Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Amador County Republican Central Committee: Re-Organization and Officer Elections - Thurs Jan 15

The approximately 40 attendees included members of the Amador County Republican Central Committee, Chairman Dennis Revelle of the Placer County Republican Central Committee, Bill and Kathy Mason from the Calaveras County Republicans and Karl Dambacher from the Tuolumne County Republicans. Elected officials Sheriff Martin Ryan and Assessor Jim Rooney spoke about community issues. Dana Jorgenson representing Assemblyman Frank Bigelow and State Senator Tom Berryhill addressed the group. Volunteers who have helped with our activities and precinct work over the past year were honored. Speakers stressed the importance of these holidays and how they contribute to our society. The event culminated with holiday songs sung by Tom and Kitty Harmon with all joining in.
The date of January 15th  was announced for the Committee’s reorganization and officer elections. Amador Republican voters who are interested in becoming members of the Committee are encouraged to attend. Contact Dr. Arnie Zeiderman for further information at arnyzdoc@sbcglobal.net or call 209-223-1308.

Facts vs. Opinions in Citizen Journalism

The Amador Community News website has been a wonderful resource for me, providing useful information about the local area and activities that would not be available elsewhere.

In addition, it provides an opportunity for expression such as blogs. I have read many of the commentaries that have been published in the ACN. They are examples of citizen journalism written by concerned and civic-minded people. I have read them with interest, seeking to be informed about local issues. However, I have found many of them to be full of hyperbole, offering opinions as though they were facts. They seem to be aimed at readers who happen to believe the same way, i.e. “preaching to the choir”. The quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan says it all: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”.

Facts are not partisan. It is difficult to live by that axiom, because articles may include facts that run counter to a reader’s long-held beliefs. They may damage the credibility of people that have been held in high regard. But truth is important.

I believe that the opportunity provided to citizen journalists by the ACN comes with the responsibility to point out what is being presented as fact and what is instead opinion. As obvious as it might seem, a review of their definitions is warranted. I found the following in researching the literature:
  • A fact is something that has actually occurred, or is the case, is verifiable, and synonymous with truth.
  • An opinion is a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective, i.e. based on that which is less than absolutely certain, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts. What distinguishes fact from opinion is that facts are verifiable, i.e. can be objectively proven to have occurred. In casual use, the term opinion may be the result of a person's perspective, understanding, particular feelings, beliefs, and desires. It may refer to unsubstantiated information, in contrast to knowledge and fact.
  • An argument is an opinion that may be supported by facts, although people may draw opposing opinions from the same set of facts. Opinions rarely change without new arguments being presented. It can be reasoned that one opinion is better supported by the facts than another by analyzing the supporting arguments.

Going online to present an argument for or against something or someone is important and protected expression. The important thing: is it a sound argument? Is it a valid argument whose conclusion follows from its premise(s), and the premise(s) of the argument are true?

Opinions that are the result of emotion or interpretation of facts can be typical of citizen journalism. The writer may be basing them upon input received from less than reliable sources that are aimed at an audience only interested in having their prejudices affirmed. Some sources have been accused of providing substantiation that turns out to have been opinion pieces themselves. They are offering an argument for or against something that is not based on facts, but because they are citing a “source” they appear to be providing verification.

On September 30, 2010, First Amendment Day, the University of North Carolina published a post written by law professor William Marshall. Here is an excerpt:

“Our public discourse is wide open, robust, and virtually untamed in its use of language and modes of expression.  The advent of the internet has allowed even marginalized voices to reach out and find sympathetic audiences.  We have the resources, usually at our desk or laptops, to search for truth and gain knowledge about virtually any subject. This is the good news.

“The bad news is that even with all of this unfettered speech and information, we remain a remarkably uninformed society.”

For the reader of blogs, letters to the editor, and the other forms of citizen journalism, I believe that it is essential that a critical eye be cast on their content. Again, does the writer clearly state when he or she is expressing an opinion? If facts are presented, are they verifiable?

In 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government”.  And in contemporary times, educator John Erskine offered this quote: “Opinion is the exercise of the human will which helps us to make a decision without information.”

We shouldn’t shy away from being curious but instead take the time to investigate what we read. Rather than remain inside the bubble where we only read and hear what we agree with, dare to be truly informed.

D. Norman

Monday, December 29, 2014

MokeWISE Public Outreach Meeting - Thurs Jan 8

This is a good opportunity to learn about the Mokelumne watershed stakeholder group and planning for the Mokelumne watershed under this grant from California Dept. of Water Resources. Calaveras County Water District office is only 20 minutes from Jackson.
It's important for people to know what this group has been doing and the plans for finalizing recommendations in June.

Sent by Rich Farrington

Monday, December 15, 2014

"No Casino In Plymouth" Update

As 2014 draws to end we can be grateful for one more year with NO CASINO impacting our community. Although it may seem that not much is going on, in fact our lawsuit to block the Department of the Interior’s actions is progressing, with a response to our Motion for Summary Judgment due next week. We will keep you informed.

The end of the year also is a time to think about taking action to reduce your tax liability by making a charitable donation. We ask that those of you who could benefit consider supporting NCIP through donating to our tax deductible partner, Citizens Equal Rights Foundation.  Any such donation will go 100% towards funding our lawsuit. We have no administrative or fundraising costs, and our legal team includes volunteer and pro bono help as well as our attorney, who has been very generous with his time and hourly rate.
We realize that there are many worthy causes that deserve support and recognize the value of your donations to them. A “Las Vegas” style casino would be a direct and pervasive negative affect on our community. Your contribution to NCIP could make a difference in preserving our local quality of life.

Should you decide to donate please make your check payable to CERF and note on the check it is for the  "NCIP/CERA" suit

Please send your check to:
P. O. Box 82
Plymouth, Ca.  95669

Thank You,
No Casino In Plymouth

P.S.  We are having a major fund raising dinner at Helwig winery on January 31st.  It will be a Surf & Turf Dinner, featuring Prime Rib and Crab. We need your continued support for this event. We are also looking for silent and live auction items.  For more information contact Jon Colburn at email: jonec@att.net

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Letter to the Editor: Response to D. Norman

D. Norman has responded to my last two commentaries on the DEIR for the General Plan. The most salient quality of his response is his totally ignoring the significant points I raised. The documents see the environment, the natural world, as an abstraction disregarding the million or so years of symbiotic human/natural world interaction. All their proposals descend from this premise. This assumption, alone, is a significant impact and if someone disagrees with my interpretation I would like to hear their reasoning as to why. Derived from this assumption is the concept that D. Norman endorses, that of orderly growth. But this concept denies all of human history. If D. Norman believes in this I would like to hear what he bases his conclusion upon. I also stated that the migration measures, which vary from the sensible to the absurd, are raw material for future lawsuits. Again, he gave no direct answer. I stated that there is no cost/benefit analysis given and no regard, in general, to the costs of their mitigation measures. The real cost/benefit is to be decided by the governing body, generally the Board of Supervisors, but this is only a prelude to litigation. The extensive mitigation measures listed are premade for litigation, another factor that eludes D. Norman. Several times I noted contradictory  proposals in the DEIR as examples of ideology overruling common sense and reality. That situation D. Norman chooses to ignore along with those cited above that are the significant impacts upon the activities of human world. He states that I prefer alarm over information, but I am alarmed because the information is alarming.

Rather than respond to the issues I’ve raised, D. Norman enters an attack mode with several weak rhetorical or literary devices. He states that I believe that this document was created “…through their own bureaucratic volition…” I never said that, and he further assumes without any possible knowledge that I have not read the parts of the document justifying its existence. He asserts that I stated that this is a specific plan and not a general plan, and that I don’t understand the difference. But I clearly stated the opposite: that this document is very specific for a general plan. D. Norman instructs me to inform without political content, but what are his two letters? They are entirely political as they should be, since this is a political decision.

He also engages in misrepresentation and word twisting. He seems to think that I am downplaying the extensive preparation and groundwork for this DEIR. But, again, the opposite is true since my ongoing effort is a critique of that elaborate effort. He notes as curious my statement about a welfare office having less of an environmental than a productive facility that employs people as a means to ignore the obvious implications of my statement. He notes that urban sprawl is “without apparent design or plan.”

While I do not advocate sprawl, I am aware that that plan was obvious. It was inexpensive land and in the post war expansion we reached the milestone of the average person being adequately housed for the first time in history. In the same vein he belittles my statement about our regression to the land tenure system of the Middle Ages. I suggest that he go to the website of the Forestry Stewardship Council and other similar organizations and see the obvious.

D. Norman, as with my metaphor about welfare offices, twists my statement and changes the context regarding a possible motel at forest trailheads which would be a nearly impossible convenience under this plan and it’s EIR. He then proceeds to take my direct quotes from the document and states that they are my opinion. This is so incredulous it’s impossible to respond. He then concludes by saying “I have been unable to find any basis for any of these assertions.”   Again, this is not only too incredulous to respond to, but also reveals his technique of criticizing me rather than engage in intelligent discussion of the significant issues I have raised.

He defends the DEIR process by listing organizations involved in the document preparation as if I am unaware of them. I am totally aware that this list includes the Foothill Conservancy and several of their clone groups. The other groups also have specific agendas. No one seems to have represented the ordinary person, the unemployed, the food bank recipient or the apartment dweller trying to buy a home.

D. Norman criticizes me for choosing to print out the document. Of what relevance does this have to the substantive issues I have raised?  He repeatedly states that I don’t understand the EIR process but the only reason he gives is his disagreements with me.  I fully understand the EIR and planning process. I have a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning and have worked in the field off and on throughout my life. My work has been good enough to have been cited in the Congressional Record. I have read more EIR’s and General Plan’s than I care to remember. I have reviewed EIR’s for public agencies and have helped prepare one as a developer. A written statement of mine was accepted by State Supreme Court in an environmental lawsuit. Additionally I have taught environmental issues on the college level and once worked for a former State Legislature Sierra Club lobbyist. I have an in depth knowledge of the issues I am writing about and my criticism stems from that wealth of experience.

D. Norman concludes one of his two letters with the chilling undemocratic assertion that I should not be posted on Amador Community News since I don’t agree with his point of view. That statement of his certainly speaks for itself and reveals his true agenda.

Mark Bennett, Pine Grove