Why This Blog?

The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

All comments will be answered if their author provides contact info.


I have no sponsoring group(s) or agencies, and I owe no allegiance to any candidate or group.

(C) Copyright 2012 DenRita Enterprises

Friday, October 26, 2012

Using Critical Thinking 

We are advised to use “critical thinking” before we vote. But exactly how do we do Critical Thinking?


Let’s start with a definition of what critical thinking means in this blog. We’ll use that of R.H. Ennis in a 1987 book about it: Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or . . . do.

In 1941 Edward Glaser called Critical Thinking "A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends." This definition adds “persistent effort” to our working definition.


Strong Critical Thinking tries to establish evidence through observation, context, and relevance. Closely related, Reason, is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, for establishing and verifying facts, to guide changing or justifying practices and beliefs.

So, we want to consciously make sense of the competing claims in Costa Mesa elections, persistently establish and verify facts and collect evidence through observation, context, and relevance. Thus we’ll establish rational criteria for casting our votes, in spite of the efforts of propagandists.

Example for practice

We'll use the mailer which used pretend gangsters in a pretend dark back room to generate fear of our proposed Charter for an example.

Since we've looked at the Charter, the focus of that particular mailer, in some depth, we know that the warnings are not based on facts. As part of this exercise, though, we can collect other relevant data; who paid for and distributed the mailer? A Sacramento and a local Political Action Committee. These committees essentially spend money not officially belonging to a candidate or issue to influence voters.

Relevance and context

Then we can observe the evidence for relevance and context: that mailer had a picture of a city that wasn't Costa Mesa, as well as the “politically correct gangsters” (unlit cigars without ashtrays). And it included a picture of the Bell official in handcuffs being escorted by police.

Are Bell thieves pertinent to Costa Mesa’s Charter? Well, no; some Bell Council Members set high compensation for themselves, but our Charter requires all pay and benefit increases to be vetted by ballot, so the Bell official in cuffs is irrelevant. The city and gangsters are clearly irrelevant.

Are their bankruptcies relevant 

The mailer had warnings about cities that had Charters declaring Bankruptcy. Is this relevant? In this situation, no, since the Costa Mesa Charter does not contain the union-benefitting articles that those cities’ unions had incorporated into their charters.

It does provide a caution for the future, though, since some of the Anti-almost everything candidates want a different charter with more diverse input; the bankrupt cities’ charters had input from organized labor.

What was relevant

From the mailer we got the relevant information that PACs in Sacramento and Costa Mesa paid for it, and that the PACs were associated with Big Labor organizations. That is, the mailer taught us that Sacramento-based unions didn't want Costa Mesa to adopt a Charter.

Persistent effort, such as by reading the Charter, revealed that Big Labor would be affected by at least a couple of its provisions; first, “prevailing wage” or paying the labor rates specified from Sacramento would be unnecessary, which would save Costa Mesa money. That also affects the power of the unions to force contractors to use only union labor which increases union-only jobs. And, second, the provision that political contributions can not be collected as payroll deductions will greatly increase the work necessary to collect the political “contributions” mandated from the Sacramento Headquarters.

Since both members and non-members have to pay dues to the City employee unions, and since most political assessments are simply demanded and collected – very often from both union members and non-members* – this provision closes off an easy opportunity to collect political “contributions” from paychecks.

So, our initial analysis showed the messages irrelevant and appealing to fear rather than to logic and facts. It showed that the mailer was funded by Big Labor organizations headquartered in Sacramento. It demonstrated that accuracy and context were irrelevant to the mailer’s designers in that they didn't bother to get an actual picture of Costa Mesa, nor to set up the back room filled with gangsters realistically.


And, a little persistence in our analysis developed a plausible reason for Big Labor to incite fear: to increase votes against the Charter. Five minutes with an Anti-Charter mailer and we've collected sufficient reasons to ignore its message, and some good indications that Costa Mesa will be better off with the Charter. That's not yet complete information to support a Yes vote from this one Anti-mailer, but it shows how Critical Thinking can even reverse the messages of some propaganda.

This has been an example of using critical thinking to examine a mailer. We collected the data, checked it for accuracy and relevance, and processed what we learned to make sense of the whole message. Critical Thinking contributes to our ability to cast votes for the best candidates and for the best interests of Costa Mesa.

*A recent Supreme Court case affirmed the rights of non-members to be notified of political-fund assessments and to opt out of each

No comments:

Post a Comment