Will the real demagogues please stand up?

November 10, 2014
Daniel Blackburn

Daniel Blackburn


Usually, those unusually insipid things we read so regularly in our local daily newspaper come and go from our thoughts like the pat of a subway groper. Until Joe.

Look, I’ll say from the start that it pains me to criticize another media entity — mostly because it’s a practice most readers find immensely boring and competitively stupid.

So have no doubt about it: giving The Tribune any attention now as it struggles against its business demons is not fun.

But there was Joe. Tarica, that is, one of The Tribune’s regularly featured columnists. Joe writes something called “Joetopia” which I guess is a takeoff on the word “Utopia” which seems to be the dream of his employer — a picture-perfect and happy San Luis Obispo County existing exactly as Joe and his fellow travelers must imagine.

When I read Joetopia’s first words on Nov. 8 — “I don’t understand voters” — my impulse was to send him a quick email reply. Then I figured, why don’t I just share my own insipid thoughts with the half-million-plus people who will have a chance to read this on this site during November? Let them dump me in the trash.

We start by noting The Tribune’s antediluvian practice of “interviewing” political candidates and making editorial recommendations to readers prior to elections.

It’s essentially a publishers’ ego trip dating from the time when newspapers were the only means available for most people to get information about their government and elected officials. The exercise has always been abused by some editors and publishers pursuing their own agendas; I submit, however, that at one time, such recommendations carried some weight, and had some social value. That’s certainly no longer the case, particularly at the smaller, regional newspaper level.

So I must figure that Joe took his cue from the newspaper’s editorial hierarchy when he slapped this headline on Saturday’s Joetopia: “In election’s wake, voters’ choices are difficult to understand.”

If Joe had really free reign to write what he wanted, he’d have penned something like this: “I just don’t understand why the ignorant electorate didn’t follow The Tribune’s insightful recommendations.”

Tribune news standThis shouldn’t be a difficult mental pull for Joe: He doesn’t understand because The Tribune can’t detect the truthful pulse of county residents.

Joe wrings his ink-stained hands in frustration at the election of people and the approval of issues not endorsed by The Tribune, which leads him to the only conclusion possible: “I guess we are a people wracked by phantom fears and manipulated by demagogues.”

I guess many of Joetopia’s own fears are based on misconception spread by the newspaper itself.

One example: He bemoans the triumph of new supervisor Lynn Compton in capturing the District 4 seat, writing: “Water is a major challenge, but does the South County elect a supervisor who will help push forward thoughtful regulation of the Paso Robles groundwater basin? No, they pick someone who doesn’t even believe the crisis exists. I guess it isn’t their problem.”

The real problem here, Joetopia, is that Compton says she never, ever said that. The Tribune said she said it, but that doesn’t make it true. There is no evidence she ever uttered the words.

Here’s Compton’s comment on the matter during The Tribune’s own debate (available on their website). Compton said, “We are in a long term drought that could go on for 10 years.” In another debate, Compton questioned the research that went into the emergency ordinance, but not whether there is a water crisis.

And — this is only my observation, not Compton’s — those who do question a genuine “water crisis” in this county have a lot of hard evidence to support that particular position. Excessive pumping? Now you’re talking!

Also, Joetopia didn’t much like the folks Atascadero voters reelected.

And he really seethed about Jim Hill’s already-historic, uphill write-in political performance in Arroyo Grande.

Blind to a decade of exploitation by the city’s sitting mayor, his abuses clearly perceived and willingly articulated by local residents and business owners, The Tribune’s dogged endorsement of long-time incumbent Tony Ferrara colored its coverage of the city’s now-notorious July 3 Adams-McClish City Hall caper and its aftermath.

Joetopia writes how Ferrara “fights for his political life against a write-in candidate whose non-campaign was fueled by backlash over a frothy pseudo scandal.”

Where to start? A “pseudo scandal?” A “non-campaign?”

thanksagThe city bloomed almost overnight with hundreds upon hundreds of iridescent, hand-made yellow signs supporting Hill’s write-in candidacy. The signs appeared on the lawns of homes, the windows of businesses… everywhere, it seemed, a virtual sea of poster board. And with the kind of virulent retaliation Ferrara and his tax-paid lackeys are capable of wreaking, this was a bold act, uncomfortable for many Arroyo Grande residents.

A committee of some of the community’s prominent and committed folks created what is truly a political miracle (no matter the eventual vote count). They fashioned a grass-roots effort that was visible, outspoken, and most of all, effective in communicating the message to the thousands of voters who wrote in Jim Hill’s name after a five-week campaign. Thousands. Chew on that for a moment.

Easy for Joetopia to miss this phenomenon, now that I think of it; The Tribune’s local coverage sure did.

As to the Adams/McClish incident, first reported by CalCoastNews in August: Residents’ concerns have never been about what this sad pair did or did not do in that darkened city office late that night.

It’s about how Tony Ferrara and his council handled the situation from the very start, with denials, a coverup, verbal attacks on residents and police officers who questioned them, and secret meetings.

It was all that, and not the spectre of illicit sex, that Hill’s supporters tried to convey to The Tribune, without success. Now, those citizens are dismissed as “demagogues” by Joetopia.

Ferrara’s slant on the whole thing — a fallacious one repeated often in The Tribune and parroted by council members — was that officers encountered nothing inappropriate that night, and concluded no violations of city policy had occurred.

Commander Kevin McBride’s statement in a memorandum describing the incident, posted on CalCoastNews and even The Tribune, once, was much more, shall we say, revealing: “Once outside, I contacted Senior Officer Day and he was very concerned that he had witnessed a possible violation of city policy because McClish was in the city manager’s office and appeared to be partially clothed.” Responding officers agreed they had walked into “an uncomfortable situation.”

The reason the election went the way it did, Joetopia, is simply that the voters were listening. But not to you.

There’s a financial reason for The Tribune’s brand of “reporting,” which Joetopia himself was kind enough to point out: “A sense of social responsibility,” he wrote, “often can’t compete with the almighty dollar.”

Daniel Blackburn is senior correspondent and co-founder of CalCoastNews.

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The Trib’s editorial arrogance reminds me of a CEO I once worked with. He would tell the truth once in awhile to keep everybody off balance. By his tactic the lie became fact as he administered his business. But everyone was not fooled. He eventually lost his business.

The lie, the omission of facts, the lack of transparency is also a tactic as revealed in the revelation of the architects of Obamacare, that the public good was served by the lie:


It would be wrong to attribute the motive of such deceit to the Trib’s editors. Their error is not the calculated lie. I suggest it is a function of clear incompetence bread by arrogance.

It is that attribute that compels them to admire the arrogance of others such as apparently evident in the political cover up in Arroyo Grande.

The clear and grossly unfair bias regarding Lynn Compton confirms the Trib’s editorial arrogance. They infer the voters in the 4th Distict are stupid for electing Compton. Really!

It is the welcome free editorial style of CalCoastNews, that serves the ideal of truth, that gives the reader hope. And Blackburn’s analyses serves the highest goals of honest journalism as exemplified here.

Sadly, the provisions of bankruptcy will be greatly served when applied to the Tribune.

This is not a bad analysis. However, I must say that it also applies to the conservative media and the GOP. I formed the same opinion of Rush Limbaugh within 2 years of the time I first heard his broadcasts and that was back in the 80’s. FOX news just followed the model he set. Did it ever occur to you that the GOP’s losses during the Obama era was due to a dawning awareness among many American’s that they were deceived in much the same way as you were deceived by the CEO you described.

The bigger problem is that both sides, Democrats and Republicans, use the same tactics of getting people to vote against the other by exposing their duplicity and we end up throwing out one bunch of bums and voting in an equally venal bunch to replace them. I don’t think that was what happened locally in AG because at local levels, enough people actually know the candidates to overcome the propaganda model of voter information. But there seems to be some point at which media and ads are the primary source of information about issues and candidates so success is primarily dependent upon a well-funded ad campaign and the support of media — which too often relies upon advertising and access for objectivity.

“Lack of transparency is a political advantage”.

Those words from the Obama guy who helped create the healthcare law.

Intentionally keeping the facts from the voters?

A necessary evil to get the bill passed for our own good…all we need to do is trust them!.

This is exactly why Ferrara is behind in the votes.

Covering up the facts to protect his pet Adams, why?

That we do not yet know, but one thing is for sure..we do not trust THEM to tell us the truth for our own good.

We expect them to tell us THEIR version of the truth for THEIR own good.

QUOTING AGAG1, quoting the Obama guy, whomever he is: “Lack of transparency is a political advantage”


Everybody with any sense knows that is the truth. I strongly question the wisdom of voicing that reality publicly, but then, that’s just me.

At first I thought some satirist had hacked the Trib’s website? Then I wondered if this “Tarica” guy is “all there?” Then I wondered who his audience could possibly be? Finally I wondered how the Trib could possibly benefit from such a silly piece of trash?

I honestly don’t get it…

I would like to say that the intended audience for the Trib’s piece are the uninformed / low-information voters who keep re-electing Marx, Asshat, Adam Hill, et. Al., but in all likelihood, the Trib is just grabbing for any perceived lifeline as they drown.

If it wasn’t for CCN and other people pointing out the Trib’s faux pas, I would have forgotten they even still exist.

This is the best discussion I have read of why the Tribune and its staff go to such ridiculous lengths to ignore what the people have been telling them for decades now.

What is worse are the ridiculously convoluted (but transparent) thinking processes necessary to lead lead them to consistently blame their critics for the Tribune’s failure to find a common ground with the readers they are supposed to serve.

But the best of the op-ed was the description of the Adama/McClish late-night drunken tryst as “sad.”

That one word describes the Adams’/McClish affair, as well as Ferrara’s limp attempts at a cover-up, and the extent to which Ferrara and the city council members would go in its attempts to keep its critics silent.

They have alienated a large part of AG’s residents and voters, who returned fire by writing Jim Hill’s name (and filling in the bubble) for city mayor.

Ferrara and the city have, in the process, diveded AG’s citizens.

It will be that division which may be the saddest of this whole mess, and the hardest issue to overcome.

So, Dan, thanks again.


You are right. This is sad and there is work to be done….

Cut Mr. Adams a check and get him out of City Hall.

Nothing can go forward with him in attendance.

No private employer would have kept him around past July 4th ( the day of his 10.5% raise)!

Just wondering what time, where and what day the next special meeting is…

Any bets on the table yet?

What time would be most inconvenient for you surfer?

Let’s see, they did a meeting that no one knew about to hire the city atty to do an investigation. And they held a meeting giving bare minimum of notice, and we showed up.

Then they held a meeting at 9 am, and we again made an appearance.

So I say, they have one at 2 in the afternoon, hoping people will be busy and just plain forget, or the time will get away from them.

Or maybe they will have one next time Tony is in the hospital for kidney stones.

Looking like 6 pm on Wednesday, the 19th right now

See you there!

Think we need to bring a chair?

QUOTING SUFERDUDE: “Cut Mr. Adams a check and get him out of City Hall.

Nothing can go forward with him in attendance.”


That reminds me…one of the first things Jim Hill will need to do when he assumes the mayor’s seat is to GET A NEW FRICKIN’ CITY ATTORNEY. That @sshole facilitated and ENDORSED the shredding of the Brown Act by Ferraro.

I know Jim Hill is a nice guy and all, and might want to try to work with the existing Ferraro cronies, but if he wants to bring real change to AG, he is going to have to drop-kick all of the AG employees/contractors who facilitated the demise of the city to the point where Ferraro felt he had the right to turn on the residents he is supposed to represent….all because the citizens objected to the attempts by Ferraro, et.al to cover-up the mess after the pathetic 6/3/14 late-night McClish/Adams tryst in Adams darkened office.

Good advice! It worked very well for Morro Bay, cleaning out the old incompetent city attorney and manager.

Ag obviously didnt care about the precedent that MB set.

MB has gone down hill since ignorant people elected Jimmy into office.

speaking of yourself.

Once again Dan, you nailed it!

Daniel Blackburn has it about right. The Tribune – which I and my family and friends regularly and more accurately call Pravda – is one of the main reasons newsprint media is a dinosaur. When the front page ‘news’ is nothing more than the opinion section, outlets like the Tribune have devolved into nothing more than political tabloid rags.

Yes, the voters in Kalifornia are a bit screwed up; but, when it matters as to important local issues, mostly they get it right.

todays projection of self loathing brought to you by the letter K

Dan is spot on regarding the Tribune. It is a tired rag that management feel that they can write something down and everyone will buy it. Well it’s time for the reader to tell the powers to be that we are tired of them trying to meddle in our cites future and leave us alone. They collect their money for a subscription and then attempt to tell us how to think. Well, it’s time for them to but out. Give them Hell Dan, you are the voice of reason and truth.

Their model is failing but it has not totally gone down the tubes yet. Note that the issues and candidates they supported within the City of SLO won pretty much across the board. I won’t give them total credit for that but I bet they contributed significantly to the degree of success. I wonder how many Cal Poly students turned to them for “authoritative” information because of a traditional view of daily newspapers as relatively objective?

Like the great percentage of the general population,

I seriously doubt Cal Poly kids are reading the Trib.

Based on my experience at CalPoly, you are correct.

The problem with the Tribune is one facing most newspapers today… declining circulation due to a dying target audience. Tribune readers are … very old readers.

The second problem with this newspaper is the fact that they depend too much on the support of certain local powerful entities. It was once said that they had a weekly meeting with Cal Poly… supposedly to get their stories straight. Certainly they try to investigate… but not every deserving story is followed up.

I haven’t subscribed to the crib for years… but then, i am not old enough.

LOL at your last comment.

Funny I read the column and was about to do the same of jump up and run to the computer and email Joe. Then I thought…………..why am I going to waste my time trying to change the mind of a reporter, that for sometime I have found his stance to be completely partisan and blind. At the end of the day I really don’t give a rats ass what Joe thinks and I think he is a fool so time saved.

Dan definitely seems more in touch with what really went on in the town of Arroyo Grande. Dan mentions that the fight for the write in was led by distinguished folks.

Am I as distinguished as Kristen Fellows Barneich though? After all she has saved the Loomis building and banned formula businesses in the Village, by her own admission below:

Kristen Fellows Barneich(KFB) on CCF facebook page: “Hometown Radio”?? Not so much. Comments like this from Congalton actually scare the !@#$ out of me. I have never felt so unsafe in my town. I’ve been through many fights in politics…saving the Loomis Barn, banning formula businesses in the Village, etc. This is not “I don’t agree with you.” This is an all out war with hate speech, threats and intimidation. Some (not all) of the opposition are out for blood. They don’t just disagree with you. They want to ruin you, your family, or anyone else that gets in their way. This is absolutely frightening on every level.

What did she save the Loomis Barn from? Is there a fire I didnt know about? If there was a fire, I didnt know she was a firewoman. I thought that was the job of the fire department. Hero, i guess.

Banning formula businesses? Why would I want someone to ban something I may need. What if my wife cant lactate? Isnt it my job as a consumer to decide for myself? Isnt that my right to choose? Why does KFB believe that I need her to ban things for me, and even worse, ban someones dream of building a business they believe in?

I would be more impressed if she voted against the Mayor on important things like wasting money for his cronies on water conservation marketing, or enforcing sanctions where City policies and procedures have been violated, or not removing chairs from the council chambers so everyone has a chance to speak.

This folks, is why Arroyo Grande still has some work to do.

I like your take on “Formula Businesses” Kristin Fellows Barnich speaks of. I could not figure out what she meant by formula business (even googled it). Then I thought, maybe she means Franchise or chain businesses?

You might remember that the city council banned franchise businesses in the Village area a few years back. Keep Starbucks and Taco Bell OUT! Good for Andrini’s (who fought long and hard), scary for Klondikes (who was scared because they had 3 locations at that point…were these considered chain/franchises?)

So, who did they rent to when the old city hall was too run down to stay in? And, they could not fix it up for themselves (but managed to fix it for a new tenant)? Yep, a franchise real estate office!

Domino effect, we now have THREE franchise real estate offices in our little village. Very fitting for the old tyme flair. They just better not start serving coffee!

Demagogue I think. Remember when she spoke out about the fracking? LOL. She said she can see fracking going on in the canyon near her home. LOL. There is no fracking going on anywhere near AG.

Formula business is a business that is easily recognized by it’s logo,

ie McDonalds golden arches, Starbucks mermaid, Taco Bell’s bell, etc.

A lot of folks in town now refer to this as the Andrini rule,

since it passed when Denise felt threatened by a Starbucks coming to the village.

Yet, when the city was pushing the Food For Less project,

our City Manager and Development Director (aka the tea party for two participants)

made the claim on numerous occasions that the city could only approve the project,

they didn’t get to choose the tenant.

Once again, one set of rules for the “A” team, another set for the “B” team.

And then ALL the rules went out the door when the city needed a tenant for the old empty city hall. The city itself is obviously considered the A+++ team.

putting up four competing businesses on the same corner is not a “formula” for success. Unless you are a politico trying to pad your resume and your own pocket.

The same way the rules went out the door when Steve Adams and Teresa McClish went back to city hall on July 3rd

Really…. When you think about the write-in campaign, we must all thank Mr. McClish for waiting a mere 15 minutes for his wife to be home to call the police to look for her.

Who drinks tea after 4 glasses of wine?

Who goes to a closed building late at night with a subordinate? And they had no plans to work?

Who lies to the police, their spouse and the community?

Why was this City Council and Mayor so quick to protect Steve Adams . Why??

I am shocked to see “thumbs down” on your comment and mine, agag1. What is not to like? We both spoke the truth here, only facts.

If someone feels inclined to give a thumbs down, who do they think they are protecting and supporting?

Why not go out and seek the truth? Confirm out statements. Maybe if you did your homework you too would have written Jim Hill in for Mayor.

WHEN Jim gets elected, this favoritism and lack of following protocol will end!

I wouldn’t get too upset about the “thumbs downs.” Remember that one does not need to even log-in under a pseudonym to do that. Anyone can do it including those you are criticizing.

Think of it as a slow learning process for them. At least they are reading what you have to say so if you say it honestly without reverting to needless insults you might have a chance of actually getting through to some of these people.

I have given up on trying to understand the thumb downers.

Even a one line factual statement will get a couple of down votes.

While I apprecate your optimism at maybe reaching a few of these folks, I do not hold out much hope.

Just as Tony will never admit to any wrong doing, neither will his followers admit to being duped.

Follow da money…..