A Philosopher's Blog

Why Lie if the Truth Suffices?

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 8, 2012
Romney

Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

As the 2012 election approaches, the two opposing camps have been stepping up their attack ads and deploying their minions, spinions, surrogates and proxies to do their dirty work.

One of the stock attack tactics in politics is to lie. Naturally, there are various types of lies. For example, one way to lie is to engage in intentional distortion of a person’s position, as was done with Obama’s remarks about building businesses. There is also the option of just saying something that is an outright falsehood, as Obama did regarding Romney’s position on abortion.

This sort of deceit (or error, if one wants to be excessively kind) would make some sort of sense if the candidates did not have plenty of legitimate grounds on which to criticize or attack each other, thus leading me to wonder (once again) why people lie in such matters when the truth should suffice.

Romney could have restricted himself to legitimately and truthfully go after Obama about the weak economy, morally dubious drone strikes and so on. Likewise, Obama had plenty of legitimate points to bring up about Romney (mining the Republican attacks on Romney would have provided him with plenty of material).

I suspect that one reason why such lies are told (as opposed to mere errors) is that they are essentially attempts to use the straw man fallacy that slide from being mere distortions to actual lies. The appeal is, of course, that the straw man works quite well as a rhetorical device and a lie that is a distortion would inherit this persuasive power.

Another reason such lies are told is that they are easy. After all, while politicians will make gaffes, getting a good one is often a matter of luck. As such, making one by distortion or just making one up is far more reliable. Since people are rather inclined to consume appealing lies hook, line and sinker and ignore unappealing truths, such deceit can generally be conducted safely. Weirdly, while politicians seem to have a ticket to lie, if a company is misleading about the health value of a chocolate spread, then they can be forced to pay a settlement. This suggests that, just perhaps, politicians lie because they can.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

I also suspect that some of the lies are told because the person actually believes what they are saying. As such, they are saying something untrue, yet think it is accurate because of their political bias. That is, it feels true to them so they assume that it is.  As I have discussed in other posts, people tend to suspend their rational faculties when it comes to politics-they feel their way rather than thinking their way.

Another possibility is what could be called the story-teller effect. When people get talking and telling stories, they have, (as Aristotle noted in the Poetics) a natural tendency to embellish the story to make it more pleasing to the audience. Also, (as Hobbes noted) people like to speak well of themselves and poorly of their competition and this leads to a natural tendency towards exaggeration of one’s virtues and the other person’s vices. These tendencies seem to be so natural that people probably do not even realize that they moving away from the truth, especially when they get caught up in the emotions they are trying to inspire in the audience.

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54 Responses

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  1. WTP said, on August 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Lies about lies:


    The full context of Barak Obama’s statement supports that his statement,”you didn’t build that,” indeed referred to the businesses he was decrying, not to mere “roads and bridges” as his later attempts to hide behind the “context” card would have us beleive.

    See for yourself. Here is the entire transcript:

    “But you know what, I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don’t need them. So I’m going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more. (Applause.) And, by the way, we’ve tried that before — a guy named Bill Clinton did it. We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine. We created a lot of millionaires.

    There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.
    If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

    The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
    It’s impossible to take “that” to mean roads and bridges. First of all, he uses the singular “that,” and not the plural “those,” which he would have used had he been referring to “roads and bridges.” He would have said, “If you’ve got a business–you didn’t build those. Somebody else made those happen.”

    Secondly, in the previous two paragraphs he twice said that one’s individual success is not by one’s own effort.

    Third, everyone knows that businesses and the “wealthy” pay far more in taxes which build those roads and bridges–so the lame attempt to rewrite his speech fails there too.

    Context supports that Obama indeed meant that one has not build his own business.

    This also fits with Elizabeth Warrens extended harangue to the same effect some months earlier where she said that you only built a successful business because the “government let” you use bridges and roads free of charge and that you sponged off of everyone else so now it’s time to collect your fair share and you can “keep some” of the wealth you created.

    http://guitarwarp.blogspot.com/2012/08/obama-in-context-still-means-you-didnt.html

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      That seems to be just an example of willfully cashing in on the ambiguity of what “that” refers to. The context makes it rather clear that when Obama says you did not build that, he means the roads, bridges and so on.

      Warren is also right-businesses rely on public goods.

      • WTP said, on August 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

        And that seems like an example of willfully changing the meaning of what the man actually said. The context makes it clear that neither Obama nor Warren understand where the wealth and knowledge came from to create those goods. Also clear is the willful and possibly intentional ignorance that such goods are available equally to those who fail as to those who succeed. Who built that success?

        • WTP said, on August 8, 2012 at 8:49 pm

          heh…not to be redundant or anything…

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 9, 2012 at 4:44 pm

          Obama’s position seems to be that small business needs the infrastructure provided by the collective (that is, us acting through our elected officials) and that business folks did not gain their knowledge ex nihilo but had to go to school at least for a while. Romney said similar stuff about Olympic athletes-namely that their being at the Olympics is the result of not just their efforts but all the people behind them. That is, we are not self-generated being arising from acts of pure will out of nothing. That seems obviously true.

          • Anonymous said, on August 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm

            BRAVO! Michael. SOMEBODY GETS IT!! Just as the saying goes that it takes a village to raise an idiot –oops I mean a child, it should be obvious that NO MAN IS AN ISLAND and the context (collective as you put it) in which a person succeeds deserves some of the credit. Obama referred to that fact when he said,

            “Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” There are parents, teachers, partners, consultants, employees, customers, investors and so on not to mention the realities external which are often essential to the business such as the facilities, equipment, roads, shipping and transportation means, storage and on and on. It is easy to ignore those facilitators and say like the child in the old commercial, “I made that!”

      • T. J. Babson said, on August 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        If I have seen further it is by standing on ye sholders of Giants. –Isaac Newton

        This was written in 1676 and it was probably not original then, either.

        Mike, can you point to anyone who claims his success is due entirely to his own efforts, with no help from anyone else? I doubt it.

        I think the only controversial point is to what extent Government plays in our success vs. friends, family, etc.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm

          I have met people who started out with that position and held it for perhaps five minutes in the face of the obvious counters.

          As you note, most folks do not claim that they are the sole causes of their success and the interesting question is “how much is me and how much is other people?”

          When I was a young college boy I did a debate on free will. I recall that one of the professors at the debate said that I believed in free will because I wanted credit for my successes. Being prideful, I said “of course, they are my successes.” But, having some tiny bit of wisdom, I added “My failures are also mine.”

      • T. J. Babson said, on August 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        Mike, the “you didn’t build that” follows from “there are a lot of smart people out there” and “there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.” What is clear is that Obama is saying that entrepreneurs don’t really deserve the rewards they receive in the rare cases they are successful.

        An grammatically, “that” makes no sense if he is referring to “roads and bridges.” He would have said “those” in that case.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm

          It seems reasonable to think that he made a grammatical error. As far as the smart/hard working remarks, he is right-there are plenty of smart and hardworking folks who don’t make it. As such, success is clearly not just a matter of being smart or being hardworking. Plus, he doesn’t say this, but there are people who are not very smart or particularly hardworking who are successful.

          This does raise an interesting question about the nature of success and failure. To use a small example, students who do well say “I got an A.” When a student fails, they often say “the professor failed me.”

          • WTP said, on August 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm

            It seems reasonable to think that he showed his true colors/Freudian slip/whatever. Depends on who’s doing the reasoning. See TJ above.

            There’s many kinds of smarts. There’s even the smart that only thinks it’s smart because it never proves itself in the real world. Additionally, I’ve experienced working with programmers who were very talented but couldn’t get along with people (see Big Bang Theory for example), some out of a weird sense of paranoia, some because they couldn’t communicate their ideas, some because they didn’t know when to shut up. Many reasons.

            And again, just like Obama and Mrs. Warren, you do not understand what wealth is or how it is created. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how hard you work. Those can be very serious factors in your success depending how/if you use them. However being smart yet not knowing how to apply that intelligence does not and should not guarantee you success. Working hard but not effectively does not and should not guarantee you success. Being able to produce goods and services that people want is what matters. And most importantly, taking the risk. Sticking your neck out, putting your future on the line or sacrificing in the present with the hope that it will pay off in the future. That is what counts. No government can or should do this for you. Neither you, nor Obama, nor Squaw Warrant (speaking of lies) have ever made payroll. You don’t know what the real business world is like.

            When an economy is working some bureaucrats and politicians say, “We created that”. When an economy fails, they often say “We’re victims of circumstance.”…or they blame the Jews…whatever works.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 9, 2012 at 6:48 pm

              So, is your general principle that when an ambiguous claim or apparent error can be interpreted in a way the interpreter would prefer, it should be regarded as revealing a person’s true colors? Does this apply across the board or just to Democrats?

              Sure, there are many types of smarts. I know many smart teachers who are not so smart when it comes to money-after all, they could be making so much more in other fields rather than educating the youth. I know folks who are smart at making money, but unwise when it comes to matters of ethics. And so on. To change the song, we are all stupid in our own way.

              You are confusing a failure to agree with you with not understanding.

              Taking risks can pay off, but it does not seem to be what counts. After all, when a roofer without insurance gets up on a roof to make his pay, he is taking quite a risk-but he won’t be making millions. The cop who runs towards the guy with the gun is taking a great risk, but she is not going to make a pile of cash. The same for the soldier who goes off to war and the firefighter who runs into the burning house to save people.

              Paris Hilton is rich, but what risks did she take to make that money? Did Romney run big risks for himself-gambling his way up from nothing? Did the finance folks put their own money up in the big game that brought the economy down?

              People do love to point to Steve Jobs and the Facebook guy as examples of big risk takers. But people generally do not talk about the people who are crushed in this system-the folks who get fired and so on. Do we really want what amounts to a lottery/chance based society?

              Also, even these vaunted risk takers operate within a society that provides the security and stability needed to succeed. Would Zuckerberg have been able to create Facebook in Somalia? Would Steve Jobs have been able to build Apple computer without roads, police, currency, electricity and so on?

              As a side note, it is interesting that the same folks who tend to say that business needs security and hence they will not hire because they claim they fear that Obama might not extend the Bush tax cuts to the top 2%, then talk about the greatness of risk taking in the very next breath.

            • WTP said, on August 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

              No, as I stated above and TJ stated also, it is my general principle that when someone walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I don’t pretend that the “quack” I just heard was really the squeek of a mouse. It’s what the man actually said, and in the context of what he and prominent members of his party are saying, it fits.

              I think it is you who is confusing a failure to see things your way as a sign of significant bias. And based on previous discussions with you in regard to wealth and where it comes from and how it is created, it is quite apparent that it is you who does not understand. Your failure to grasp that one’s gathering of wealth does not need to come at the expense of others. Your Malthusian view of wealth is fundamentally flawed. You speak of taking risks as a form of gambling with a net sum of zero. You simply do not know what you are talking about when it comes to economics. For one person to get richer, it does not require another person to become poorer. Wealth is not based solely on material goods. This is as intrinsic to understanding economics as 1 + 1 = 2 is to understanding calculus.

              And speaking of bias, who frequently refers to the Republican POTUS candidate as “Mittens”?

              As for the risks you state, those people take those risks because those jobs pay better than what is available to them at the time they chose to get a job. A great number of (mostly) men enjoy the adrenaline rush of those jobs. Other people took risks in their youth to do other things with their lives that weren’t very exciting, but those sacrifices early on paid off down the road with opportunities that better fit what they wanted out of life. As for the “finance folks”, that right there is the problem with government getting involved in the market place. Both state and federal governments backed those bad financial decisions, taking the risk and responsibility away from those making the decisions. THAT is the problem. Involuntary socialization of risk.

              Lots of countries have roads and police and security and stability, etc. yet do not have the wealth that the freer economies of the world have. Why do you suppose that is? I again refer you to Wittgenstein Proposition 7.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm

              I did refer to Mitt as Mittens, but that was hardly a serious post. I also did a Terminator parody about the Obamation some time back. Apparently I was prescient-he did turn out to employ killer drones to do his bidding.

              Yes, other countries do have roads and such. However, if you look at the countries that are successful, they invest in infrastructure (social and physical) that enable businesses to operate and thrive. Having an advanced economy requires having an advanced and developed society.

              Naturally, there is feedback here-social structure enables wealth to accumulate and wealth then allows the construction of more social structures.

              Using Africa as an example, there are nations on that continent that have great physical resources and some people are rather wealthy. However, the failure to develop social structures, infrastructure and so on has resulted in poor nations (but great riches for the corrupt).

              Russia has high risk and some very wealth risk takers, yet their society is underdeveloped and unstable thanks to a blend of the authoritarian state and the rather extreme capitalism (that is, crime) that dominates significant parts of their economy.

              If you look at the economic growth of the US, the state is always an active builder. For example, look at the construction of the railroads and the involvement of the state. Then the development of the highway system. Then the internet.

              While a warlord/robber economy can result in wealth for some, that hardly seems like a desirable civilization for most people. Read through Hobbes and Locke to see the importance of the state in terms of allowing business. Hobbes is no liberal, but he sees the formation of the state as the only way to even have a significant economy.

          • T. J. Babson said, on August 12, 2012 at 4:39 am

            Mike, do the grades you give your students reflect their performance? If so, how do you justify this method of grading if the students don’t actually deserve the grades they receive? Wouldn’t it be more fair to assign grades radomly?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

              I do try to make sure that the grade a student receives matches their performance. Luck or cheating sometimes allows a student to get a better grade than deserved. Misfortune sometimes results in a grade that is less than a student should have been able to get.

              I have actually talked about random grades, mostly as part of a non-serious discussion of freedom and chance. Not surprisingly, students who did well in classes were against random grades (they would likely end up with a lower grade). D and F students would tend to want a spin of the grade wheel, since they would tend to be better off.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 12, 2012 at 7:43 pm

              Also, if I grade students based on performance, it would seem to follow that they are getting the grades they deserve. To use an analogy, the trophy (or lack of trophy) I get for running is deserved or not based on my performance.

              Naturally, you could add some nuance to the matter by distinguishing between actual performance and what a person deserves. For example, a runner might step on a hidden roofing nail during a race and thus have a poor performance, yet not deserve the result because the injury is not her fault.

            • T. J. Babson said, on August 12, 2012 at 8:09 pm

              Mike, draw the analogy. Presumably in your classes there are lots of smart and hardworking students who do not get good grades. Shouldn’t the “rich” A students “give a little back” and give some points to those who are less fortunate? If not, why not?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

              The analogy breaks on some key points.
              1. Everyone in the class can earn an A. That is, everyone can have the highest possible score. However, in our economic system, not everyone can have the highest income (that is, we cannot all be billionaires).
              2. Grades are merit based-people get what they earn. There is no lobbying, no family influence, no loopholes, no special interest groups. Everyone starts with 0 points and works up from there. Obviously, the economy is not like that.
              3. Everyone gets equal access to the class, my office hours, the class resources and so on. That is, there is true equality of opportunity. Students who are less prepared are able to get the help they need from me to ensure they have a just chance at success. The economy does not work like this.

              Now, if my class was run like the economy (lobbying, special interests, unequal access to resources, and so on) then it might be just to “tax” grade points. Of course, it would be far more sensible and ethical to not run such a unjust and crazy class.

            • WTP said, on August 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm

              I think a more practical approach would be to require the students who were doing better in the class to donate some of their time, say an hour or two a week, to tutor the weaker students. That would be fair, wouldn’t it? And wouldn’t the class as a whole have to improve? When you think about it, it’s almost wrong not to implement such a plan.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm

              While it would be nice of the students to help each other (that is, morally commendable) for the school to compel students to do the work of professors/tutors for free would seem to be exploitation. However, this is something that professor should do. Also, most universities have tutors and support available for students.

            • WTP said, on August 13, 2012 at 9:36 pm

              Exploitation? How? The “better” students just have advantages that the “lesser” students do not have. You might say they work harder, but isn’t it more likely that the “better” students just had “better” role models in their lives? Or went to better schools. Perhaps they are just naturally better able to understand the concepts due to some genetic luck. Why shouldn’t they be taxed some of their time to help out those who have not had those advantages?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

              Because the students are not employees of the school nor are they assigned the role of educators. As I noted, it would be morally commendable of them to render aid to the other students. I would not be inclined to say that the better students are under a moral obligation to give their time for free to the other students. To use an analogy, if one patron’s steak is not cooked properly it is not your job to attend to her steak. That is the chef’s job. Now, it would be awfully nice of you to run the steak back to the grill, then deliver to her a perfect steak-but not your duty.

              Now, there could be a school in which students were obligated to assist each other. There are, I think, also some peer or support groups that are set up in which people are obligated to help each other with assignments and such.

            • T. J. Babson said, on August 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm

              “Everyone in the class can earn an A. That is, everyone can have the highest possible score.”

              This is only true if you do not grade on a bell curve.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 14, 2012 at 2:15 pm

              Which I do not. One reason is that I “naturally” get a curve and another is that this methods seems morally dubious at best.

            • WTP said, on August 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

              Not sure how Mikes 8/13 1:01PM comment falls between TJ’s and my comments from 8/12 buuut…

              In addition to TJ’s comment regarding curves…

              “There is no lobbying, no family influence, no loopholes, no special interest groups” – I seem to recall a previous post about students lobbying you and you providing extra credit or extra time to do assignments. i seem to recall recommending that such was unfair to you and to the other students. Can’t find the discussion right now, and perhaps I mis-remember some, but I believe that was the case. As for this parallels to crony capitalism, I don’t support that nor likely does TJ. See his post about Harry Reid and the Chinese energy firm. Solyndra, GE, GM, etc.

              “Everyone gets equal access to the class, my office hours, the class resources and so on. That is, there is true equality of opportunity” Many students are uncomfortable asking for help or have anxiety issues. Some have to work during your office hours or perhaps take care of small children. What about them? Not that I disagree with you, but such are the excuses you apply to those who “can’t compete” in the “alleged free market”.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm

              Perhaps I should have said this: “While students do attempt to lobby me for extra credit and extra time for assignments, their lobbying efforts do not succeed.”

              Students who work during office hours can ask questions in class or send me email. As far as the comfort or anxiety issues, I do what I can to make students feel safe enough to ask questions. However, there is only so much I can do in terms of providing psychological support and anxiety counselling.

  2. WTP said, on August 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Meanwhile, some lies just keep on coming…

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-camp-denies-knowledge-cancer-tale-told-may-195237581.html

  3. Ben Myers-Petro said, on August 9, 2012 at 10:10 am

    I think it lies more in that the public don’t want to do the work of sifting through the political barrage of information themselves and think critically. Like you say, Straw Man’s and Rhetoric can be very persuasive. Most people want their opinions spoon fed to them so that all they have to do is say “yeah, I do think that.”

    Plus, I think that very few people, or clearly not enough, will actually fact check when politicians say something. So if embellishments and rhetoric are more convincing, and they are not getting called on their lies, then why tell the truth? Why not keep going with the lies as long as I can?

  4. reverenddrdash said, on August 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    If lies can be viewed as losses, and truth as gains, then it makes sense to lie because people weigh losses more than gains. When you have finite resources to sway the electorate it is best to magnify losses when they negatively affect an opponent.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on August 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Breaking News:

    CHICAGO—With campaign rhetoric becoming increasingly heated and both presidential nominees releasing more attack ads, a new 30-second spot from the Obama campaign this week accuses his opponent Mitt Romney of committing the 1996 murder of 6-year-old beauty pageant queen JonBenét Ramsey.

    Titled “He Did It,” the advertisement asks if anyone can truly remember where Romney was the night of the child’s murder, and whether the U.S. populace wants a president capable of strangling a little girl and dumping her body in her parents’ basement.

    President Obama appears at the end of the advertisement to approve the message.

    “I think this is a fair ad, and I think Mitt Romney owes an explanation to the American people as to why he murdered JonBenét Ramsey,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who called the commercial’s black-and-white reenactment of Mitt Romney carrying a kicking and screaming child to her death “accurate.” “Ultimately, voters need to know who they’re getting with Mitt Romney: a job- and child-killing businessman who is so deceitful he won’t release his tax returns or admit to a senseless murder that shook the nation to its core.”

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/romney-murdered-jonbenet-ramsey-new-obama-campaign,29114/?ref=auto

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 10, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      If it is in the Onion, it must be true.

      • WTP said, on August 11, 2012 at 12:28 pm

        This just in via Ace Of Spades HQ (http://ace.mu.nu/):
        Cool Facts About Paul Ryan
        —Ace
        I don’t think voters will have a problem with the Ryan budget. What I think they’ll have a problem with are his *murders.*

        So:

        Romney/Ryan slogan: “Let’s get America killing again”

        He pushed grandma off a cliff, and all she could talk about was what a nice boy he was

        Paul Ryan voted Prom King, Most Likely To Torture Dogs

        Bio: Paul Ryan’s inaugural murder was December 8, 1989.

        Bio: Paul Ryan acknowledged as expert in budget, ligatures

        Dick Cheney taught George Bush how to murder. Paul Ryan taught Dick Cheney.

        ANGUISHED SURVIVOR REVEALS: “ALL I HEARD WAS ‘HEY, GIRL’”

        Paul Ryan has only two speeds: All-Out, and Murder.

  6. T. J. Babson said, on August 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    A must read about Harvard values.

    College credential fraud may seem like a nitpicking offense for throwing a nonviolent offender into the overcrowded prison system for a tour of the seasons. But Wheeler embarrassed Harvard; his puncture of arbitrary power was so trifling that, paradoxically, it couldn’t be ignored. Harvard officials had little choice but to make an example of him through an aggressive, custom-tailored prosecution whose real aim was to restore the correct order of things. Adam Wheeler, after all, is merely a mediocre public school graduate from Delaware. But Harvard—well, everyone knows that Harvard shines across the fair land as a beacon of meritocratic upward mobility universally accessible to a nationwide corps of upper-middle-class teenagers of arbitrary intellectual ability.

    ********************************

    It’s not as though Harvard lacks for alums whom the institution should be ashamed to be associated with, or who have befouled “the public perception of integrity in higher education.” Wheeler’s final prosecution came just three years after a cabal of alumni known as the financial services sector destroyed the economy by playing computer games with the planet’s accumulated wealth. There was former Harvard President, Treasury Secretary, and deregulator extraordinaire Larry Summers; there was Summers’s predecessor at Treasury and mentor in the intricate art of fucking up global economies of weaker nations for no good reason, Robert Rubin (AB ’60 and member of the Corporation, Harvard’s governing body); there was the CEO of America’s most ruthless megabank (“the smart ones,” in financial expert circles), Lloyd Blankfein (AB ’75, JD ’78); and then there were approximately 100 percent of the other key figures who engineered this wholly preventable near-reversion to the state of nature—all Crimson men with at least one tour of duty. The university offers no protest as these apocalypse machinists drop John Harvard’s name in their pursuit of sinecures atop whatever remaining elite institutions and systems they have yet to destroy; instead, it covers them with laurels and showers them with money.

    http://www.thebaffler.com/past/adam_wheeler_went_to_harvard/print

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 12, 2012 at 7:45 pm

      I vaguely remember applying to Harvard or maybe Yale). Obviously, they turned me down. I think I also applied there for a job and was turned down.

      So, bashing at Harvard does not pain me. :)

      • magus71 said, on August 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm

        if you were born a woman or a minority I have no doubt you would have been accepted.

        • T. J. Babson said, on August 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

          His cheekbones are rather high…perhaps he could pass as a Cherokee and get a faculty job at Harvard?

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm

            Possible-my Dad’s father was partially native American and we don’t know the tribe (my Dad’s mother was Mohawk).

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm

          My great-grandfather was a Mohawk, so I probably technically qualify as a minority. I don’t look the part, though. I have had a few funny moments over the years when people assumed that because I work at FAMU, I must be black-ah, assumptions.

  7. T. J. Babson said, on August 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ becomes Democrats’ central talking point (posted at 11:04 am on August 13, 2012 by Howard Portnoy)

    Even if you are no fan of so-called fact checks (yo!), you probably have some awareness that PolitiFact made the Democratic Party’s claim that passage of the Ryan plan by the House was a “vote to end Medicare” the “Lie of the Year” for 2011. “PolitiFact,” its writers noted on Dec. 20, 2011, “debunked the Medicare charge in nine separate fact-checks rated False or Pants on Fire, most often in attacks leveled against Republican House members.”

    So, what is the message being put out now by leading Democrats? Here’s the text of an email from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that went out at 11 a.m. Saturday:

    By picking Representative Paul Ryan, Governor Romney has doubled down on his commitment to gut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. Romney’s choice demonstrates that catering to the Tea Party and the far-right is more important to him that standing up for the middle class.

    http://hotair.com/greenroom/archives/2012/08/13/politifacts-lie-of-the-year-becomes-democrats-central-talking-point/

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      You’ll note that they are weaseling here: the claim is that Ryan will end Medicare “as we know it”, which can be taken as changing it. Of course, saying “Ryan’s plan changes Medicare” lacks rhetorical bite.

      As I noted, Obama and Romney are both mostly untruthful in their political claims. In some ways, it is insulting that they just keep on lying. After all, they have plenty of things to say about each other that would actually be true.

      Thanks for the additional example of political deceit.

  8. T. J. Babson said, on August 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Honesty:

  9. Dirty Politics « Kats Thoughts On: said, on August 24, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    [...] Why Lie if the Truth Suffices? (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) [...]


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