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If they lie, journalists should stop covering the White House. Let the interns do it.

sean-spicer-white-housePresident Donald’s press secretary boldly and bluntly lied to the White House press corps last week. Yawn.

Well, so what? Politicians and their spear carriers have prevaricated, evaded, fibbed, misinformed, misdirected, and dissembled since the dawn of government.

But Sean Spicer lied. He did not disguise the lie. He told lies easily contravened. He did so acting as the representative of the president of the United States. He did so just days after promising he wouldn’t lie.

Media navel gazers pounced. Continue reading

CATEGORY: FreeSpeech

Should the First Amendment protect lying?

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus case asks SCotUS to extend constitutional protections to to those who intentionally lie to voters.

I do not know anyone whose parents or church taught them that lying is permissible and bears no taint of sin: Thou shall not bear false witness is ingrained from childhood in everyone I know. Do not ever lie, we are taught.

So why, then, is an anti-abortion advocacy group asking the highest court in the land to allow it to lie with impunity? At stake in the case is whether the federal government has the legal right to police political advertising for lies. The case involves claims by the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, against then-Rep. Steven Driehaus (D-Ohio). From Politico’s Bryon Tau:

During the 2010 election cycle, Susan B. Anthony List accused Driehaus of voting in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions by supporting President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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The UNSHARE button: Can we all just step away from the propaganda?

Our social media activities would benefit from a dose of critical thinking.

A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on. – Terry Pratchett

I had an exchange with my sister earlier about something she had shared on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one alleging that 11 US states now have “More People on Welfare than they do Employed.” Hint number one: cluelessness regarding the mysteries of punctuation. And no, I won’t link to it. Continue reading

On Nov. 6, I'll vote for a liar for president

No matter how I try to rationalize it, I’m going to vote for a liar for president of the United States. And, no matter how I try to ignore history, I realize that I likely have always voted for a liar for virtually any political office.

I do not know anyone who has not told a lie. Size and intent of the lie does not matter; lies are lies. I know that lies come in a variety of shades, some of which have become socially acceptable. Honey, does this dress make my ass look fat? A man who answers no lies to protect the dignity of the woman. Oh, don’t worry about those few extra pounds. You still look hot to me. The woman who says that protects the frail ego of a man. When the pet rabbit dies, mom or dad tells little Bobby I’m sure Hoppy went to heaven.

We lie to protect the feelings of others. But we still lie, because we know absolute truth corrodes relationships.

But politicians lie to manipulatively establish and maintain relationships. Lies fertilize the ground on which campaigns are constructed. Candidates at all levels of politics lie, cheat, and deceive. Google “political lies” and explanations of why they lie abound.

Politicians lie for one seriously egregious reason. The lie: I’m running for office to bring real solutions to the American people. The truth: I want to achieve status and power. Then, if I can help the people — especially those who helped me buy my way to status and power — I’ll do so. A few decades ago, particularly odiferous political lies were usually caught by the press, reported by same, and produced revulsion in the electorate. Ask Richard Nixon.

But not so much now. We longer believe truth is possible in political campaigns. The sheer volume of corporate-supported advertising bearing lies, falsehoods, prevarications, deceptions, and context-free “facts” has inured the electorate. After all, candidates in many deceptive ads say, I approved this message. They have permitted lies in their names. So we expect lies. Lies become Truth-Lite™, what candidates believe we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

The press has been complicit in fostering the staggering growth in political deceit: As media critics have noted, journalists have often focused on who’s lying more effectively rather than correcting the discursive record distorted by lies — the new post-truth journalism. Add the notion that the electoral audience is now firmly camped in an endless electronic chat room less reliant on “gatekeepers.”

The methods of lying have become the news and the fodder of pundits — not the lies themselves. That’s made lying by politicians easier. It has allowed politicians to lie with far more sophistication and not be corrected on the record. Consider the emergence of false equivalence — the tendency fostered by the political press that “objectivity” is a function of “balance,” that “both sides do it all the time.”

The invention of issues by pundits has created discourse that isn’t grounded in reality in the first place — so lies fill the void, and they’re effective if the pundits have ingratiated themselves with an audience eager to be lied to. It’s called motivating the political base. Lying to the already converted — those resistant to reason and cordoned off by ideological choice from rhetorical reality — is highly effective modern political practice.

The modern media universe of celebrity and “tell all” journalism has not made lying less profitable. No lie is too large to halt the deluge of money from donors. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised and given to politicians who lie. Therefore, politicians have permission to lie even more.

If lying has no significant political cost (although Sen. Gary Hart’s lie cost him his chance for the presidency), then lies beget more lies. Information becomes disinformation and misinformation. The public square has no shared factual commitments essential to honest discourse. Lying has eroded our ability to assess the moral compasses of our politicians. Are we now stuck with determining who lies less as the new standard for electability rather than who utters truth?

When it comes to our two presidential candidates, even the fact-checkers, it seems, cannot agree on which man lies most.

They both lie. So no matter which one I support, I will be supporting a liar.

Would someone please explain to me what we gain by having liars in the White House, Congress, and the statehouses of America?

h/t to my fellow Scrogues who allowed me to steal their ideas.

Nota Bene #120: Crazy Ivan

“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s earth.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #119: Think! It Ain't Illegal Yet

“My wife and I were happy for twenty years. Then we met.” Who said it? Continue reading

In Defense of "Jesus Glasses"

Jesus Glassesby James Corbett

The facts of my case are fairly simple. Chad Farnan, a 15-year-old self-described Christian fundamentalist student in my Advanced Placement European History class, sued me for a “pattern” of statements unconstitutionally hostile to religion. His claim was based on hours of illegal and surreptitious recordings.

In my attorney’s opinion, the law was on our side, so he advised me to seek a summary judgment. I now believe that was a critical error because when a defendant requests a summary judgment rather than a jury trial, the law requires that all the facts presented by the plaintiff be accepted as truthful. No fact may be disputed, only the law. My attorney believed a fair application of the Lemon test would turn in my favor, but the test fails in a case such as mine both as a matter of law and of logic. Had I gone to court, I could easily have demonstrated that Chad and his mother are Continue reading

Nota Bene #117: Wake Up!

“Hollywood is so crooked that Mafia gangsters are entirely outclassed and don’t stand a chance. People in Hollywood are smarter. They have more sophisticated knowledge of money and deals and how to steal legally rather than illegally.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #110: WEHT SWK?

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #109: You Can't Tuna Fish

“It’s absolutely stunning to me, the contempt in which the network holds the audience. The idea that these people have standards is laughable.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #103: Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse

“To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility that you give me, Morgan Freeman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker—that’s like an aberration. I know there’s some young actor sitting in New York or L.A. who’s spent half of his life learning how to act and sacrificing to learn his craft but isn’t going to get his opportunity because of some ‘actor’ who’s been created.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #96: Saturn's Hexagon and the Bulava Spiral

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Continue reading

Nota Bene #93: Linksgiving

Welcome to my home Continue reading

Nota Bene #92: Echoblowcation

A few things for you NB readers: Continue reading

Ten years on: the enduring lessons of Columbine

Part one of a series

April 20, 2009: 11:19 am MDT

Ten years ago a co-worker turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget, no matter how long I live: “Hey, Sammy, there’s been a school shooting in Littleton.”

Since that day a great deal has been written and said about Columbine High School and the events of 4.20.99, and like a lot of other people I’ve tried my hardest to make sense of something that seemed (and still seems) inherently senseless. Tried and failed. Now, ten years on, the grief hasn’t fully dissipated here in the city that I have come to call home, and even if we manage to understand the whos, whats, and hows, there’s a part of us that’s doomed to wrestle forever with the whys. Continue reading

The latest GOP idea for the economy? LIE some more!

by JS O’Brien

Republican Representative Candice Miller of Michigan has a truly marvelous idea for getting the economy back on track:  lie through your teeth.  I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising, since it seems to be the first option for Republican politicians everywhere.

So, let me explain what she wants to do.  Currently, accounting rules require banks to value assets (like mortgage-backed loans) at their current market value.  Miller wants to allow banks to … well … value them differently … somehow.  I mean, it’s not what you can actually sell those assets for, it’s what you can … ahm … pretend you can sell them for!  If you can pretend those assets are worth more than they are,  you can make the bank look as though it’s more solvent than it is.  Then, if the other lenders are butt stupid, they’ll lend money to you based on what you say about your bank’s solvency instead of what the situation really is.

What a great idea!  Let’s convince lenders to lend money based on underlying value that isn’t there.

Oh, hey, haven’t we done that already????

McCain's campaign shows new vulnerability, but will Obama exploit it?

by JS O’Brien

John McCain’s campaign advisers have made a potentially election-changing, tactical error.

They’ve started lying.

Lying in campaigns isn’t new, of course. The GOP has made big lies central to their campaigns since Nixon and Harry Dent, refining the technique with Reagan and his campaign manager, Lee Atwater, and have since kicked it up 20 or so notches in the Rove era. Most of us know about Rove, but he learned at Atwater’s knee, and it’s Atwater who accused Kitty Dukakis of burning an American flag and Dukakis, himself, of being treated for mental illness.

Generally, campaign lying works. The GOP knows that. The Democrats know it, too, and they’ve done some lying of their own. Unfortunately for them, they’re just not as good at it as the Republicans, so their lies tend to be smaller and less prolific, aimed at a constituency that is very different from the GOP one. In other words, lying doesn’t work as well for them. Continue reading

Secession and other simple solutions to complex problems…

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There was an interesting meeting last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee – a meeting of groups hoping to secede from the United States.

Ah, you think. Secessionists. Chattanooga. Must be crazy Confederate apologists looking to re-fight the Civil War (or, if you prefer, the War Between the States, or if that still doesn’t satisfy you, the War of Northern Aggression) or, worse yet, undo any good it might have done to bring the American South into a modern United States – one with silly ideas like racial harmony and equal justice under law.

Well, you’d be half right. Continue reading

Telecoms want immunity from prosecution for illegal spying–and Bush and the Democrats may just get it for them

By Martin Bosworth

The Sept. 20 Newsweek had an illuminating look at the secret lobbying campaign being waged by the major telecom companies to retroactively block lawsuits against them for their participation in the NSA/Bush regime illegal wiretapping program:

The campaign—which involves some of Washington’s most prominent lobbying and law firms—has taken on new urgency in recent weeks because of fears that a U.S. appellate court in San Francisco is poised to rule that the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed. If that happens, the telecom companies say, they may be forced to terminate their cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community—or risk potentially crippling damage awards for allegedly turning over personal information about their customers to the government without a judicial warrant. “It’s not an exaggeration to say the U.S. intelligence community is in a near-panic about this,” said one communications industry lawyer familiar with the debate who asked not to be publicly identified because of the sensitivity surrounding the issue. Continue reading

Lincoln was right – Goebbels was, too, unfortunately…

lincoln.gif Pay attention. There will be a quiz later.

You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. – Abe Lincoln did say this.

I cannot tell a lie – George Washington did not say this.

washington.gifA series of recent studies suggests that we are apt to believe myths if we’re told them before we’re told the truth. Worse yet, we’re apt to apply denials of those myths as proofs that the myths the denials are trying to bust are true. To paraphrase a brilliant professor of French I know, there’s something wrong with our brains…. Continue reading