who will likely little opposition, I think it can be done although I think it would be worthwhile to reconsider a mail-only election. Santa Barbara voters will not get confused and it may even increase participation.

A consistently even-year election will create higher voter participation in the long run, save city funds and bring the City in line with every other council election in the County. It will add a "free" year to their terms but perhaps they can give something back. If voters saw a concerted effort to support a "Clean Money" ordinance which changed the way city elections are financed, they might be more amenable to the extra year in their terms.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Leana Orsua Salsipuedes or Saving Face?

The Independent Media Blog (IMB) is reporting that News-Press reporter Leana Orsua has apparently quit the News-Press over the non by-lined article about Jerry Roberts alledgedly linking him to child pornography. After several posts and dozens of comments this week about her "hundreds of thousands" error, it is hard to believe that "The Chocolate Fountain" caterer didn't resign over the "Editor's Note" which called her article a "distorted picture of reality". As the IMB's Matt Kettman points out -- why didn't Scott Steepleton catch this error himself?

That leaves Hannah Guzik with less than a year of experience as one of the most senior reporters next to Nora Wallace -- a veteran, strong reporter who has traditionally focused on North County. With Maria Zate, that's three and sometimes four, when Steepleton writes a "Staff Report", reporters when the News-Press used to have 15 reporters. First District Streetfighter commented on this article that 250 years of combined experience was lost and is now replaced with so few -- local news has been anemic of late at the News-Press, how can they cover the County with three reporters?

In the meantime, I'm looking for Travis Armstrong on the side of my milk carton -- where is he? 11 or 12 days without an editorial from Her Man at De la Guerra? Did he get a slap on the wrist or is he a prior casualty that was launched with no fanfare?

As always, our goal at BlogaBarbara is to present news without error and a bias we are open about.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Upcoming Events of Interest

Free Workshop: Land Use Planning and the Public Process
Wed, May 9 (7-9pm) @ SB Public Library, Faulkner Gallery
40 E. Anapamu St. (downtown SB)

This 2-hour class will focus on the basics of land use planning in our local communities -- anyone who is interested in how development projects are passed and how community members can give input will want to attend. The workshop will include a tutorial on the planning process and a Q&A with City Planner Bettie Weiss, City Councilmember Grant House, and Environmental Defense Center Executive Director Cameron Benson. Resource materials will be provided.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP Naomi Kovacs or call 966-3979. This forum is hosted by Citizens Planning Foundation ( and co-sponsored by the Montecito Association and the City of Santa Barbara.

Block Party on Cota Street
On May 16, 2007 from 5-8 p.m. the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce is hosting "Via Cota Carnivale," a lively block party – including food and live music by Santa Barbara favorites Tom Ball & Kenny Sultan – to benefit Transition House. Participating business on the 400 block of Cota Street that will join in this celebration include Haagen Printing, Cominichi's, Star Auto, MTD, Arnoldi's and more. Tickets can be purchased at the event: $10 for Chamber Members and $15 dollars for non-members. For more information contact Marcia at 965-3023 ext. 103.


Newspress.TV Launched with No Fanfare

"Local. Unbiased. Accurate. 24 hours a Day." is what it says at

Unbiased? Check out the page following the splash and see what you think about the Attack of the Clones story. As a citizen stringer wrote to me "WARNING: coffee spewing likely as you view the video... you have been WARNED!".

The opening shot has the crowd gathered at the courthouse with no sound -- giving an impression that they are there for Wendy. The Capello interview in the video was from a different day and failed to tell the whole story about the decision. The interview with Robert's lawyer is not edited for sound and is overly-noisy such that you can hardly understand him. Powerpoint graphics and an over-enunciated voiceover give you the impression they hope to be 60 Minutes someday.

Not a word about in the newspaper or online. Craig Smith may have had the scoop on this one -- why wouldn't they do a proper launch?

An alternative view with video on YouTube is offered by BobbyLuigi:

Video One

Video two

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

News Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

by David Pritchett, amateur legal analyst and journalist

While Craig Smith’s Blog and Independent’s Media Blog already have published their thorough and punchy accounts (with great photos at the Indy blog) of the legal hearing held earlier today and Episode I held yesterday about the latest chapter of The Mess, I offer my own unique perspectives here on Ampersand vs. City of Santa Barbara, which we all are learning really is just Wendy vs. Jerry. Ampersand is the corporate owner of the News-Press.

I had not stepped into a Santa Barbara County Superior Court room since I was once called to a jury pool in 1984. I am far more accustomed to the exposed format of the legislative side of local government, in the County Board room or the City Council Chambers, where no one would dare restrict a camera and brandishing a wireless phone for listening and texting is standard procedure during the meetings.

Against the side wall in the court room, a projection of the Judge’s rulings as a text document was shown on a large screen. Very cool to see justice edited in real time, most unlike the City Council decisions I often watch, where the staff response to Council direction is repeatedly“we’ll get back to you.” On the big screen in the court room, several quick cases were handled prior to Ampersand, as the Judge decided what, if anything, in the preliminary rulings would be changed in the final ruling. Using his own computer on the Bench with the projector showing his computer display, Judge Brown simply deleted and added text from his preliminary ruling to make it a final ruling, and then he sent it to print for the plaintiffs and defendants to pick up their justice delivered through an inkjet. Just don’t forget to save the file, Your Honor.

The rapidly deployed reports by Craig Smith and Matt Kettmann (Indy Media Blog) earlier today (02 May) tell the facts of the court hearing well, but a series of points by the Ampersand attorney, Barry Cappello, struck me as most interesting. Early in the hearing, Cappello quickly corrected (in a nice way) the Judge when Judge James W. Brown said that the computer hard disk in question was acquired as used hardware prior to anyone at News-Press having that disk in the computer (as discussed at length all over the blogs and recent news). Cappello said (I paraphrase) that the guy who sold the disk (or the whole computer?) would write a note to the court to verify that it was a new disk. That elicited zero response from the Judge, and some smirks in the audience.

In addition, Barry Cappello argued, emphatically, that one reason that Ampersand needed the original hard disks returned was that the Santa Barbara City police investigators were not using the proper software tools to find the contraband files on the disk. Cappello said the City was using MicroSoft products, but instead should have been using Apple software to find the files.

That new tidbit of software-tools-as-the-answer may have inspired an eyebrow to raise by the Judge, but both of mine were rising at that same moment from the second row. I kept thinking about the TV commercials of the frumpy PC Guy and the hip Mac Dude quipping about how Macs are better and foolproof. Apparently, a law enforcement agency would not be capable of using Apple software, even if that really were the issue. I wondered if the quest for porn had come down to a Windows vs. Macintosh question. If the police did have MacOS, would they need Tiger or Panther? Maybe the FBI will be using Linux instead?

Further in the legal hearing, a lot of the other arguments on both sides were about which computer(s) had original hard disks, what files were on those disks, and whether the “clone” of the disks was good enough to find the contraband pornography files that were really on the original disk now sequestered as evidence to a crime. Lots of talk was about clones and Clones of the hard disk, as making such a disk clone first is standard procedure for a forensic analysis of hidden files, according to the “disk cloning” entry at Wikipedia. I kept thinking about the hip Mac dude with a light sabre decapitating some battle droids.

As I started to realize that a City Transportation and Circulation Committee was more my style of government rather than a Superior Court hearing on technical nuances of computer clonal evidence under the California Public Records Act, I was jolted alert by Cappello stating that City Attorney Steve Wiley was “grandstanding” because Wiley dared to point out that the intent of Ampersand really just might be to “tarnish the reputation” of Jerry Roberts before evidence is properly analyzed for a potential criminal case regarding illegal porn. What was Wiley thinking?!

I could not ask Wiley about that, as he evaporated from the court room upon the close of the hearing, even faster than Scott Steepleton and Travis Armstrong did. I think Steepleton had to verify if the entire population of Santa Barbara County, or at least the same number of people, actually did not visit Alameda Park last year for a May Day march.

While live cameras were prohibited in the court room, plenty of pics and vid were recorded after the half-hour hearing in the dark tile hallway outside the court. From what I could hear of it in the beautiful but acoustically impaired hallway, Ampersand’s attorney Barry Cappello seemed to be trying to convince viewers of KSBY-TV6 what he could not convince Judge James W. Brown to believe. Cappello did acknowledge, though, that the disposition of the original, non clonal, hard disk would be up the Arbitrationer.

After the KSBY interview with Cappello, independent (small I) video producer Sam Tyler assertively asked Cappello about who and how the initial News-Press “article” came about with no by-line to reveal its author in that infamous smear article against Jerry Roberts, published on the front page of News-Press on Sunday, 23 April (Happy Earth Day, Jerry!). Cappello had no comments for Sam Tyler as Barry briskly left the building.

The mood in the courthouse hallway then changed. Other interviews became a klatch gathered around Dennis Merenbach, the attorney for Jerry Roberts. The tone was a bit more relaxed and jovial, or at least that is how it felt. But what do I know, as I, like most or all of everyone else there, is part of the Cabal.

Merenbach was a smooth talker, with an ancient, highly distressed leather briefcase at his feet. The newsies who had gathered around him, both pro and amateur, were highly interested in the plans by Merenbach for pursuing a libel case against Ampersand. Of course, he revealed no strategic details, but he stressed again their demand for a retraction of the hit piece against Roberts published 10 days earlier.

One snarky (that word again!) inquisitor asked Merenbach if a front-page retraction still would be acceptable, considering how the News-Press subscriptions and readership must have plummeted since the infamous anonymous article was published 10 days prior. Others in the crowd mumbled that the retraction demanded by Roberts (through his attorney) was as likely as sit-down negotiation ever happening between News-Press management and the Teamsters.

Local news media were well represented at this whole event, both during the court hearing and the public demonstration held outside in the half-hour prior, with participation by 53 people on a Wednesday morning. Besides the now-usual blogger journos, MSM included Daily Nexus, Daily Sound, Independent, Santa Maria Times, Santa Barbara Newsroom, KJEE radio, KSBY-TV, and maybe others. KEYT-TV3 was conspicuously absent, again, on covering this latest chapter of The Mess.

The KSBY story included reporter Carina Corral acting very Matt-Cotan in her mastery of her craft as their de facto Santa Barbara Bureau Chief.

While this News Wars saga definitely started last July with The Phantom Menace, we all should have A New Hope that the next episode is not about Revenge of the Sith but instead goes directly to the Return of the Jedi. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope....

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Will another correction be made tomorrow?

With the help of a citizen stringer -- I've been able to piece together the mystery of what really happened during the "Day Without an Immigrant" march in Santa Barbara. My confusion began yesterday when I read that at least everyone that lives in Santa Barbara and a few more took part in last year's march. Well, mistakes are made and The News-Press ran the following correction today on the Orsua story:

A story on the front page of Tuesday's News-Press grossly exaggerated the number of people who took part in last year's "A Day Without an Immigrant" march in Santa Barbara. As we reported on May 3, 2006, authorities estimated about 15,000 people participated -- not "hundreds of thousands" as was reported Tuesday. Such errors of fact provide a distorted picture of reality, and play into the hands of those who seemingly benefit from the error. Our goal is to present news without error or bias. This story failed in both regards, and for that we apologize.

Will yet another note or correction appear, however, for the error in the Guzik article today that stated the big march last year started at Chase Palm Park? Here's what was written today:

The dramatic drop in participation -- an estimated 15,000 marched from Chase Palm Park to the Sunken Garden in 2006 -- was repeated across the nation.

The fact is that one march last year started there and ended at SBCC, while another march of nearly 20,000 participants started at Ortega Park and ended at Courthouse. The "newspaper of record" is hybridizing events because the writer has no memory beyond 6 months in the past, and the editors are not editors. The News-Press has lost their institutional memory...


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tentative Ruling Live at

A faithful reader passed on a link that shows Judge James Brown is tentatively ruling against the News-Press on the hard drive (now drive(s) plural) issue. Somehow, another Apple G4 desktop computer with two hard drives; as well as an Apple G4 laptop with one drive, did not get mentioned in any of the other press to date that I have seen. Did I miss that? Why wouldn't even the News-Press have corrected that in their smear piece against Roberts? Or, do they think that is the smoking hard drive? Where are my Morleys!

Here's the actual text:
{Tentative} Ruling: The court denies petitioner’s motion for order requiring return of evidence. The court’s order dated February 15, 2007 will remain in effect for 60 days and will terminate on July 2, 2007.

See the full text of the tentative ruling here.

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Cold Shoulder Sees Results

The LA Times reports the latest figures show News-Press circulation down 9.8% to 38,000.

In other news, Craig Smith reports on a post-union vote salsipuedes in business reporter Steve Bonser. Reportedly, Bonser was upset with how management smeared Jerry Roberts.

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