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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Charters and treehouses

Who's in control, them or us

Locus of control is actually a term with specific meaning for use in Personality Science studies. But we can use it to develop a perspective on the Charter being developed in Costa Mesa. Let’s start with a model.

One summer two six-year-olds build tree houses on opposite sides of the city, and use them as headquarters for “private clubs.” One names their club “Avenging Pirates” and the other paints “Bestest Club of All” on the walls. Both recruit friends to join their clubs.

The Bestest leader relies on her mom, who tells her to invite the “little girl across the street because nobody likes her.” Mom also bakes cupcakes, makes lemonade and takes the small group on outings. They learn to tolerate the members mom chose and to be entertained by trips mom suggests. They carefully follow all of mom’s rules, like “be home for dinner” and “don't run up the ladder” and “don’t argue with each other.”

The Pirates do -- but not always smoothly or well

The Pirates club attracts kids, who enjoy being together, and they tend to break a few home rules – for example they all carry pocket knives and sharpen sticks, and they make pea shooters from weeds to torment their siblings. Generally, though, they're governed by parental guidelines – and local laws. They organize fishing excursions, dig caves, and have fun together.

When school starts the Bestest’s get a teacher’s advice and begin recruiting “those of different ethnicities.” Their club grows until contentions surface and mushroom. The club dissolves before Halloween from the widely differing opinions with no ability among the leaders to gain cooperation. They haven't learned to lead or compromise; mom always intervened and smoothed things over – until the rifts got too big.

The Pirates grow, too, and their activities wax and wane. At Halloween they “trick or treat” together, and by Christmas season they’re selling trees to raise funds for homeless dogs.

Internal or external locus of control 

So the Bestest believed control of their direction and operations should be from authority; mom and then teacher. Both mom and teacher had the club’s best interest at heart, but they also had personal agendas that affected the club. Mom didn't want the unpopular girl’s mom to compete with her in the upcoming PTA elections, and the teacher wanted to add “diversity promotion” to her resume.

The Pirates solved problems, making mistakes but developing better techniques as they went. They succeeded because of their commitment, independence, and enterprise. They believed that control of their direction and activities lay with them.

Both clubs had the similar populations to draw from, both were governed overall by parental rules (and city laws), and both started well. Over time, the differences in what they accomplished (and learned) lie in whether they believed they could handle their own affairs and direct their own course.  Internal or external locus, if you will: perception of whether what happens depends on “us” or on “them.”

Now consider the difference between a charter city and a general law city. Eerily similar, isn't it?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Small minds discuss people"

Ideas vs. name-calling

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” --Eleanor Roosevelt

Some commenters and a local blogger have trouble grasping our discourse about ideas. This blog deals with ideas not with people. Some commenters take criticism of their logical fallacies* to be personal insults.

So, in this brief, simplified blog post we'll compare and contrast criticism of ideas with personal attacks. We'll compare and contrast local groups, too.

Used a red fish  . . .

A commenter complained, “… loss of perspective on the great evil perpetrated by the Nazi and it diminishes the true suffering of their victims,” about this blog’s assertions. He believed the post called the local political activists Nazis.

The Nazis disrupted meetings of those they disliked with intimidation and threats. They perfected and codified (wrote into instruction books) techniques of verbal assault and misinformation that are effective in changing opinions. We now call that propaganda

A few people in Costa Mesa clearly use principles of propaganda, and tactics of disruption, developed by the Nazis. That does not mean that they are accused of belonging to the National German Socialist Workers Party. Nazi victims’ suffering and horror, difficult to even consider, aren't being discussed so the “diminishes” phrase is a red herring.* 

Not just Nazi tactics 

Sometimes the complainers use techniques of intimidation suggested by the Police Union’s previous legal firm. The complainers aren't being accused of being members of a corrupt law firm or a police union, either.

Two groups, different tactics

Costa Mesa Taxpayers invites all to comment and receive messages. CM4RG limits access to believers or at least to those who don't disagree openly. CMTax discourages personal attacks in their commentary, particularly irrelevant ones. CM4RG supporters (or members) imply that the Mayor is accepting bribes and the Pro Tem is running a hidden agenda

They won't debate ideas and priorities with the men, either, although CMTax supporters do.

The Mayor holds open meetings to talk about issues with all who want to know more. The Pro Tem has pushed through the COIN transparency ordinance and published his “Promises to Costa Mesa.” The complainers who generally support CM4RG – or are members, the list isn't open to us -- use innuendo and labels to try to malign the Mayor and Pro Tem.

CMTax doesn't bring rude people in to scream at the Council. Supporters of some of our political factions do.

Use the tactics manipulate not convince 

If the complainers use tactics developed by the Nazis, or taught by Alinsky, or advised by the Police Union Playbook they are trying to get their way through intimidation and misdirection. Period.

Nobody accused the complainers of being Nazis, only of using Nazi tactics

These techniques are obviously not the only means available to convince Costa Mesans of the virtue of their positions and priorities. But Nazi tactics are what they choose.

* Logical fallacies: Here

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Libel and slander in the internet age

What you write can bite -- you

“This will be a very public reminder to people that you can get sued for what you publish on the Internet,” said Ryder Gilliland, a Toronto libel lawyer. (1)

Here are some definitions to help us all understand what we're talking about. (2)

Defamation: A false statement which tends to harm the reputation of a person or company. This term covers both libel and slander.

Libel: Defamation which is written, such as on a web site. Most on-line defamation, or libel, occurs through posting a web page or comment. (Law firms now specialize in this subject. See (3))

Slander: Defamation that is spoken, such as through a transcribed video, podcast or audio file.

Repeat it and own it 

Generally, anyone who repeats someone else's statements is just as responsible for their defamatory content as the original speaker—if they knew, or had reason to know, of the defamation. There are some protections in a new, and therefore murky, area of federal law called Section 230. This protects distributors  such as Google or Facebook, from being called publishers. Whether bloggers who host comments will be considered distributors or publishers is unclear.

(For the record, CMConserve identifies commenters and gets permission before allowing their comments to appear in the blog. That’s been our policy from the beginning, not a knee-jerk response to a sudden awareness of personal responsibility.)

What makes it libel 

What makes something libel, at least in the sense that the victim could be awarded monetary damages?

First, the statement must be false. Opinions are typically not actionable as defamation. In general, though, IMO is not a good defense; there’re lots intricate and arcane legal requirements swirling through this area. Essentially, to be safe a blogger has to either be right or have done enough research that a reasonable person would believe the accusation is true.

Next, the false statement causes harm. So, a comment from a generally-discredited writer that the Mayor hired PIs to follow him around and report on his activities wouldn’t be actionable; no sensible voter or supporter would be persuaded by that commenter.

Third, the statement must be made without research into the truthfulness of the statement or be made with full knowledge of its falsity.

Finally, if the person who is the victim of the false statement is a celebrity or public official, then malice must also be shown. Malice is shown when the statements are intended to do harm or are made with reckless disregard of the truth. In this sense celebrity status can include folks who comment at City Council meetings, regular bloggers, and even citizens who volunteer for committees.

Developing area of law 

This is a new and fascinating area of law. Journalism professionals have to update their understanding of the rules. 

Just as what one posts on a social site can come back years later to block promotions, what one writes or accepts on a blog can come back to bite one’s wallet.

 (1) Canadian view  Here
 (2) Definitions; Here
 (2) Definitions and discussion:  Here
 (3) Law firm example specializing in online libel cases: Here

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Blaming allows us to languish in the comfort of bad habits."

Potpourri – odds and ends to end the week

There’s a major difference between “Board of Director” and “manager” responsibilities. Board members set policy to guide operations and they allocate resources to fuel operations. This is the City Council’s role.

Management hierarchy exists to reach goals

Managers control their allocated resources to achieve measurable goals. Costa Mesa’s CEO is responsible for overall City operations

Other managers, like Chief Gazsi, work for him using manpower, money, materials, relationships, and especially time, to accomplish their goals. They work through middle managers and supervisors who provide day-to-day operational control and leadership.

Workers are assigned projects

If workers focus on their hate they can make their workday miserable; that’s their choice. Haters can choose to talk endlessly about their hatreds and about how they feel about whoever they think is “dissing” them.

“The fact is bitterness breeds inertia. Blaming allows us to languish in the comfort of bad habits. It encourages us, in fact, to stay stuck smack dab in that lulling space of woe-is-me martyrdom . . .  we spend life in a stifling cul-de-sac.

“An easygoing perspective can make living with others easier. Equanimity keeps emotional responses in check and critical focus on the present.”

Middle managers lead and guide

We wonder what the middle managers are doing about the “negative” climate the commenters are describing. Morale and Espirit are the results of good leadership by supervisors and middle managers. They have little to do with policy-level decisions. Imagine GE’s manufacturing engineers sulking or “feeling negative” because GE’s BOD decided to de-emphasize home appliances: absurd.
Or perhaps the mangers are good leaders and the “negative” atmosphere lies in the eye of the beholder. And, the beholder is one who blames all that’s wrong in her world on the “chairman of the board” – our Mayor. Then the beholder needs to change, not the Mayor.

Two-faced -- with a knife

Hurting your tribe – company, government office, team, or department – when you don’t get your way is not only childish, it is unethical. In our opinion it’s also immoral. This includes releasing sensitive information to show you're “with it” and gain favor with agitators. Even worse is reporting your own organization to a regulatory agency when your unit is handling the problem – but not giving you what you want. On the street people who do this are termed “rats.”

Police staffing levels and Fairview Park projects should be decided by honest, straightforward negotiation and informed decision-making, not by underhanded maneuvers and political pressuring.

Responsibilities of the elected

Elected officials serve the full populace, not just those who voted for them, or worse, those who are loudest. It follows that, what’s best for CM isn't necessarily what's will avoid boorish outbursts in Council or Commission meetings. Crude people just behave crudely; the Council and Commissions need to do their work, not pander to the crude.

Part of the problem by choice

Most of all, we wonder why folks devote their time and energy maligning well-informed, well-meaning Councilmen instead of working to improve the city.

It appears that the folks we identify as haters would rather rant than repair and restore

That's pitiful.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Could they be right?

Misguided or Misuser

Could the Chronic Complainers (CC) be right? For this last issue on the police/park/lawsuits concerns let’s address some of the complaints directly.

Let’s start with the pretense of concern about the dirt (decomposed granite -- DG) on the paths in Fairview Park.

In some cases volunteer groups stepped up and did necessary work which was being neglected as the City spent its money elsewhere. Sometimes needed work was done by the city on an unplanned, ad hoc basis. They had good intentions but poor documentation and may not have even been aware of constraints that applied. Like “Larry the Cable Guy,” they just “got ‘er done” on many small projects all over Fairview Park.

And kids have built bike jumps and bluff steps without City oversight.

Offer a reward to embarrass somebody

The CC want to identify and castigate whoever added DG to a couple of paths in a small corner of the park. If they actually had a concern for the park they'd be out helping maintain it and making it better. Instead, they're just using the park as a political weapon.

Thievery is up, hire more cops

Hire more police to fight the increase in crime. Petty crime dropped radically since 1997 or so, and began an uptick recently coincident with the early release of criminals and the increase in unregulated recovery homes. Further, more police doesn't equate to less crime, as we've demonstrated; community involvement does.

Are the CC involved and helping? No, they're part of the problem.

Are they reporting suspicious folks who are prowling around parked cars in a church lot, or is their community involvement primarily accusing Council members of lying and stealing? Are they finding graffiti and calling the City for its removal, or is their community involvement just disrupting Planning Commission meetings with unruly behavior?

Attitudes and whining

The CC argue that “the Mayor’s animosity” creates a “negative” atmosphere in the CMPD that deters recruitment. Reality is, police are now in short supply so candidates can pick and choose jobs. Line cops say the most important factor in choosing a department is leadership; the second is the professionalism of the department. CMPD exhibits excellence in both -- in most cases.

Can cops “bad mouthing” the department suggest to candidates that the department is unprofessional? Sure, grumbling, whiny cops might repel professionals – fortunately we haven't seen many in CMPD.

Positives that attract 

Costa Mesa is a great place for families; parks, youth sports, shopping, and an educated and productive population. That will attract professionals, whether they practice medicine, teaching or police work.

Negatives that repel

The contentious, negative atmosphere, where it is found, is generated by complainers and blamers and excuse makers. The professional officers – and government employeesseek excellence in performing their duties; realizing that no place is perfect, they work to improve their jobs and their city. Their professionalism attracts more productive people to Costa Mesa.

The threat to Costa Mesa is the whiners and complainers – who do little, but criticize lots.

Anybody got a copy?

Applauding the government -- 

We were questioned in the Blog comments (still under repair) about our unwavering support for “government.” That’s not correct.  At present we believe that the Council majority is causing positive effects in Costa Mesa. Government beneficence is not endemic, though.

For example, consider the I405 nonsense. The cities affected in our area believed that the Caltrans HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle – or toll lane) plans were inimical to their residents, and in a concerted effort led by our then-mayor Bever, convinced the board to adopt widening plans instead of toll road plans. It might be noted that the funds to build came via approval of voters for the non-toll road option.

Members of the board were replaced. The new board re-considered and then voted to build the toll road anyway, in what we believe to be an egregious disregard for the will of the populace.

Note that the arguments about HOV lanes are not the issue here; the will of the citizens being thwarted by special interest groups is the point we’re discussing.

Answer is no 

So, no, we don’t unilaterally support “government.” We consider it  at the present time to be less representative of the people, at all levels, than it probably was in 1775.

We do believe that the current Council members are each very concerned for Costa Mesa’s welfare and that every one of them works hard to drive the City in the direction they envision for her. The goals and the means to the goals differ, of course, but all appear to be devoted and diligent and most demonstrate integrity, as we understand it, in Council matters. In this sense we support our City government.


All five of the Council members will probably err today and will say something stupid this week. That’s true of each of us in Costa Mesa. If any politician or prominent person does or says something irrational this blog may address the irrational statement and criticize the logic

We do not try to condemn the person, nor do we try to hide their identity; we simply focus on the idea.

Critics hidden in the "anonymous" woods 

To: Three commenters, who listed themselves as “anonymous” and provided no name or email to be vetted. 

We've been unable to find a copy of the “party line” for any conservative or Republican group in Costa Mesa or Orange County, so we really can't tell if we support such a thing or not. That probably addresses the “Kool Aid” comment as well. 

If anyone would be so kind as to give us a copy or a link to the party line we’d be grateful. Even a list of the “insiders” who have access to the party line might be useful; we'll ask them for a copy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Complaining as a job title

No solutions, just intimidate and irritate

In the last few posts we've established three premises about the chronic complainers (CC). (They are the ones demonstrating and demanding that Costa Mesa authorize more police positions and that the Mayor drop his lawsuit against the police union.)

First, they aren't well informed. Next, they haven’t established credibility. And finally, they aren't making logical arguments. (1, 2, 3) We've also shown that their stands on two comparable issues are opposite – regardless of the principle involved they choose to oppose the Mayor’s position. (4)

Single-source complaints

A brief survey of two week’s articles and comments in the OC Register and the Daily Pilot suggests that the letter-to-the-editor writers have a common source for their demands. Either coincidentally or deliberately, they are following standard propaganda guidance: they try to make it seem that a slogan or idea is universal by repeating it and by sourcing it through several venues.
We've also watched bogus agitation and exploitation used to build furious “outrage” about 100 feet of volunteer trail improvement and a turnaround planned more than a decade ago for Fairview Park. They've suddenly shown sad-faced concern about protecting Native American artifacts that might remain in the Park area. And, they've recruited Newport Beach’s Banning Ranch protesters for more volume. The CC must enjoy marching with signs and apparently feel compelled to discharge their outrage-de jour during Council and Commission meetings.

Will it matter

Although there’s been a lot of noise and venom, few Costa Mesans have been affected yet. This is similar to historical events in which a few loud, often obnoxious people affected the well-being of many. The example of Nazi Germany is prominent; the Nazis started with very few members but they were loud, repetitive – and they faced a large population who didn't want to get involved.

If that occurs in Costa Mesa, what is best for Costa Mesa will be ignored and what is best for some small, special interest groups will prevail. The special interest groups to fear, in our opinion, aren't the youth sports enthusiasts. They are the Anti-Righeimer/ Mensinger groups who hide behind their “concerns” about police, park and Native American artifacts to make political attacks.

Trained well or did their homework

Alinsky taught principles of forcing administrations to bend to your will in the 1960’s, writing the definitive text (at the time) on agitation (5). Propaganda experts advise that repeating a message endlessly makes it become accepted as truth. More recently, and closer, a law-firm published their “playbook” of cynical advice about forcing local government to agree to what police unions demand. Alinsky’s rules, propaganda principles, and the playbook are being followed.

Fueling so much tumult, even though the number of participants is small, takes a lot of time and money. We have to ask, cui bono? That is, who benefits?

Next, our final post on this: Could the CC be right

1) Cops and mayor’s suit:  Here

2) Police studies: Here

3) Broken window: Here

4) Different stands -- same principle: Here

5) Rules: Here
    and Here

Monday, September 23, 2013

They don't know but they sure say

Commentary from the uninformed, part 2

Let’s examine this hypothesis concerning the chronic complainers – we’ll use the abbreviation “CC” for the rest of this post. Given: The CC are forcefully demanding that the Mayor drop his lawsuit against the police union and its legal advisor.

Hypothesis; they do so primarily because they've been misled and emotionally-overstimulated by propaganda. (Scientific process, especially in medicine, starts with a hypothesis and then tries to disprove it. Once a hypothesis is found that can’t be disproven it is used as a working theory.)


If the CC are simply uninformed about the details of this issue, and their stand is based upon their ethics or worldview, they should hold
consistent views about similar issues. Let’s look at two current controversies.

History situation 1

Council wanted to examine the jobs of City employees with the idea that some could be less-expensively done by contractors. The MOU (which serves as a union contract) required that all affected employees be notified individually and personally that their job was being studied.

When employees were individually notified the CC and union agitators generated fear and distorted public debate by labeling the job study a prelude to termination. The reality? The Council noted firmly that no jobs were at risk, but more economical operations were being studied.

The union sued the City over alleged violations of the exact MOU procedures. The unions have continued their legal attack with appeals and challenges although the issue – a job outsourcing study – has long been moot.(1) This appears to be a legal tactic of “bleeding your opponent,” by forcing them to keep spending money defending against frivolous motions and appeals.

According to the CC, defending against the union lawsuit is needless legal expense – and the Council’s extravagance.   Also, they assert that the union lawsuit seeks justice for alleged mistakes that made City employees feel frightened and unneeded. Their own inflammatory – and false -- rhetoric at the time is ignored as a trigger of employee fear. The union’s choice to continue the suit over a moot point is missed, too.

A comparable issue

Members of the Police union drove City vehicles about the City towing signs urging Righeimer’s defeat. Mensinger’s truck was vandalized. At least one Council meeting was dominated by men in uniform blocking aisles and using intimidating gestures. “Someone” hired a disenfranchised cop to try to entice a Councilman, Monahan, to violate marriage vows

(See the newspaper articles where other OC police unions sought and received “special consideration” in return for not revealing embarrassing information about their council members.)

The operative, a fired cop, followed Righeimer out of the restaurant and reported him as a drunk driver in a false DUI report. The Mayor was visited at home by a police officer who gave him a field sobriety test in front of his family and neighbors.

It's not going to stop until . . .

The police union’s law firm had published a “playbook” advising police unions how to force their civilian governments to cave in to union demands – cynical advice about unethical tactics. (2) It looked like the playbook was calling the shots for CMPD’s union. The playbook was taken down, but the tactics it advocated were never disavowed by Costa Mesa’s police union. That is, the Mayor, and Pro Tem could expect the intimidation tactics to continue, and maybe to increase.

The Mayor and Pro Tem filed a lawsuit against the union and its law firm to protect themselves and their families – and all elected officials in Orange County – against such egregious abuses of power. They asked that the union and its law firm be punished for illegal, unethical, and immoral behavior to warn others against further aggression. They assert that elected officials and their families should feel safe as they discharge their duties.

CC, police union don't disavow playbook's tactics

The chronic complainers want the Mayor to drop his suit against the Police union and its law firm. They speculate that it makes police officers feel “negative.” Elected officials and their families might feel frightened, intimidated, and unfairly maligned, but . . . apparently that’s OK.

That is, punitive lawsuits over moot points are goodif they’re filed by unions. Punitive lawsuits about illegal intimidation tactics, or extortion, are bad if they’re filed by Mayor Righeimer.

Hypothesis appears wrong

Nope, the chronic complainers aren’t being objective – or fair. The hypothesis that CC is simply mislead and overstimulated is suspect.

Next, in Part 3; another hypothesis -- cui bono?

1. Employee union  in court  Here
2. Playbook  Here

Sunday, September 22, 2013

More on commentary from the uninformed; part one

A couple of chronic complainers are agitating about matters they don’t understand, as usual. Surprisingly, some of their unsupported arguments have been adopted by a Register columnist. We think the Fourth Estate can do better at checking their sources. See part 2, coming soon.

Note that the two “experts” have written and commented about many things; but not cabbages and kings, – yet. That may change if the Mayor takes a position on either. For example, if the Mayor proposes a resolution declaring cabbages good food on St. Patrick’s Day, they’ll likely lambaste him for lining his pockets with kickbacks from cabbage growers.

Double the rhetoric, ignore reality 

Just as believably, each proposes that: Public safety must be addressed immediately by increasing the PD staffing levels, although they also cry that it takes 18 months to put a trained officer on the streets. 

So, Costa Mesa should immediately authorize a lot of extra jobs for Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) which will somehow alleviate the difficulty finding qualified officers for the openings we now have.

The fallacies in “more cops = less crime”  are part of their rhetoric, but have been discussed and refuted ad nauseam in this blog, in Police Science articles and books and by other informed sources.

Cops or "frightened little old ladies" 

One concept, parroted in the Register op-ed piece, is that Council hostility, shown by the mayor’s lawsuit and comments makes police officers have "negative attitudes." They opine, suggest and demand that the Mayor’s suit against the police union be dropped to help the city. More about this issue in Part 2.

LEO’s are charged with enormous responsibility, have considerable flexibility in responding to sometimes life and death situations, and must be stable in situations of stress. For example, they’d be criticized in most departments for allowing rage to get out of control – or even develop -- when a protester spit at them. That is, they're expected to be professionals and to take charge of their environments.

Internal or external 

Here are two types of personality styles used in Personality Psychology, related to how one views the outcomes in their lives. Which do you think fits the LEO we want to see in Costa Mesa?

A person's "locus” is either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence). Internals believe that every action has its consequence, which makes them accept the fact that things happen and it depends on them if they want to have control over it or not. 

Those with external locus of control believe that their own actions are a result of external factors that are beyond their control. Perhaps they would cry, or resign if the Mayor called some of their union leaders "thugs?" We think it's unlikely that any such cops would survive orientation.

Wimps and whiners don't attract good cops to Costa Mesa 

So, if the mayor’s suing the union about alleged personal abuses, the cops are going to have a “negative” attitude?  Costa Mesa doesn’t need that kind of person in responsible positions. Good cops will “feel negative” when they don’t do as good a job as they'd like. They aren't likely to mope and whine because the Mayor sues their union.

When programmers were in short supply no one thought that they’d avoid jobs at Boeing because the company was in hostile negotiations with a union. Programmers, like professional LEO’s, seek jobs that meet their and their family’s needs.

The complainers are implying that those programmers were more mature, responsible, and results-oriented than Costa Mesa cops. That’s ridiculous. We have a great PD, skilled and honest officers, and generally excellent leadership. That helps make CMPD a great department, one we think many great LEO’s would consider joining.

What might keep them away is poor quality schools for their kids, trashy neighborhoods or inadequate availability of youth sports to keep their kids out of gangs. The effects of the Mayor’s comments – or of the whines of the self-appointed experts on everything, aren't likely to carry a lot of weight with good officers – who will generally hold to an internal locus of control.
Eliminate the niduses of crime, support the schools and youth sports, and clean up the neighborhoods and parks; professionals want to live in nice places that give their families the best opportunities.

Part 2: Why uninformed nonsense right now?