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Deception and misdirection

The War of All Against All

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]

Once upon a time, when I was a reporter, I uncovered a number of schemes by which politicians perpetuated themselves in office. Often, these involved “giving” people things without accounting for the cost of those things.

One exposé early in my career involved a job-swap between the districts of Congressman A (not his real name) and Congressman B (likewise). The federal government would move a few dozen jobs from Fort A in Congressman A’s district to Fort B in Congressman B’s district. In turn, the federal government would move a few dozen jobs from Fort B in Congressman B’s district to Fort A in Congressman A’s district.

Congressman A took the opportunity to put out a press release announcing the new jobs at Fort A, with the clear implication that he, Congressman A, through his hard work on behalf of his constituents, had secured these jobs. News stories about the new jobs strongly implied: We’d be fools to get rid of this guy, Congressman A, who’s doing such a great job for us.

Congressman B took the opportunity to put out a press release announcing the new jobs at Fort B, with the clear implication that he, Congressman B, through his hard work on behalf of his constituents, had secured these jobs. News stories about the new jobs strongly implied: We’d be fools to get rid of this guy, Congressman B, who’s doing such a great job for us.

It was a good deal, except, of course, for taxpayers, who had to pay for moving the jobs from one place to another, and for the federal employees who had to pull up roots and move hundreds of miles. From the standpoint of the politicians, it was a win-win for all concerned. Although the number of federal jobs in each district stayed the same, each Congressman got to show that he was one of those guys who bring home the bacon.

I lived in the district of Congressman A. When I figured out the scam, I called a counterpart of mine in the district of Congressman B, and we shared information, and we broke the story jointly. It came as no surprise that I got a call from Congressman A’s press secretary, tell me that I was completely irresponsible, and may have ruined things for everyone by ruining the deal that was bringing new jobs to our district. Who was I, a lowly reporter, to interfere in the workings of great men?

It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time in politics. Read all »

Your own lyin’ eyes

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]

Last year, I wrote about Type B deception—a form of deception that can be so powerful, it works even after it has been exposed.

Here’s how I described it (http://capitalresearch.org/2013/04/that-arms-race/):

. . .  Edward J. Epstein calls [it] “Type B deception” – a type of deception aimed at “distorting the interpretation of the meaning of a pattern of data, rather than at the observable data itself.  Type B deceptions are designed to confuse, confound or mislead the cognitive processes of an adversary.  Type B deception need not rely on camouflage or concealment.”

In Type B deception, the more closely one observes, the more likely one is to be fooled, as when Hitler convinced himself (with Allied help) that the Normandy invasion was a carefully planned deception and refused, day after day, to let himself be tricked by it. Supporters of President Obama’s policies often point to the failure of those policies, from the “stimulus” to support for the “Arab Spring,” as proof that the President’s ideas weren’t followed with enough zeal. People who believe that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement are racist see the election, due to Palin/Tea Party support, of the majority of the country’s “nonwhite” governors and U.S. senators as vindication of their belief (because those officials are Republicans, therefore Uncle Toms and traitors to others of their ethnicities). James Hansen, a leading proponent of the theory of catastrophic man-made Global Warming, wrote recently in the Washington Post that the failure of Global Warming theory to predict actual events meant that proponents of Global Warming theory were even more correct about the threat than they had realized.

Here’s an example that shows how our brains are hard-wired to “see” certain things. Which square is darker, A or B?


Are you sure?

Read all »

Wintertime, and the lyin’ is easy

Enjoy the winter! (It was 70 degrees in DC today. Darn that Global Warming!!) Yes, if you’re reading this on December 1, this is the first day of meteorological winter in the United States. In other words, it’s the beginning of the three-month period with the coldest weather, relative to the three months at the opposite point on the calendar, is December through February, more or less. (It varies by location, but, for nonscientific purposes, it’s close enough to the December-January-February period for us to “round it off.”)

Of course, you’ll hear it stated often—by TV weatherpeople, especially—that the “official” first day of winter is the winter solstice, sometimes even narrowed down to a specific time. (The Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, which falls between December 20 and 23, is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the sun.) In fact, there’s no “official” beginning of winter. The “official” first day is one of those things that everyone knows but that isn’t true.

Well, not everyone. Last Friday on “CBS This Morning,” WBBM-TV meteorologist Megan Glaros, at the end of her weather report, said, “By the way, meteorological winter starts Monday, Michelle,” to which Michelle Miller of CBS News replied, “Is that so?? Well, thank you, Megan, for letting us know.”

Here’s an article I wrote a while back about lies about the calendar, from ancient Rome to the (fake) holiday President’s Day to the (fake) beginning of the 21st Century on January 1, 2000: http://capitalresearch.org/2014/02/presidents-day-not-they-even-lie-about-the-calendar .

Lying, or spreading untruths, about the calendar may seem like a little thing. But ever time politicians, bureaucrats, academic pseudo-intellectuals, and people in the media lie or spread false information about little things and get away with it Read all »

Harvard students: How stupid are they? (and the case of the Louisiana literacy test)

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

One of the great deceptions in American politics is that students at Ivy League schools such as Harvard know more about the great issues of the day than, say, students at a typical state university. In fact, a study conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute suggests that students at “elite” schools such as Harvard and Yale are less knowledgeable about economics, politics, and American history than students at other schools—and, incredibly, that seniors at Harvard and Yale and some other prestigious colleges and universities know less than freshmen at the same schools.

[Information on the ISI study is available at http://www.americancivicliteracy.org/2007/summary_summary.html. When I was editor of the magazine Tea Party Review magazine, I published an article about the study. It’s no longer available online, but I’m posting it below.]

Schools like Harvard and Yale are designed not to promote knowledge but to perpetuate an aristocracy. That is a task they perform well. Members of prominent political families, children of the rich, and other highly privileged kids attend such schools alongside a certain number of students who are genuinely gifted in physical sciences, the arts, and other fields (but not especially in fields directly related to public policy). The truly gifted children give cover to the privileged blockheads. Read all »

They. Hate. You.

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]

Jonathan Gruber is not a bug. He’s a feature.

The people who run Washington are so-called Progressives—that is, they think that you are a bunch of rubes, ignorant hicks who need smart people like them to tell you how to live your life.

Needless to say, they’re a bunch of idiots. They’re “economists” who believe in Keynes and Obamacare, and “scientists” who believe in Global Warming theory.  They’re “Constitutional scholars” who oppose the very idea of Constitutional law, because Constitutional law protects people like you from bullies like them. They’re “public health experts” who believe in banning trans fats and jumbo sodas and e-cigs and non-bureaucrat-approved restaurant menus instead of protecting public health (that is, protecting the public from infectious diseases, like EV-D68 or, for that matter, the Ebola virus about which the President lied: Read all »

The right to vote any way you want, while we watch

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

“Today the practice of casting secret ballots is so commonplace that most voters would not consider that any other method might be used.” – Wikipedia

Well, not anymore, if the Progressives have their way.

In three states (Washington, Oregon, and Colorado), the secret ballot has been abolished, and it’s barely surviving in a number of other states.

Washington, Oregon, and Colorado have a system of universal mail-out voting. Every voter gets a ballot in the mail—at least, that’s what’s supposed to happen—and every voter returns his or her ballot by mail. There is absolutely no protection if your employer, an official of your union, your preacher, someone from the department of welfare, or a member of your family demands that you vote in front of him or her or that you sign and mail the ballot after it’s been marked “for” you. Or, for that matter, if vote harvesters show up at your door to “help” you vote. Read all »

Tragedy, as politics: Exploiting Ferguson

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]

African-Americans have long been the victims of oppression by politicians and bureaucrats. That’s been true from the 17th Century when slavery, a practice older than civilization, began to be associated with the concept we now call “race,” through the era of Jim Crow and one-party Democratic Party rule in much of the country (a time that included FDR’s racist National Recovery Administration), to the present time (when, for example, in Washington, DC, African-Americans are eight times more likely than others to be arrested for marijuana offenses, and are disproportionately the victims of horrific public schools and of laws that restrict small-business opportunities).

Often, law enforcement officials have been part of that oppression. During Jim Crow, African-Americans were often framed for crimes, then rented out as laborers, a practice that was, in effect, a partial restoration of slavery. During the Civil Rights Movement, police often looked the other way when violence was visited upon civil rights workers and on everyday African-Americans, and sometimes police were active participants in these crimes.

I grew up around police officers, studied law enforcement beside them in college, and worked as a police reporter. I have the greatest respect for these men and women who put their lives on the line for us every day. But I understand why many African-Americans are deeply distrustful of the police.

If, in fact, an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, had shot and killed an unarmed young man, Michael Brown, in the back, or while Brown was trying to surrender with his hands up, and if that officer did not have full justification for his actions, I would support punishing the officer to the fullest extent of the law.

The problem is that that version of the story, it appears, is not Read all »

That Lyndon Johnson quote (Part 2)

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Last week, at http://capitalresearch.org/2014/10/we-have-lost-the-south-for-a-generation-what-lyndon-johnson-said-or-would-have-said-if-only-he-had-said-it, I took a look at that story that has circulated in recent years as, in essence, a smear of Southern Republicans: that President Lyndon Johnson, after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, said that “We have lost the South for a generation.”

More from my investigation of this quote:

► Almost all uses of that version of the quote are from the past 10 years. However, I found a close variation in a 1988 Washington Post article by Patricia Brennan in which she quotes Johnson aide Ben Wattenberg. (Wattenberg was one of the first “neoconservatives” in the original sense of the term, a New Deal liberal who came to recognize the failures of Big Government policies.) As quoted by Brennan, Wattenberg said that, even during Johnson’s 1964 landslide, “there were six states that Barry Goldwater kept: Arizona and five states in the South. You trace it forward and you see that they never came back. They were out because of civil rights and they stayed out. . . . The day they passed the civil rights bill, LBJ said to Bill Moyers, ‘You know, I think we gave the South to the Republicans.’”

I suspect that Wattenberg, apparently speaking off the cuff, paraphrased another Moyers quote of Johnson (about which, more below). Further garbled over time, as in the Telephone Game, that quote in the Washington Post article may have been the source for the lost-the-South-for-a-generation version. Or it’s possible that the quote originated as an indirect quote, one without quotation marks, that appeared in the magazine The Economist in 2002. By 2004, the quote was appearing in articles with quotation marks. I can find no direct reference to Johnson saying it or to whom it was said. It is always used as a quote that, well, everyone knows.

 

► In the early 1990s, another version of the story held that the Johnson statement was “There goes the South.” The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald used that version November 4, 1992.

Timothy Noah of the left-wing online magazine Slate (then affiliated with the Washington Post) wrote (January 27, 2004, posted at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/chatterbox/2004/01/forget_the_south_democrats.html):

“There goes the South for a generation,” Lyndon Johnson is said to have predicted as he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. Actually, it’s been two generations, but otherwise Johnson was dead-on. For 40 years, the Democratic Party begged Southern Democrats to return to the fold.

Considering that all Southern states except Virginia voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, while Carter was losing the rest of the country as a whole, and that, with the exception of in 1964, the South was significantly more Republican than the country as a whole beginning in 1988 at the presidential level and in 2010 at the local and state level, the fake Johnson quote was hardly “dead on.” Still, I suppose that Noah deserves credit for only half-lying because he qualified his use of the fake quote (“Johnson is said to have predicted”).

 

► The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2000, published an interview with Johnson aide Harry McPherson and Jack Valenti in which McPherson was quoted as saying that another Johnson aide, Bill Moyers “came in on the evening of the passage of the Voting Rights Act.” (Note that he referred to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 rather than the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)

. . . Johnson, having had a wonderful day signing the bill, everybody around him praising him, was sitting, Bill says, with his head in his hands at his desk. Bill said, “Mr. President, it’s the greatest day of your presidency.” Johnson said, “Yes, and it’s the day we gave the South to the Republican Party for the rest of our lifetimes.”

Interestingly, Valenti wrote an account of the passage and signing of the Voting Read all »

“We have lost the South for a generation”: What Lyndon Johnson said, or would have said if only he had said it

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

“We have lost the South for a generation,” President Lyndon B. Johnson told an aide after he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Not really, of course. Johnson didn’t say that.

I’ve examined more than a hundred uses of that quote, going back to what seems to be its first appearance in 2002 (as an indirect quote, one without quotation marks) and what seems to be its first appearance as a direct quote in 2004. That would be some 40 years after Johnson supposedly uttered it. Some falsely attribute the story to Johnson aide Bill Moyers, but not one writer or commentator using the quote includes a citation that tracks back to anyone who heard (or claims to have heard) LBJ say it. The quote directly contradicts earlier versions that appeared closer to the event. So it can be said with a high level of confidence that the quote is fake. There is simply no reason to believe it.

Yet it’s part of left-wing gospel.

Every person who follows politics has heard some version of the story: LBJ made the comment at some point on the day they passed the Civil Rights Act, or later on the morning of the day Johnson signed the legislation (that legislation being the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or maybe the Voting Rights Act of 1965), or he said it that evening as he lay in bed, or he said it at the conclusion of the signing ceremony when he turned to a friend, or maybe an aide, and said, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” Or “for your lifetime.” Or “for a generation.” Or “We have lost the South for a generation.” Or maybe he said, “There goes the South.” And he was absolutely right: As a reaction to Johnson’s act of courage, the South turned Republican immediately, overnight, instantly, only 46 years later. Yessiree. That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it. Read all »

This is what “Al Qaeda on the run” looks like

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

Now it’s the Intelligence Community’s fault. You know — that Clapper guy!

We know the President’s telling the truth because of how quickly he moved to fire that Clapper guy (James Clapper, the director of national intelligence). Which is to say, he didn’t fire him. When someone who serves at the pleasure of the President seems to be unfit for his or her office and doesn’t get fired, there’s a good reason. That person is the President’s fixer (Eric Holder, John Mitchell), or has information that could do the President in (Janet Reno, J. Edgar Hoover), or is the President’s fall guy. Given the state of the world (best summarized as “in flames”), the DNI makes a convenient fall guy. Read all »