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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Leaders do the job -- through people

Where do you get your Leadership Advice?

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked: leadership is defined by results, not attributes. -- Peter Drucker
"Don't find fault, find a remedy." Henry Ford

One way of learning about a subject is exploring the opinions of others. How useful this method is depends on which expert you choose for advice. We’ll explore leadership in Costa Mesa by surveying what experts say, both real authorities and our local self-defined experts.

Define the term

First of all, in this series we’ll call leadership “the ability to inspire willing and enthusiastic cooperation in the accomplishment of goals.” That definition eliminates title, rank, and charisma while it focuses on getting things done through people

For our expert sources we’ll use authorities in the field; cited researchers and successful leaders who consistently accomplish their missions through the inspired work of their subordinates. We’ll select those who also taught others. And, we'll emphasize the lessons taught by those who were successful but had strident detractors – they led through contentious times.

Some examples might be: Martin Luther King, Jr., Gen. George Patton, CEO Jack Welch, and Coach Vince Lombardi. They were all successful through the work of their followers and they all were soundly criticized.

Plan the work, work the plan

We'll start by distilling a leader’s lessons to use as a measuring tool, and see what their critics claimed. Then we'll examine Costa Mesa councilmen using the same tool, and we'll see what their critics say. The Mayor and the Pro Tem have received the most attention as leaders lately, so they’ll be our primary focus. 

Each post in this series will focus on a different expert and their chief critics. The Costa Mesa “leadership experts” and critics are too few in number to avoid overlap and repetition, though.

We haven’t noted verifiable leadership expertise or education among the critics so we’ll just use what we can find. That is, if their criticism is factual or based upon opinions of experts we'll debate the contentions briefly only if they seem erroneous. If they are just expressions of the critics’ “gut feelings” we'll note the critic’s expertise if it seems pertinent.


As always, this blog is about ideas so we’ll avoid using names unless it’s necessary for clarity or if the person cited is a celebrity or an authority. 

We don’t want to jump into pointless personal attack and inflammatory remarks; they divert from the issues.

Next in this series: what successful leaders and leader-developers teach.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ad hominem ad nauseum

Enemies Define the Man

“Judge a man by the quality of his enemies.”(Arabian proverb) And, musician Wicasta Lovelace elaborated, “. . . A good man will never have enemies who are anything but petty and childish. . . Who it is that dislikes a man reveals much about the man himself.” 

There’s been a “commenting kerfuffle” in the remarks about a local blogger’s letter in the Daily Pilot’s Forum.1 Much of it is focused on the commenters’ assumptions about the letter writer’s beliefs. (He explains his beliefs in #331 Here. They're different from the assumptions.)  Labels of racist (a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another) and bigot seem to be popular among the commenters.

Meaningless epithet now

Racist” has taken on the meaning of “somebody I don’t like,” much like “Communist” did during the McCarthy era, so let’s stick with “bigot:” a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. . .” We'll try to identify the bigots.

Propaganda revisited 

The writer exposited about the justification for the Mayor’s lawsuit against the police union in a logical, well-written piece.  The commenters didn’t address his premise, though, they just attacked him personally.

Who is making the ad hominem2 attacks on the writer and “broadbrushing”3 those who agree with his logic? Well, there’s another local blogger, who gets into occasional tiffs with the letter’s author.4 He said,

How very sad it must be for the Mayor and his pals that this pile of human debris is writing in support of their positions. . . This man, who's (sic) local blog has degenerated into an insignificant racist cesspool. . . As you read his bilge . . .

Another commenter wrote juvenile insults to other commenters (really; on the order of “you’re a poopy head . . .”) and was called on it. He responded,

 “. . . There is a stinky dime that I smell in somebody's pocket and the way that could have been avoided is to first disavow any political or ideological connection with Mr. Millard before responding. That is how you wash the crap off, since you or Mr. Popp or any other cronies did not do that nor was the Mayor forthcoming with any distancing of Mr. Millard I would suggest a larger dose of cologne. Or is that colon? Immature? Absolutely! That's how I roll.

This upsets me which makes it relevant

Finally, a commenter who was emoting in all caps and about different complaints she carries against the Mayor and/or Pro Tem was asked if she considered the unrelated complaints to be relevant to the author’s point. Her response was:

About the all caps, you know I don't often use all caps for several words in a row. This time I did because ordering the removal of Huy's memorial flowers was callous, nasty, senseless and done to inflict pain on those who wished to memorialize Huy. That calls for all caps as it is sadistic bordering on psychotic.  . .No, it's not "unrelated" at all.

The author’s attackers make little sense in their arguments but offer a poignant view of their intellectual and ethical values.

2 Ad hominum in more depth. here
3 Broadbrush propaganda in last election here
4 Tiff example here

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How Highly Do They Value Truth

Low price integrity

"’Every man has his price.’ This is not true. But for every man there exists a bait which he cannot resist swallowing.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

A server in the London Pub1 (an eclectic addition to the Westside) mentioned that people steal a lot of the copper cups used to serve their signature drinks.

(The drinks are called “Mules” which is a classification of mixed drinks that involve ginger ale or ginger beer. Moscow Mules are made with vodka, for instance – there are many other liquors used to make Mules, sometimes called “Bucks.”)

After cheating or stealing 

He added that some folks bring the cups back the next day after more sober reflection. But, whether they keep the cups or return them, the question is; “would you actually violate your principles for a $30 cup?” If not, what would be a bait you couldn’t resist?

Sometimes the violations of principle are impulsive and temporary, such as when a dieter decides to have a piece of pie. She usually will rationalize her decision; “It’s my ‘cheat’ day,” or “I deserve it; I worked out for an extra fifteen minutes this morning.”

Don't tolerate: Lying, Cheating, Stealing

In politics, what bait would cause a person to lie, cheat or steal? (The military academies consider these values so important that cadets vow to refrain from all three and to refuse to tolerate any of their brotherhood who lie, cheat, or steal.)

Or, for a journalist, whether paid or hobbyist, what bait is worth slanting a piece toward a specific viewpoint when sufficient data is available that shows the viewpoint erroneous? Or the price offered that would have the reporter – or blogger or commenter – ignore any information that doesn't fit preconceived notions?

Their price for ignoring truth and fairness

Which brings us to this question; what bait is offered to entice the CM4OE2 to suggest, directly or through innuendo, that the Mayor gets kickbacks from developers? What price induces commenters to suggest that the Pro Tem somehow pockets money by lighting free city parking lots?3

Or, what value would one find in accusing, abusing, and insulting the Mayor since 2008 (and probably before – that’s all the research we've done so far)?

Contrary evidence is prevalent

The troublemakers (more realistically, trouble attempters) must be aware of the significant accomplishments of the Mayor and Pro Tem, including COIN and infrastructure repair. They have to be aware of the Pro Tem’s “Contract with Costa Mesa”4 that outlines exactly what citizens can expect of him, and of the high ethics and personal compassion both demonstrate in their “off duty” lives

Project -- rationalize -- hate

How do haters rationalize their perfidy, their abstention from honesty and fairness? What is their price?

There may be motivations we don’t know about, or the “bait” may be emotional aberrations better addressed by mental health professionals. But, so far it seems that their “price” is even lower than that of the thieves who steal copper cups from a pub.

If they've set their integrity’s price so low, how much do they value their veracity?

1 512 W 19th St Costa Mesa, CA 92627
2 Acronym for a (created) group: Costa Mesans for Opposing Everything. See: CM4OE defined

It’s Not Healthy to Rage and Hate

Negotiation vs. invective
“Probe with bayonets. If you encounter steel, withdraw. If you encounter mush, continue.” Vladimir Lenin.

Let’s explore normal and stupid in negotiation.

Say you’re interested in moving into a house you like on the East side of Costa Mesa. You think you can afford to buy it for $425,000, but the asking price is $465,000. You offer $400,000 through your agent, expecting a counter offer.

Before it arrives the owner’s son lambastes you on his blog as a “would-be thief who has no interest in living in Costa Mesa and wants to line his pockets by turning dad’s house into a drug-rehab place.”

Still interested in buying the house?

Negotiation isn't cage fighting

In labor-contract negotiations one party makes an offer, the other studies the offer. They're looking for opponents’ implied needs, implied limits, probable negotiating strategy and more. They analyze the offer from several perspectives, and then formulate responses that imply their own position without revealing too much about their limits or strategies. 

Forty years ago negotiations often included accusations, insults, even violence. That doesn't work anymore.

In Costa Mesa

The City recently initiated negotiations with an offer. To her credit, the Union president offered a measured response to the City’s initial offer.

But the initial offer became an excuse for union apologists to insult, demean and vilify the Mayor and Pro Tem. They scream in blogs and commentary (in all caps) about “gutting the existing contract” and “betraying the trust of good employees.” Their screeds accuse the Mayor and Pro Tem of perfidy and evil.

Why scream insults

Part of the employee’s union’s plan? Perhaps. The PD union, (which is being sued by the Mayor and the Pro Tem) attempting to pressure the Mayor and Pro Tem? That might be more likely

For a long time, the unions have probed with bayonets and found mush; they got whatever they wanted. More recently, they probed and found steel. Further, the PD union “playbook” for intimidating government leaders was discovered and published.

Ignoring Lenin’s (purported) advice, they continue to ”push the bayonet.” Perhaps they hope that the bile their supporters spew in blogs, comments, and commission meetings will soften the steel.


It isn’t working, and it’s damaging labor’s credibility. Complainers who whine about many, many issues at length – with irrational and irrelevant nonsense -- don't enhance labor’s position. Hateful screaming doesn't address the “steel” – the resolve of the new Council to reduce expenditures below income.

It’s time to shut the attacks down. Twenty-first century unions negotiate differently. Costa Mesa’s Fire Department’s positive efforts led to a new and mutually beneficial contract, for example.

Maybe they are independent haters 

Perhaps the dozen or so haters spewing their insults and accusations are just loose cannons, not tools of the police union. If they aren't being paid to carp and denounce they need professional help.

It’s not healthy to rage and hate all the time. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Battalion Chief Tim Vasin

Persisted, learned, promoted

Sometimes it takes repetition and persistence to make things happen. Or, as Matt Leinart a former USC quarterback said in a Daily Pilot article:

"To achieve your dreams … you have to put in the time. You're always going to go through ups and downs, but that's what makes life so special. It's when you encounter those different scenarios … whether it's an injury in football or whether it's a family problem, or it's school, you have the choice to right that, you have the choice to work even harder and say, 'You know what? I'm going to get past this. I have the strength and courage to succeed.'"

 20 years experience or one year 20 times

This brings up the idea of rising through the ranks, developing the new skills and insights needed to do first a good, then a better job at each level. In Costa Mesa, Fire Captain Tim Vasin was promoted to Battalion Chief. His promotion becomes effective August 25 with his first day as “C” shift Battalion Chief on Monday, August 26.

The City’s announcement said:

Tim has had a very successful career as a Firefighter/Paramedic, Fire Captain, and President of the Costa Mesa Firefighters Association. Tim also brings a wealth of knowledge and talent as the fire department continues to move forward with its reorganization.

So many of us learn the basics and then just float along, doing everything the way we were taught, and avoiding risk until we retire. We say,

 “Well I was taught by X…and he said we should do it this way is the intellectual equivalent of chewing gum. There is no nutritional value.”

Thinking is "high nutrition"

Tim has clearly learned to think outside the box; he seeks and finds new ways to do things. That ability will be key to his success as a Battalion Chief as the department continues to reorganize and make better and better use of the Department’s resources.

Good luck, Tim.

The Less They Know the Louder They Scream

No decorum, no manner

The “Rowdy Rudedudes” that used to scream and sing at City Council meetings didn’t disappear; they went dormant. They awakened for the Thursday meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission just in time to demonstrate their ignorance and lack of courtesy. The usual agitation-leaders were there to dispense instructions to some new faces, as well as to some old regulars.

If you want a sense of the ambiance at the meeting, visit a toy store. Watch a spoiled-child’s tantrum when she can’t have what she wants; multiply by about 15 and replace the child with middle-aged bodies and spoiled-child minds. It was embarrassing to watch.

Give me what I want or I’ll scream.”

Old plans generate new whining

At issue was a play area, a parking area and entrance gates for Fairview Park. These projects have been in Park plans for well over a decade. They've been vetted, updated and analyzed for conformance to the many federal, state, and county constraints. Grants were recently found to help with the cost, so the dormant projects came to life. A cynic might observe that grants awakened plans and “Rudedudes” like rain awakens fairy shrimp in the vernal pools.

The Commission was considering tweaks to the final designs. Changes were driven by newer methods and materials that are now available and by changed constraints from local agencies such as the Fire Department.

Scenery and traffic changed

The people who bought houses overlooking the bluff tops will now see a parking area. It may encourage more traffic on their quiet streets. However, if that’s unacceptable, the culprit is their real estate agent; perhaps he didn't tell them what the Fairview Park Plan and the Open Spaces Plan said. Or they may have expected that Fairview Park would remain unchanged throughout their residency.

One would expect NIMBY complaints (Not In My Back Yard), especially from folks who neglected to look at the plan before they bought the home that could now overlook a parking area.

Getting face-time on TV and . . .

But why would “activists” (perhaps better termed “agitators”) hiss the Commission Chairman and conduct loud screaming tantrums? Why would brats scream “No I don’t have to move down front I have a right to sit where I want?” when moving forward was suggested for those who complained they couldn't hear a soft-voiced expert’s comments?

(They’d hear better if they’d stop talking during testimony. We had a hard time following some of the remarks from a seat near the front because nearby visitors couldn't – wouldn't – refrain from their personal discussions.)

Did school or mom fail?

Apparently the screamers and jabberers failed Kindergarten. And their mothers failed to instill manners and concern for the rights of others. They give environmentalism a bad name.

Perhaps their leaders are just trying to embarrass Council members they want to defeat in the next election. Perhaps they want to pressure the City Council to soften them up for the current labor negotiations. Or perhaps that’s all paranoia.

We can only hope that the "Rudedudes" will go dormant again. 

We’ll see.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Creeping Charter progress

Showing respect – or not.

The Charter Committee meeting Wednesday evening featured as the main course an outstanding presentation by our Public Services Director and offered some heated resistance to discussion as a side dish. It was seasoned with a touch of rudeness.

The Director teaches well

Ernesto Munoz outlined the procedures the City uses in issuing public works’ contracts. His presentation was a model for professional presentations. It was clear, concise and accurate. Mr. Munoz taught a low-fat, high-value class. He explained that:

Costa Mesa adopted a version of contracting regulations more stringent than State law. And, the City adheres to even more stringent policies and ordinances.

His department uses a formal bidding procedure for all contracts even though the laws governing the bids don’t require formal bidding for contracts below $175,000. He cited two reasons:

First, formal bidding of all contracts makes administration of all contracts similar, so standard procedures can be used. Formal bidding is more laborious and demanding but he said it saves money and time in the long run.

And second, so many projects get some part of their funds from sources that require full bids that it just makes sense to process all contracts as if they were going to get restrictive grants.

Council influence on contracting?

He was asked if anyone had ever tried to influence the contracting. He said no, not in the twenty years he’s worked for the City. On a question about “no bid” contracts, he said the city requires at least three bids for public-works projects worth more than $1,000. “There haven’t been any (no-bid contracts)” during that time, either.

He summarized his presentation as “everything is working very well.” Legal counsel noted that if contracting weren't specifically changed by the charter it would continue to operate exactly like it does now.

What was the problem?

One committee member wanted to explore the contracting provisions of the rejected charter to discover what was seen as objectionable and what was acceptable.

This was vigorously opposed by the committee member who earlier chose not to support the moment of silence after the Pledge. Instead, he sat down and rustled through his papers. The rest of the committee observed the moment of silence. Courtesy and respect for others’ views are apparently not his strong suits.

Last fall he opposed the charter because, among other complaints, “it’s dangerous” (because it) allows Council members to give no-bid contracts to their friends. (Mr. Munoz refuted that criticism in his explanation, since the charter wouldn’t have changed the contracting procedures.)

Wasn't alone in making the error 

He shouldn't feel embarrassed though. Many voters opposed the charter then, perhaps convinced by scare mail showing gangsters cutting deals (about Costa Mesa). Or they may have been influenced by the out-of-context “analyses” and near-hysterical warnings that were published ( Detailed discussion).

Learned and concerned 

Lessons learned (or relearned):  manners are a matter of respect, not a matter of choosing the proper fork. Public Works contracting is safely controlled. Work on the charter is starting to focus and progress.

August 14: starting to focus and progress.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Who benefits from canards?

Cui bono: who benefits?

Here’s a comment after an article about police recruiting:

“. . . the lack of concern Righeimer and Mensignger (sic) have for the safety of the citizens . . . They only care about development and lining their friends(sic) pockets with the tax dollars of the Costa Mesa tax payers “(Pilot comment)

Comment about parking lot lighting:

“. . . unless there is an Estancia football game where Steve can make some money on parking.” 

How does the Pro Tem get money from free, City-owned parking? Why project dishonesty?

Another commenter – who was once a Parks Commissioner and should understand the Fairview Park plan and the difficulty of changing anything in that Park -- said:

“Obviously, someone wants to change Fairview Park into an Events Center, maybe the kind of commercial sports stadium they tried to make in TeWinkle Park. Otherwise they wouldn't need the parking, the lights and changes to the Master Plan.”

This is deliberately misleading; why?

Innuendos galore

A blogger who has written about the City for several years and expresses a lot of pride in his “sources of insider information” knows well that paving Fairview’s vernal pools is not remotely possible. But last year he warned (he weaseled by using “rumor”):

“. . . the November 16th meeting of the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission . . . request to pave over part of the vernal pools at Fairview Park . . .

If true, this has the stench of Steve Mensinger all over it. “

And, he commented about a recent letter in the Pilot criticizing Mayor Righeimer’s statistics (the Mayor noted that 310 of 400+ City employees – 72% -- enjoyed employment packages of $100K or more; the letter writer cried out that current labor negotiations are with the union that covers only 200 employees):

“I'm not sure if (the Mayor’s) just statistically challenged or just a devious, self-serving politician willing to say anything to sway the voters, no matter how inaccurate it might be.” (Misdirection by comment)

The blogger is well aware that Mayor Righeimer is a successful businessman who understands statistics.

Cui bono analysis suggests the commenters don’t benefit from their misguided comments; the nonsensical babble just makes them look foolish. Who benefits?


1. Their diatribe follows rules Saul Alinsky taught to agitators in the 60’s. (Alinsky rules) It also follows the negotiation “Playbook” of a Police-union law firm. (Playbook)

Alinsky RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating.

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” And the “Playbook” advises: “Focus on an Individual and keep the pressure up (until they agree to support you) . . . then move on to the next victim.” Further,

Getting your members to apply (elsewhere) . . . always sends a strong signal. Keep this for last, as some of your members may ultimately leave anyway.

2. Negotiation with an employees’ union is starting. Negotiations with the police association begin next year.

Answered the who, now why?

Who benefits?” seems answeredWhy resort to canards (false or groundless rumors or beliefs)?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Don't understand the question

Informed or incensed but not both

Anonymous sources (Pilot article) suggested that it was difficult to recruit police for Costa Mesa because of the “Political Climate.” This climate seemed to be defined as the efforts of the majority of the City Council to decrease spending on police wages and benefits to amounts the City can afford. The sources’ stated expertise was present or past or employment as a police officer in Costa Mesa.

Staffing levels and recruitment are, like patrol car purchases and communications-system design, management decisions. Management is skill based. Management skill sets almost always differ from operational-level skills.  The anonymous sources appear to be free of police management experience but anxious to share their opinions about it. This is so common that it has a name.

Them as can, do  . . .can't -- just criticize

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias -- unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority. They mistakenly rate their ability much higher than it is. This bias results from a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their deficiencies

When they study the field and become informed they become less sure of the superiority of their opinions.

Why would folks pontificate about something before they understand it?

One possibility is that they just crave attention. That hypothesis is supported by a count of citizen comments in two Council meetings:

Three people each spoke either five or six times and three others spoke four times. Each speaker offered their expertise to the Council on at least four different subjects. One evaluated a traffic engineer’s work. It’s hard to believe that such broad professional expertise resides in six residents.

Beyond the Council's "talons"

As a matter of interest, the article also mentions that most local departments have to work hard to recruit qualified police officers right now. That’s true as far away as Florida (which isn't affected by our City Council at all) (Hollywood FL):

“Nineteen officers plan to trade in their Hollywood badges to take jobs with the Broward Sheriff's Office . . . (some of the officers expressed) outrage over pay cuts and drastic pension reform. The cuts were made after the city declared financial urgency in 2011. The city  . . . (will) raise the department's starting pay from $42,400 to $50,500.”

Unsupported opinions -- with animosity

Commenters and anonymous sources evaluating outside their areas of expertise might accidentally be right -- occasionally. However, they haven’t the knowledge or skill to reliably formulate a valid solution. If they aren't acknowledged professionals in the area discussed, look for their supporting data. If it’s absent, their comments could be just the Dunning-Kruger effect and personal animosity.

Avoiding simplistic solutions

A few Costa Mesans – like most City Council members -- study the issue, consider different perspectives and try to identify the best solutions. They either have some knowledge about the field, or develop it as they research a question. They rarely offer absolute solutions and almost never impugn the motives of those responsible for solving the problem.

Avoid pitfall "solutions"

Watch out for those who “know the answer,” for they probably don’t even understand the question.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Participate in your rescue

Tips from a street cop apply to the City

No. 1: You Must Be an Active Participant in Your Own Rescue

No, the cavalry isn't going to arrive in time. Police response times are measured in minutes while crimes in progress are measured in seconds. Stopping a crime in progress is highly unlikely, regardless of how many police are on duty at the time. More police available means better investigation and documentation, which will be great when the perpetrator goes to trial.
If you're unemployed don't expect someone else to find you a job. If you don’t like your current situation – change it. If you’re in a bad relationship, break up and move on. No one affects your life more than you do so don’t rely on others to do it for you.

Costa Mesa isn't going to be saved by Sacramento – Sacramento wants to be re-elected, Sacramento wants to please large voting blocks, Sacramento wants to support those who funded their election. 

If Costa Mesa is going to survive Sacramento’s interference, Costa Mesans have to do it. The sooner we cut the apron strings to the capital, the sooner and more likely we'll get results we like.

No. 2: If You Don’t Know, Don’t Go

Never enter a place you don’t know how to escape. If a business or residence catches fire or comes under fire, you need to know how to get out. Find out before you sit down or bounce on the bed. Glance over the area to see if someone looks hinky – you may not remember arresting him or dating his girlfriend – but he will remember.

A charter tells a city how to get from here to there; it can guide us out of trouble and keep us out of trouble; we need a good one. Firm priorities and specific procedures will get us out safely when the economy goes south.

Watch out for self-appointed leaders and appointed czars; they may block change. They may thwart escape from escalating debt or higher prices.

No. 3: When in Doubt—There Is No Doubt

Street experience hones the danger sense, but everyone has a “sixth sense” that tells them something isn't right. If you get the “I-should-leave” feeling, leave. Too many people tell themselves they’re prejudiced or silly – and get seriously injured. Sometimes bad guys look like bad guys – or sound like bad guys – or just seem bad. There’s no harm in leaving. Of all the people in the world to trust, you should be first on the list.

Costa Mesa government has made mistakes – some causing us a lot of debt Associations/unions, Sacramento legislators, and the CM4OE* say that fear of City financial failure is silly. They cite it as evidence of prejudice against labor unions.

There’s no harm in leaving the relationships that caused the debt. We don't want to wait until we have to cut services or seek bankruptcy protection.

There’s no harm in changing the relationships before we're hurt much worse.