Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Occam's Razor and the Bald Mezzo-Soprano from Alaska

The explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory.
--Occam’s razor, Wikipedia


Or as they say where I come from: KISS—Keep it simple, stupid. Why? Because the truth is invariably far more banal and obvious than you could have imagined.

Ms. Jill St. John. The story is, she has
an IQ of something like 162. Of
course, she is also rumoured to
have dated Henry Kissinger back
in the day--so who knows.
On July 13 2009, the NY Times ran an article about Governor Palin’s resignation (Palin’s Long March to a Short Notice Resignation). While containing a few more specifics, the article still focused on the usual suspects: Governor Palin shoots self in foot via her own poor choices, followed by her blaming a vast left-wing conspiracy (cough cough) for all her troubles. 

So, if we strop Occam’s razor, cutting out all the unnecessary assumptions, would that shed light on why Governor Palin suddenly resigned on July 3? In the immortal words of Gene Autry: yes. 

What theories do the bare facts eliminate? Two, for starters. 

First, it wasn’t Samsara Samizdat (and the rest of the Bad Dudes of the Blogosphere) dropping the ethic complaint dime that pushed Governor Palin into private life. Second, it wasn’t Governor Palin’s fear of exposure that the contractors who built the Wasilla Sports Complex also built some part (if not all) of her house for free that motivated her resignation (Fox Mulder’s poster says I WANT TO BELIEVE, and has a UFO on it; mine says I WANT TO BELIEVE—and has a picture of Governor Palin’s house). No, after shaving off all the exciting bits from the right & left, we’re left with the same boring truth that we always suspected: it was the money (and not Governor Palin’s money) that pushed her out of La Maison Governor. 

But What About the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy?

To hear Governor Palin tell it (and she is not shy about telling it), BB King was thinking about the angst of Poor Sarah’s plight, when he wrote “No one loves me but my mother—and she could be jiving too.” The July 13 NY Times article quotes Governor Palin complaining that after she was selected to be Senator McCain’s running mate, “hordes of opposition researchers came up here digging for dirt for political reasons, making crap up.” How evil were these hordes? “We spent most of our day, my staff, a lot of the members of the Department of Law and myself, dealing with things that have nothing to do with policy or governance,” Governor Palin complains, “It has to do with setting the record straight in this game that’s being played right now.”

Ms. Mamie Van Doren. Proving you
are not a quitter by by quitting your
job is as silly as being a placekicker
wearing....oh, nevermind.
No, it doesn’t. With information from the Anchorage Daily News, I did a point by point breakdown of the nineteen ethics complaintsthat Governor Palin insists are the bane of her existence. Are they a nuisance? Sure. Maybe even a major pain in the ass. But are they any different from what America’s other 49 state governors face? Not even vaguely. Moreover, most Governors have much bigger concerns taking up their time. If Governor Palin and her staff had to spend “most of [their] day” dealing with those piddling complaints, then the Alaska Governor has much bigger managerial concerns (besides who all is assigned to worry about the Unrepresentative Elitist Liberal Eastern Media Establishment (the UELEME), currently infiltrating the blogosphere).

Moreover, in Governor Palin is just blowing smoke in her faux outrage over how the cost of these complaints was robbing the Alaska taxpayers blind--and she knows it. The Governor is very loose with her figures, but just for poops and giggles, let’s call it an even million dollars has been “wasted” in ethics complaints. Or double it: call it TWO MILLION DOLLARS. So what? Why get so excited about that money, when Alaska is facing a $1.35 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2010? As the Good Book teaches us: Why beholdest thou the $2 million USD mote that is in thy Governor’s budget, but considerest not the $1.35 billion USD shortfall beam that is in thine State budget? Or how wilt thou say to thy Legislature: Come pull out the $2 million USD mote out of mine ass; and, behold, ignore the $1.35 billion USD budgetary shortfall beam up everyone else’s butt? (Mathew 7:3-4. Sort of). 

Do Vast INSERT POLITICAL TENDECY HERE-Wing Conspiracies exist? Sure they do. In his book A Vast Conspiracy, The Real Story of the Sex Scandal that Nearly Brought Down a President, Mr. Jeffery Toobin details the history of the Paula Jones case. Ms. Jones frivolous complaint against then Governor Bill Clinton was on the verge of expiring, courtesy of the statute of limitations, when a conservative group recruited lawyers to draft and file the complaint. From there, the Paula Jones group built ties with Independent Counsel Ken Starr, who then pulled together the various threads of claims against the Clintons (Whitewater et al, all of which were created solely to embarrass the Clintons personally and damage his Presidency). 

Not Ms. Shannyn Moore--so don't even
think about singing "Diamonds...daisies
...snowflakes...."
Is there a similar group, targeting Governor Palin? Uh huh. And our leader is That Girl from Homer.

Therefore, Occam’s razor would have us conclude that Governor Palin did not resign because ethics complaints from her “enemies” has made Alaska ungovernable.

But WHAT ABOUT THE HOUSE?

What is especially difficult about hating Governor Palin is trying to keep perspective. She is money, in that you can count on her to always say something stupid, and to take whatever childish brickbat comes her way personally. What do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger would say if David Letterman made a joke about one of the California Governor’s daughters having sex with Alex Rodriguez? Hint: it rhymes with “nothing.” Why? Maybe because Governor Schwarzenegger knows nobody cares when David Letterman cracks wise. Or just maybe, it might be because Governor Arnold has other things on his mind—like the fact California is facing a $53.7 billion USD budget shortfall, which is 58% of the State’s total budget. 

So, separating off the extra-crazy that Governor Palin brings to every interaction is critical to understand what actually is happening to her and Alaska. Once that’s done, then a review of the ethics complaints against Governor Palin shows that she has three problems. 

Mr. Tony Curtis, after being "elected"
Mayor of Universal City. Ms. Mara Corday, (right) is fire marshal, and
Ms. Mamie Van Doran is police chief.
We are unable to confirm rumour that
Curtis later fired Ms. Van Doren for
her refusal to dismiss Mr. Curtis's
ex-brother in law from the police
force.
First, (for reasons that are beyond me), Governor Palin appears wholly unable to grasp the concept that as an elected official, she has an “official capacity,” as opposed to her “personal capacity.” As a private person, “Sarah Palin” can walk around, wearing logos of a size and quantity that would embarrass even your basic NASCAR driver. But as “Governor Palin,” she needs to think about creating even implicit product endorsements—especially when the product at issue is paying for your husband’s snowmobile hobby. Similarly, when you have problems with your family (ie your daughter’s big mouth ex-boyfriend or that jerk state trooper your sister divorced), those are “Sarah Palin’s problems,” NOT the problems of the Alaskan Governor. As they say where I come from, using your official capacity to resolve your personal vendettas is a Bozo No-No. 

Second, Governor Palin has a problem with the truth. For example, in Governor Palin’s July 3 “explanation” of why she resigned, she said that all “fifteen” of the ethics complaints against her had been dismissed: “every one.” She won! Well--no, she didn’t. Both First Husband and Governor Palin were found to have abused their official capacity, by trying to have their ex-brother in law (the state trooper) fired. Second, Governor Palin had to pay back taxes for money she billed the state for per diem expenses, while she stayed at her home in Wasilla. Third, she had to reimburse the state for transportation costs of her children, on trips that were not official state business. Next, some of her staff were ordered to undergo ethics training, following a controversial hiring. Finally, two complaints are still pending. 

I am not the only one to think Governor Palin has a habit of opportunistic shading of the truth. One of the main points in Mr. Todd Purdum’s long (but not particularly revealing) article in Vanity Fair is that Governor Palin loves to shape reality to conform with her own views. If you’re interested, Mr. Purdum’s article gives a few more examples.

Third, I may be going out on a limb here, but Governor Palin really seems to have issues with money. For starters, look at “Clothesgate.” While Pat Nixon may have made “good cloth coats” respectable in political circles, Nancy Reagan wasn’t having any of it. Cost schmost--Nancy Regan was the first lady, and she was going to look good. And for both Nancy and Pat, that was fine. Governor Palin, on the other hand, wanted it both ways: she wanted to wear top end clothing, while at the same time insisting that she was a cloth coat kind of gal.

So what happened? After the GOP provided a reported $150,000 USD wardrobe for Governor Palin and family, Governor Palin looked ridiculous when she insisted that those clothes “belong to the Republican Party.” And that after the campaign, “those clothes will be given to charity.” Or that Governor Palin was powerless in the hands of the McCain campaign: All she ever asked for was a diet Dr. Pepper—but (somehow) wound up with six figures’ worth of high-end clothing. Yeah--I hate when that happens.

Need another example? What other politician in America is going to collect a per diem, while living in their own home, and then become genuinely hurt and upset when someone notices?

Ms. Julie Adams. Not exactly another
Ho Ho Ho, because she is in no way
affiliated with Spenard Building 
Supplies.
Which is why it is so easy for me to believe the contractors who built the Wasilla Sports Complex also built Governor Palin’s home. That, and the fact the Palins’ explanation of how their home was built is transparently idiotic. My point is, though, Governor Palin creates many of her own problems by sticking her hands into too many cookie jars.

So, are these three weaknesses (not understanding the difference between personal and official capacity, a habit of twisting the truth when convenient, and being a little to grabby about money) enough to push a Governor out of office? Maybe—but not this Governor. See The Bob Rule.

Something else pushed Sarah Palin out of office.

Show Me the Money and/or Lack Thereof!

Here’s a joke I just made up: What’s the difference between a great Alaskan governor, and a crappy Alaskan governor? About an eighty dollar drop in the per barrel price of crude oil! [INSERT SOUND OF DRUM RIMSHOT HERE].

Governor Palin famously once said “Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.” Here’s how Alaska is not like a microcosm of America. Alaska has no state sales tax, no state income tax, and minimal property taxes. Where does Alaska get its money? Revenues from oil production, and Playas Uncle Ted and Congressman Don Young bringing home the federal bacon--Alaska style! Thanks to the tireless efforts of Alaska’s federal legislators, Alaska may have been number forty-nine on your program, but it’s number one in your heart—no, not there. I mean a solid number one in per capita pork barrel project dollars—and there is no number two.

Keeping in mind that Alaskans get their money from federal largess and oil, it is easier to understand why Alaskans' love affair with Governor Palin has come apart. In a drama worthy of a SE Hinton novel:

THAT WAS THEN: 
--Oil sold for $140 a barrel.
--The “Permanent Fund” paid out $3269. USD to 610,768 qualifying Alaska residents (almost double the previous year’s payment).
--When Alaska’s corporate (ie oil) tax revenues dropped 32%, there was enough money in the state reserve funds to make up the difference. So no worries!
--Alaska budget was balanced and service levels maintained.
--Governor Palin has an 83% approval rating.

THIS IS NOW:
--The bad news: Oil is now selling at roughly $64 USD a barrel. The good news: That’s up from last winter’s $30 a barrel.
--Alaskan oil production has declined by 64% since 1988, but corresponding price increases more than made up for the losses—until now. 
--With the state reserve funds all spent in last years Permanent Fund Extravaganza, Alaska now has a $1.35 billion USD shortfall, which is 30% of its annual budget.
--Uncle Ted manages to get felony convictions overturned, but meanwhile has lost his seat. More importantly, Alaska’s federal legislators’ ability to dump truckloads of federal money on state is seriously compromised.
--Governor Palin’s approval rating dropped to 55% at the time she resigned. 

Ms. Irish McCalla, taking issue with an
unidentified man, who apparently
was making fun of Ms. McCalla's
persistent high make up to small 
clothing ratio.
Are those problems really insurmountable? Of course not. Sure, putting together a budget without a corporate or personal tax base is tough—but so what? In a July 7 2009 ABC News report of the Ten Most Broke States, Alaska only clocked in at number six. Heck, California Governor Schwarzenegger, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Nevada’s Jim Gibbons, Illinois’s Pat Quinn—in their DREAMS they have Alaska’s problems to contend with. Yeah Alaska, right now it doesn’t look great. But with a little focus and political moxie, there’s no reason why Governor Palin couldn’t make like Jimmy Stewart, saving the Bedford Falls Building & Loan.

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

So, does Governor Palin have the requisite moxie and focus? In the immortal words of Gene Autry: no. To illustrate, look at two recent events in the world of Alaska politics.

First, on April 16 2009, Governor Palin’s nominee for Attorney General, Mr. Wayne Anthony Ross, was rejected by the Alaska legislature on a vote of 35-23. For the first time in Alaska’s history, a cabinet nominee was not confirmed. Where was Governor Palin during this historic vote? Evansville, Indiana, speaking to a large pro-life group.

Example number two: Governor Palin opts to follow the lead of a few GOP Governors, and rejects President Obama’s stimulus package. She announces that Alaska would not accept roughly one third of the $930 million USD that Alaska is entitled to receive—all in the name of greater fiscal prudence. The Alaska Legislature, on the other hand, they opt to join the legislatures of states where GOP governors profess intent not to accept the Stimulus funds i.e. the legislatures all go on to take the money anyway. Without stopping to blink, Alaska’s legislature enacts bills accepting all $930 million USD of the federal stimulus money. Governor Palin then responded by vetoing bills, thus rejecting approximately $28.56 million USD of Alaska’s stimulus, money that was targeted for energy cost relief assistance. As reported in the July 9 Anchorage Daily News, the legislature is pursuing a special session. Several key legislators insist they have the votes (seventy percent is required) to override Governor Palin’s veto.

Regardless of the qualifications (or lack thereof) of Mr. Ross as Attorney General, or merits of rejecting a third of the stimulus package, both examples show a shocking dearth of political savvy on Governor Palin’s part.

Ms. Joi Lansing. The reason lifeguards
are always yelling about "no running"
around swimming pools, is because
sometimes women wearing heels 
want to go swimming.
What do you do when you nominate someone for your cabinet, and that person needs approval by the legislature? Here’s an idea: how about someone from the Governor’s office ASK members of the legislature what they think about the nominee? That way, some time BEFORE the day of the confirmation vote, someone in the Governor’s office will know that more than 50% oppose the nomination. Once this little gem of intelligence comes to light, the Governor has one of two options: either the Governor starts doing serious arm twisting, or (what is more likely) the Governor’s nominee will announce they have changed their mind about a cabinet position—because (cough cough) they want to spend more time with the family. 

But say there is some good reason to push the nomination forward, to the point of losing a floor for the time first time in Alaska history. Where should a good Governor be? SURVEY SAYS: there in the Statehouse building, doing last minute arm twisting, praising the nominee and denouncing all who vote against this fine person. I’ll give President George W. Bush this much: he stood tall beside his incompetent underlings—no matter how big a moron those underlings were. 

The fact Governor Palin was in Indiana (and not Juneau), that sends the message that the Governor doesn’t care if her nominee is approved. And if the Governor doesn’t care, why should anyone not named Wayne Anthony Ross care?

Second, given that Alaska Needs Money (just like Mars Needs Women), what possible rationale could justify (from the parochial perspective of Alaskans) not accepting federal money? And even if there is such a rationale, why would you start talking about rejecting $300 million USD, then turn down only $28.56 million, when even that rejection is a good bet to be tossed out on a veto override?

Finally, Governor Palin’s July 3rd manifesto about saving Alaskans the “$2 million USD” lost in ethics complaint investigation becomes even more meaningless, when with the stroke of a pen, she is trying to cost Alaskans (at a minimum) fourteen times that amount.

The bottom line is after Governor Palin’s political posturing on the stimulus package, and the fiasco over her choce for Attorney General, she ultimately comes across as 1) a loser, or 2) an idiot, or 3) both.

The Bald Mezzo-Soprano

So, once we have cut away the assumptions based on wild rhetoric (from Governor Palin) and wishful schadenfreude (from me about investigations on la casa Palin), what are we left with? Alaska is facing big problems, and Governor Palin has demonstrated (for whatever reason) a repeated inability to competently address even small problems. 

Using the principle of Occam’s razor then, it’s only natural that Governor Palin would resign, to protect Alaska (and her dwindling reputation) from her own incompetence.
Ms. Faye Dunaway. Didn't I tell you not to ask me about who paid for or built my house?

Razor be damned. Me and Fox: WE WANT TO BELIEVE! Who built and paid for Governor Palin’s home in Wasilla? Inquiring minds want to know. Plus, inquiring minds also love nothing more than to re-publicate defamatory material without answering to it in a court of law or being responsible for the abuse of right to free speech under the Alaska Constitution and continuing to publish falsehoods of criminal activity recklessly without any regard for the truth which some people threaten as being actionable

But we digress.

Ms. Ruth Bennett contributed to the writing of this article, but only on the condition that her efforts would not be recognized. She is receiving recognition though, because of her unusually snarky attitude while contributing.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, an article from a self-proclaimed fascist socialist. You must love what's happening in America right now. This is the same thing that happened in Germany in the 1920s with the rise of Hitler. Look how well that turned out. We'd all be speaking German right now, if it were not for America and her free men & women standing up. People like you should be shuttled out of the U.S.A. for your poisoning of American youth with your fascist ideas.
To hell with socialism, fascism. To hell with anyone who wills to take another man's freedom and the products of his work. I hope we have an uprising to stop jerks like you usurping your wreched ideologies upon free people.

Lance Boyle said...

Hi Bill, just to remind us all: President Obama won the election 365-173. Democrats hold the Senate 59-40. Democrats hold the House of Representatives 256-178.

I believe that the American people have spoken loud and clear!