There is much to say about Mr. Fontana’s remarks (in the Sentinel’s April 27 issue), so I will start with his first criticism, i.e., “Mr. Cosentino did not deny Indivisible’s top down model.” I am thankful for the chance to rectify that omission now. Ramona Indivisible is not a top down movement. It is very transparent. Its funding is very simple, it depends on donations, usually small sums of $1 to $5 (of course, anyone can make a large donation at any time, but I don’t think that has happened yet).
Anyone can access their Facebook page online. Everyone is welcome to their meetings (naturally it is assumed that visitors will follow the normal decorum expected at a public meeting).
Mr. Fontana goes on to say, “he did counter, absurdly, that Big Oil and Big Tobacco invented the Tea Party.” A little close reading would show that I never said that, although I did quote Jeff Nesbit and I suggested a possible inference that might arise from what Nesbit said, which is why I posed the questions, “Did the tobacco companies write the script for the tea party?”
Mr. Fontana informs us that “Mr. Nesbit is executive director of Climate Nexus, but doesn’t give us any reason why that is relevant. He then goes on to say that Mr. Nesbit is a prolific author of 19 books, all novels. Fontana says, “which leads on to conclude that his narrative alleging Big Oil and Big Tobacco invented the Tea Party is purely fiction.” An amazing conclusion, but not surprising given that Mr. Fontana starts with an ad hominen attack on Mr. Nesbit.
Mr. Nesbit’s role as executive director of Climate Nexus has nothing to do with Ramona Indivisible, but is intended to bring into question Mr. Nesbit’s trustworthiness, rather than analyze his argument, hence, an ad hominen.
Mr. Nesbit’s book, “Poison Tea,” has 97 footnotes (pp. 221-231) documenting his narrative of 209 pages. When was the last time anyone has seen a novel of similar length with any footnotes? Fontana’s conclusion is fallacious, viz., the evidence doesn’t support the conclusion. To say that since Nesbit’s other 19 books are fiction therefore his next book must be fiction does not follow. One of the most famous English philosophers of the 20th century, Bertrand Russell, wrote more than 50 books of non-fiction and when he finally wrote a book of short stories it was immediately accepted for what it was, i.e., fiction. There wasn’t anyone who concluded that his fiction was really non-fiction, based on the fact that his previous work was non-fiction.
This reminds me of a story that Russell wrote in one of his books on logic. He was discussing cause and effect and said that just because event A has always come before event B in the past, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the next event A will be followed by event B. He gives an example of a man who makes a special sound to call his chicken every night and when the chicken comes he feeds it. This routine goes on every night for weeks, until one night the chicken hears the usual sound and comes running to his owner who immediately grabs him and chops off his head. So it doesn’t follow that the past conjunction of the two events will always hold true for future events.
Mr. Fontana states that “Mr. Cosentino would have you believe that the Koch brothers are the only ones who contribute large sums of money to promote a political agenda.” I didn’t say that nor did I intend to. In fact, I directed the reader to an article in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer. In that article Mayer points out that the Democrats also have big money donors.
Mr. Fontana continues, “What Mr. Cosentino failed to mention is that of the top 10 corporate entities making political contributions, eight of the top 10 contribute exclusively to progressive/liberal causes.” Unfortunately, Mr. Fontana neglected to give us his source for this information. If we assume he is using the Open Secrets listing of top donors, which shows Koch Industries “way down at number 31 in the pecking order,” as Mr. Fontana has it. This is where he says, “Does one sense a bit of hypocrisy here?” I would not say “hypocrisy” at this point, but perhaps a bit of irony, since his number 31 (Koch Industries), which had a budget of $889 million for campaign 2016, as reported by CBS news and the New York Times on Jan. 21, 2015, should only spend less than $11 million (it was $10,964,516) of that money, especially since 100% of it went to Republicans and conservatives (according to this source) strains credulity.
The last three paragraphs of his commentary focus is on the charge that the Tea Party is not anti-taxes or anti-regulation or anti-government but only against excessive taxes, excessive regulation, and anti big government. I agree with the Tea Party on this, but the problem here is that excessive can be a very subjective, hard to pin down, adjective. Excessive for one may be just right for another. Who will be in charge of meaning here?
I would like to move on to another topic. First, I want Mr. Fontana to know, since he is a Tea Party member (and, I need to mention that I am an Indivisible member, in case that hasn’t become obvious by now) that I agree on some of the Tea Party’s core beliefs as they are described in the Tea Party’s Platform. For example, the sixth one in the Platform statement, viz., “Promote Civic Responsibility — Citizen involvement at the grassroots level allows the voice of the American people to be heard and directs the political behaviors of our representatives at both the local and national level so they, in turn, may be most effective in working to preserve the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of this country’s citizens.”
I also agree with number 9, “Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics,” but it is too long for this space, but I’m sure you, Mr. Fontana, know what it says about big money, special interests, etc.
In closing, I want to say that I think this exchange of views is healthy for a democracy and I want to thank the Ramona Sentinel for giving the community some space to carry on a dialogue of this kind.
In our discussions we must remember that we are all together as Americans, though we may differ on the issues. I think we all want to give our children and grandchildren the best country possible — a democracy with a sturdy foundation, remembering that disagreement shouldn’t mean being disagreeable.
As for community, my wife and I have lived in Ramona for 41 years and we have seen it undergo many changes. Our children have attended Ramona elementary, middle school, and graduated from high school here in Ramona.
I feel a commitment to my community of Ramona. I have had over 3,000 students take one or more of my classes at Ramona High School. I have also met with many of their parents. I have served on the Ramona school board and am presently a member of the Friends of the Library.
My commitment to my country includes four years in the U.S. Air Force. I was also among the first volunteers in the National Teacher Corps and served for two years. In addition, I was in the U.S. Peace Corps for two years, a total of eight years of service, without being career military or career civil service, just an ordinary citizen who loves his country.
I believe that Mr. Fontana and I both love our country and want to see it survive and thrive, although we have different ideas on how to do it. I don’t question his patriotism and I like to think that he doesn’t question mine.
Dante Cosentino is a Ramona resident.