Responsibility: Me vs We in Indiana

I think the Indiana’s attempt to pass it’s uniquely bigoted version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act gives us a chance to reframe the conversation a little.

My training is in chemistry and I embarked on that course of study b/c my mind is suited for  understanding complexity by reducing questions to elemental units.  Mind you, I definitely don’t have the mind that can go beyond the largest of the building blocks, but give me a good working model of theory and then try to match that with empirical evidence – voila!  I can do that.

This is why I appreciate Jonathan Haidt’s work on ethics.  I see ethics and/or morals as the building blocks of who we are and how we approach questions like if government should pass laws to protect a business’s right to reject service to individuals based on their principles or if laws should be passed to insure that individuals are treated equally under the law.

For example, take what most would agree today is a conservative concept of responsibility.  I think we’ve accepted this as a default characteristic of conservative while traits like innovation or free spirit might be attributed to liberals.

I’d like to help shift that general frame.  I think a better distinction to be made between conservatives and liberals is how we understand our responsibility.  I think the conservative message focuses on individual responsibility, while as much as we’ve been burned by the right’s rhetoric since the end of WWII, liberals focus is a collective responsibility.  In short, as Thom Hartmann popularized from Michael Moore’s movie Sicko, it’s we vs. me.

The frame that Reagan helped popularize and make common wisdom in our society is individual responsibility.  That’s our focus and it has been based on brilliant and profitable marketing and infotainment over my lifetime.  And let’s be clear, to a liberal like me, it’s not one or the other, it’s both – taking responsibility for myself and my family (inshallah) AND reaching out and understanding what are our collective responsibilities in our communities – local, statewide, national and global.

And I’m also not saying that conservatives lack the “we” clearly they don’t.  The way the fiscal conservatives (who are really running the show) square this circle is by selling what I find to be the righteous call for religious communities to share a collective responsibility for each other.

I’m sure this is partially why Betty Chin is driven to do what she does and so many good and important religious organizations in our community here, nationwide and, for example, on the West Bank.

The religious “we” is also why people like Alabama’s Roy Moore and thousands of religious activists such as Glenn Beck and David Barton want to see our nation defined in words and actions as a Judeo-Christian nation.  It’s a good and decent drive from their perspective because if we fall from Grace, well, Armageddon.

But back into the rhetorical weeds in Indiana.  The legal debate, with the religious only as a distant rhetorical background comes down to this… Does a business have the right to discriminate?  Governor  Mike Pence’s argument was to stand by the argument he was able to defend as a right wing radio talk show host – namely the “me” defense.  Individuals (like Mike Pence himself) can choose to boycott any business that discriminates.

I abhor discrimination. I believe in the Golden Rule that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.

Governor Mike Pence.  3/31/15 WSJ Op-Ed.

 That’s taking an individual’s responsibility to do the right thing.  And it’s a good ethical argument.

The thing is, that it does hide a real attempt to institutionalize those who do, for whatever reason, have made a choice to discriminate against the LGBT community.  And discrimination is what it is which is why Governor Pence was forced not by liberals but by what really matters in our society – large interstate and international companies to insure that language is included to prevent giving businesses the right to discriminate.

And this is when the “me” responsibility ethic no longer holds water when scrutinized.  Not when or if the evidence demanding a renewed collective responsibility is generally known.

The fact that this story played out in the reddest of Midwest states is not coincidental and it’s another in the ongoing battles that help Reagan’s “responsibility begins and ends with me” ethic dominant in our national politics.

In the end, it’s what motivates libertarians and conservatives like local Fred Mangels the only HumCo commentator brave enough to tackle this topic in Humboldt’s sea of blue.  Fred doesn’t want the nanny state driven by politically-correct elites to tell him who he can and can’t associate with.  At least that’s one of the political ethics as a not-particularly religious libertarian that helps inform and drive his votes.

As Fred wrote yesterday: “You have no right to tell me who to associate with.”

What about “we” Fred?  What about the right of, say, a “a damned LGBT type” (It’s OK fellow PCer’s he was simply venting), who want’s to have their local florist provide the flowers to her wedding?

And The Freddy of course in his inimitable fashion sums up the libertarian position. (his actions, my words)  “Don’t tell me what to do.  I do the right thing (ie mowing the lawn of a “LGBT type”) but it will be a cold day in hell before I have a pointy headed liberal tell me what to do”.

Thing is Fred, we all are doing what we have to do, and not everyone shares your or Governor Pence’s righteous ethic of not discriminating against working or volunteering to work for a “LGBT type”.  What we are hoping to get to is that place where we don’t see someone else as a “type”.  Laws like the 14th Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause will help us get there.  Thank God.

Arkansas Updates (4/1/15, noon):

From the NYT:

Arkansas Governor Asks Lawmakers to Recall Religious Freedom Bill

Arkansas Governor’s Son Thrust Into Spotlight Over Religious Freedom Bill


Are Arkley Political Donations the Same Thing as HCDCC Political Donations?

Image from Daily Beast’s “The JCN Story: How to Build a Secretive, Right-Wing Judicial Machine” Photo Illustration by Louisa Barnes

Recently the Daily Beast ran an important article on the use of large sums of money to influence judicial elections.  If you haven’t, go check it out (click the picture), it’s more important than this. This post isn’t going anywhere.

Back?  Thanks.

Our local feudal overlord Rob Arkley apparently is one on the leading edge of this ethically-challenged practice of money big money supporting their judicial candidate of choice.   If you can’t buy all the law makers, why not focus on the referees, right?

This of course comes to no surprise to us Humboltians who are regularly subjected to Mr. Arkley’s ideas and his comically right wing financial-based economic views.

It seems then, with evidence like that in this article elections would be fairly easy to win. Point out what side ole’ Rob is voting for, and the 99% will figure the rest out. Simple.

And it is working this way in California and Humboldt. That’s why Democrats win by 25 points in California and Humboldt election. [ This is an aside, but an important one.  This number is 25% and this is a big deal.  I asked Matthew Owen about this – something he has to ignore to consider himself in “the middle” and is reaction was that Governor Brown won by a handful of points – I think he said 54%.  Here is the  truth for Matthew and Republicans – Even the polarizing Governor Brown (compared to down-ticket statewide D/R votes) won by 20 points in CA broadly – and even 60% to Neel Kashkari’s 40%.  In Humboldt Governor Brown won by 30 points! 65% to Neel Kashkari’s 35%.  See “Numbers” way, way, below for more and links.]

So where do Democrats go from here? Republicans are now rightfully defined by Rob Arkley and Rush Limbaugh. Any question and take a look at the Republican’s recent (and late! – CA Secretary of State or any of you who would like to bring this to their attention) where the only line items are in kind rental payments by Mr. Arkley’s Security National.

Where Democrats go will have to be defined by those working to move forward what it is to be a Democrat. Politics, and endorsements are one thing, but there is also something as important and that is how and why we do what we do.

In the end, money in politics will be argued about ad infinitum based on our individual sets of ethics. So, as one reads through the comment zones of the mirrors of the Daily Beast article on the Lost Coast Outpost and the Tuluwat Examiner what one will find is not a defence of Rob’s practices, but an attempt at ethical equivalence.

Rob Arkley? Have you heard of George Soros and Tom Steyer?” Most of us on the left get this, I’m not sure we understand how important this argument is. This is what leads to the pox on both parties mentality which in the end is a win for conservatives and Republicans b/c it leads to even fewer people paying attention and voting. (Paul Weyrich’s goo goo syndrome – “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the election quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”)

But locally, the disingenuous argument is it’s not just George and Tom, but the HCDCC as a similar ethically challenged organization.  Thanks to Tuluwat Examiner commenter “nothanks”  comment zone readers were blessed to have our attention drawn to another one in a string of important statewide articles that bring to attention the practice of the HCDCC to take in up to $34,000 in large donations from labor and then spend similarly large amounts out of the county.

Take a look at this article (click “to another one” a couple of sentences earlier). I’ll express my opinions on this below the fold in the form of an open letter to HCDCC members.

Continue reading “Are Arkley Political Donations the Same Thing as HCDCC Political Donations?”

Supervisor Fennell On Manipulation

Can you get somebody? Can you track somebody down? Can you target them when they are going to work, when they are going on vacation? You know, can you identify possible voters, people who are registered and can you manipulate them the way you do everything else?

      -Supervisor Fennell, broadcast 3/25/15 on KINS’ Talk Shop with Brian Papstein

Many of us already know that Supervisor Fennell’s politics is about manipulation.  This is an unsaid truth.  It’s how an individual can move from being a beloved celebrity in her community via a Democracy Now radio station to advocate for land use from the helm property rights lobby organization to becoming county supervisor as a Democrat.

But it isn’t about manipulating people, what Supervisor Fennell does is manipulate the narrative based on the audience at the time – whether it’s HumCPR, KINS, KMUD, the HCDCC, or the (manipulatable?) voter.  Manipulating the story we knew, but manipulating people?  That’s what she said and when she attempted to correct herself she repeated it.

Obviously, under scrutiny I know Supervisor Fennell would take this back.  However, the baseline that undermines the cynicism, the one that connects Brian Papstein’s and Rob Arkley’s anti-government perspective,  Supervisor Fennell and her specific libertarian SoHum constituent’s anti-system perspective, and yes, even cynics on the left that see the whole political facade as a farce, that baseline is … we are already dealing with a hopelessly corrupt system that requires manipulation, of the voting electorate.  (In other words, it’s the “everyone’s doing it” excuse.)

And we all buy into this quite literally.  You and I pay by watching (and being affected by) the ads.  Supervisor Fennell, Sundberg, Bass and Bohn pay in amounts, more often than not, 2x as great as their opponents to media outlets.  Media outlets such as Brian Papstein’s KINS gladly accept this money, deem the manipulation a good and necessary thing, and the pattern continues.

The quote from KINS’ Talk Shop last Wednesday is below the fold, what they meant of course is not manipulating people, but data.  Data can be manipulated to GOTV (Get Out The Vote) with more and more precision.  That’s what they meant I’m sure, but it’s not what they said.

Continue reading “Supervisor Fennell On Manipulation”

Proposal: 3 Year Olds at All Republican Campaign Stops

I don’t know if there is a more effective analytical journalist than this wonderful 3 year-old whose mother brought her to the definitely PG-13 Ted Cruz’s pre-campaign campaign stop last week.  (listen carefully and have a Kleenex ready at 44 seconds)

“world on fiwah?”

“The world is on fire.  Yes, YOUR world is on fire.”

No, no it isn’t.” There are problems, they aren’t nearly the problems we had, say, in 1935, 1943, or the existential threats we faced from potential nuclear annihilation after we decided we could drop two atomic bombs on our enemies, and thankfully have been a part of a world that has not used this technology on populations centers since.

We are actually doing pretty well all things considered as long as your source of news isn’t the catastr-o-rama of Glenn Beck’s world.  Problems?  Absolutely, but we here in the U.S. most of us continue to be buffered from the worst of them.  The ones we should be addressing like racial, income and wealth inequality and climate change (wait, maybe the world is on fire?)* are not even on Ted’s radar.

Continue reading “Proposal: 3 Year Olds at All Republican Campaign Stops”

Councilwoman Atkins Struck a Nerve

Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was moved to write from somewhere about Councilwoman’s Linda Atkin’s My Word last week.  I say “from somewhere” b/c I’m assuming that he does not live in Humboldt given the blurb associated with his piece in the TS yesterday. Here it is…

“Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California’s largest taxpayer advocacy organization, which can be contacted at HJTA has several thousand members residing in Humboldt County.”

Jon Coupal

According to this blurb, Jon is connected to Humboldt b/c he is the spokesperson for all of these members that we are to take his word exist.  You would think the Times Standard would choose an editorial from one of the actual, robust HJTA membership rather than depending on the President to come down and attack as a “screed” an important perspective from one of our elected officials.

It’s more difficult that time will allow to come up with relevant numbers for year-by-year tax revenues in California since, say 1975.  I’d like to compare those to overall revenues and estimates of total property values before judging Jon’s chosen stats.

But it’s pretty clear, stats aside, where Jon is coming from.  You don’t need to go any further than the links in the previous post to get the picture – and it’s in the 460’s.

Continue reading “Councilwoman Atkins Struck a Nerve”

Dear Thadeus, (RE: Campaign Finance)

Dear Thadeus of the NCJ,

John Freakin’ Fullerton, multi-term Eureka School Board member and non-HCDCC endorsable candidate/measure treasure and activist, has informed me that you would like clarification on the HCDCC’s money laundering ways.

Well I’m here to fill you in on the details.  I’m not sure why you didn’t simply ask me yourself.

Before we do, let me add a little more to Councilwoman Atkin’s My Word yesterday, since this is really what this is about.  The opinion piece must have struck a nerve with fellow TOS Star Trek fan Fullerton.  (Hi, John btw.)

Let’s focus for a minute on this sentence from Linda’s article before addressing your and John’s questions.

Their hope is to dismantle all reliable retirement systems, including Social Security, so that you and I will live a frightening old age in poverty, while the execs and corporations rake in the billions.

Our Republican Congress, John F’s former Party, is up to the following according to Michael Phelan of Social Security Works

Remember the Bowles-Simpson plan?

It was the proposal–later rejected–from the co-chairs of the Fiscal Commission, which attempted to cut Social Security and Medicare while also cutting taxes for wealthy Americans. And guess what? Members of Congress are trying to bring it back right now. Just yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham said he was working with a group of Senators to introduce legislation that would constitute a “mini-Bowles-Simpson.”

But as Mr. Phelan later writes…

The truth is that Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 18 years and approximately 80% of benefits owed after that. And all we need to do is ask the very wealthy to start paying their fair share and we can not only extend the lifespan of the Social Security trust fund, we can expand benefits for millions of Americans.

But wait, one more thing before answering your questions

From Paul Krugman’s NYT column today, Million Dollar Fraudsters

… the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.

These are just two of the types of policy decisions John Fullerton’s former party would like us to ignore while focusing on the ethically-challenged ways of unions and Democrats.

Finally, back to your question below the fold.

Continue reading “Dear Thadeus, (RE: Campaign Finance)”

Property Should Be Verified Before Any Citizen Speaks to the BOS

OK, that is absurd.  but imagine that for a moment.

Imagine if a citizen wanted to go before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, they would first have to attest, under penalty of perjury of all their property.  “You say you had a bank account that you closed?” …  “Well we have a record from 2 years ago that says otherwise, so unfortunately you will have to provide verification that that account has closed.”…  “That stock you haven’t touched in years?  Yep.” …  “Your third home in Baja? Yes please, everything.”  And this is a process which could take hours, days, weeks or months depending on how compliant the citizen was and the bureaucratic process.

But this may be an absurd proposal but why shouldn’t we?  I think we can demonstrate that our political system favors those with property, in effect a subsidy paid in general tax funds.  Seems logical, especially given how we treat those on Cash Aid (aka welfare) and how we treated all Medi-Cal recipients before 1/1/14 when the ACA became a thing.

I ask this question because I’d like to frame what a big deal the ACA, the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare has been to those in the lower middle class and below.  And this is a story which simply is not being told, and I think it’s a crying shame that it hasn’t.   The story is short and simple and it is this.  Medi-Cal eligibility (most) is based on income.  Property is not a factor.  (there are exceptions)

What this means for the application process and therefore for the bureaucracy and the time spent applying for Medi-Cal is the whole process is that much simpler and fairer.  Where else in our society are people expected to disclose all their financial information?  Taxes are income based, there are certain property taxes on homes, etc., certainly.  But when hitting bottom, or requesting aid, to go through this final humiliation, one, btw, that had very low thresholds to be found ineligible – to me, it is unconscionable.

Now, for that one conservative who is reading this, I can hear you thinking – they are asking for aid, they have relinquished any rights that property owners whose interests are subsidized through our current political system where we have defined money as speech and corporate entities as legal persons.  (I may have embellished your thoughts a little dear reader, sorry).

Here’s the thing, here is what you demonstrated in your arguments (or lack of them) and votes here in Eureka last November:   We as a society are OK with not paying salaries that will afford an individual or family health insurance – even for a full time job.  We are OK with this because we will tell ourselves that such jobs are really taken by youngsters just getting a start -or- people who just haven’t excelled in life anyway – “better yourself damnit – learn then practice a trade like I did” – or – some people have to earn below a living wage because I am on a fixed income.

I disagree.  Our economic system that values capital has unduly affected our political system which should be valuing OUR values and principles – which, btw, do not exclude capital.  From the under-reported perspective from the innards of one of our grand bureaucracies – the ACA is revolutionary.  It’s beginning to change what was a broken health system as costs spiraled out of control and out of reach of a growing percentage of our population.

On small measure of this is decoupling property from eligibility formulas.  I for one think this should be a bigger story.  If we put it in context, maybe it could be.

Continue reading “Property Should Be Verified Before Any Citizen Speaks to the BOS”

The Politics of Policing

As we are on the cusp of a new era in Eureka politics, as a frequent critic of our police force, I’d like to entreat those on the left to have empathy for our peace officers.

Why?  The impetus is political.  It’s very clear what a political loser it is to attack our police force with monotonous anger.  We have a tough enough time as liberals or progressives dealing with the inevitable return of the Taxed Enough Already crowd with the powerful elite, we don’t need to donate political capital by alienating an important and necessary function of government.

While the impetus is political, the reason we should be very concerned about tone is … it’s the right thing to do.  I’m not saying we forget about the clear inequity in justice, what I’m saying is we approach real problems civilly, in a way that will not encourage the frequent voter to revert to their political camps while further alienating the non-voter/non-public institution participator.

What is clear in Eureka is this a) we have an outsized and growing crime problem.  b) our police force has a very poor record of public safety.  As their boss, we the public have to find ways to optimize their performance, which I hope we would all agree could be improved.

How do we do this?  a)  Have empathy for those serving and the extremely hazardous and thankless job they have.  If you don’t have a family member on the force or in military service, imagine if they were.  b)  We need to pressure our new City Council to be fair but firm in shaping our public institution of law enforcement – there does need to be accountability, especially when we have a history of problems and a large portion of the population that feels the police is working against their interests.  The latter are not just the criminals.  c)  Somehow, someway, we need to be reaching out for outside help to include other communities that have faced or are facing similar problems, umbrella non-profit groups and our state and national legislators – we have a very serious and legitimate problem and we need help and we shouldn’t be shy about asking for it.

Councilwomen Elect Bergel and Arroyo got the balance of the politics of policing right and it was essential to get them elected (at least in Kim’s race).  Without having spoken to them, I’m going to assume that they, more than their opponents, would understand the necessity of keeping our police force accountable to all of us, not just those cheering them on.

Continue reading “The Politics of Policing”

Berkeley is The First to Beat Big Soda

Kudos Berkeley.

Defining the relevance and importance of this type of tax is going to be difficult for liberals or conservatives.  Those opposed to these measures will use the epithet “sin tax”.  I couldn’t remember where I read this yesterday – I quickly word searched Matthew’s column, then Rose’s and Fred’s blog before it finally dawned on me.  I read “sin tax” in the comment zone of the liberal Tuluwat.  *sigh*

Especially in Humboldt passing measures like these are an almost certain loser until we start talking about weed, when many of us environmental liberals will find allies with many social and religious conservatives.

“Sin tax”, “nanny state”, etc. are the Luntz-approved words that will separate what we traditionally think of as conservatives and liberals – ie KINS v KGOE or Rush v Thom.

Despite Berkeley’s success I wouldn’t underestimate the power of this “sin tax” meme to influence those in the middle.  Berkeley is the one place this could have passed and their citizens will be better off for it.  However, I think the left has to realize what a huge rhetorical liability the ideas of “sin tax”, “nanny state”, and “legislating morality” are.

They are and should be winnable debates, because imposing taxes on items that leads directly to societal ills is a legitimate and important function of the public sector in my opinion.  We’ve accepted Coke’s right to modify our behavior with advertising.  We should also accept the government’s role in calling foul.

It’s not just on the individual to be able to navigate through our consumer society, it’s also our shared responsibility to make sure we minimize the profits of preying on our known human weaknesses.  I think a tax on soda helps to make a more honest and arguably freer market by trying to add some of the society’s cost back into the cost of a soda.


Local fellow commentariat Yogi Beara on sin taxes and the Lamprey Prohibitionists? Huh?

Alameda County’s Measure D’s unofficial results.  (75% t o 25% – way to go People’s Republic of Berkeley)

Robert Reich winning the debate on “sin taxes”.

American Enterprise Institute’s take.

Measure R’s Pro and Con Narratives in 30 Seconds.

Local civic leader Charlie Bean was chosen to narrate the No On R ad.  Why wasn’t local business leader Fred Sunquist chosen?  Because Charlie makes a great protagonist.  He is a hard working, civic minded individual who also happens to be disabled and a little grey in the beard.  (I’m joining you quickly Charlie).

The 30 second TV ad is the top of the money pyramid.  This is what, if a campaign has enough, money is spent on.  It’s what will reach most of us who may not be paying close attention, may be voting, and may be moved by narratives.  Who tells these stories is as important as the story itself in the case of Charlie’s ad.

The Fair Wage Folks have their own TV ad now.  Their narrative is more straight forward – lift the minimum wage for local workers.  Their protagonists are of course labor, health care workers, Occupy veterans, etc.  Clear message, clear supporters, clear proposal.

So clear that now even No On R proponent and Treasurer John Fullerton is on board (ish).  He too supports a higher minimum wage and even outdoes the Fair Wage Folks by expanding it County wide.  Kudos John, welcome to the “regulate the free market” dark side.  I’m sure this isn’t just a proposal that is based on weakening Measure R’s chances this November.  I’m sure you will be working hard to move this proposal forward after R passes (or God forbid doesn’t) because R will of course be subjected to legal challenges and we do need a proposal to move the higher wages County wide.  Kudos John!  Let’s do that too – starting November 5th.

So electorate – do some critical thinking before the election.  Think about the narratives and whose telling them and how much it costs to get that narrative across.  (All the while avoiding free advertising in the form of answering questions publically.)

Measure R is a proposal and a narrative that is straight forward that people are happy to put their name behind.  Those against Measure R not so much.  $10,000 in revenue to pay for the ads featuring Charlie Bean were either generated fraudulently or with a clear pre-meditated and organized fund raising technique used to subvert financial disclosure laws.

Those who were not afraid to put their name behind their support include Pacific Seafood, and Jaison Chand and Fred Sunquist.  They obviously have interests that affect their own bottom line, and rightfully so.  That’s just not the tale that is politically … legitimate.  Instead we told to focus on a protagonist who represents our senior citizens and our disabled.  Two communities that I don’t feel comfortable promising that there will not be new challenges to meet their needs – as always – and as always the left will continue to insure our society’s and communities commitment to you is not altered.

But Measure R is only peripherally about services to retired and the disabled.  It’s primarily about paying hard working people a living wage with one of the benefits being lowered public assistance being used on the young and working.

Those are the narratives.  Here are some facts. ..

For the $13,000 + amount of print and air propaganda you are about to receive from the No On R folks, 94% ($16,350 of $17,166 as of 10/18/14) of their revenue total was generated by Pacific Seafood, City Cab, and the anonymous 100 (who could be one person with a tricky accountant for all we know).  Let’s hope Eureka begins to understand the game .

Resources and Diversions:

Here is Measure R’s most recent 460 – (Thank you Pam Powell – Eureka City Clerk)

460 Against Measure R_20141023

Here is a nice diversion (and a wonderful frame) for a wet and gusty North Coast Saturday if you have 20 min.  John Oliver on the wealth gap (warning – HBO).  Something we know about all to well about in Eureka specifically and Humboldt generally.