The Age of Post-Truth Politics

By WILLIAM DAVIES, New York Times,

Facts hold a sacred place in Western liberal democracies. Whenever democracy seems to be going awry, when voters are manipulated or politicians are ducking questions, we turn to facts for salvation.

But they seem to be losing their ability to support consensus. PolitiFact has found that about 70 percent of Donald Trump’s “factual” statements actually fall into the categories of “mostly false,” “false” and “pants on fire” untruth.

For the Brexit referendum, Leave argued that European Union membership costs Britain 350 million pounds a week, but failed to account for the money received in return.

The sense is widespread: We have entered an age of post-truth politics.

As politics becomes more adversarial and dominated by television performances, the status of facts in public debate rises too high. We place expectations on statistics and expert testimony that strains them to breaking point. Rather than sit coolly outside the fray of political argument, facts are now one of the main rhetorical weapons within it.

How can we still be speaking of “facts” when they no longer provide us with a reality that we all agree on? The problem is that the experts and agencies involved in producing facts have multiplied, and many are now for hire. If you really want to find an expert willing to endorse a fact, and have sufficient money or political clout behind you, you probably can.

The combination of populist movements with social media is often held responsible for post-truth politics. Individuals have growing opportunities to shape their media consumption around their own opinions and prejudices, and populist leaders are ready to encourage them.

But to focus on recent, more egregious abuses of facts is to overlook the ways in which the authority of facts has been in decline for quite some time. Newspapers might provide resistance to the excesses of populist demagogy, but not to the broader crisis of facts.

The problem is the oversupply of facts in the 21st century: There are too many sources, too many methods, with varying levels of credibility, depending on who funded a given study and how the eye-catching number was selected.

According to the cultural historian Mary Poovey, the tendency to represent society in terms of facts first arose in late medieval times with the birth of accounting. What was new about merchant bookkeeping, Dr. Poovey argued, was that it presented a type of truth that could apparently stand alone, without requiring any interpretation or faith on the part of the person reading it.

In the centuries that followed, accounting was joined by statistics, economics, surveys and a range of other numerical methods. But even as these methods expanded, they tended to be the preserve of small, tight-knit institutions, academic societies and professional associations who could uphold standards. National statistical associations, for example, soon provided the know-how for official statistics offices, affiliated with and funded by governments.

In the 20th century, an industry for facts emerged. Market-research companies began to conduct surveys in the 1920s and extended into opinion polling in the 1930s. Think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute were established during and after World War II to apply statistics and economics to the design of new government policies, typically in the service of one political agenda or another. The idea of “evidence-based policy,” popular among liberal politicians in the late 1990s and early 2000s, saw economics being heavily leaned on to justify government programs, in an allegedly post-ideological age.

Of course the term “fact” isn’t reserved exclusively for numbers. But it does imply a type of knowledge that can be reliably parceled out in public, without constant need for verification or interpretation.

Yet there is one much more radical contributor to our post-truth politics that could ultimately be as transformative of our society as accounting proved to be 500 years ago.

We are in the middle of a transition from a society of facts to a society of data. During this interim, confusion abounds surrounding the exact status of knowledge and numbers in public life, exacerbating the sense that truth itself is being abandoned.

The place to start in understanding this transition is with the spread of “smart” technologies into everyday life, sometimes called the “internet of things.” Thanks to the presence of smartphones and smartcards in our pockets, the dramatic uptake of social media, the rise of e-commerce as a means of purchasing goods and services, and the spread of sensory devices across public spaces, we leave a vast quantity of data in our wake as we go about our daily activities.

Like statistics or other traditional facts, this data is quantitative in nature. What’s new is both its unprecedented volume (the “big” in big data) and also the fact that it is being constantly collected by default, rather than by deliberate expert design. Numbers are being generated much faster than we have any specific use for. But they can nevertheless be mined to get a sense of how people are behaving and what they are thinking.

The promise of facts is to settle arguments between warring perspectives and simplify the issues at stake. For instance, politicians might disagree over the right economic policy, but if they can agree that “the economy has grown by 2 percent” and “unemployment is 5 percent,” then there is at least a shared stable reality that they can argue over.

The promise of data, by contrast, is to sense shifts in public sentiment. By analyzing Twitter using algorithms, for example, it is possible to get virtually real-time updates on how a given politician is perceived. This is what’s known as “sentiment analysis.”

There are precedents for this, such as the “worm” that monitors live audience reaction during a televised presidential debate, rising and falling in response to each moment of a candidate’s rhetoric. Financial markets represent the sentiments of traders as they fluctuate throughout the day. Stock markets never produce a fact as to what Cisco is worth in the way that an accountant can; they provide a window into how thousands of people around the world are feeling about Cisco, from one minute to the next.

Journalists and politicians can no more ignore a constant audit of collective mood than C.E.O.s can ignore the fluctuations in their companies’ share prices. If the British government had spent more time trying to track public sentiment toward the European Union and less time repeating the facts of how the British economy benefited from membership in the union, it might have fought the Brexit referendum campaign differently and more successfully.

Dominic Cummings, one of the leading pro-Brexit campaigners, mocked what he called outdated polling techniques. He also asked one pollster to add a question on “enthusiasm,” and, employing scientists to mine very large, up-to-the-minute data sets, to gauge voter mood and to react accordingly with ads and voter-turnout volunteers.

It is possible to live in a world of data but no facts. Think of how we employ weather forecasts: We understand that it is not a fact that it will be 75 degrees on Thursday, and that figure will fluctuate all the time. Weather forecasting works in a similar way to sentiment analysis, bringing data from a wide range of sensory devices, and converting this into a constantly evolving narrative about the near future.

However, this produces some chilling possibilities for politics. Once numbers are viewed more as indicators of current sentiment, rather than as statements about reality, how are we to achieve any consensus on the nature of social, economic and environmental problems, never mind agree on the solutions?

Conspiracy theories prosper under such conditions. And while we will have far greater means of knowing how many people believe those theories, we will have far fewer means of persuading them to abandon them.

William Davies is an associate professor in political economy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the author of “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.”


 

Tom Foley’s passing recalls the bipartisan spirit of a bygone era

By Robert H. Michel, Washington Post, October 20, 2013

(Robert H. Michel, a Republican, represented Illinois in the U.S. House from 1957 to 1995. He was Republican leader from 1981 to 1995. Thomas Foley represented Washington in the U. S. House as a Democrats from 1965 to 1995 and was Speaker of the House from 1989 to 1995 when he was defeated for reelection during the Gingrich Revolution. Newt Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, succeeded him as Speaker.)

Excerpt  

Speaker Tom Foleysaid it was a tragedy that our fellow citizens don’t see the full dimensions of the House, because “of all the institutions of public life it is in the Congress, and particularly in the House, where the judgment, the hopes, the concerns and the ambitions of the people are made for the future.” He said that members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure that the public sees what the institution means to our democracy.

It is a sad footnote to Tom’s death last week [October 18, 2013) that the Senate and the House of Representatives, the crown jewel of our democratic republic, are held in lower esteem by the public than at practically any time since those records have been kept.

Tom Foley’s stewardship of the House was a reaffirmation of what the Founding Fathers intended. He was a partisan, but he was fair, intellectually honest and decent. He was a master of legislative procedure and an excellent political strategist. His most important virtue, however, was his trustworthiness. His word was his bond. And in relationships between leaders, nothing is more important than trust…The House was truly a deliberative democratic body that day.

Tom had a natural affinity for the legislative process. He understood its politics, personality and distinctive culture. He was dedicated to preserving the institution, which he knew was being challenged by turbulent political winds and growing partisan stridency…This was during the ascendency of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a stout legion of new members loyal to him. Tom knew that change required a delicate balance of resistance and accommodation, sound judgment, good temperament and, most of all, a healthy appreciation for history’s lessons about transitions in power…

Full text

Try as he might, Speaker Tom Foley could not gavel the House to order. It was Nov. 29, 1994, the last day of the 103rd Congress. I had just offered a resolution honoring him, and the speaker was being given a standing ovation for his 30 years of service. Our fellow members would not sit or quiet down.

It was a fitting tribute to a great public servant who assumed the mantle of leadership in the House at a difficult time.

Tom had just been defeated for reelection, and I was retiring. In an unprecedented gesture of goodwill and comity, Tom invited me to assume the chair on the speaker’s podium while he gave his farewell address. For the first time in 40 years, a Republican presided over the House, if only for a few minutes.

Tom’s remarks were eloquent. But one comment struck me then and came to mind again recently amid all the rancor and partisan brinkmanship our country can ill afford.

Tom said it was a tragedy that our fellow citizens don’t see the full dimensions of the House, because “of all the institutions of public life it is in the Congress, and particularly in the House, where the judgment, the hopes, the concerns and the ambitions of the people are made for the future.” He said that members of Congress have a responsibility to ensure that the public sees what the institution means to our democracy.

It is a sad footnote to Tom’s death last week that the Senate and the House of Representatives, the crown jewel of our democratic republic, are held in lower esteem by the public than at practically any time since those records have been kept.

Tom Foley’s stewardship of the House was a reaffirmation of what the Founding Fathers intended. He was a partisan, but he was fair, intellectually honest and decent. He was a master of legislative procedure and an excellent political strategist. His most important virtue, however, was his trustworthiness. His word was his bond. And in relationships between leaders, nothing is more important than trust.

When Tom became speaker, he suggested that we get together once a week to discuss matters before the House. One week, he said, I will come to your office, and the next you can come to mine. We did that regularly. We had disagreements over policy and we pushed and pulled politically, but the hallmark of our conversations was the trust underlying them. We could talk about anything, knowing that our discussions would remain private unless we decided otherwise. We had some very personal and delicate exchanges and never compromised their confidentiality.

The meetings themselves were a rarity in Washington. House Speaker Carl Albert and Minority Leader Gerry Ford used to park themselves on a bench just off the House floor and talk, but so far as I know the regular meetings Tom and I had in our offices have not been repeated since.

Tom and I last spoke four days before he died. We recalled one of the toughest tests of our relationship. It occurred in 1991 over Operation Desert Storm. It was important to President George H.W. Bush that Congress authorize military action over Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait. Rep. Steve Solarz (D-N.Y.) and I introduced a resolution authorizing military action. This was an agonizing decision for me, having served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II. Sending Americans into combat is always tough. Tom harbored personal reservations about military intervention, and a substantial number in his caucus strongly opposed an invasion. Allowing the resolution to go to the floor for open debate and a recorded vote took political courage and personal decency. The debate that ensued did the country proud. The House was truly a deliberative democratic body that day.

Tom had a natural affinity for the legislative process. He understood its politics, personality and distinctive culture. He was dedicated to preserving the institution, which he knew was being challenged by turbulent political winds and growing partisan stridency. As speaker, he had replaced Jim Wright (D-Tex.), himself a tough partisan who had been forced from office. This was during the ascendency of Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and a stout legion of new members loyal to him. Tom knew that change required a delicate balance of resistance and accommodation, sound judgment, good temperament and, most of all, a healthy appreciation for history’s lessons about transitions in power.

Tom and I conversed many times publicly and privately after leaving Congress. In all of those exchanges, we agreed on how to govern, how to get decisions made and how to find reasonable solutions to difficult problems.

We were too conditioned by our personal and political upbringing to assume that we had the market cornered on political principle or partisan superiority. We knew, too, that there should always be a distinction, and separation, between campaigning for office and serving in office. We were pupils of the old school.

When we stood side by side at the speaker’s podium on the last day of the 103rd Congress, political adversaries but personal friends, we knew that we were icons of a bygone era. As we visited last week, almost 20 years later, I think we both felt good about that. We both took great pride in knowing we had made things happen. I hope the past turns out to be prologue, and I think Tom would have agreed.

Read more on this topic: Chris Matthews: Breaking the deadlock on Pennsylvania Avenue Eric Cantor: Divided government requires bipartisan negotiation Joseph A. Morris: Shutdowns have been frequent tools of policy. Just ask Reagan. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein: Our fantasy is a Congress that gets stuff done

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tom-foleys-passing-recalls-the-bipartisan-spirit-of-a-bygone-era/2013/10/20/897201ca-39ab-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines

America’s Sell Out Intellectuals and the Perks They Get

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, April 1, 2013

The rewriting of history by the power elite was painfully evident as the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Some claimed they had opposed the war when they had not. Others among “Bush’s useful idiots” argued that they had merely acted in good faith on the information available; if they had known then what they know now, they assured us, they would have acted differently. This, of course, is false. The war boosters, especially the “liberal hawks”—who included Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken and John Kerry, along with academics, writers and journalists such as Bill Keller [3], Michael Ignatieff [4], Nicholas Kristof [5], David Remnick [6], Fareed Zakaria [7], Michael Walzer [8], Paul Berman [9],Thomas Friedman [10], George Packer [11], Anne-Marie Slaughter [12], Kanan Makiya [13] and the late Christopher Hitchens [14]—did what they always have done: engage in acts of self-preservation. To oppose the war would have been a career killer. And they knew it.

These apologists, however, acted not only as cheerleaders for war; in most cases they ridiculed and attempted to discredit anyone who questioned the call to invade Iraq. Kristof, in The New York Times, attacked the filmmaker [15] Michael Moore as a conspiracy theorist and wrote that anti-war voices were only polarizing what he termed “the political cesspool.” Hitchens said that those who opposed the attack on Iraq “do not think that Saddam Hussein is a bad guy at all.” He called the typical anti-war protester a “blithering ex-flower child or ranting neo-Stalinist.” The halfhearted mea culpas by many of these courtiers a decade later always fail to mention the most pernicious and fundamental role they played in the buildup to the war—shutting down public debate. Those of us who spoke out against the war, faced with the onslaught of right-wing “patriots” and their liberal apologists, became pariahs. In my case it did not matter that I was an Arabic speaker. It did not matter that I had spent seven years in the Middle East, including months in Iraq, as a foreign correspondent. It did not matter that I knew the instrument of war. The critique that I and other opponents of war delivered, no matter how well grounded in fact and experience, turned us into objects of scorn by a liberal elite that cravenly wanted to demonstrate its own “patriotism” and “realism” about national security. The liberal class fueled a rabid, irrational hatred of all war critics. Many of us received death threats and lost our jobs, for me one at The New York Times. These liberal warmongers, 10 years later, remain both clueless about their moral bankruptcy and cloyingly sanctimonious. They have the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocents on their hands.

The power elite, especially the liberal elite, has always been willing to sacrifice integrity and truth for power, personal advancement, foundation grants, awards, tenured professorships, columns, book contracts, television appearances, generous lecture fees and social status. They know what they need to say. They know which ideology they have to serve. They know what lies must be told—the biggest being that they take moral stances on issues that aren’t safe and anodyne. They have been at this game a long time. And they will, should their careers require it, happily sell us out again.

Leslie Gelb [16], in the magazine Foreign Affairs, spelled it out after the invasion of Iraq.

“My initial support for the war was symptomatic of unfortunate tendencies within the foreign policy community, namely the disposition and incentives to support wars to retain political and professional credibility,” he wrote. “We ‘experts’ have a lot to fix about ourselves, even as we ‘perfect’ the media. We must redouble our commitment to independent thought, and embrace, rather than cast aside, opinions and facts that blow the common—often wrong—wisdom apart. Our democracy requires nothing less.”

The moral cowardice of the power elite is especially evident when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians. The liberal class, in fact, is used to marginalize and discredit those, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein [17], who have the honesty, integrity and courage to denounce Israeli war crimes. And the liberal class is compensated for its dirty role in squelching debate.

“Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position, which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take,” wrote the lateEdward Said [18]. “You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship.”

“For an intellectual these habits of mind are corrupting par excellence,” Said went on. “If anything can denature, neutralize, and finally kill a passionate intellectual life it is the internalization of such habits. Personally I have encountered them in one of the toughest of all contemporary issues, Palestine, where fear of speaking out about one of the greatest injustices in modern history has hobbled, blinkered, muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it. For despite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self-determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual.”

Julien Benda [19] argued in his 1927 book “The Treason of Intellectuals”—“La Trahison des Clercs”—that it is only when we are not in pursuit of practical aims or material advantages that we can serve as a conscience and a corrective. Those who transfer their allegiance to the practical aims of power and material advantage emasculate themselves intellectually and morally. Benda wrote that intellectuals were once supposed to be indifferent to popular passions. They “set an example of attachment to the purely disinterested activity of the mind and created a belief in the supreme value of this form of existence.” They looked “as moralists upon the conflict of human egotisms.” They “preached, in the name of humanity or justice, the adoption of an abstract principle superior to and directly opposed to these passions.” These intellectuals were not, Benda conceded, very often able to prevent the powerful from “filling all history with the noise of their hatred and their slaughters.” But they did, at least, “prevent the laymen from setting up their actions as a religion, they did prevent them from thinking themselves great men as they carried out these activities.” In short, Benda asserted, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honored good. This contradiction was an honor to the human species, and formed the rift whereby civilization slipped into the world.” But once the intellectuals began to “play the game of political passions,” those who had “acted as a check on the realism of the people began to act as its stimulators.” And this is why Michael Moore is correct when he blames The New York Times and the liberal establishment, even more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for the Iraq War.

“The desire to tell the truth,” wrote Paul Baran [20], the brilliant Marxist economist and author of “The Political Economy of Growth,” is “only one condition for being an intellectual. The other is courage, readiness to carry on rational inquiry to wherever it may lead … to withstand … comfortable and lucrative conformity.”

Those who doggedly challenge the orthodoxy of belief, who question the reigning political passions, who refuse to sacrifice their integrity to serve the cult of power, are pushed to the margins. They are denounced by the very people who, years later, will often claim these moral battles as their own. It is only the outcasts and the rebels who keep truth and intellectual inquiry alive. They alone name the crimes of the state. They alone give a voice to the victims of oppression. They alone ask the difficult questions. Most important, they expose the powerful, along with their liberal apologists, for what they are.

© 2013 TruthDig.com

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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/media/americas-sell-out-intellectuals-and-perks-they-get

Links:
[1] http://www.truthdig.com/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/chris-hedges
[3] http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/billkeller/index.html
[4] http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/michael-ignatieff
[5] http://topics.nytimes.com/top/opinion/editorialsandoped/oped/columnists/nicholasdkristof/index.html
[6] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/bios/david_remnick/search?contributorName=david%20remnick
[7] http://fareedzakaria.com/
[8] http://www.ias.edu/people/faculty-and-emeriti/walzer
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Berman
[10] http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/
[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Packer
[12] http://www.princeton.edu/~slaughtr/
[13] http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/03/16/kanan-makiya-regret-about-pressing-war-iraq/k6ZsBxp4sXptfXrcRAocdO/story.html
[14] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/arts/christopher-hitchens-is-dead-at-62-obituary.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[15] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/30/opinion/calling-bush-a-liar.html
[16] http://www.cfr.org/experts/afghanistan-iraq-terrorism/leslie-h-gelb/b3325
[17] http://normanfinkelstein.com/biography/
[18] http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=634
[19] http://www.answers.com/topic/julien-benda
[20] http://www.nndb.com/people/134/000026056/
[21] http://www.alternet.org/tags/intellectuals
[22] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Myth and Its Dangers

by Gary Hart, published by HuffingtonPost.com, October 7, 2012

Excerpt

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John Kennedy, speech at Yale University during the Cold War

…Myths in politics… “Widely held but false idea” is one dictionary definition of myth in common usage…myths abound in recent American political history. Perhaps the most glaring and consequential was the myth that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction…Myths in politics are dangerous… Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth. If this strange world were the product of mere laziness it might be understandable. But today’s political myths are more perverse. They are a conscious hiding place from a changing, challenging, and often uncomfortable new world….Myths which have no basis in truth, or which do not operate as metaphors for religious truth, eventually fade away with the passing of those who perpetuate them and in the face of reality and fact. But the most dangerous myths create demons where none exist, the demons being anyone who disagrees with the myth-makers. In the meantime, however, they serve not only to delude the deniers but to frustrate our Founders’ belief in the progress of the human mind.

Full text

Myths play a central role as metaphor in many world religions, according to Joseph Campbell. In The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth he studied the world mythologies, found common themes in a wide variety of cultures, and reached a startling conclusion: myths, he said, come from dreams and, therefore, people around the world have common dreams. It is a profound and still controversial insight for religion, psychology, and human culture. Students in all these fields continue to consider the power of myth.

Myths in politics, however, play a much different role. “Widely held but false idea” is one dictionary definition of myth in common usage. For reasons that are still unclear, myths abound in recent American political history. Perhaps the most glaring and consequential was the myth thatIraq under Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

There are other cases in point. Barack Obama is a Muslim born inKenyaand therefore not an American citizen. These are myths, yet they are widely believed in certain circles. Poor people are poor by choice. A classic myth. A rising tide lifts all boats. Much more true when we were an industrial society and manufacturing products created jobs. Much less true when the economic tide is one of finance and money manipulation which lifts the gilded yachts but not the rowboats of the rest of us. Jobs are not created when crackpot financial schemes make hedge fund managers rich. Thus, a myth.

Myths in politics are dangerous. In an important speech at YaleUniversityduring the Cold War, John Kennedy said:

“For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

He was speaking of the myths on both sides that perpetuated a Cold War in a dangerous way.

Exactly 50 years later, no assessment comes closer to describing much of our current political world. Reason and facts are sacrificed to opinion and myth. Demonstrable falsehoods are circulated and recycled as fact. Narrow minded opinion refuses to be subjected to thought and analysis. Too many now subject events to a prefabricated set of interpretations, usually provided by a biased media source. The myth is more comfortable than the often difficult search for truth.

If this strange world were the product of mere laziness it might be understandable. But today’s political myths are more perverse. They are a conscious hiding place from a changing, challenging, and often uncomfortable new world. Globalization, immigration, cultural and racial diversity are threatening and frightening to many who wish to freeze the former comfortable world in time and prevent any change.

Myths which have no basis in truth, or which do not operate as metaphors for religious truth, eventually fade away with the passing of those who perpetuate them and in the face of reality and fact. But the most dangerous myths create demons where none exist, the demons being anyone who disagrees with the myth-makers. In the meantime, however, they serve not only to delude the deniers but to frustrate our Founders’ belief in the progress of the human mind.

Gary Hart is President of Hart International, Ltd.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-hart/myth-and-its-dangers_b_1946636.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=100812&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Mitt Romney’s Lies

By Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News, January 12, 2012

From ’100,000 new jobs’ to Obama’s jobs record to his first name, Mitt Romney has a truth problem

As his briefly front-running campaign sunk in the polls under relentless punishment from Mitt Romney’s “super PAC” allies in the days before the Iowa caucuses, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich caused a brief stir by matter-of-factly telling a TV interviewer that Romney is a “liar.”

“Why are you saying he’s a liar?” his apparently shocked interlocutor pressed. The notion that Mitt Romney routinely makes statements lacking a factual basis should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the campaign. On the left, Paul Krugman has marveled that no other candidate has ever “lied so freely, with so little compunction.” On the right, The American Conservative‘s Daniel Larison wondered about why he lies, concluding that the former Massachusetts governor is “so contemptuous of the people he tells lies to that he never thinks he will be found out.”

With Romney sweeping Iowa and New Hampshire and leading in the polls in South   Carolina, this is a good time to catalogue some of Romney’s greatest hits thus far.

“100,000 new jobs.” Romney has repeatedly claimed that during his tenure at Bain Capital, “net-net, we created over 100,000 jobs.” His campaign defends the figure by tallying the current employment totals of some companies Bain aided. That’s a stretch in and of itself, but it’s also not a net figure. It lacks the balancing context of how many jobs were destroyed by Bain. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December, while Bain helped some companies grow, “Romney and his team also maximized returns by firing workers, seeking government subsidies, and flipping companies quickly for large profits. Sometimes Bain investors gained even when companies slid into bankruptcy.”

Indeed, the Wall Street Journal looked closely at Bain’s record under Romney and found that 22 percent “either filed for bankruptcy or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses.” Which is not really terribly surprising: Bain’s raison d’etre is not job creation but wealth creation for its investors. As Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler noted in an article Monday calling Romney’s “100,000 jobs” figure “untenable,” Romney and Bain “never could have raised money from investors if the prospectus seeking $1-million investments from the super wealthy had said it would focus on creating jobs.”

As a corollary, when Romney’s record has been criticized, he has dismissed criticisms as an attempt to “put free enterprise on trial.” It’s not an attack on free enterprise. It’s an attack on Romney’s strained attempt to spin his successful record of wealth-creation into one of job-creation. It’s also a recognition that while a net good, the free market has its destructive side—and it’s a fair question to ask, whether voters consider experience in that sort of vulture capitalism as a good qualification for the presidency. Do they want government to be run more like that kind of business?

Obama’s jobs record. By Romney’s own logic (touting jobs created but ignoring jobs lost), his attacks on President Obama’s economic record are nonsensical. He told Time that Obama “has not created any new jobs,” and he told Fox News last week that Obama has “lost” 2 million jobs as president. This is indeed a net figure, but also a misleading one. When Obama took office, the economy was shedding jobs at a rate of nearly 1 million jobs per month, losing roughly 3 million during the first four months of 2009. But presidential policies don’t take effect as soon as the incoming chief takes his oath. Once Obama’s policies started to take effect, the trend turned. The country had added 3.2 million private sector jobs over the course of 22 straight months of private sector growth. By Romney’s definition, the president has created more than 3 million jobs—not enough, but also not none.

In fact the biggest drag on job growth is the 600,000 public sector jobs that have disappeared under the auspices of budget austerity. As my colleague Danielle Kurtzleben reported in September, “government jobs are being shed by the tens of thousands almost every month, hindering an already weak recovery.”

“Entitlement society.” Romney has argued that Obama “is replacing our merit-based, opportunity society with an entitlement society,” where “everyone is handed the same rewards, regardless of education, effort, and willingness to take risk.” As New York‘s Jonathan Chait has observed, “This accusation is approximately as accurate as claiming that the Republican Party wants to pass laws forbidding poor people from making more money.” The idea that President Obama (or any Democrat) advocates for equality of outcomes simply lacks a basis in fact.It’s an important fabrication, because it marks a turning point in Romney’s attacks on Obama. Previously the president was characterized as ineffectual, but not a socialist. Forced to battle to win the GOP primaries, Romney has adopted the Tea Party’s extremist rhetoric. It won’t play with swing voters, even delivered in his polished drone.

Defense cuts. In an October speech on national security, Romney promised to “reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts.” One problem: Pentagon spending has gone up under Obama, from $594 billion in 2008 to $666 billion. The 2011 request was for $739 billion. As Rick Perry would say, “Oops.”

No apologies. Romney has said that Obama “went around the world and apologized for America.” This is part of the conservative, dog-whistle meme that Obama is un-American (and possibly even a foreigner!). While the notion of an international apology tour is a staple of the conservative case against Obama, it is also fictitious. The Washington Post’s fact-checker concluded that “the claim that Obama repeatedly has apologized for theUnited States is not borne out by the facts, especially if his full quotes are viewed in context.” Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology from Romney on this one.

“Mitt.” It’s a small one, but might be my favorite. During a debate in November, when moderator Wolf Blitzer introduced himself by saying that “Wolf” is really his first name, Romney greeted the audience by saying, “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.” In fact, Willard is his first name. It’s a lie notable for being so mundane: Why would someone fudge their name? It’s almost as if he can’t control himself.

http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/01/12/mitt-romneys-lies

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe?

By Ernest Partridge [2], The Crisis Papers [1], posted on Alternet.org, April 20, 2011

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

Excerpt

Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies? Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?…a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:…

John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent.

Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim.

Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001…

Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists.

Obama has raised taxes…

These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts…

finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation:

“Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan).

Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman)

Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith).

“There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher)

“There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand)

These last two dogmas bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same.

A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media.

…as long as …millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in the United States of America.

But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies…

The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy.

Full text

Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies?

Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?

If it were in the interest of the ruling oligarchs to convince a majority of the public that the earth is flat, could they succeed?

This is, after all, a public almost half of which refuses to accept evolution — the central coordinating concept of modern biology. And approximately half of the GOP primary voters believe that Barack Obama was not born in theUnited States.

These unsettling thoughts came to my mind when I heard Michael Steele remark [3] that “not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” This from a man who held a government job as Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. That remark was echoed by Mitch Daniels, [4] the Governor of Indiana and Sarah Palin and I can testify that I have heard it elsewhere.

Michael Steele’s comment is more audacious even than the claim that the earth is flat. (After all, the earth looks flat, doesn’t it?). To say that government never created a single job flies in the face of ordinary, everyday experience. What are police, firefighters, teachers, judges, prosecutors, postal workers, military personnel, etc engaged in if not “government jobs.” What is the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, the certification of the safety of our food and drugs, air traffic control, if they are not “government jobs.”

The claim that government never creates jobs is so preposterous that it seems pointless even to bother to refute it.

Yet somehow, some GOP politicians freely utter this absurdity without fear of being laughed off the stage of public debate. And apparently some people, failing to give the claim even a moment’s critical reflection, believe it. Otherwise, why would Steele and others say such nonsense in the first place?

And this is only the most egregious of a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:

  • · Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet and to have discovered the toxic contamination of Love Canal.
  • · John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent.
  • · Barack Obama was born in Kenyaand is a secret Muslim.
  • · Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  • · Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists.
  • · Obama has raised taxes.
  • · “Obamacare” is a “socialist government takeover of health care.”
  • · Ninety percent of Planned Parenthood funding is for abortion services.
  • · Elections in the United States are always accurate and fair.

These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.

Then there are the contradictions:

  • · Teachers, police officers and firefighters are greedy. But billionaire CEOs and hedge-fund managers are not.
  • · Wall street banksters are entitled to their million-dollar bonuses because these bonuses are contractual obligations with their firms. But the states are not required to honor their contractual obligations to public workers, obligations such as pensions and health coverage.
  • · Federal revenues are increased by cutting taxes (i.e., revenues).
  • · During the Bush administration, “Reagan proved [that] deficits don’t matter.” (Dick Cheney) In the Obama administration, the GOP tells us that the federal deficit is the Number One economic problem today.
  • · “Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” (Michael Steele, etc.). “Since President Obama has taken office, the federal government had added 200 thousand new federal jobs.” (John Boehner. Also false, by the way. The correct number is 56,000).

And finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation:

  • · “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan).
  • · Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman)
  • · Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith).
  • · “There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher)
  • · “There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand)

These last two dogmas [5] bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same.

A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media.

Students of propaganda methods call this “The Big Lie” — a term that has its origins in the Nazi Regime.

Congressman Steve Cohen (Democrat,Tennessee) correctly observed that when the GOP claimed that “Obamacare” was “government takeover of health care,” they were engaging in a “Big Lie.” Yet when he said this on the floor of the House of Representatives, he was so mercilessly hounded by the media and his colleagues, that he felt obliged to apologize.

So now the corporate media has, in effect, ruled the expression, “The Big Lie,” out of bounds of polite political discourse, despite the fact that the term precisely describes the successful method of the right wing propagandists. In short, those who wish to complain against this practice have been effectively disarmed.

So where is the bewildered citizen to go if that citizen is to avoid the big lies and to encounter a fund of verifiable facts and informed opinion? Rule One: stay clear of the corporate media. Even The New York Times, once regarded as “the newspaper of historical record,” can no longer be trusted [6] to deliver “all the news that’s fit to print.”Remember the hullabaloo about Bill Clinton’s “Whitewater” deal? Remember Judith Miller’s breathless disclosure of Saddam Hussein’s nefarious “aluminum tubes”? All promoted by the New York Times. [7] All false.

So where do we find authentic news? Try National Public Radio (while it lasts) and, of course, the internet (until it is privatized and sold to the media conglomerates) where one can find a multitude of independent progressive websites. Also deserving honorable mention is the evening contingent of MSNBC — O’Donnell, Maddow and Schultz. Even so, along with the entire corporate media, these worthies never question the integrity of our elections and only rarely discuss the size of the military budget, now approximately equal all the other military budgets in the world combined, including those of our allies. It should be noted that NBC, the parent company of MSNBC, is half owned by the world’s largest military contractor, General Electric.

In addition, some of the best sources of news are foreign — and all available on the internet. They include the BBC (England) and the CBC (Canada), The Real News (broadcast from Toronto, Canada), Al Jazeera English, and, amazingly, Russia Today. The Russians, it seems, are returning the favor that we bestowed upon them during the Soviet Era, when theU.S. andWestern Europe sent accurate news across “the iron curtain” via The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Yes, it has come to that!

But these are all pathetically weak voices accessed by thousands, arrayed against the corporate media that is devoured by millions. And as long as this remains the case, and those millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in theUnited States of   America.

But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies.

The experience of the Russians is instructive. My Russian friends tell me that after decades of unabashed lying by Pravda, Izvestia and Gostelradio, fewer and fewer Soviet citizens believed the state media. The facts bear them out, as history discloses that Russians instead sought out foreign sources of news such as The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. (See my “What if America Loses its Voice?” [8]). Some Russians were so desperate for authentic news and uncensored opinion that they risked arrest and prison by producing and distributing underground manuscripts, “Samizdat,” hand to hand. In the United   States today, a comparable “American Samizdat [9]” can be found on the internet.

When the Soviet government lost control of the hearts and minds of its citizens, its days were numbered.

In the United States, the corporate media, unlike the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, is sensitive to market forces. As ever more Americans refuse to believe the lies served up by the corporate media, the media will either reform or become politically irrelevant, and more and more attention will be directed to responsible sources of news, both foreign and domestic. The fate of Glenn Beck’s TV show and the diminishing audience of Fox “News” may be harbingers of such reform.

Whatever the outcome, Thomas Jefferson’s warning remains enduringly true: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy. Necessary, but not sufficient. In addition, the liars in public offices must be removed from those offices. And that will only happen if official election returns can once again be trusted [10] to reflect the will of the voters, and not the output of secret software written by right wing partisans.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/story/150693/shameless_gop_lies%3A_is_there_any_limit_to_what_republicans_will_say_–_and_what_people_will_believe

Links:
[1] http://www.crisispapers.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/ernest-partridge
[3] http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2009/02/straight_outta_hooverville.php
[4] http://www.illinoispolicy.org/news/article.asp?ArticleSource=3368
[5] http://gadfly.igc.org/libertarian/2-society.htm
[6] http://www.crisispapers.org/essays8p/nyt.htm
[7] http://www.crisispapers.org/essays6p/agenda.htm
[8] http://gadfly.igc.org/russia/voice.htm
[9] http://www.crisispapers.org/samizdat.htm
[10] http://markcrispinmiller.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/OpenLetter4-5-11.pdf
[11] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[12] http://www.alternet.org/tags/lies
[13] http://www.alternet.org/tags/rhetoric
[14] http://www.alternet.org/tags/politicians
[15] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Romney’s pants on fire

by Eugene Robinson, Washington Post, May 28, 2012

There are those who tell the truth. There are those who distort the truth. And then there’s Mitt Romney.

Excerpt

“Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere. Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.He seems to believe voters are too dumb to discover what the facts really are — or too jaded to care. On both counts, I disagree.”

Full text

Every political campaign exaggerates and dissembles. This practice may not be admirable — it’s surely one reason so many Americans are disenchanted with politics — but it’s something we’ve all come to expect. Candidates claim the right to make any boast or accusation as long as there’s a kernel of veracity in there somewhere.

Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.

“Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” Romney claims on his campaign Web site. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.

An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news Web site owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that “there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear.”

Quite the contrary: Spending has increased at a yearly rate of only 1.4 percent during Obama’s tenure, even if you include some stimulus spending (in the 2009 fiscal year) that technically should be attributed to President George W. Bush. This is by far the smallest — I repeat, smallest — increase in spending of any recent president. (The Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded the spending increase figure should have been 3.3 percent.)

In Bush’s first term, by contrast, federal spending increased at an annual rate of 7.3 percent; in his second term, the annual rise averaged 8.1 percent. Reagan comes next, in terms of profligacy, followed by George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and finally Obama, the thriftiest of them all.

The MarketWatch analysis was re-analyzed by the nonpartisan watchdogs at Politifact who found it “Mostly True” — adding the qualifier because some of the restraint in spending under Obama “was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans.” Duly noted, and if Romney wants to claim credit for the GOP, he’s free to do so. But he’s not free to say that “federal spending has accelerated” under Obama, because any way you look at it, that’s a lie.

Another example: Obama “went around the Middle East and apologized for America,” Romney said in March. “You know, instead of apologizing for America he should have stood up and said that as the president of the United States we all take credit for the greatness of this country.” That’s two lies for the price of one. Obama did not, in fact, go around the Middle East, or anywhere else, apologizing for America. And he did, on many occasions, trumpet American greatness and exceptionalism.

Romney offers few specifics, but the conservative Heritage Foundation published a list of “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies” — not one of which is an apology at all.

One alleged instance is a speech Obama gave to the Turkish parliament in 2009, in which he said the United States “is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history . . . [and] still struggles with the legacies of slavery and segregation, the past treatment of Native Americans.” If the folks at Heritage and at the Romney campaign don’t know that this is a simple statement of fact, they really ought to get out more.

Romney does single out the following Obama statement from a 2009 interview: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Romney says this acknowledgment — that others might have as much national pride as we do — means Obama doesn’t really believe in American exceptionalism at all.

But in the same interview, Obama went on to say he was “enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world,” and to tout U.S. economic and military might as well as the nation’s “exceptional” democratic values. So he should be accused of chest-thumping, not groveling.

I could go on and on, from Romney’s laughable charge that Obama is guilty of “appeasement” (ask Osama bin Laden) to claims of his job-creating prowess at Bain Capital. He seems to believe voters are too dumb to discover what the facts really are — or too jaded to care.

On both counts, I disagree.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/romneys-distortions-about-obama-do-us-a-disservice/2012/05/28/gJQA9JuTxU_print.html

How the Republicans Built It

New York Times Editorial, August 28, 2012

It was a day late, but the Republicans’ parade of truth-twisting, distortions and plain falsehoods arrived on the podium of their national convention on Tuesday. Following in the footsteps of Mitt Romney’s campaign, rarely have so many convention speeches been based on such shaky foundations.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in the keynote speech, angrily demanded that the American people learn the hard truths about the two parties, but like most of those at the microphone, he failed to supply any. He said his state needed his austere discipline of slashed budgets, canceled public projects and broken public unions, but did not mention that New Jersey now has a higher unemployment rate than when he took over, and never had the revenue boom he promised from tax cuts.

“We believe in telling our seniors the truth about our overburdened entitlements,” he said, but his party has consistently refused to come clean about its real plans to undo Medicare and Medicaid. “Mitt Romney will tell us the hard truths we need to hear to put us back on a path to growth,” he said, but Mr. Romney has consistently refused to tell the truth about his tax plan, his budget plan, and his health care plan.

It was appropriate that “We built it,” the needling slogan of the evening, was painted on the side of the convention hall. Speaker after speaker alluded to the phrase in an entire day based on the thinnest of reeds — a poorly phrased remark by the president, deliberately taken out of context. President Obama was making the obvious point that all businesses rely to some extent on the work and services of government. But Mr. Romney has twisted it to suggest that Mr. Obama believes all businesses are creatures of the government, and so the convention had to parrot the line.

“We need a president who will say to a small businesswoman: Congratulations, we applaud your success, you did make that happen, you did build that,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell ofVirginia. “Big government didn’t build America; you built America!”

That was far from the only piece of nonsense on the menu, only the most frequently repeated one. Conventions are always full of cheap applause lines and over-the-top attacks, but it was startling to hear how many speakers in Tampa considered it acceptable to make points that had no basis in reality.

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, for example, boasted of the booming economy in his state, never mentioning that he and Mr. Romney opposed the auto bailout that has played an outsized role in the state’s recovery. (Apparently Mr. Obama’s destructive economic policies do not apply everywhere.)

Andy Barr, a Congressional candidate in Kentucky, made the particularly egregious charge that the president was conducting “a war on coal,” ruthlessly attacking an industry and thousands of struggling miners.

He was apparently referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and prevent power-plant pollution from drifting through the East Coast states. The country desperately needs to reduce its reliance on coal, which is far more polluting than natural gas, but that goal gets harder to achieve every time someone like Mr. Barr makes it out to be an attack on a way of life.

Considering how Mr. Romney has conducted his campaign so far, most recently his blatantly false advertising accusing Mr. Obama of gutting the work requirement on welfare, it is probably not surprising that the convention he leads would follow a similar path.

Voters looking for a few nuggets of truth would not have found them inTampa on Tuesday.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/opinion/how-the-republicans-built-it.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120829

Universal values

The False Equation: Religion Equals Moralityby Gwynne Dyer, CommonDreams.org, December 19, 2011 …In the United States, where it is almost impossible to get elected unless you profess a strong religious faith… Not one of the hundred US senators ticks the “No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic” box, for example, although 16 percent of the American population do…This is a common belief among those who rule, because they confuse morality with religion…politicians, religious leaders and generals in every country, are effectively saying that my children, and those of all the other millions who have no religion, are morally inferior to those who do. It is insulting and untrue.

Another Word on “God and the Twenty-First Century” by Michael Benedikt – It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity… the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010 – Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning…spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being. Spirituality also plays a role in enabling the evolution of individual and collective consciousness…
A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the world…
3) The belief in fostering wholeness and interconnectedness, which means a universal spiritual belief that all life is interconnected and that it is your bond to all humanity that provides a sense of wholeness…

Science and the Search for Meaning By Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Assn, www.theNewAtlantis.com, Summer 2013 – excerpt – We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” This simple proposition, which could serve as the motto of any scientific society, secular organization, or humanist group, is in fact one of the seven principles that guide the Unitarian Universalist religion…for many religions, truth, or at least what is true about the most important matters, is given by a set of sacred texts or traditions that members accept as a matter of faith. At least in this somewhat stereotypical view of religious thought, the truth about the highest or most important things cannot be sought — it is only given by authority. Scientific truth, on the other hand, is constantly changing. That is to say, what people know to be true changes as new information comes to light and ideas are challenged by new findings.

It is understandable, then, that religion and science have had a conflict or two over the years…many people believe they have to make a choice between a religious and a scientific worldview…for faith to be whole, for it to encompass the whole of our lived experience with the world, we must come to terms with science and what science teaches us. As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that science and religion share a common wellspring. They both arise from the human need to cope with life, to make life comprehensible, controllable, and meaningful…

Science is based on a radically democratic way of knowing, in the sense that scientific truth is comprised of the things we can all experience — not on private experiences, accessible only to putatively gifted individualsscientific truth needs to be equally true for everyone everywhere… ultimately, science is an attempt to understand those parts of human experience that are unarguably true for all of us…While science and religion both arise from our need to cope with experience, science and religion are responses to fundamentally different questions. Science can help us discover the truth about our world, but religion can help us give that truth meaning…There is a human hunger for meaning that science does not address….Meaning in life does not exist unless we create it; it is our individual and collective response to what we have learned about the world…

I believe that hunger for meaning is the source for the renewed interest we have witnessed in recent decades in ritual, in spiritual practices such as meditation, and in traditional religious imagery. This coincides with recent findings that the number of people in the United States who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is growing, while a majority of them still “describe themselves either as a religious person (18 percent) or as spiritual but not religious (37 percent).” People are seeking something that science does not give them. This is not a criticism of science. To criticize science for not satisfying our emotional and spiritual need for meaning is like criticizing a circle for not having corners.

Religion, at its best and most profound and most enduring, has been humanity’s way of collecting and transmitting wisdom about the meaning of life from one generation to the next.….Before science, religion filled the vacuum created by ignorance and created stories to explain the truth about the world — myths about creation and humanity’s origin…only we can decide how to react to them, how to apply those wondrous insights to our own lives…That is our religious task — individually and communally to create lives filled with meaning and lives consistent with what we love most deeply… http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com

This election is about core values by Phyllis Stenerson, Commentary in Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN October 2012

Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010 – Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning…spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being. Spirituality also plays a role in enabling the evolution of individual and collective consciousness…
A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the world…
3) The belief in fostering wholeness and interconnectedness, which means a universal spiritual belief that all life is interconnected and that it is your bond to all humanity that provides a sense of wholeness…

The Real Values Voters Summit by Rev. Peter Morales, UUA

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement on the nature of God from Tikkun.org, January 20, 2010

Many Faiths, One Truth by Tenzin Gyaatso, the Dalai Lama, New York Times, May 24, 2010

Real moral values – Articulating a liberal religious moral vision by Rev. William G. Sinkford, Unitarian Universalist World, March/April 2005

 

Truth and Lies

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell

The Death of Honesty by William Damon (Senior Fellow and member of the Virtues of a Free Society Task Force), Hoover.org, January 12, 2012 -A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings…No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust.… Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies…The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible. …As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004

Will Republican Voters Believe Anything? The Right’s Hyperbolic, Dysfunctional World 

United States of Paranoia: How the FBI Spied and Lied So Conspiracy Theorists Would Sound Crazy By Jesse Walker, August 20, 2013

The Politics of Lying and the Culture of Deceit in Obama’s America: The Rule of Damaged Politics  by Henry A. Giroux - Sep­tem­ber 21, 2009 — In the cur­rent Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape, truth is not merely mis­rep­re­sented or fal­si­fied; it is overtly mocked… it becomes dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between an opin­ion and an argument …At a time when edu­ca­tion is reduced to train­ing work­ers and is stripped of any civic ideals and crit­i­cal prac­tices, it becomes unfash­ion­able for the pub­lic to think crit­i­cally. Rather than intel­li­gence unit­ing us, a col­lec­tive igno­rance of pol­i­tics, cul­ture, the arts, his­tory and impor­tant social issues…What is the social cost of such flight from real­ity, if not the death of demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics, crit­i­cal thought and civic agency? …The pol­i­tics of lying and the cul­ture of deceit are wrapped in the logic of absolute cer­tainty…Democ­racy is frag­ile, and its fate is                                                                   always uncer­tain…We now find our­selves liv­ing in a soci­ety in which right-wing extrem­ists not only wage a war against the truth, but also seek to ren­der human beings less than fully human by tak­ing away their desire for jus­tice, spir­i­tual mean­ing, free­dom and individuality…/the-politics-of-lying-and-the-culture-of-deceit-in-obamasamerica-the-rule-of-damaged-politics/

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson, Com­mon Dreams, Feb­ru­ary 20, 2012…the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions… a few of the most destructive lies and myths.1.Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators2.Government can’t create jobs…
3.The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget…
4.Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country’s debt — an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President’s combined (including Obama). Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
5.Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
6.Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth…
7.Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets.…Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
8.Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course. So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate? Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in. Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%.…it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit… It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough… But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information… We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth.… At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%.

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics By Rick Perlstein, Mother Jones, May 26, 2011 — It takes two things to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us…So why does it seem as if we’re living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What’s changed?…a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound — until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.…right-wing ideologues “lie without consequence,” as a desperate Vincent Foster put it in his suicide note nearly two decades ago. But they only succeed because they are amplified by “balanced” outlets that frame each smear as just another he-said-she-said “controversy.”…What’s new is the way the liars and their enablers now work hand in glove. That I call a mendocracy, and it is the regime that governs us now.

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann, CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004 …The Big Lie is alive and well today in the United States of America, and what’s most troubling about it is the basic premise that underlies its use. In order for somebody to undertake a Big Lie, they must first believe Niccolo Machiavelli’s premise (in “The Prince,” 1532) that the end justifies the means…
Believing that the end justifies the means is the ultimate slippery slope. It will ultimately kill any noble goal, because even if the goal is achieved, it will have been corrupted along the way by the means used to accomplish it…

Fiscal cliff fictions: Let’s all agree to pretend the GOP isn’t full of it

Revenge of the Reality-Based Community

Obama: A pragmatic moderate faces the ‘socialist’ smear by Norman J. Ornstein, Washington Post, April 14, 2010

Who Are You Going To Believe: Karl Rove Or Your Lying Eyes? by Paul Blumenthal, HuffingtonPost.com, May 7, 2012

Ideological Hypocrites By E.J. Dionne,Washington Post, February 20, 2012

The Post-Truth Campaign By Paul Krugman, New York Times, December 22, 2011

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe? By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers, posted on Alternet.org, April 20, 2011 — Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies? Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?…a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:…John Kerry’s allegedly heroic war record was fraudulent. Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim. Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001…Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists. Obama has raised taxes…These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts…finally, there is the “dogma” — a priori “first principles” too sacred to be doubted or subjected to rational analysis and confirmation: “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan). Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman) Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith). “There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher) “There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand) These last two dogmas bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same. A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media. …as long as …millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in the United States of America. But all is not lost. As the folk tale of the boy who cried “Wolf!” reminds us, liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies…The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy.

Truth is a moral value – ProgressiveValues e-letter, October 10, 2011

Truth – editorial by Phyllis Stenerson, Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, August 2012/