Saturday, February 20, 2016

Of Character Attacks and Echo Chambers OR Welcome to Facebook

I recently retired my trusty old notebook and replaced it with a Surface Pro 4. It has been a while since I have addressed this blog, so I thought now was the perfect time to break in the new keyboard/cover. You may not think so after reading this, but, there you go.
It is an election year, and that always brings out the worst in some people. Conversely, it rarely brings out the best in anyone. I am not immune from this affliction. I battle it, but I know I will let an unnecessary disparaging comment fly too frequently. It is admittedly difficult when you see people take a position that you “know in your heart” is wrong.
I want to take a moment to address the phrase “know in your heart”. Personally, I have always interpreted this to mean that you have a belief that may not be rational, but it is a firmly held belief. You may have different musing on the topic, but for this treatise, my interpretation frames my thoughts shared here.
When attempting to influence someone to embrace a position because you “know in your heart” it is correct, it can be difficult to articulate the benefits of that position in contrast to opposing positions. This brings me to the title of this piece, “Of Character Attacks and Echo Chambers OR Welcome to Facebook”.
Many of my social media active neighbors here in Costa Mesa share their opinions freely on a broad range of topics. These topics include entertainment, health, family, faith, education, the list is almost endless. It isn’t rare that two or more of my friends and neighbors will find they have conflicting viewpoints on a topic. While the discussion in that cases can take quite a few different trajectories, the one most fascinating is the one that gets downright personal. We have all witnessed them. Some of us have found ourselves embroiled in them.
Why would a grown, mature, established adult devolve into behavior that they should have left behind in junior high school? There are many reasons, I am sure. You might have to consult a text on psychology to fully document them and their causes. I will propose, however, that the concept of advancing or defending something you “know in your heart” to be true is at the root of some of these disagreements.
Many of us cringe as soon as they start. Sometimes they begin as the proverbial snowball rolling down a snowy hill, gaining girth and velocity as they roll along. Others are flat out nuclear in nature. One big boom! Before you can say “remember what you mother said, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”, you have a raging war of character attacks.
But there are other dynamics that can improve the odds that these types of skirmishes will be birthed and thrive. One of those is the “Echo Chamber”. This is the place where many like-minded individuals, and usually a few less like minded who strayed in accidentally or were dropped in by “friends”, gather to agree with each other and lament how anyone could disagree with them. Should an opposing viewpoint find its way into said “Echo Chamber”, it is quickly identified and neutralized. Should the opinion attempt to persist, the neutralization efforts escalate, and soon you have full blown character attacks.
I will leave it as an exercise for you dear reader to identify those echo chambers that you have encountered, or perhaps participate in and the instances of character attacks you have witnessed or perhaps been a participant in on either side.
What are the benefits of these “echo chambers”? Obviously they are a “safe place”. If you prefer not to be challenged by opposing viewpoints, they are comfortable places to be. They can also be great locations for opposition research. Drop an opposing viewpoint in and see what arguments take shape in opposition. Try out a new angle here or there and see what that produces in rational replies. If that is your goal, descending into character attacks is generally non-productive, but on occasion I have seen them artfully applied to provoke responses. In almost all cases, opinions are hardened and it is clear that feeling can be rubbed raw.
My recommendations? I know you are dying to know. First, never post under the influence. Second, sit back and enjoy the fireworks, if that is your thing. There is one blogger in our community that makes no bones about the entertainment he derives from “stirring the pot”. Third, examine why you engage in these echo chambers and the discussions that fester in the walls of their silos. Forth, remember what your mother said…
Welcome to election season and Facebook!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Who Is Making All That Racket and Why??

I would like to report that Silly Season has started early here in Costa Mesa. I would like to, but I can’t because it seems to be never ending now.
Silly Season here is that time during which some in and out of our community take every possible opportunity to accuse, berate and generally harass our local elected officials.
The motivation for such behavior may seem diverse. That is exactly the illusion this pack of wanna-be political assassins would like to fool you with. Don’t be fooled. It is simple paycheck politics being brought to you by unions and associations.
It started when Jim Righeimer first ran for city council here. He made no secret of the fact that he was opposed to the burgeoning costs associated with public employee compensation and pensions. In fact, he has made that a staple of his political career.
Not wanting to deal with someone on the council that would stop playing ball in labor negotiations, the employee organizations pulled out all the stops. Leading the way was our own Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association. From their facebook page, they state very clearly the following: “The Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association is the union body of the sworn men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department in Southern California”
Many of the noisemakers are not at all shy about professing their preference for wealth redistribution. They couch this sentiment in terms that are intended to make it sound like they are pro-middle class. Promoting higher wages and lifelong pensions and healthcare benefits as something good for our economy. But someone has to pay the bill when the party is over. These higher wages and lifelong benefits come straight out of the pockets of us taxpayers.
Some are even bold enough to state that our very economic model, capitalism, is a failed and corrupt system! They make statements like: “Capitalism has failed the middle class and become an onerous word.” Are we seriously thinking that slipping further toward socialism than we already have is the answer to our problems? Only someone who wants to pick your taxpaying pocket would suggest that!
So when you hear the droning criticisms and faux outrage, remember that the whole point of this great expenditure of energy on their part has one simple conclusion. You, my taxpaying neighbors, will pay more.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

3(M) + V = Vision

Let's get compensation reform in place so we can regain our focus on long term city issues. In the near term, the plans laid out by these candidates will do just that:

Then give them the foundation they have asked us for to make their plans work:
Yes on Measure V

Without the whole package, we don't get were we need to be.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I am “All In” for reform in Costa Mesa

UPDATE: Geoff West over at the Bubbling Cauldron (link to the right) corrected my assertion that the candidates are running as a slate. None of the candidates has announced any form of coalition with any other candidate.  He also pointed out that Sandy Genis is a registered Republican. A fact I did know, but had forgotten about. Sorry about that Sandy! I still see the groupings as I refer to them as ideologically simpatico. I may adjust that as the campaign matures. We shall see.

If you have followed any of my posts on the subject of politics here in Costa Mesa, you should have come away with two general themes. First, I have a reasonably conservative view of how public funds should be raised and spent. Second, I am really not in favor of ideological dogma driving decisions in local government.

What I have come to accept over the years is that the major political parties are using local office as a farm team for their nominees for partisan office. Now, I don’t know if this is a result of term limits or not. Term limits reduce the political “shelf life” of a politician. That means the parties have to have new talent on the bench ready to go. Regardless of the driving factors, it is a reality. Because of this, voters, like me are presented with ever more stark choices for local candidates. Even though the local offices are “non-partisan” we frequently see a battle between Republicans and Democrats. Sure the occasional altruistic candidate comes along, but they are rarely prepared for political battle and are generally underfunded to the point of being almost irrelevant.

In this environment, I really feel as if I have little choice but to start aligning with candidates from the party that most closely reflects my views of government. In local offices, that alignment is clearly with Republican candidates. Now, I may not agree completely with their national platform or even their state and local initiatives. Non-the-less, if I am to see the types of decision made that I can endorse, I find no other alternative.

This brings me to the current Costa Mesa city council race. The lines of division in this race are clearly Democrats vs. Republicans. On the one hand we have the public employee association backed slate, the Democrats, running against the slate not endorsed by the public employee associations, the Republicans. Sure, there are other money players in this fight, but from my position as a taxpayer, this is the bottom line. Do I want a council majority that will continue with the status quo when it comes to how services are delivered and paid for or do I want change? I want change. It is past time to make service delivery paramount and employment driven by that priority. If we need employees to provide services as efficiently as possible, great, hire them. If we can do a job more efficiently contracting it out, then contract away.

On top of that, I believe our community needs to change the long term cost of employment. When we pay an employee for their labors, they should be paid. Final. Period. The system we have now pays an employee for their labor and then the taxpayer is on the hook for the rest of that employee’s life if their retirement plan investments don’t pan out. That is a great perk if you can get it, but one I am no longer willing to fund.

So there are my high level priorities for my community. These sit on top of safety and infrastructure. Within the above priorities, I want reasonable services provided for my tax dollars.

This leads me to my choices for this election. As the title of this post states, I am “All In” for reform. I have been pretty vocal that some of the decisions made by the current council majority could have been handled with more tact and finesse. Still, I am not willing to see a council majority that is inclined to roll back their reform plans, including outsourcing and pension reform.

To that end, I am endorsing Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger and Colin McCarthy for city council. I am also supporting Measure “V”, the city charter and Allan Mansoor for Assembly.

 I plan to post more about these candidates and Measure V in the future.

Friday, May 25, 2012

In Assembly District 74, Should it be Daigle, Mansoor or Rush?

I have been fielding a lot of question about my choice for the 74th Assembly District. I am going to first tell you that, in my opinion, you have to take a larger view of our state before you decide who you are going to support.

To put some context around this, issues that concern me in the State of California are:

  • Taxes – too high
  • Regulations – too many
  • Spending – too much
  • Education – insufficient
  • Entitlements – too generous

You can agree with me or not on my list of issues, after all, it is MY list, not yours.

When I look at the state legislature, I see a group of Democrats that seem to have no ability to tell unions and lobbyists for special programs NO. I also see a group of Republicans, my party, who have been incapable of developing any type of dynamic leadership and a vision that would captivate voters and win their support.

My inclination is to follow Nathan Fletcher and become an independent. As a matter of fact, I have come very close to doing just that. What always stops me though, is the thought that the Democrats are just a few seats away from having unfettered access to my wallet!

Now, I don’t agree with the Republican’s “No Tax” pledge. It should really be a “No Tax unless we all go as a group” pledge. I say that because there really may be a good reason to remove a tax deduction and as we all know, removing a deduction is raising someone’s taxes. In general, however, this state has a serious spending problem. Giving the Democrats cart blanch will only make matters worse.

This brings me to the 74th district’s candidates.

Ms. Daigle has stated: "The way to get things done is not to vote no," she said. "The way to get things done is to work together to find true solutions."

In general, I agree that reasonable people should be able to find a way to say yes to each other. The problem Sacramento has is that the Democrats do not have “reasonable” people lobbying them for more tax money. They have people that feel Californian’s don’t pay enough taxes and can afford more.  Now, I do not agree. CNN, not Fox News, but CNN, points out that California has the 6th highest taxes in the nation!

My conclusion is that Ms. Daigle is far too likely to leave the door open to the Dems getting deeper into my pocket. So I can clearly not choose her.

Mr. Rush is, in his own words is a “moderate Democrat.” I don’t see Mr. Rush being capable of voting against his party on fiscal train wrecks like tax increases. That one issue is enough to make it clear I can not choose Mr. Rush.

Then we have Mr. Mansoor. Assemblyman Mansoor has not accomplished much, even by his own account, in Sacramento in his first year. Steve Smith points out that expecting anything miraculous from a first year Assembly member is wishful thinking. I agree, but I also have not seen evidence of Mr. Mansoor developing key allies and working to build his political capital in Sacramento either. I would hope that our representative would be dynamic and show he or she is in the fight to lead our state. Mr. Mansoor really needs to show his constituents that he is working to develop his leadership and ability to bring key pieces of legislation forward. That is what I want to see.

What Mr. Mansoor does bring, is the ability to stay in line with party leadership. In the broader scheme of things, of this group of candidates, that is the one quality that above all else makes Assemblyman Mansoor the one to vote for.

I know that there are other controversial aspects to Mr. Mansoor’s political background that many of you know I don’t agree with. I can live with that to support the big picture issues that face California.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Election misinformation

I find that the amount of misinformation about the proposed charter election in Costa Mess is amazing. The most bizarre claim that is being made is that by having the charter election in June somehow reduces the ability for all voters in the city to participate in the election. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every registered voter in the city has the same opportunity to vote in June as they do in November. Just because they may be less motivated to go to the polls in June than November is really immaterial.
It is time that the voters in Costa Mess start taking responsibility for the direction of thier city and stop blaming others because they are unwilling to make the tiny effort it takes to vote in an election.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Local control is just that, Local!

Should NMUSD micro-manage school sites or is local control best?

Tonight, the Newport Mesa Unified School District will consider a plan to fund 6th grade science camp district wide. This proposal is brought forward by School Board Member Katrina Foley. The issue at hand appears to be the lack of local funding at each campus for this program. The Daily Pilot has reported on this issue here.

Reading the story, we learn that each school came up with funding to pay the way for the students. In some cases it is completely parent funded and in other cases a combination of parent and local fundraising efforts. Board Member Foley proposes re-purposing funds from other activities to pay for this program.

As my friends and neighbors know, I am a strong proponent of improving the performance of the students in NMUSD. I have actively campaigned for bond measures, served on site committees, booster clubs and school foundations. Both of my sons are graduates of NMUSD schools.

Local School Site Control

I recently sent the members of the NMUSD board a letter outlining two primary concerns that I have for this proposal.

First, this program is a perfect example of local control. If the school site values this program, they will find funding for it. If, on the other hand, they would rather fund some other activity, that should be their choice. On top of that, the local school site may see little if any value to this program and decide not to fund it at all and reduce out of pocket expenses for the local parents and community. If the school board re-purposes funds solely for this program, then the school will no doubt spend those funds even if the program is not valued by the local site. After all, why give up the money?

Poor Governance

My second concern relates to the poor governance this choice represents. If the school board decides that extracurricular activities need alternative funding, then the entire issue should be studied and addressed. Taking these projects on one at a time in a piecemeal fashion will simply nickle and dime the taxpayers of this district to death. The precedent set by this action will move forward to every school board member's pet project or concern. The taxpayers of this district deserve better planning than this proposal represents.

Everyone Wants to Feel Good!

Sure, this seems like a great program to fund on the surface, but let's be real here. If the local school does not value this program, we should not be spending money on it. Yes, it is a "feel good" proposal. That does not make it a good proposal.