fb comments plugin script

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Refudiate This, Sarah Palin!

Refudiate! Really?

Yes! Really! The word has legitimate meaning in principle. It would mean to simultaneously refute and repudiate something, such as a political position. But here's the problem: Palin, who coined it, misused it! The correct word was repudiate! Perhaps she realized that and, doubling down on her mistakes [as she always does] she used the word "refute" in its place in a later tweet! WHAT THE FOX!

So let's boil it down! here are the relevant definitions from Merriam-Webster:

refute, transitive verb, 1. to prove wrong by argument or evidence : show to be false or erroneous. 2. to deny the truth or accuracy of

repudiate, transitive verb, 1. to refuse to have anything to do with : disown. 2. a : to refuse to accept; especially : to reject as unauthorized or as having no binding force. b : to reject as untrue or unjust

So, they are similar and related, and repudiate can often take the place of refute, but there is an important distinction. One is about logic and fact whereas the other is about position and opinion. So this confusion is more than a misuse of English or the coining of a new useful word. In the case of Palin, it was a Freudian slip. Like many people poorly educated in epistemology, she has a fundamental inability to separate fact and logic on one side from opinion, belief, and feelings on the other. I'm not going to claim that I'm perfect. People naturally have their judgment clouded by opinions and beliefs, but the ability to distinguish between them in principle is vital for handling complex and controversial issues. What we need in a leader is the ability to cut through the noise and strong feelings that dominate such issues to find the core, and then calmly and rationally explain it to both sides. Palin, more or less in every single case, just joins in with the rabble.

This "folksiness" is precisely why the "liberal elite" dislikes Palin so much, but also why her fans love her so much. One can refute her positions all day long, but her fans she will never repudiate her -- refuting Palin only makes them love her more, precisely because they don't know the difference between refute and repudiate!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Judges, Central Arizona Water Conservation District, Propositions

Voting on all those nonpartisan items on the ballot can be difficult and time-consuming, so I figured I would post my work in case anyone wants to copy. I try to show my work, too, in case you want to use it to vote a little differently.


JPR - the nonpartisan AZ Commission on Judicial Performance Review
azvoterguide - relatively honest & transparent, seems conservative biased
azjudgesreview - right-wing review of judges based on primarily on partisan ideology

The general approach I used was to look at the right-wing site and apply a more or less critical eye to judges depending on how much they loved the person. The 4 people on my ballot with "top" reviews from the right wingers were looked at, and none of them were sparkling clean. In the second tier of the right-wing review, there were "lean conservative" judges. In these cases, I looked through them from other sources to decide. I decided Yes on two and No on three. For the other nine in this tier, I decide to leave them blank rather than vote Yes to avoid negating the votes of a more informed liberal.

Supreme Court:

Rebecca Berch - Despite being a relatively conservative Republican and Republican appointee, she is given weaker reviews from right-wing due to outcomes of some "values" cases [the far right wants more extreme right-wing judicial activists, not just judges who happen to be conservative Republicans]. Perfect integrity scores and nearly perfect on other measures in JPR.

Court of Appeals, Division I:

Strong No: Daniel Barker - Religious-right activist, lowest JPR Integrity scores in Court of Appeals.

Maybe [blank]:
John Gemmil - Support from right wing site, but high JPR integrity scores and wrote appropriately nuanced responses to azvoterguide.

Patrick Irvine Lawrence Winthrop

Maricopa Superior Court:

No: Peter Reinstein - Actively promoted by right wing group despite low JPR survey results, including low integrity scores and very low communication score.
Kenneth Mangum - Well rated by right wing group, low integrity rating on JRP survey responses.

Brian Ishikawa - Actively promoted by right wing group, but no other hints of impropriety.
Eileen Willett - Actively promoted by right wing group and likely religious conservative, but no other hints of impropriety.
Alfred Fenzel - Well rated by right wing group, and relatively low JRP integrity ratings.
Jean Hoag - Well rated by right wing group, and relatively low JRP integrity ratings.

Maybe [blank]:
Mark Aceto
Roger Brodman
Pendleton Gaines
Brian Hauser
Carey Hyatt
Michael Jones
Karen O'Connor
Maria Del Mar Verdin

Yes on all others. Mostly because of good JPR reviews and lack of strong enthusiasm from right wing review blog. In some cases, actively attacked in right wing review despite strong score in JPR. Some additional details described below:

Donahoe, Gary - Right-wing group marked him as "moderately liberal" based on rulings against partisans in specific cases that interested them -- in other words, for not being a right-wing judicial activist. Though he is a conservative, he apparently can rule fairly.
Granville, Warren J. - Though he is a Conservative Republican who supports the simplistic "judge-as-umpire" rhetoric, he is targeted as "very liberal in his decisions" by the right-wing source, indicating that he drew a case or cases where the "liberal" position happened to be on the winning side of the conservative interpretation of law.

Aimee Anderson
, Richard Gama, and Susanna Pineda - These three were among those targeted as "liberal" by the right wing site, but then the site specifically admits that these judges do not appear to have any "liberal bias" and yet the right wing is targeting them solely based on partisan affiliation and/or the source of appointment.

Bethany Hicks - Worst JPR score from commission members, but 56% of commission still voted that she "meets" the standards. Though scored worse by commission, received decent responses in surveys. Based on the number of surveys, she might have a higher caseload than her peers???

Central Arizona Water Conservation District

There's an AZ Republic article on teabaggers and another one with their endorsements.

I read through the Arizona Republic's Q & A questionnaires [the teabaggers mostly abstained, but read the two who submitted them if you need a good laugh]. These are the ratings I came up with. I basically imagined four sub-scores. One for "Adm/Polit" that would include communication ability, leadership, and the skills needed to build consensus between many different groups. One for "Insight" that represents their ability to reason about the problems we face and hopefully discover the creative solutions we need. A "Prudent" score indicates how they reacted to questions about cutting their source of tax revenue, how to address the conflict(s) with the EPA, and other tough issues that seem inviting to a certain brand of short-sited thinking. Finally, the "Environment" score is exactly what you think it is. So, I put them into a chart, and came up with this:

The next question is how to vote. We can vote for up to 5. The nonpartisan in me says to vote for the top 5 scores, but the partisan tells me to only vote for the top two or three and let the Republicans cannibalize each other. I went with my top 3: Holway, Kazmi, and Fairbanks. In case it gets close between one of my top picks and one of the conservatives, I don't want to push one of the conservatives over the threshold. The risk here is that it could allow teabaggers in, but my theory is that as long as there are enough qualified people on the board, the retards won't be able to fuck it up too much.


Like most Democrats,
No on all propositions except:
Yes on 110
Yes on 203

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Glenn Beck vs MLK

So Glenn Beck is planning a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of the "I have a dream" speech. Most MLK fans find it disgusting, but I find it humorous. I've met a few Beck fans who still believe the anti-MLK propaganda [MLK is a "communist" after all! You would think Beck would be crapping all over his memory rather than celebrating him!], so they are about as mystified by it as we are!

Let's have some fun with it! Here are some MLK quotes that have been Glenn Beck-ified. Please help me come up with more:

I have a dream that one day all men will judge me not by the color of my character but by the contents of my pocketbook.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. And it scares me! Because I've been to the mountaintop and I've looked down upon the promised land and it's a lie! Go back! Go back! There's nothing there but socialism!

The arc of the universe is almost over and it's bending toward Communism!

Life's most urgent question is: what are you doing to prepare yourself for what's coming?

Got any more ideas? I told a friend about this idea and he said that it's not particularly funny since it's right in line with Beck's style to distort an MLK quote to suite his own ideas. Well, if Beck uses one of these, it will be even more funny because it will serve as more proof of Poe's law....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Apparently, Bribery is Speech

Violence is not speech, even when it is intended to convey a message -- even when it is meant AS speech, it IS NOT speech. The same should hold for money! Money is like speech in the same way violence is. I can be used to communicate, but it is NOT fundamentally speech even when communication is its intent! Further, if money is speech in any domain, why is it not speech in every domain? Why not the domain of private communication between a citizen and representative or judge? Under this interpretation, I see no reason that bribery should not be protected under the rights of individuals to petition their government. I therefore question the integrity of any representative or judge who supports such an interpretation that money IS speech.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Getting to the Heart of the Tea Party

image by Caelio

The whole controversy over Rand Paul's coolness towards the Civil Right Act is a distraction from the legitimate grievances of the Tea Party. Of course, I'm talking about the most massive unconstitutional usurpation of state's rights by the federal government leading to the greatest re-distribution of wealth in our nation's history. I'm talking about the civil war and the abolition of slavery! A tall president from Illinois, aligned with emerging money interests, an urban middle class, and intellectual elites are again perpetrating atrocities against traditional values! And again, it's seen as an act of war. I just hope we find a better solution this time - not to say that we won't whup their asses again if we have to.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Where I Agree with the Tea Partisans

image by Miroslav.broz
There is one area where I would seem to agree with the tea partiers. They want to repeal/undo the stimulus, and so do I. They think it was just another example of wasteful liberal taxing and spending. I would say that they are ignorant about what the recovery act is -- that it's having the impact it was designed to have, and as the economy stabilizes, we should pay it back! But pay what back, exactly? When you break it down, where it seemed we agree on policy, it turns out our policy positions could not be more different!

First, consider the largest portions of the stimulus: infrastructure development and middle class tax cuts. What does it mean to "repeal" or "undo" or otherwise take this money back?

How do you "undo" infrastructure development where it's already been funded? It would be insane to destroy infrastructure, and only slightly less insane to cancel infrastructure projects already underway, especially where they are badly overdue anyway [remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse]. The obvious, prudent answer is to make up for the additional debt incurred by spending less on infrastructure in the future. Many infrastructure projects are anticipated needs anyway, so we shouldn't have too much problem there. Is that what the tea partisans mean? Not exactly. What they really mean is that they have no clue what's in the stimulus. Many of the politicians who railed against it and are running against it, attended ribbon-cuttings in their districts to implicitly take credit for these "obviously" needed infrastructure projects. They don't want those projects stopped. Their position is not one of policy! It seems to be a purely rhetorical position preying on the ignorance of the audience rather than advancing shared goals with them.

How do you "undo" the tax cuts included in the stimulus? We would not only have to take those tax benefits away, we would have to raise taxes to make up for the additional debt incurred. Sure! As the economy stabilizes, I think we should raise taxes [and cut wasteful spending] to pay down the debt! Are the tea partisans suggesting that we raise taxes? No! From their rhetoric, it would again seem that the tea partisans are simply not aware of what's in the stimulus. So it's not so much about a policy position as it is about exploiting ignorance. If we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they aren't that ignorant, perhaps we could interpret their position as a philosophical one. Perhaps they want to go back in time and undo those tax cuts, so that we pay more taxes when the economy is in free fall, and in the future, once the economy is stabilized, then cut taxes. That would be the opposite of my position.

This brings us to the part of the stimulus they hate the most: [scary font]entitlements[/scary font]. Never mind that the entitlements in the stimulus were temporary increases in funding to unemployment and Medicaid, both of which saw greater burdens precisely because the economy was hurting. You have to be unemployed or extremely poor to qualify for those programs, and the failing economy created more people in those two categories. So, how would we claw that money back? Maybe we can sell the yachts they bought with the money? If you believe that, there is no hope for you. The rest of us know that unemployment and Medicaid expenses went to pay for basic costs of living, mostly in the form of products and services that were bought from businesses, consumed, and no longer have value except in the well-being of a living person! We could go to the grocers and doctors and ask them for the money back, but they sold something they can't get back -- that would be unfair and it would put a lot of them out of business. Maybe we could grind up the poor and sell the meat as in Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal. Setting aside the moral absurdity, even some right-wingers would tell you that reducing the population in that manner would make the labor market less favorable to business interests as there would be fewer people begging for jobs and thus market pressure to pay workers more. We progressives are against cannibalism because it is morally wrong. So what is it they want? Again, they seem to want to go back in time and yank out the safety net that saved so many hard working people who were hit by the failing economy.

It turns out that I really don't have any common ground with the tea partisans after all.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The "Cap and Tax" rhetoric is even more misleading than we're giving them credit for

The Cap and Trade approach is deeply flawed, but the criticism from groups that call it "Cap and Tax" is dishonest. It's dishonest not merely because it is not literally a tax but because there is a better, more equitable, more effective, and less economically damaging approach that actually does literally involve a tax! To frame Cap and Trade as a "tax," spoken with a sneer implying that taxes are fundamentally evil, blocks off the political avenue of even considering this better solution! Check it out at carbontax.org.

Offsets are flawed. The whole idea of cap and trade is problematic and it opens the door for more crony capitalism, but it would have some positive impact compared to doing nothing. But there is no doubt that capping emissions and requiring heavy emitters to purchase offsets would increase costs for those heavy emitters. Thus, the opposition has taken to framing Cap and Trade as "Cap and Tax." How clever. How biting. How dishonest.

A tax would be better! A fairly administered revenue-neutral carbon tax is what we need. It's not about playing favorites between industries. It's simply a recognition that certain economic activity generates externalities that the market does not factor into price, and as we recognize greenhouse gas emissions as one such problem, we can put in place a revenue neutral tax. A revenue-neutral tax is simply a way for us to collectively decide that what the hidden cost for a particular activity is, tax it at a level based on our estimate of that hidden cost, and then distribute the revenue from those taxes back out to everyone equally. The result is not bigger government, but simply a market value attached to the activity that produces the externality.

I think it's brilliant. Now ... how to sell it with a catchy slogan. That's much harder than convincing a thinking person that the policy is right....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wishing it doesn't make it true...

...But doing it does.

A recent letter to the editor in the Arizona Republic boldly complained "If the House of Representatives agrees to deem President Barack Obama's health-care reform bill passed without taking a vote, then I'd like to deem my 2009 federal income tax paid without having to write a check."

You can, Ms Oeste! You can! Just have someone else do it for you. If they do it, you can deem it done and take credit for it. If they don't, well it's still on you, so you didn't really shirk any responsibilities now, did you?

It is troubling that people can be so ignorant of how their government works but still demand that their voices be heard. Say something that actually makes sense and your leaders might hear it. I think a lot of people are going to either be confused when they hear the vote tally or assume the procedure to "deem it passed" was not used. How sad.

But the Democrats are using a strategy that only works for people who understand the policy and the procedure. What they seem to not understand is that the people they need to convince have no clue! It's a fine like to walk, having a serious conversation with people who have no clue without talking down to them. A better strategy would have been to refuse to discuss the procedure and just say "we don't know yet" until the amendments are finalized and they have "a promise" from their colleagues in the Senate. People understand "a promise"! If someone blames them for voting for the unfixed bill... if the fixes are the law, then who cares. "I voted to get rid of the corn-husker kickback, " they could say, " and we won that for you." If the fixes do not become law, they could blame their Senate colleagues for breaking the promise, but better yet, why not blame the Senate Republicans for refusing to take up the fixes? "I voted out the corn-husker kickback," they could say, "but the Senate Republicans wouldn't even consider it. Apparently for all their negativity, they actually like the corn-husker kickback." If the so-called corn-husker kickback is the law of the land and I am a representative on record voting against it, it's a plausible defense.

So the Democrats backed down from "deem and pass" on Sunday. I've had a to argue with too many Democrats about this. They think it was a good move because it made the issue moot and showed courage to do it straight up without the political cover and/or because it knocked the Republican propaganda machine off its game for a little while because they were planning to have that talking point for a while longer [it seems like Boehner's speech was originally written with that talking point in mind, so it kinda worked]. I somewhat disagree with both arguments, because both of these assume that the individuals who believed the misinformation to begin with have half a clue. They do not. The talking point remains firmly established among the rank and file. The fact that it is now "even more false" means nothing to them because to them, it is still true.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Honorable John Shadegg
U.S. House of Representatives
436 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Shadegg,

I recently attended your health care town hall at Scottsdale Christian Academy. While I greatly appreciate the opportunity to express our concerns directly and hear your positions more clearly, without the filter of the media, I was deeply dismayed by one exchange.

A women stood at a microphone shaking and angry. At the center of her rage at the moment was "this student loan thing" that the Democrats are trying to incorporate through reconciliation into their health care bill. The woman clearly had the impression that the provision in question represented increased social spending that she and the other taxpayers would now "have to pay for." I am not going to claim that your position on this has no merit. I recognize the validity of arguments on both sides. Perhaps there are arguments that could push me to support your position, but that never came up! You couldn't present your position because it would have corrected her, and you chose instead to leverage her ignorance to rally political forces. You instead gave a short statement of your position carefully worded to support a specific misinterpretation. You allowed her and others to leave still believing the same falsehood and still extremely angry about it.

As far as I'm concerned, your response was just as bad as stating the lie itself. I take every chance I find to correct people on the facts, even at the expense of their enthusiasm for my ideology. Is your ideology really so weak that it can't stand the light of day? Why should you admit such weakness in your ideas and ideals by failing to take the high road so easily laid out in front of you? I believe that increasing the knowledge of civic participants leads to better outcomes more surely than the program of any other ideology. Maybe that's not an option. Much of what you said sounded reasonable, but in retrospect, I have to assume you were just outright lying the entire time. Every single one of your props was misleading in some way. Am I just a liberal intellectual elitists who doesn't understand the concerns of real Americans, and you a sleazy snake oil salesman, and never the twain shall meet?


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Obama Concedes, Draws Criticism from Conservatives

In a press conference this weekend, Obama admitted that the conservatives have been right all along on pretty much every issue, touching off more sharp criticism from conservative commentators for not going far enough.

When pressed for specifics, the president began to waver, saying that "they've been right and we've been wrong on pretty much all the issues of our time." This was taken as a slap in the face to those on the right hoping for a more broad admission to being wrong about every historical issue as well.

"On health care," the president continued, "they've been right to focus on business profitability and philosophical threats from early twentieth century political movements rather than public health data and the impacts of public health policy. On foreign policy, they've been right to focus more on immediate and generous aggression and the scaling back of civil liberties rather than on careful application of diplomacy and force that takes into account historical baggage and cultural differences and aims at well-defined objectives. Even on my status as an American. I have to admit that the official record of my birth with the state of Hawaii is a fraud...." This last point prompted outrage from numerous groups on the far right, demanding that he stop lying and admit that those documents don't actually exist.

In the final question of the conference, when asked if he would admit once and for all that "everything President Obama says is a lie," he drew a hard line and refused, saying "I wish I could, but I think it would invoke a logical paradox.... I'll have my press secretary work on it. I think we can deliver that message without as much ambiguity or absurdity if we do it in just the right way." As one outraged blogger exclaimed about this assertion "Liberal elitist bullshit! Who cares about some pair of ducks? What does that even mean? Obviously, he's not an American. He doesn't even talk like one!"