Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A Troubling Lack of Self-Objectivity

Very few legislators craft the bills that they sponsor. The ideas in the bills are usually not their own. Instead, think tanks or similar associations funded by various interests generate support for issues and help craft (or completely write) bills. The idea of concerned citizens sitting down with "their" representative and explaining some problem they have which is addressed by the legislator then crafting a bill themselves is a rare thing (some of us hope to change that). ALEC is the most prominent national example. But there are state versions of these things too, and this story concerns two of the biggest on what is considered "the right" in Arkansas, and some of the biggest names.

Dan Greenberg runs "Advance Arkansas" which is a think-tank for Arkansas public policy that focuses on economic freedom issues. Mr. Greenberg also writes for and runs the website "The Arkansas Project", which gives political voice and commentary on many issues related to those that Advance Arkansas is for or against. In other words, these operations are Dan Greenburg's instruments for advancing public policy as he sees fit. Joe Maynard and Brenda-Vassaur-Taylor run an outfit called Conduit for Commerce which is much like Advance Arkansas. They too have an associated organization which gives political commentary on issues relevant to their think tank- Conduit for Action. The Paul Harrell Program, on which I have sometimes been a guest, is a part of that commentary effort.

Up until a couple of years ago, Conduit and AA worked together on certain things. And when I mean "together" part of what I mean is that the founders of Conduit paid Mr. Greenberg and AA to produce material. That was as recently as 2015. I did not have to FOIA anyone for this interesting tidbit- Mrs. Vassaur-Taylor told me they paid Mr. Greenberg $20,000 to do a legislative scorecard in 2013. That is a heck of a lot of money for a scorecard.

They were not completely satisfied with his work- for example he refused to weight bills. That meant that a bill which spent a billion dollars to restrict our freedom in a big way may get a "-1", and a  largely symbolic bill which saved us $52 could get a "+1". Using that scoring system a legislator could make up for voting for Obamacare in Arkansas by voting for the second bill. They thought that a more fair method would be to subtract more for a bill that was not only negative, but negative over a broad area in a big way. Sounds reasonable to me. They also, at some point, wound up splitting with him over his approach to "tort reform".

At any rate, they recently issued their own scorecard and did it their own way. They were not paying Dan Greenberg anymore. They were not going along with Dan Greenberg on the approach he had (which was basically the nursing-home industry's approach) on tort reform. Dan Greenberg then co-wrote an extremely critical article slamming Conduit's scorecard for their alleged poor methodology and lack of transparency. He failed to mention that a few years before they were paying him a very substantial amount of money to do a scorecard. He failed to mention that they were basically now a competitor for credibility in the niche market of those who care about economic freedom issues. He failed to mention some other very glaring conflicts of interest which I will document in short order.

It is ironic that he did not disclose any of those potential conflicts because the main thing he slammed them on was "transparency".  He said concerning the negative scores of some legislators "nobody has any idea what it means, really, because Conduit’s methodology is completely invisible". Well, some of the details were invisible, but a lot of the main criteria were easily visible, or at least discernible. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what a negative score meant. He said it was "pointless" to rely on the scores in their ranking system. Also "As it stands now, we don’t see much difference between Conduit’s rankings and the random results that you’d get if you called each legislator’s name and then picked a number out of a bingo basket."

I really thought that went too far. I thought he was just bad-mouthing the competition, and very oriented to the nursing-home industry's idea of tort reform for biased reasons. So I went on the radio and said so.

I followed that up with an article, and we went through a dreary session of comments back and forth. I admit that I did not understand the scale of the scoring correctly, but after talking with Vassaur-Taylor I had almost everything about the methodology right. I don't need to know the scale in order to obtain relative values. If you understand the basis of a process having a total grasp of the minutia of the process is not essential to obtaining value from it. But if you want to know how Dan Greenberg works, it is like this: He finds some area where we do not have perfect knowledge or something is said with less than perfect precision, then he greatly exaggerates the significance of that uncertainty or imprecision. He acts as if it invalidates everything you are saying and establishes everything he is saying. That's his m.o.

For an example, his strong statements about how useless conduit's ratings system was were hinged in part on the argument that a few committee votes were counted in the scoring, so that not all legislators had the chance to participate in every vote. He put it like this...
"If we told some legislators to run a hundred-yard dash and other legislators to run a marathon, and we gave them all one score that was based on how long it took for each one to cross the finish line, even a child could see that just judging them all on this one statistic would be unfair. Everybody has to be judged by the same yardstick – if we’re going to give everyone one meaningful rating. "
The truth is they got ranked on 30 floor votes and three committee votes in the senate. Not all of them had a chance to vote on the three committee votes (for good or bad) but that hardly amounts to the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon. It does not invalidate the rankings, particularly when comparing two legislators who were not on those committees, or were both on them, or who had a wide gap in their scores. Any lack of precision on the rankings from the decision was compensated for by the increased usefulness of using key committee votes as a rating of overall value, IMHO. Comparing that to the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon is hyperbole but this is what Dan Greenberg does. He finds some minor lack of precision and blows it all out of proportion and acts like this distinction (that does not really make much of a difference) is somehow disqualifying. He nitpicks the lack of perfect transparency in others, but exempts himself from anywhere near that same amount of scrutiny.

He then wrote a second piece on Conduit's scorecard controversy, the tone of which made it sound like Conduit started the fight when in fact he did. I am going to give an extended quote from that one so that you can marvel at how this guy operates....
Instead, she replied “Dan is paid by the people who want the tort reform bill passed, and his wife does work for the nursing home association PACs, and that is what it is. And so he has an interest in writing an article like that.” 
Now, I am sure that Brenda knows perfectly well that none of that is true. I am paid – indirectly, I guess – by hundreds of AAI donors, some of whom support tort reform and some of whom don’t. (I admit that, in the past, I have helped draft some proposed tort reform amendments, and I was honored to do so.) My wife doesn’t work for any political action committees at all. My position on tort reform hasn’t changed; every two years, we publish our Action Plan for Arkansas; in 2013, 2015, and 2017 we published almost identical tort reform recommendations in that book. In fact, before its recent move to the left on tort reform, Conduit cosponsored the 2015 edition of our book that contained our tort reform recommendations.
This is a carefully crafted statement worthy of Slick Willy Bill Clinton himself. First, he says he is paid by "hundreds of AAI donors" with various views on the issue- implying that he is not paid by those specifically pushing tort "reform". He then says he was honored to "helped draft some proposed tort reform amendments". Does that mean he did a little volunteer work? One might think so from the phrasing. But it turns out that "honor" was not his only reward. He got paid almost $30,000 by the sponsors. Maybe more, that is just what I can find. Yep. Here is a picture from one of the filings for the group pushing the amendment that was struck down by the courts for confusing or deceptive title language late in is their expenses and it shows Dan Greenberg gets over $18,000 in that reporting period alone...

click to get larger view
Also, he didn't just "help draft" the proposed amendments. He was their lead attorney! Here is shot from a letter from the Attorney General concerning the proposed amendment. It is addressed to him!
click to get larger view

And who is this group? Well I will put their donors list from that same report below this paragraph. They are interests associated with assisted care facilities- old folks homes. These are the people behind the so-called "tort reform". Compare that to his statement in red above, which strongly implies that he was not being paid by tort reform interests but small donors from AAI with various views on the matter. You see what Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky did was not technically sexual "relations" so Bad Boy Bill was telling the "truth". And when Greenberg tells you that his money from AAI is not from the industry he may also be telling you the truth- because they give the Greenbergs money outside of AAI.
In that statement in red Dan Greenberg just says "my wife does not work for a PAC" and leaves it there as if it was a ridiculous lie made up from whole cloth by Brenda Vassaur-Taylor. This is exactly what I said about his M.O. He takes the slightest imprecision in communication and makes it seem like either nothing is there or it proves everything, depending on what he wants at the time. It is like Bill Clinton saying "it depends on what the meaning of is is." Greenberg's wife does not work for a PAC, but the firm she works for (AHCA) has several PACS. It also represents 93% of the assisted living facilities in this state. They employ a number of lobbyists as well as having their own. Here is a pic from their website describing her duties...(correction/clarefication, both of these things, the picture and the description, are under the "About" tab of their website, but the description of  their mission is not next to her picture on the site).
click on image to get a larger view

According to that part of her job is to go before government agencies and provide information on behalf of the clients they represent- which includes almost all assisted care facilities in this state. (Editor's Note: Dan Greenberg says his wife cannot legally go before government agencies herself as she is still subject to a lobbying ban. So perhaps that screen shot from her own company's web site means that she is doing the research and preparing the reports that their people deliver to government entities and that she does not deliver or appear before them directly.) That same circle of people were the donors to the so-called "tort reform" amendment that Greenberg was the lead attorney for. So he has made money from them, and she is making money from them. For all we know he still could be, because for a guy who demands total transparency from others he sure seems reluctant to disclose potential conflicts of interest from himself. Both Greenbergs have made money from the people on the opposite side from Conduit on this particular mutated view of tort reform.

This is not Conduit picking on a wife who has no skin in this game. This is like a miniature version of Bill and Hillary Clinton where they are both making money from the same people and it is connected to what they are advocating for in terms of public policy. The idea that he can just brush off the suggestion that he should disclose that he has a potential conflict of interest here is outrageous. He should have disclosed. Especially if he demands transparency of others.

Not only that, Greenberg is still at it. He put up an article today singing the praises of his version of tort reform. Earlier his site put up an article which chastised a Democrat-Gazette reporter for her coverage of what his site called the "non-scandal" associated with nursing home owner Micheal Morton! I think you would have a hard time finding someone in this state to write defenses of Micheal Morton unless they (or their boss) are paid by or related to Micheal Morton.

I absolutely don't think Dan Greenberg is in position to be neutral on this issue and he is not being neutral on it. Further, he refuses to disclose, or maybe even see, how compromised his position is on it. He and his wife are serving as agents of nursing home interests. She is at least doing it openly because she works directly for a firm which counts them as clients. He is peddling his advocacy as neutral public policy.

Though the amendment he drafted was thrown off the ballot for deceptive/confusing language, the vast influence of this lobby has given us SJR8- which should be on your ballot next year. It is a referred ballot amendment from the legislature and it has a lot in common with the one Greenberg helped write. That is, it is bad tort reform as opposed to good tort reform. To understand why it is bad tort reform, here is an audio of me on the Paul Harrell Program talking about it.

I don't say to put your trust in any group, Conduit or Advance Arkansas. We all go astray and we all need correction from time to time. Some of us know that, others insist on very high standards for others while oblivious to their own failings. It is not falling into error that I object to the most, its the troubling lack of self-objectivity.


Blogger Unknown said...

To review the bidding: a few weeks ago, the Arkansas Project supplied some criticisms of Conduit for Commerce’s legislative rankings. Conduit and others responded; notably, those responses typically did not respond to the methodological criticisms we made. Instead, the criticisms leveled at us were largely (a) personal, (b) irrelevant to legislative rankings, and (c) groundless. Mark Moore’s newest post continues this regrettable tradition.

Contrary to Mark’s accusations: I have never been paid anything by Conduit for Commerce, any other Conduit organization, or Joe Maynard or Brenda Vassaur-Taylor. The Advance Arkansas Institute has never been paid anything in order “to do a legislative scorecard”; we never do contract research. What we do is accept grants from sponsors in order to produce projects; notably, the sponsor has no editorial control over such projects. We always disclose sponsorships. That is very different from being “paid to produce material” or “paid … to do a legislative scorecard,” because Mark’s language implies that the payor gets to determine the product. I think it is likely that Mark believes that this is yet more lawyer talk that rests on an unimportant distinction. If so, he is incorrect.

Mark continues to repeat the falsehood that I haven’t disclosed Conduit’s sponsorship. In fact, Conduit’s sponsorship is repeatedly mentioned throughout the 48-page report that he references; its logo is on the front and back cover, for goodness’s sake. (Naturally, Mark doesn’t link to the report he criticizes, perhaps because that would made Mark’s inaccuracies more obvious.) I want to add that I appreciate Mark’s suggestion, in all its characteristic lunacy, that our writers are obliged to disclose AAI’s entire history with Conduit whenever we mention them. This is an unworkable standard.

Mark then continues to attack my wife, suggesting that I am pretending that the accusation he makes against us amounts to a “ridiculous lie.” Well, there is no pretense: the fact is that many of Mark’s accusations are ridiculous lies. Here is one of them: Mark’s accusation that my wife is lobbying — and that her job is to “go before government agencies and provide information on behalf of … clients” — is a ridiculous lie. She is prohibited from doing all that stuff because she is a former government employee who is subject to a lobbying ban. Mark has therefore accused her of committing a criminal act — which is, again, a ridiculous lie. Again, Mark probably thinks that all this lawyer stuff rests on a distinction without a difference. Again, he is incorrect.

8:06 AM, July 08, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mark also argues that I have attempted to conceal the fact that, in the past, I have been paid for my work as an attorney. This is yet another ridiculous lie. (Mark is the only person in the world who believes that when a lawyer says that he was pleased to help a client, we know that what the lawyer is really saying is that he has worked for free.) Those of us who live in the real world know that I have never tried to hide that I have been compensated for my work — it would be stupid to try to hide this, given that it is disclosed on a variety of public documents (Mark, God bless him, managed to find two of them on the Internet all by himself). But as adept as Mark Moore is at Internet searches, he is inept at understanding the meaning of what he finds. Many who lack Mark Moore’s eccentric understanding of conflict-of-interest requirements are nonetheless aware that public-record documents in government registries that are placed on the Internet — that are expressly designed to create transparency — are perfect examples of that phenomenon that is so mysterious to Mark, but that is known to the rest of us as “disclosure.” I worked for the state GOP in 2002; that doesn’t create a conflict of interest for me or make the Advance Arkansas Institute a partisan organization. I represented — on a paid basis — several objectors to class actions a few years ago; that doesn’t create a conflict of interest for me or require me to disclose this every time I write about class actions. If I wanted to argue the way Mark does, I would point out that Mark’s brother-in-law was hired by Gov. Hutchinson, and therefore Mark is behaving unethically when he fails to disclose that history in his many posts that mention Gov. Hutchinson; of course, that would be a really stupid argument, and unlike Mark I feel obliged not to make really stupid arguments. To sum up, Mark continues to demonstrate that he simply doesn’t understand what a conflict of interest is: for him, it’s just a term of abuse that he throws around. Mark’s interest in disclosure is suspiciously selective, of course: his latest fallback position is that Conduit’s secrecy is justified because a mean person like me obviously isn’t really interested in the truth, but rather in attacking and misrepresenting Conduit. That isn’t a serious argument. It’s just raw bigotry — and, sadly, Mark Moore can’t tell the difference.

8:11 AM, July 08, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

I doubt I can remember all the ridiculous lies that Mark has manufactured over the past few weeks, but here are a few. Mark has charged that my salary from AAI depends on my criticizing Conduit. When I demonstrated that this ridiculous lie had no basis in reality, he switched positions: first he charged that I had a conflict of interest when I criticized Conduit, then he charged that I had a conflict of interest when I complimented Conduit’s work. (Note that these two things surely cannot both be true.) Now he is charging that any income I receive demonstrates that any organization I am associated with somehow has a conflict of interest. He’ll say anything; that is because he does not understand, or pretends not to understand, what a conflict of interest is. This is related to another failure of reading comprehension of Mark’s — his straw-man argument that I believe that I do not have the responsibility to disclose possible conflicts of interest. This is of course another of Mark Moore’s ridiculous lies: of course I believe I have the duty to disclose possible conflicts of interest (and, of course, I have done so). Mark is skilled at detecting imaginary conflicts of interest that do not actually exist, but those of us who live in the real world are not obliged to pretend that our world has any relation to Mark Moore’s rich fantasy life. (Notably, my and AAI’s work in favor of tort reform long predates any association with my private legal work on it; unlike Conduit, my position has never changed on tort reform. Naturally, when these facts are placed in front of the Sherlock Holmes of Pea Ridge, he somehow deduces that Conduit’s methodological secrecy and its change of position on tort reform deserve his idolatrous faith — while simultaneously explaining that we should not put our trust in any group! — but that my consistency on tort reform somehow demonstrates that I’m the one who is ensnared by conflicts. Oy.) It’s all of a piece with Mark’s ridiculous lie that I am pretending to be a source of “neutral public policy.” Of course I have never pretended to be a source of neutral public policy: I am, in fact, biased in favor of traditional limited-government values. Mark’s many inaccuracies don’t inform anyone about the rest of the world, but they certainly tell us a lot about Mark.

In short, Mark charged that I had “several glaring conflicts of interest” that I hadn’t disclosed. In fact, I had already disclosed everything Mark identified, and nothing he identified constituted a conflict of interest.

Those are the large errors — I don’t have the time or the inclination to go through and correct all of Mark’s small errors (but, really, Mark, when you’re going to criticize people and organizations, you need to try harder to spell their names right). Certainly, I have made my share of mistakes. One of them is that I have, in the past, given insufficient attention to Mark’s unique blend of factual errors, malice, and religious bigotry. Mark has explained that it is “obvious” to him that I should not be treated as a person who seeks the truth, but as a malevolent force motivated only to attack others. Perhaps Mark really doesn't understand the difference between this kind of depersonalization and ordinary political disagreement, but I certainly do.

8:12 AM, July 08, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

"I think it is likely that Mark believes that this is yet more lawyer talk that rests on an unimportant distinction. If so, he is incorrect."

Yes, I do believe that with respect to this issue. Let me explain why for our fair-minded readers. My phrase "paid to do a scorecard" is a general phrase which could include hiring Advance Arkansas as an employee to make one, or giving them a grant to make one, sponsorship. or some other idea of providing money to someone so that they can perform a task.

Dan says it was a grant/sponsorship. OK fine. That distinction does not in the least change the basis for my objection- Dan's failure to disclose (in his articles attacking Conduit) that a few years previous they had paid him $20,000 to do a scorecard (by means of grant/sponsorship Dan will have you know). Now if I was criticizing Dan for saying "you should have done the scorecard how they wanted you to because they were paying you to do it" THEN Dan might have a valid point. That is, the distinction between "getting paid" as an employee vs. getting paid via a grant is a distinction with a difference on that question. It is true that in that circumstance that the grantee normally still has editorial control of the product But that is not the question at issue.

Here is the issue: I just think its important when Dan is critical of someone for the poor quality of their work that He informs people that recently they were paying HIM to do that work. That way readers can understand that Dan has a potential conflict of interest- when they were paying Dan to do "A" they were rosy, now that they are not paying Dan to do "A" the way they do "A" is now about worthless according to Dan.

11:48 AM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Mark also argues that I have attempted to conceal the fact that, in the past, I have been paid for my work as an attorney. This is yet another ridiculous lie. (Mark is the only person in the world who believes that when a lawyer says that he was pleased to help a client, we know that what the lawyer is really saying is that he has worked for free.)

No sir. I said you failed to disclose that you were paid at least $28,000 by those pushing this obscene version of tort "reform" that is straight outta fight club. That is not quite the same thing as "attempting to conceal." I don't accuse you of shredding documents, pulling things off the internet, attempting to silence witnesses or any efforts to actively conceal. What I said was you failed to disclose several conflicts of interests which you should have disclosed to your readers . And you did fail to disclose. Not at any point in your life mind you, but in your articles attacking Conduit and defending yourself from their accusation that you were biased for financial reasons on Tort "Reform".

You seem to want people to believe that since the information of your conflicts is available to those who do the right internet searches from prior years of your life that you have no ethical obligation to let your readers know about them. That the fact you did them publicly at the time was disclosure enough. That is not the way its done by the rest of us. When the guys on CNBC comment on stocks in a report, if they own the stock they say so right there in that report. They don't assume people know just because there is a record of it somewhere.

Also, in your article, you never said they were a "client", much less a paid one. The phrasing you used left open the idea that you were doing pro bono work for a cause you believed in. I am just describing the behavior here.

12:07 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Again, this could confuse people, and I think that is what you are counting on, because most of us have a standard for disclosure which means we say IN THE REPORT that we have a financial connection to the subject matter we are opining on. Yes I am sure your scorecard from 2013 says that Conduit was a co-sponsor. But you did not say that in your original article slamming their methodology on their 2017 scorecard. You "disclosed" it in 2013 when you did the scorecard and they gave you a pile of money for that purpose. Readers of your 2017 article slamming their scorecard had no idea that they once paid you for the same service unless they happen to think back. You are saying I should have linked to your scorecard, heck YOU should have linked to it in one or both of those articles.

Now I want readers to notice that Dan uses the strawman tactic when he says that my standard is that "writers are obliged to disclose AAI’s entire history with Conduit whenever we mention them". He then says that is an unworkable standard and I don't disagree with that, but that was never what I was suggesting. That is just a straw man he built and put my name on it as if that was my position. But I do think that when he slams a rival group (and that is what they are now, competitors for the eyes and ears of Arkansans who care about economic freedom issues) that he ought to mention that in the recent past they were giving HIM MONEY to produce the product that he is very critical of now that they are doing it without paying him money. That is not unworkable, it is the way most legitimate outfits do it on a regular basis. That he is in such a tizzie over it is informative.

12:22 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

the fact is that many of Mark’s accusations are ridiculous lies. Here is one of them: Mark’s accusation that my wife is lobbying — and that her job is to “go before government agencies and provide information on behalf of … clients” — is a ridiculous lie. She is prohibited from doing all that stuff because she is a former government employee who is subject to a lobbying ban. Mark has therefore accused her of committing a criminal act —

What I did was post a screen shot of her from her own company's web site and say "according to that". I invite any fair-minded reader to paste the link below in their browser and see how I could have gotten that idea. I never said SHE was a lobbyist, I said her company HAD them. I did say that based on what I saw in that screen shot she was going before government agencies - I may be wrong about that part. Maybe she just does the research to give to the lobbyists and government agencies and does not deliver the material she produces to them directly. If so I need to include a correction. But just look at what is on her company's site next to her picture and it can easily be seen that if she does not go personally there is not many degrees of separation.

If you don't get your phrasing exactly right, Dan Greenberg accuses you of "ridiculous lies." There is no such thing as being mostly right but missing a detail when Dan wants to hold someone else to absolute perfection while excusing himself from generally accepted standards.

12:35 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

I doubt I can remember all the ridiculous lies that Mark has manufactured over the past few weeks, but here are a few. Mark has charged that my salary from AAI depends on my criticizing Conduit. When I demonstrated that this ridiculous lie had no basis in reality, he switched positions: first he charged that I had a conflict of interest when I criticized Conduit, then he charged that I had a conflict of interest when I complimented Conduit’s work. (Note that these two things surely cannot both be true.)

Well he is ascribing to me positions I never actually held. He just does what Dan does, take some nugget of fact and blows it all out of proportion to mis-represent facts that don't support his case as if it was important to his case. I gave the old Upton Sinclair quote which said "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his NOT understanding it." From that germ of truth Dan claims that I said his salary from AAI depends on him criticizing Conduit. This is a guy who can put on a good front and charm people and has a lot of pull in this state, so I think it is important that people understand just how far he is willing to twist things to get people to believe stuff.

All analogies break down if you take them to a sufficient level of detail and when I made an analogy between the Sinclair quote and the situation between Conduit and AA I only intended to show how he has a motive to think the worst of Conduit, they now being AA's competitors who have ceased issuing him checks. But Dan is looking for any vagueness or imprecision in human communication to accuse both me and Brenda Vassaur-Taylor, and likely you if you get in his way, of telling "ridiculous lies."

I agree that working for the GOP 15 years ago does not create a conflict of interest for Dan, and I never claimed that. Another straw man. I laid out various recent, present, and future sources of income for the Greenbergs did create such a conflict.

12:55 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for informing us that I have ascribed a position to you that you did not hold: namely, that I was incorrect to say that you “charged that my salary from AAI depends on my criticizing Conduit.” Let us go back a few days and look again at what you actually said:

“This is not a question of being smart or dumb. This is a question like that famous Upton Sinclair quote. He said “It’s very difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” So it is in the interest of Dan Greenberg and his salary to not understand how Conduit scores their scorecard, because he runs an organization that puts out a rival scorecard and he wants you to listen to that one … so his salary depends on you not liking and not understanding and not getting anything out of the Commerce scorecard.”

Gee, I wonder how anyone who heard those words might ever have thought you were saying that my salary depended on criticizing Conduit!

Now, I appreciate that Mark will not like the implications of being faced with his own words: namely, that Mark is a blowhard who simply doesn’t care whether what he says on Monday has any relation to what he says on Tuesday. On this question, Mark’s habitual dishonesty has simply gotten the best of him.

(I predict yet another efflorescence of the patented Mark Moore song and dance, though – make ridiculous accusations, get confronted with the fact that the ridiculous accusations are fundamentally inaccurate, explain that your accusations are “mostly right,” draw exquisitely qualified distinctions that undercut the force of your original accusation, and then accuse whoever you disagree with of behaving like a lawyer. Oh, the irony! Or, more precisely: Oh, the troubling lack of self-objectivity!)

4:11 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

And, yes, Mark, when you groundlessly accused my wife of committing actions that constitute criminal conduct, I used your own words to note that you had manufactured a “ridiculous lie.”

And I admit that may be too strong. What is more accurate is that much of what you have written in the last few days (including that) is false and reckless. I don’t know that you’re necessarily lying; what is obviously true, however, is that you don’t give a damn whether what you say is true or false. The connection between what you write – and the truth – is essentially a matter of chance and coincidence.

As I wrote before: Mark charged that I had “several glaring conflicts of interest” that I hadn’t disclosed. In fact, I had already disclosed everything Mark identified, and nothing he identified constituted a conflict of interest.

Nothing Mark has written changes this; nothing that Mark has written gives any weight to his accusations. He simply does not understand what a conflict of interest is; he simply does not understand how disclosure works; and so he emits a lot of steam.

I’ve been an advocate of tort reform long before I helped start up the Advance Arkansas Institute in 2011. I have been paid by AAI since 2011 to (among other things) work on tort reform, and I didn’t develop a conflict of interest when I helped draft a tort reform amendment in 2016, or anytime before or after that. There just is no conflict of interest there – although there has already been plenty of disclosure. Mark’s accusations of “several glaring conflicts of interest” amount to nothing but bigotry and handwaving.

Finally, thank you to Mark for admitting that – in fact – there was disclosure of what you claimed I had not disclosed.

4:12 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

It’s worth noting that this whole imbroglio began when I did what Mark thinks is a terrible thing – namely, I noted that Conduit’s refusal to explain how it derives its rankings makes those rankings essentially useless. Mark got very upset by this; the criticism triggered a set of non sequitur personal attacks on me. (In large part, I fear that is because Mark really cannot understand the distinction between a difference of opinion and a personal attack.) The bottom line is that Mark apparently thinks secrecy is just fine for some people (as long, I guess, as he gets to appear on the secrecy advocates’ radio show). This can be seen by his latest defense of the practice: as Mark has explained, I am a bad person, so therefore Conduit’s secrecy is justified. The question for Mark, when evaluating secrecy, is apparently always: secrecy for whom?

4:14 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Well we are making progress when you can admit that maybe you can get that people can communicate imprecisely and its not always a "ridiculous lie". I hope you are not just doing it because normal people will now see how over-the-top your accusations are.

When I said "you have ascribed to me a position that I did not hold" I am talking about your arguments on the Upton Sinclair quote on both this thread and the other one I published on June 21st. On that thread on July 3rd 2:40 PM you wrote "4. Similarly, the fictions you made up about how my salary depends on competing with Conduit are completely groundless. My salary didn’t drop when I complimented Conduit in the past; my salary didn’t increase when I criticized Conduit more recently. You simply made this up. Your accusations about how I have a conflict of interest that gives me an incentive to criticize Conduit are groundless;"

THAT is what I mean by attributing to me a position I don't hold. Your salary did not drop when you complimented Conduit in the past (when they were giving you grants I might add). It didn't increase when you got onto them recently. And I was not literally claiming either of those things happened. Nor by my saying what I said was I claiming so literal and direct a connection between your articles on Conduit and the amount of money you draw from AAI. Yeah, it sounded like that if you go hyper-literal, but most reasonable people don't take a statement like that as hyper-literal.

What I was trying to get across is that they are now your competitors. In the long run, you are after credibility for the same market- people interested in economic freedom issues. It is true what you say that your salary does not depend on whether you attack or praise them on a day to day basis- but that was not really what I was saying either. It was the meaning that you were putting on my words. And I admit that a very literal reading of them could be construed that way, but all I meant was this- over time your salary will tend to be correlated with you being more credible in the eyes of that market segment than your competitors. That is true of basically any business, and its true here as well. Hence you had a motive, including a financial motive, to bad-mouth your competition, and that is what you did. It was in your interest to oversell the opacity and undersell the utility of their product and that is what you did.

You may think you "got me", but I think most people understand what I was getting at there.

5:53 PM, July 09, 2017  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mark, this isn’t complex. Quit running away from what you said; I boldfaced it above. You don’t have to go “hyper-literal.” You didn’t just argue that I had a “motive.” All of us have plenty of imaginable “motives.” You argued that I had a conflict of interest when I criticized Conduit because I am paid by AAI. That is because you do not understand what a conflict of interest is.

You have a very poor grasp of my motives, I’m afraid, to say nothing of your utter incomprehension of what conflicts of interest are. I assure you that I don’t think of Conduit as my competition, any more than I think of McDonald’s as my competition. I don’t really wish to discuss what Conduit does, but I think it is hard to avoid the conclusion that they supply a very different service than AAI’s. There are other nonprofit organizations that I regularly work with which supply very similar products and services to ours, but I don’t think of them as my competition, either. I am glad to have them around, which is not something that competitors generally say; I would like to see as many people and organizations who advance values of limited and transparent government as possible. I wish there were more of them. My competition is, essentially, people on the left: theirs are the ideas I compete with. When groups supply ideas I like, I am glad to work with them in any way possible. But when groups aren’t really supplying any ideas to policymakers, I reserve the right to point this out. When groups supply bad ideas to policymakers, I reserve the right to criticize them. This isn’t hard.

I appreciate that you think that it informs the public to supply a “scorecard” that consists of nothing more than a page with a number for each legislator in Arkansas, that you believe that the invisibility of the method of calculation deserves your idolatry, and that people who question that invisibility deserve to be responded to with irrelevant, personal attacks. Most people will disagree.

Finally, if you don’t like the “ridiculous lie” coinage, don’t use it. What you said about my wife was a ridiculous lie, and what you said about me having a conflict of interest when I criticize Conduit was a ridiculous lie. Indeed, you have produced a surplus of claims about me that are ridiculous lies. I appreciate that you are not fond of having your ridiculous lies identified. (But I do have a perverse respect for the brass of anyone who not only produces a gigantic post full of nonsense about me – but also suggests that I have violated social norms when I try to correct it!)

7:06 PM, July 09, 2017  

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