When lies get big

The news that Goldman Sachs was dumping toxic assets while singing their praises to eager investors is no surprise. Such is the way of the markets, where the self-interest of liars aligns perfectly with the growing plight of the poor and weak. The circle of strife in all its glory. If you suffer because I lie, that is your problem, not mine. Let the buyer be snared.

The most effective response to this basest of all motivations lies is probably note government intervention in day-to-day business operations. Professional liars will surely find a way to exploit holes in public policy; there is far too much money to be made for honesty to prevail. When the name of the game is Whack A Lyin' Mole, we the people always lose.

A better intervention, in my view, would be a combination of tax policy and regulation that makes gigantic companies less attractive (or impossible), especially those involved in financial services and healthcare, two institutions that are critical to the common good. Big is bad when the fate of a nation is at stake. Bigger is even worse.

That's the thing that worries me about a huge, monolithic healthcare system, whether it's public or private or both. Lawmakers would be wise to balance the few benefits of "large" with the many strengths of agile, innovative, and small. When something is too big to fail, it almost certainly will.


Citi grope

A case in point.

Bad enough they wreck their company. But allowing it to wreck the US economy along the way? That's a stupid risk.

I have read a great deal on how our economy got "wrecked"

I have seen just so many presentations from various sites on the Internet and have read articles in just so many magazines and periodicals and so forth that gave excellent analysis on our current economic woes. Some of these leaned "right" and some, "left". But, in the end, to me, there is one overriding truth/agreement in what is being said. This is that government gave the private sector, the various financial institutions including the involvement of Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, an edict and the go-ahead to lower the standards in lending and to discount many of the previous safeguards in selecting qualified borrowers so as to build a larger base of homeowners in the U.S. This, at the end of the day, was a huge contributing factor to the demise in the lending market and, subsequently the housing debacle.

There have been quite a few publications and columnists and "experts" that discount that. Hopefully we, as a country, can find the truth to this matter so as to eliminate it ever happening again.

How, when and where people lie

My wife Jane Brown recently heard Jeffrey Hancock present his research about when and where people lie. He has apparently studied the heck out of it, including ways of assessing who's likely to be lying by analyzing discrete speech patterns.

I wonder how long it will take until he knows we're talking about him?


Here's more coverage: lying on the phone.

Another angle on lying

How the right works.

It's hard to know exactly where the line between lying, faith and fantasy falls sometimes. Are young earth creationists liars or lunatics?

Or do they just have an insight track with the Old Lady upstairs?

Growing beyond PC

I truly believe that we, as a country, must grow beyond what is somehow determined to be "politically correct". James, you have a question about "earth creationists" and at the same time offer up a link about discussing homosexuality among the animal kingdom in public schools. Both of these issues can be considered "hot button" issues in one way or the other but neither have anything to do with each other.

Maybe I missed your point here. Yes, I know that there was mention of "lying, faith and fantasy", but somehow I got confused with what you were saying. Can you elaborate? Was this all about what makes people feel "uncomfortable"?

My point was simply this

When you're dealing in a political environment where an individual would just as soon lie as tell the truth about anything, there is no hope. I was also asking about the nature of the line between lies and faith.

In the faith arena, it's easy enough to say Mary was a virgin, impregnated by god. Hundreds of millions of people will buy that as a matter of fact, not faith.

Now imagine your teenage daughter coming home pregnant with the same story.

Lies? Faith? Fantasy? All good reasons to keep god out of public policy.

Got it.

Alright, I have it now. Could not agree with you more.

I have been trying to spend at least a couple of my "bored" moments listening to Rush Limbaugh. I know he is considered as hate speech personafied here on BlueNC, but it is very interesting to listen. I posted yesterday that lies come in many various forms one of which is taking things people say (or politicians in this case) out of context and then presenting the altered "facts" as being some kind of truth. Rush Limbaugh does this in an extremely masterful way, let me tell you. To me, a lie, by any other name, is still a lie and regardless where it is derived, the harm is still the same.

Lying in politics

There are so many ways in politics to "lie". If you take a situation and put "spin" on it which leaves out certain facts so as to favor one side against the other, it can be called lying. If you only show a "snipet" of a speech that leaves out most of what the true intent of the speech was about, it can be called lying. If a quote leaves out a word here and there purposefully only to be called a "typo" and so forth when questioned so as to favor one side of an argument or discussion, it is lying. We see this so much today in our political discourse. And, it is being done by both major political parties (as well as whichever press sources that favor one political ideology or party over the other) and it is being presented to the "party faithful" in most cases so as to keep them in the fold, so to speak.

I'm reminded of the very old saying: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive".

I am convinced that the lying

defines a purposeful strategy based on results-received. A long time ago it was considered illegal for marketeers to do deceptive or false advertising. I guess it technically still is, but a short time in front of the tube confirms the slide down the slippery slope of

marketing -> omission -> spin -> deception -> lies

is alive and well. While I am not a reader of the Good Book a quote might apply:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his soul? ...

I guess the answer is "the whole world".


There cannot fail to be more kinds of things, as nature grows further disclosed. - Sir Francis Bacon

Bob Hall of Democracy NC weighs in on Easley

Via email:

Dear Democracy NC Advocates,

When a politician cheats or steals, the media loves to play "gotcha" and the public is outraged. But what if the rules of the campaign system invite a candidate to cheat and lie in order to win election?

Will the media and public demand that the system change? And will they praise the politician who acts ethically and still wins? Why don't politicians like House Speaker Joe Hackney or state Treasurer Janet Cowell get more kudos for their leadership on ethics and efforts to reform the campaign finance system? It's easy to criticize, but so much harder to take responsibility for fixing the problem.

Earlier this year, The News & Observer identified a number of travel-related donations the Mike Easley Committee failed to report and the State Board of Elections began investigating the Committee. In July, Democracy North Carolina provided additional information and urged the State Board of Elections to investigate if the NC Democratic Party was "being used by a candidate as a conduit to launder earmarked donations that would be illegal if they were given directly to that candidate."

We acted because cheating in politics hurts voters and the good candidates who abide by the law.

On Friday, the State Board of Elections found that earmarking had occurred. By a unanimous vote, the Board ordered the Democratic Party to forfeit the $9,000 involved in two earmarked donations and, more importantly, sent an important message that it is illegal for a candidate to use a political party to conduit a donor's funds back to the candidate's campaign, particularly when the donor, candidate and party conspire together to evade the normal contribution limits for a candidate. We commend the Board for taking this action.

The Board took a cautious approach in reaching its decision. Memos, detailed strategy plans, emails, ledger sheets, and other documents revealed that a specific "Governor's Fund" had been set up within the Democratic Party to receive and spend money raised for the Mike Easley campaign, but most witnesses could not recall or simply denied any earmarking occurred. The Board focused its penalty on two donors who admitted they knew their checks to the party were really for the Easley campaign.

The Board also voted to impose a $100,000 fine on the Mike Easley Committee and to refer former Governor Easley "and others" involved in the hearing to the district attorney. It's a sad day when evidence justifies referring a governor for criminal investigation, but it's in the best interest of the public and of the thousands of candidates who are acting properly for the State Board to make it clear that no one is above the law. In another unanimous vote, the Board recommended that the General Assembly amend state law to require the candidate to personally bear the cost of fines imposed as a result of election law violations if the candidate's campaign committee is too broke to pay. Again, the Board sends a strong message that candidates must be held accountable for the conduct of their campaign.

After sitting through the hearings, I've been wondering about what to do with good and bad politicians:

* We need, and all candidates need, the protection of strong laws, fairly enforced, to weed out the cheaters and hold everyone accountable. But no set of regulations can prevent immoral candidates and their consultants from using loopholes to channel large amounts of private money into a campaign. More regulation alone won't produce better public officials.

* We need more candidates with the personal moral strength to withstand the temptations and pressures of raising large amounts of private money for their campaigns. As the costs climb and the campaign's consultants devise new methods to skirt the law, fewer candidates can hold on to their core values. How can we help them?

* We need to provide honorable candidates with an alternative campaign system that helps them stay focused on serving the public, rather than become preoccupied with soliciting the next $4,000 or $50,000 check from a donor with a selfish agenda. The voluntary public financing program for some candidates in North Carolina and in other states provides that alternative, because it rewards candidates who raise small donations and reject large donations with a public grant to run their campaign under strict rules.

* We need to tell good candidates and public officials that we appreciate their service. We hurt ourselves by not noticing who is doing a good job or by stereotyping all politicians as corrupt. Good government requires many solid leaders and participation by all of us.

What do you think? Please send me your comments and let me know your thoughts on how we can turn this sad situation for North Carolina into a step toward positive electoral reform.

Bob Hall, Director
Democracy North Carolina

Post for Bob Hall via James' post

Bob Hall has made an extraordinary point in that when politicians and political organizations "do the right thing", it is rarely reported as such in the various media sources around our state and even nationally. It really is not "news" to report good things organizations or individuals do. America, for the most part, loves controversy and such. More people want to read or hear about conflict and graft and corruption than want to hear about doing a solid job. It's who we are in America and I doubt I would get any argument to that and that's not being said to make a point that it is right. It is just factual and being honest.

To me, our media and so forth should be making a big deal of those that find the graft and corruption and expose them. That, to me, is where we can make "heros" out of our citizenry and our politicians. Regardless of party affiliation, if there are people that expose cheating and lying and corruption, that should be "story-one". But, many times and even most times it seems that the media tends to try to find excuses for why someone did what they did or why some organization or political entity did what it did rather than giving kudos to those that made the effort to expose what is/was truly wrong and illegal and so forth.

Heroes are hard to find

I agree with you that those who expose graft and corruption should be our heroes but these very folks where so demonized during the Bush years, I doubt anyone wants to risk their own necks now. It looked for a while like Patrick Fitzgerald was such a knight in shinning amore, but these latest stories about Cheney's 72 memory lapses makes me wonder...why didn't Fitz close the noose around that rat's neck when he had him?