Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Framing Narrative’ Category

Lance Armstrong: Victim of Anti-doping Turf War?

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Folks, I’m unhappy that seven-time Tour de France winner and noted cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his titles by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA for short).  There are many stories about this right now; here’s one about a federal judge tossing Lance Armstrong’s suit against the USADA, and here’s another regarding what the USADA did after the lawsuit was tossed.

In addition, the USADA has banned Armstrong, who is a retired American cyclist, for life from all cycling events under its jurisdiction.

However, there’s a bit of a turf war going on.  The International Cycling Union says that it’s the organization that has jurisdiction, not the USADA.  And the ICU wants to know why, exactly, Armstrong should give up his seven Tour de France titles; apparently the USADA has not made its case to them.

My take on this is simple: Armstrong may well have used blood transfusions, but he was and is a cancer survivor.  This may have been a part of his treatment; if so, the USADA should’ve left this alone.  As for the whole notion of Armstrong using EPO, a banned substance, I think it’s been sixteen years since Armstrong first won a title.  He’s a retired competitor.  The USADA should’ve left this alone, too.

See, right now, sports seems to want to tear down its heroes.  Whether it’s Ryan Braun in baseball or Lance Armstrong in cycling, the various anti-doping agencies seem to be on a crusade.  This isn’t necessary.  Worse yet, it causes immense damage that is incredibly hard to fight, even if you’ve made millions upon millions of dollars like Armstrong, had an exceptionally good and lengthy career like Armstrong, and even if you’re able to hire the best lawyers possible.

This is why Armstrong ended up ending his fight against the USADA — it’s incredibly difficult to prove that you are innocent, especially sixteen years after the fact.  Then when you add in the fact that the ICU doesn’t believe the USADA has the proper jurisdiction anyway, it’s obvious why Armstrong decided to end his fight.

To me, the fact that Armstrong has stopped arguing with the USADA does not prove that he used banned substances.  All it proves is that the USADA is on a witch hunt.  And by besmirching Armstrong and his legacy, it apparently feels like it’s doing the right thing — even though 99 out of 100 people would’ve told the USADA to back off years ago, especially considering the fact that Armstrong is a symbol to millions and that Armstrong has retired from competitive cycling.

This is what should be at the bottom of every serious story about Armstrong — the fact that there’s an anti-doping turf war going on — yet because this fact hasn’t been brought up nearly as much as it should, we’re getting all sorts of stories on the Internet about how Armstrong’s legacy has been completely ruined.

Hah!

Once again — the only ruination that’s occurred here is to those fanatics at the USADA, who really should’ve butted out of this one.  Even if they’re right about what Armstrong did (something I find very hard to believe), they’re wrong about how they did it.  And that wrongness is something that needs to end, here and now, before it ends up hurting another competitor who has far less money, energy, or time to fight than Armstrong did — ’cause as bad as these things are for Armstrong, at least he did fight and that shows that he believes himself to be innocent.

All the hand-wringing from well-known sports columnists aside, the fact of the matter is that the ICU thus far has refused to strip Armstrong of his titles just because the USADA threw what amounts to a huge hissy fit.  People need to know this and realize that the way the media has slanted this story has got to end.  (In other words, the narrative framing here is biased against Armstrong and is prejudiced instead in favor of the USADA.)

And I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m far more concerned with what a sports star does on the field — or on the track, as in the case of Armstrong — than whatever little turf war the USADA wants to win at the moment.  (Aren’t you?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

Weird NBA Story: Commissioner Stern Insults Sportscaster Jim Rome During Interview

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Folks, I really don’t understand what the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, David Stern, thought he was doing on Wednesday afternoon, June 13, 2012, but here goes: Stern intentionally insulted sportscaster Jim Rome during Rome’s live call-in, nationally syndicated radio show after Rome asked a perfectly legitimate question regarding the upcoming NBA Draft.  This happened about twelve hours ago, and is all over the news.

Here’s what happened.  According to the Yahoo Sports blog “Ball Don’t Lie,” Rome asked the question everyone’s been asking since the New Orleans Hornets won this year’s NBA “draft lottery,” meaning the Hornets will get to pick first, consequently getting the best player available in the 2012 NBA Draft.  As the Hornets are currently owned by the NBA (and have been since December of 2010), this didn’t look very good.  Rome, being a well-known sportscaster, asked the question in what surely appears to be a rather non-confrontational way.

To wit (as transcribed by Yahoo Sports from the article referenced above):

“You know, New Orleans won the draft lottery, which, of course, produced the usual round of speculation that maybe the lottery was fixed,” Rome said. “I know that you appreciate a good conspiracy theory as much as the next guy — was the fix in for the lottery?”

“Uh, you know, I have two answers for that,” Stern said. “I’ll give you the easy one — no — and a statement: Shame on you for asking.”

“You know, I understand why you would say that to me, and I wanted to preface it by saying it respectfully,” Rome replied. “I think it’s my job to ask, because I think people wonder.”

“No, it’s ridiculous,” Stern answered. “But that’s OK.”

“I know that you think it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think the question is ridiculous, because I know people think that,” Rome said. “I’m not saying that I do, but I think it’s my job to ask you that.”

“Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Stern asked.

Now, this was a truly ridiculous answer, especially as Stern had already said above that the draft lottery wasn’t fixed.   It’s especially dumb because Stern is sixty-nine years of age, an accomplished and learned man, and really shouldn’t have said any such thing, especially because his asinine statement has for the moment eclipsed the NBA’s premiere event — the NBA Finals.

Rome handled this pretty well, as you’re about to see from the transcript:

“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fair,” Rome responded. “I don’t know that that’s fair.”

“Well, why’s that?” Stern asked.

My aside — oh, come off it, Commish!  You’re playing dumb here.  (Or were you having a “senior moment?”)  Whatever you’re doing, it’s wrong.  Cut it out.

Back to the transcript:

“Because I think that there are — and I know you read your emails and I’m sure you follow things virally on Twitter — people really do think it, whether it’s fair or not,” Rome said. “You don’t think the question’s fair to ask if your fans think it?”

Good question.  So, how does Stern answer it?  (Warning: this next exchange is rather lengthy.)

“People think it because people like you ask silly questions,” Stern said.  “I expect it to be written about — and actually, I commented last night in my presser that there was one guy who I won’t dignify by naming who says, ‘I have no reason to know anything, and I don’t know anything, but I tell you, I believe it’s fixed.’ OK, that’s good. Why is that? ‘Well, because this team won.’ And if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also, and if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also. And if every team was invited to have a representative there, and there were four members of the media there, and if Ernst and Young certified it, would you still think it? ‘Yes.’ So, I guess …”

“I think two things, which responds to this,” Rome interjected. “Number one, I don’t think so. I don’t think so — and I’m not covering myself — I don’t think so, and I think by asking the question, it would not suggest I think so. But the one thing I would say: The league does own the team, does it not?”

“… Yes,” Stern said, a question mark at the end of his sentence.

“Does that not make the question fair?” Rome asked.

“I don’t think so,” Stern said. “Number one, we sold it. We’re gonna close this week. We already have established our price. I think that if it had gone to Michael Jordan, which was the next team up with, in terms of a high percentage, they would’ve said, ‘Oh, David’s taking care of his friend Michael.’ And if it had gone to Brooklyn, which is going into Barclay Center, it would have been fair to speculate, I suppose, that we want to take Brooklyn off of the mat. So there was no winning. And people write about it, and it’s OK to write about it, and we sort of expect it, but that’s not a question that I’ve been asked before by a respectable journalist.”

This actually is a logic chain that makes sense.  But why did it take Stern so long to come up with it?  And why did he have to needlessly insult Rome before he got there?

———

Edited to add:

Upon further reflection, it seems that Stern wished to “frame the narrative” by giving a reason that explained why Stern had said something so insulting to Rome.  Notice the slur about “respectable journalists” who supposedly  wouldn’t ask such a question about “rigging the draft” — what was the point of that, especially as Rome had asked a perfectly legitimate question?  (And am I really supposed to think that other sportscasters and journalists hadn’t asked Stern this question before Rome got around to it?  Because I have a hard time buying that, too.)

That’s why, upon further reflection, I don’t think that Stern’s attempt at framing the narrative passes the “smell test,” even with the proviso that Stern’s logic chain regarding the other teams does make sense.

Back to the original blog.

———

From the transcript:

“I think I understand why you’re frustrated by that; I think that I understand why that would upset you,” Rome said. “I would hope that you would not hold that against me.”

“I wouldn’t hold it against you — you know, you and I have been into more contentious discussions than that,” Stern said.

“I don’t know, I’d put that one right up there,” Rome replied.

That’s the understatement of the year.  But Stern was not yet done; check out this next line:

“Well, you know, it’s good copy, and you do things sometimes for cheap thrills,” Stern said.

I don’t know what Stern thought he was doing here, but that just escalated an already tense situation.  And by this time, Rome was obviously getting exasperated:

“I did not do that for a cheap thrill,” Rome answered.

“Well, that’s what it sounds like,” Stern said.

“No, not at all,” Rome answered. “See, that’s where you and I — that’s our point of disconnect. That was not a cheap thrill and I was not throwing anything against the wall, and I was trying to be as respectful as possible. I’m just saying that people wonder about that. And here’s what I don’t want to do — I don’t want to say, ‘Hey commissioner, people would say …’ Because I’m going to ask a direct question. But people do wonder. But that was not a cheap thrill. I got no thrill out of that.”

“Well, it’s a cheap trick,” Stern said.

“No, flopping is a cheap trick,” Rome said.

Good one!  (I get tired of watching NBA players, especially the stars, doing this all the time.  It weakens the game and slows down the action.)  This was an excellent way for Rome to re-direct the conversation back to basketball rather than whatever it was Stern thought he was doing.  But once again, Stern didn’t take the high road:

“Well, no. But listen, you’ve been successful at making a career out of it, and I keep coming on, so …” Stern said.

“Making a career out of what, though, commissioner?” Rome interrupted. “See, I take great offense to that. Making a career of what? Cheap thrills?”

“What offense are you taking? You’re taking offense?” Stern asked.

I really do not buy Stern’s “I didn’t do anything” response here.   Neither did Rome.

“I am. Now I am,” Rome answered. “If you’re saying I’ve made a career out of cheap thrills …”

“… taking on the world, and now Jim Rome is pouting? I love it,” Stern said.

Um, excuse me?  Why do you wish to keep escalating an already bad situation, Mr. Commissioner?  (Especially when this was entirely your own fault.)

Here’s the rest of the transcript:

“I’m not pouting; I take offense,” Rome said. “There’s a difference between pouting and taking offense. I take offense like you took offense to the question. What if I said — were you pouting when I asked the question?”

“What offenses? Do you want to hang up on me?” Stern asked.

“No, I can’t hang up on you, because I’m running out of time — I would never hang up on you,” Rome said.

“OK,” Stern said. “Listen, I’ve got to go call somebody important, like Stephen A. Smith, right now. He’s up next.”

“All right, you go make that call, and I’ll go talk to somebody else, too, I guess,” Rome said.

“All right,” Stern said.

“All right, commissioner. Have a nice day,” Rome said. “I did not hang up on him — we are officially out of time. We will come back and reset that momentarily. Stay tuned.”

As writer Dan Devine of “Ball Don’t Lie” said, Stern should not have done this because Stern is a “grown-ass man.”  Devine also said, earlier in his critique:

Setting aside the moral/ethical/sensitivity argument you might make — “Hey, we probably don’t need to evoke domestic violence during a sports talk radio interview, especially when it’s not one about, y’know, domestic violence” — this wasn’t a loaded question. There most certainly was a way for Stern to answer Rome’s question — which, again, was “Was the fix in for the lottery?” — without in any way implicating the league in any impropriety.

Exactly right. 

This is undoubtedly the strangest sports story in the past ten years or more, because here, we have a commissioner in David Stern who’d rather cause trouble for a sportscaster than talk about his own product — the teams who are playing in the NBA Finals (the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat, to be exact). 

Let me say it again, louder this time: David Stern would rather score cheap shots off Jim Rome than do his job, which is to promote NBA basketball.  Stern shouldn’t behave this way no matter what questions Rome or any other sportscaster asks (even though Rome’s questions were fair), because it’s part of Stern’s job to handle the tough questions.  (Otherwise, why accept the paycheck?)

And if I were an owner of any of the twenty-nine NBA franchises that aren’t owned by the NBA at this time, I’d be furious at Stern and be looking for a way to oust him over this.  Because it’s just not right when a commissioner of a professional sport makes the story all about him, rather than about the players, coaches, or even the owners.

Obvious Takes, Pt. 1: Most Blogs are Opinions

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Folks, I never thought I’d have to write these words, but here they are: most blogs, believe it or not, are opinions.

This is such an obvious thing to talk about, but apparently there are people out there who don’t realize this simple fact.  For example, if you blog specifically about sports, most of what you’re talking about are your opinions about what’s going on in the world of sports.  Ditto for politics (except double that, and then some), current events, and just about everything else.

Yet some people are concerned that the quality of writing on the Internet is so low that it’s leading people to forget this.  Take economist Graeme Maxton, for example.  In his recent book THE END OF PROGRESS: How Modern Economics Has Failed Us, Maxton said on p. 76:

It is not just that much of the information on the Internet is of dubious provenance, it is that much of what is posted as “fact” is actually opinion.

Maxton also goes on to say on p. 77 that:

The Internet is a particular problem.  As well as offering a cozy home for factual mistakes or a platform for those with ill-thought-out opinions, there is the diversion it provides.  Studies’ show that people who read text that is scattered with hyperlinks understand less than those who read the old-fashioned printed word.

Note that Maxton does not directly reference these studies, as there is no endnote available.  He also does not discuss anything specific regarding any actual studies that have been done in this paragraph, though in the next paragraph down he references a book by Nicholas Carr called THE SHALLOWS: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains that discusses the problem of hyperlinks and Web pages.

And, if you read the above-referenced paragraph very carefully, you’ll note that Maxton doesn’t point out the excellent, fact-based and fact-checked blogs that do exist on the Internet; he instead seems to paint all blogs and everything on the ‘net with a broad brush.  While it’s possible Maxton was making the case that fact-based research should not begin and end on the Web due to these limitations (a completely inoffensive statement), he cheapened his argument when he didn’t admit that at least some good, hard-hitting, factually-based articles have been posted on the Web — and that some of these hard-hitting, factually-based articles have certainly been posted on blogs.

So these words by Maxton, while to a certain extent truthful, are also a way for Maxton to frame the narrative.  In this case, Maxton’s narrative is simple: “The Internet is creating a bunch of morons who can’t think for themselves.  Because of that, people who read blogs on the Internet may not realize they’re actually reading opinions, rather than facts.  We must fix this!”

Yet that narrative, while it does contain truth, is also an opinion, is it not?  (And in a hard-bound book, no less.  For shame!)

That said, Maxton’s words remain prescient because there unfortunately are people out there who will read just about anything, then parrot it back without much further thought.  And at least some of those will send material “viral” that may not deserve to be read by many people — or at least may not deserve to be thought of as factual rather than the opinions most blogs truly are (this blog included).

Mind you, most people who read blogs do seem to understand the difference between fact-based commentary (which can and usually does offer an opinion) and opinions.

But just in case you’re one of the people who haven’t figured that out as of yet, consider this lesson #1 in the importance of being overly obvious.  Because when it comes right down to it, most blogs are opinions, folks.  And it shouldn’t take an economist like Graeme Maxton to tell you so, either.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 11, 2012 at 10:39 pm

When Big Brother Goes Wrong: Pair Fired for Affair in AZ

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Recently, a student caught a secretary and a school principal kissing lustily on camera.  The two people, Stephen McClenning and Billie Madewell, are married to other people; worse yet, they kissed on school time.

The student, Myranda Garber, 16, posted the video of the kiss online at YouTube; it’s several minutes long.  Then, outraged condemnation followed — first other students were upset, then parents were inflamed, and then, of course, media outlets glommed on to the scandal, including the UK’s Daily Mail (where I found this article).

The narrative framing here is simple: how dare these two consenting adults kiss on school time?  (With the additional parental framing, to wit: My children saw this on school time?  For shame!)  They’re married!  It’s wrong!  And how disgraceful these two did this, when they should’ve been working!

Now, I put all those exclamation points there for a reason, which is this: the artificial “shock and awe” over two adults over the age of consent having an affair is way overblown.

Here’s the truth about this affair: it was stupid.  It wasn’t morally admirable.  It hurt the two spouses unnecessarily, and no matter how hot these two were and are for each other, it never should’ve happened on school time.

But notice the words I used there — stupid.  Not “morally admirable.”  Hurt.  “(Not) . . . on school time.”

Did you notice which words I didn’t use?  (Hint, hint: anything that says this was a shocking, outrageous thing to happen in the 21st Century, and how dare this happen in front of supposedly-innocent kids, is what I was going for.)

I’m not personally offended by this couple even though I am against married people straying outside their given vows and word.  Instead, I’m far more offended by the fact this 16-year-old student taped these two people kissing without their consent.  I’m also upset that no media source has quoted a parent, or a student, who seems to think this simple act was wrong, even though it was.

Just because “everybody does it” doesn’t make it right. 

In this case, the student was wrong to post a video of these two consenting adults publicly; she had every right to bring it to the school board, she had every right to bring it to her local news outlet, even — but to post a video at YouTube in order to shame these two while ousting them?  That’s not just outrageous — it’s disgraceful. 

That’s why my personal outrage is saved for the “Big Brotherish” aspects of this case.  For example: the student doesn’t feel any remorse; in fact, her mother is upset that the girl has had to have been pulled out of school rather than the fact her daughter was using a cell phone on school time.  Then, consider that neither the parent nor the child seem to feel that posting the video on YouTube was wrong, even though it blew up two families (which, granted, would’ve eventually blown up anyway) and was a blatant invasion of their privacy.

Worse yet, no lawsuits seem to be in the offing, because videos of this nature are now so commonplace that they hardly even get reported on any more (witness the lack of outrage by most United States newspaper outlets if you don’t believe me).

In American culture today, too much of what we used to expect as part of the United States Constitution — our right to privacy, which is codified under the Fourth Amendment — has been violated as a matter of course.  Everyone, seemingly, has a cell phone, and most cell phones have cameras.  People take pictures of everything and post it online, sometimes to make fun of someone doing something that’s minor but odd (such as picking your nose in public), sometimes to make fun of someone for not wearing any underwear (a la Britney Spears).

And no one thinks anything of this anymore, because so many people do it.

But that still doesn’t make it right, which is why I urge you to consider the following questions:

Where has the right to privacy gone? 

And why aren’t more people complaining to get the word out that the erosion of our personal rights must stop forthwith?

Now, all that said, I reiterate that these two lovers definitely should not have kissed on school time.  Getting caught doing that deserved reprimands and possible suspensions for a first offense (which as far as I know, this was); one of the two, probably the secretary as she was the lower-ranked person, should’ve started looking for another job.  (It’s a sad truism that usually the higher-ranked person, who is almost always male, tends to get away scot-free in such cases.)**  

Here’s the upshot: if the principal was a good educator, as he’s been alleged to be, and if the secretary was a good secretary who didn’t make mistakes on the job and actually helped the running of the school (as good secretaries the world over tend to do), they shouldn’t have lost their jobs for one indiscretion — especially as it was an indiscretion that was captured by a student who had a cell phone and felt the world had a right to know what these two people were doing.

And the fact these two lost their jobs over this seems extremely disproportionate, especially as the student, herself, has lost nothing at all.

————–

** Note: I believe that the principal was far more at fault than the secretary; he’s the one in the position of power, and he’s the one who should’ve been fired if anyone was.  Yet the secretary was forced out — this is what I meant by “sad truism” — while the principal was allowed to resign.

This is wrong, as the principal had all the power in that relationship, both personal and professional.

If the school, the parents, etc., were really so outraged, the principal should’ve been fired instead, and the secretary should’ve been allowed to submit her resignation.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Tuesday Election News: Romney Finishes 3rd in Alabama, Mississippi

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Folks, you’re going to hear much in the next 24 to 48 hours about Rick Santorum, because Santorum won both Alabama and Mississippi this evening.  While that is correct, the real news is that Mitt Romney, despite spending an enormous amount of money, finished third in both contests.  (Newt Gingrich finished second.) 

You must keep this very simple fact in mind in upcoming days, because assuredly Santorum and Romney are going to attempt to frame this narrative to benefit themselves. 

The fact is that Romney finished third, which proves that Romney is extremely unpopular with Republican voters.  (This makes me wonder just who’s going to vote for the guy if Romney does, indeed, get to the general election against the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.)  There is absolutely no argument left for Romney to position himself as a moderate except to run on his record — and if he does that, he’s going to alienate even more conservative voters than he already has.

What’s odd about all this is that Romney views himself as an “inevitable” candidate; some of his campaign staff and surrogates have even hinted that Romney believes his candidacy to be “divinely inspired.”  Yet finishing third after spending such a huge amount of money is not the way an “inevitable candidate” is supposed to win, something Gingrich pointed out in his concession speech tonight. 

This points out that, at least for the moment, Gingrich has his pulse on what’s really going on with the Republican voters.  Neither Santorum, nor especially Romney’s people — as Romney did not make a speech this evening at all — are going to say this, but it’s the plain, flat truth: between them, Santorum and Gingrich won over 60% of the vote (closer to 70% in Alabama), and that shows that around 2/3 of the Republican voters in these states really do not want Romney as their nominee

This is the real story: how many people are going out to vote in the Republican primaries and caucuses solely to vote against Romney in some way, shape or form.  Any other story, up to and including the fact that Santorum won (providing he doesn’t acknowledge this “inevitable” point), is nothing less than an incredibly distorted framing of the narrative.

Two Japanese Scientists Invent “Stop Talking” Device

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Two Japanese scientists have invented a device that will make people stop talking in their tracks.  It sounds like science fiction (hence my “SFnal” tag), but it actually is quite a simple thing: human beings cannot handle hearing their voice with a few milliseconds delay while continuing to speak — if this happens, human beings stop talking.  (Psychologists have known this for years.)  Now, these two scientists (Kazutaka Kurihara and Koji Tsukada) have invented a gun that after pointed at a speaker will actually stop someone speaking in his or her tracks without physical discomfort.

Here’s a link:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27620/

The ethical implications of this are appalling, though the scientists believe the use of their invention could be benign; they envision the gun being pointed at people who insist on talking on their cell phones in a library (or perhaps in the office) rather than this gun being used, en masse, to stop peaceful protestors from speaking their minds by the powers that be.

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe this technology is incredibly dangerous.  It has the potential to completely silence dissidents, forever; it makes George Orwell’s restrictive society envisioned in his book 1984 look paltry by comparison.  Because what one group of politicians thinks is “right” and “just” speech would be hated by another group of politicians; this has the potential to cause massive unrest that would be totally unable to ever be relieved, unless this technology is somehow countered.

While this invention was probably going to come about sooner or later, I wish for the sake of humanity that it hadn’t happened now; there are protests going on all over the world in favor of peace and financial equality that could end up being prematurely silenced. 

Worse yet, now that this invention has been made public, every military branch in every country in the world has to want this technology, as it would obviously aid them in their work.  And an unscrupulous country’s military getting this technology before everyone else would be a deadly scenario that even Andrew Krepinevich (he of SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS fame, a book I reviewed a while back at Shiny Book Review) would have reason to fear.

Now that this technology has been made public, my hope is that other scientists will be working on a way to counter, or at least minimize, the damage this technology could easily cause.  What one technology gives, another technology can take away, and in this case, this is definitely a technology I believe should be countered as soon as possible for everyone’s sake.

————

Note: the reason I tagged this with “framing narrative” is because the scientists’ reason for narrative framing is simple: they want to make money off this device, so they’re emphasizing the more benign purposes for which such a device could be used.  My view is much more along the “realpolitik” line — what is such a device likely to be used for, and why?

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Rep. Robin Vos (R) Calls Recalls “Frivolous” Because “They Cost Too Much”

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Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is at it again.

Vos doesn’t like recall elections, even though his own party, the Wisconsin GOP, went after three Democratic state Senators last year — Bob Wirch of Kenosha, Jim Holperin of Conover, and Dave Hansen of Green Bay.  All three easily withstood their recall elections and were retained.  (Maybe Vos only dislikes them because his own party lost when they attempted to unseat these three Democratic Senators.  But I digress.)  He believes they are too expensive, and asked Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board how much it’s going to cost for the election to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch — as that’s a statewide election — mostly because he seems to believe that widely publicizing the estimated cost of the statewide recall election will somehow stop the recall process in its tracks.  Note that the gubernatorial/Lt. Gov. recall election is estimated to cost $9 million according to Wisconsin’s county clerks and the GAB; this cost covers only one election, not with the sure-to-come primary beforehand.  Supposedly, having Kleefisch on the ballot as is usually the case in any gubernatorial/Lt. Gov. election will cost more, something I highly doubt. 

Please see this link for further details:

http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/breaking/vos-million-estimated-recall-cost-for-taxpayers-not-healthy-for/article_02a8d55c-38ad-11e1-bd17-0019bb2963f4.html

Worse yet, in this article, Vos calls the recalls “frivolous,” saying:

“People cannot say this is somehow worth the cost to have these frivolous recalls.  It’s a shame we’ve come to this.”

I have news for Rep. Vos.  He is misusing the word frivolous, which is defined by the Free Dictionary as:

friv·o·lous  (frv-ls)

adj.

1. Unworthy of serious attention; trivial: a frivolous novel.
2. Inappropriately silly: a frivolous purchase.

Note that these recall elections, while they are expensive, have not been undertaken lightly.  It takes a lot of effort to gather 540,000 signatures statewide in two months, which is what is required to recall both Walker and Kleefisch, as that’s 1/4 of the total votes cast for Governor in the 2010 election.  And that effort, by its very definition, is the epitome of seriousness — in other words, Rep. Vos, no one would ever undertake such a grueling effort unless they were quite serious

So the first definition, that of being “unworthy of serious attention,” fails.

But what about the second definition, “inappropriately silly?”  Do these recalls qualify for that definition, either?

No, they do not.  Once again, the recalls may well be wrong in certain lights; certainly, they are in the eyes of Robin Vos.  But one thing they are not is “inappropriately silly,” especially considering Vos’s own party, the GOP, supported the recalls of Holperin, Hansen, and Wirch last summer.  (I guess we’re supposed to have short memories about that, huh?)

The main reason I see for Vos to do this is because it’s the only play the Wisconsin GOP has left, to wit:  stall.  Obfuscate.  Cast aspersions on the people recalling Walker, Kleefisch, state Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), and more — because it’s the only thing the Rs can do, as they’re very well aware that Walker and Kleefisch will be recalled.  They’re also very well aware that Wanggaard will be recalled, and that other senators who are in danger of recall (including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Senator Pam Galloway, R-Wausau) may have to defend their seats as well.

So the way I see it, the only reason Vos is saying and doing all this is because he knows his party will lose these recall elections.  He’s the co-chairman of the Legislature’s finance committee — a very powerful leadership position — yet Vos has to know which way the winds are blowing in Wisconsin.  The GOP’s days are numbered; it’s quite possible that the Wisconsin Assembly (lower house) will go solid blue next year due to the GOP’s overreach.  And Vos’s own seat, which has been a safe Republican haven for at least twenty years, may even be in jeopardy because people are that angry over what the GOP has done.

I’m most unimpressed with Vos on these issues, and believe his logic chain, at best, is suspect.  His understanding of the adjective “frivolous” is flawed.  And he’s crying sour grapes because of how expensive the recalls are, when as Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said here:

 

“The $9 million cost of a statewide recall election is great, but the cost of doing nothing is far greater. This undertaking is the biggest investment in the future of our state and families we can make. 

It would take more than 7 recall elections to equal the cost of Walker’s tax increase on seniors and working families. It would take more than 11 recalls to equal the tuition hike Walker foisted on University of Wisconsin-System students and their families. And Walker’s $2.3 billion in tax giveaways to out-of-state corporations and the super-rich would pay for more than 255 recall elections. Wisconsin simply cannot afford Scott Walker any longer.

At the end of the day, no matter how Scott Walker and his Republican Party try to spin it, the people of Wisconsin called for this election. There is no price tag on democracy.”  (emphasis mine — BC)

Agreed, though they way I’d put it is that Vos’s complaints about how expensive the recall elections will be are an attempted framing of the narrative that should not stand, as it is fundamentally flawed both on its merits and its ethics.

So let’s bring on the recalls already.  Because whether Vos or the Wisconsin GOP likes it or not, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander; if the GOP can undertake recall efforts as they did last summer, they have absolutely no right to complain now.  (Or as I said the other day with regards to Wanggaard’s impending recall election:  “Them’s the breaks.”)

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