Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page


In History, Politics on November 30, 2011 at 11:22 pm

“There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

The speaker wasn’t President John F. Kennedy. Or President Bill Clinton. It was would-be President and “Mr. Family Values” Newt Gingrich.

The date for his riveting confession was March 8, 2011. And the reason for it: He intended to run for President–and wanted to launch a pre-emptive strike on critics who would charge him with being an adulterer and a hypocrite.

“And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

“I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness. I do believe in a forgiving God. And I think most people, deep down in their hearts hope there’s a forgiving God.”

And well he might. He has a lot to be forgiven for.

Perhaps his greatest moment as a hypocrite came while he was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In 1998, the news broke that President Clinton had been trysting with a young White House intern named Monica Lewinsky. Gingrich lost no time in telling the nation what a moral disgrace Clinton was.

Of course, he didn’t bother informing the nation that he was well into an extramarital affair of his own.

It was by no means his first.  Consider the following:

  • While still a 16-year-old junior in high school, Newt Gingrich began an affair with his high school geometry teacher, 23-year-old Jackie Battley, in 1959.
  • Gingrich had affairs with numerous campaign volunteers during his first two unsuccessful bids for a House seat from Georgia, in 1974 and 1976, according to multiple sources.
  • Anne Manning, then married to another professor at West Georgia, became romantically involved with Gingrich during his 1976 campaign.
  • In January, 1980, he met 28-year-old Marianne Ginther. The married congressman proposed to her within weeks, despite the fact that he hadn’t yet filed for a divorce from Jackie.
  • In April, 1980, Gingrich told Jackie that he wanted a divorce.
  • Gingrich was in such a hurry to divorce Jackie that he personally served her with divorce papers while she lay in a hospital bed, recovering from cancer surgery.
  • In 1981, Gingrich married Marianne Ginther.
  • By 1984, the marriage was in decline, and the couple regularly spent months at a time apart from each other.
  • In 1993, a year before he became Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gingrich met then 28 year-old Callista Bisek.
  • Doing his heroic best to lead both a married and a bachelor life, Gingrich was regularly seen with Bisek in Washington.
  • In 1997, after a four-year investigation of his campaign financing schemes, the House Ethics Committee reprimanded and fined Gingrich $300,000.
  • Following widespread GOP losses in the 1998 mid-term elections, Gingrich resigned from the House in November, 1998.
  • In May, 1999, he told Marianne he wanted a divorce.
  • During a joint counseling session, “Mr. Family Values” asked her if she would tolerate his ongoing affair with Callista Bisek to preserve their marriage. Marianne refused.
  • While still married to Marianne, Gingrich proposed to Callista Bisek.
  • Gingrich and Callista were married in August, 2000.

And how does Gingrich explain all this very non-“family values” series of adulterous couplings?

When his former wife, Marianne, asked Gingrich how he could give speeches preaching family values while flagrantly violating his marriage vows, he replied: “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say, and there’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”

Assessing what voters seek in a President, Gingrich told an interviewer on March 8, 2011:

“You want to be able to look into them and understand, do they share my values? Do they know what I’m frightened of? Do they have answers that are real? Are they stable; are they capable of doing something?….

“You watch all of these folks for a while, and because it’s the presidency, they’re in your living room or your kitchen, or wherever you happen to watch TV. And, you get to know them over time.”


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 21, 2011 at 1:11 am

A forgotten anniversary has come and gone: This December 2 marked the thirteenth anniversary of Enron’s bankruptcy.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion.  Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

From that point on, the media behaved as if Enron’s collapse was some great tragedy.

To put this in perspective: Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a similar tragedy.

Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse–as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.

Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries–and its prime role in carrying out the Holocaust.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy consortiums.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts.  Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996.  Enron siezed its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets.  The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never prosecuted for almost driving California–and the entire Western United States–into bankruptcy.

Once the news broke of Enron’s filing for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

Nor did anyone declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the hands of the United States Department of Justice: RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia.  Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)

Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

Needless to say, under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred.

With the tenth anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax–which affects only a tiny minority–“the death tax.”   This makes it appear to affect everyone.  Democrats should thus recast de-regulation in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Greed Relief”
“Greed Protection”
“Legalized Extortion”

And here are some possible slogans:

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.”

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

“De-regulating energy companies will reduce energy prices the same way that closing down prisons will reduce crime.” 

The word “Enron” can be turned into an obscenity: “E x t o r t R O N.”  Just as the corporation was in real-life.

Today the coal industry is pumping millions into TV ads touting the non-existant wonders of “clean coal.”

And Chevron spends millions more assuring us that “all those profits” go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

 If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Throughout the Cold War, Republicans held themselves out as the ultimate practitioners of “real-politick,” at home and abroad.  They convinced millions of Americans to believe that only their party could be trusted to not sell out America.

As a result, they held the White House for most of the latter part of the 20th Century.  Oftentimes, they also held the Senate or House of Representatives–if not both.

Thus, if President Harry S. Truman hemmed in the Soviet Union with a ring of military bases, making its further expansion into Europe impossible, that–according to Republicans–was abject surrender.  The reason: Truman refused to again turn Eastern Europe into a mass graveyard by declaring war to “roll back” Communism.

Thus, if President John F. Kennedy forced Nikita Khrushchev to withdraw Soviet nuclear missiles from Cuba, that–according to Republicans–was actually a defeat.  The reason: He didn’t risk certain thermonuclear war by launching an all-out invasion of that island.

But after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Republicans lost their Great Red Bogeyman.  Now all they could accuse Democrats of being “soft” on was crime, not Communism.

That, of course, was enough to win the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988 over Michael Dukakis.

Then, on September 11, 2001, the Republicans found their next great enemy to rally against–and to accuse Democrats of actively supporting.  This ensured the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush–who had hid out from the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard–over John Kerry, a genuine war hero who had seen heavy action in the same conflict.

And now Republicans are asserting that if only President Barack Obama can be swept out of office, they will do a far better job of protecting the country.  This from the party that

  • gave us a needless and bloody war in Iraq;
  • failed to destroy Osama bin Laden; and
  • made America an international pariah through the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”–i.e., torture.

And now, most of the seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination for President are urging a return to those “golden days” of torturous infamy.

In the last column, we saw that the FBI’s “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation has yielded far better results than the “Jack Bauer/24” methods favored by the CIA and military.

But this has not prevented Republicans from attacking  even those FBI agents who have risked their lives at home and abroad to defend America from terrArabism.  According to the high priests of the Republican party, those agents are “naive” do-gooders who don’t have the guts to go “all the way” against America’s enemies.

But Niccolo Machiavelli, whose name is a byward for political ruthlessness, would disagree with those Republicans.  In his small and notorious book, The Prince, he writes about the methods a ruler must use to gain power.  But in his larger and lesser-known  work, The Discourses, he outlines the ways that liberty can be maintained in a republic.

For Machiavelli, only a well-protected state can hope for peace and prosperity.  Toward that end, he wrote at length about the best ways to succeed militarily.  And in war, humanity can prevail at least as often as severity.

Consider the following example from The Discourses:

Camillus [a Roman general] was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp. 

And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, “By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.”         

Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city. 

Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.  

This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.

It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

This truth should be kept firmly in mind whenever right-wingers start bragging about their own patriotism and willingness to get “down and dirty” with America’s enemies.

Many–like Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney–did their heroic best to avoid military service.  These “chickenhawks” talk tough and are always ready to send others into battle–but keep themselves well out of harm’s way.

Such men are not merely contemptible; they are dangerous.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on November 17, 2011 at 11:25 pm

At the November 12 Republican debate on foreign policy, all seven candidates–however much they might disagree with each other on everything else–agreed on this:

President Barack Obama has been a failure at protecting America from terrArabism.

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain called for re-authorizing the use of waterboarding in “persuading” captured terrArabists to talk: “I don’t see it as torture, I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique.”

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Governor Rick Perry agreed with Cain.

And Perry drew sustained applause when he declared, “This is war…I will defend them [waterboarding and other coercive techniques] until I die.”

The use of waterboarding was discontinued late in the administration of President George W. Bush.  Following much heated, internal debate, officials in the FBI and Justice Department admitted that it constituted torture and was therefore illegal.

But after the killing of Osama bin Laden, several Bush administration officials–notably former Vice President Dick Cheney–tried to reinstitute the technique, or at least its reputation.

They suggested that information acquired during the earlier waterboarding years may have provided an essential clue to locating bin Laden.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the truth about torture generally–and waterboarding in particular–is just the opposite.  Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.

And, in fact, subsequent investigations have shown that just that happened with Al Qaeda suspects.

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001, hundreds of Al Qaeda members started falling into American hands.  And so did a great many others who were simply accused by rival warlords of being Al Qaeda members.

The only way to learn if Al Qaeda was planning any more 9/11-style attacks on the United States was to interrogate those suspected captives.  The question was: How?

The CIA and the Pentagon quickly took the “gloves off” approach.  Their methods included such “stress techniques” as playing loud music and flashing strobe lights to keep detainees awake.

Some were “softened up” prior to interrogation by “third-degree” beatings.  And still others were waterboarded.

In 2003, an FBI agent observing a CIA “interrogation” at Guantanamo was stunned to see a detainee sitting on the floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag.  Nearby, music blared and strobe slights flashed.

In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against America, he had accused the country of being controlled by the Jews, saying the United States “served the Jews’ petty state.”

Draping an Islamic captive with an Israeli flag could only confirm such propaganda.

The FBI, on the other hand, followed its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation.

Pat D’Amuro, a veteran FBI agent who had led the Bureau’s investigation into the 1998 bombing of the American embasy in Nairobi, Kenya, warned FBI Director Robert Mueller III:

The FBI should not be a party in the use of “enhanced intrrogation techniques.”  They wouldn’t work and wouldn’t produce the dramatic results the CIA hoped for.

But there was a bigger danger, D’Amuro warned: “We’ll be handing every future defense attorney Giglio material.”

The Supreme Court had ruled in Giglio vs. the United States (1972) that the personal credibility of a government official was admissible in court.

Any FBI agent who made use of extra-legal interrogation techniques could potentially have that issue raised every time he testified in court on any other matter.

It was a defense attorney’s dream-come-true recipe for impeaching an agent’s credibility–and thus ruin his investigative career.

But there was another solid reason for avoiding interrogations that smacked of torture: Most Al Qaeda members relished appearing before grand juries.

Unlike organized crime members, they were talkative–and even tried to proslytize to the jury members.  They were proud of what they had done–and wanted to talk.

“This is what the FBI does,” said Mike Rolince, an FBI experrt on counter-terrorism.  “Nearly 100% of the terrorists we’ve taken into custody have confessed.  The CIA wasn’t trained.  They don’t do interrogations.”

According to The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror (2011), jihadists had been taught to expect severe torture at tha hands of American interrogators.  Writes Author  Garrett M. Graff:

“Often, in the FBI’s experience, their best cooperation came when detainees realized they weren’t going to get tortured, that the United States wasn’t the Great Satan.  Interrogators were figuring out…that not playing into Al Qaeda’s propaganda could produce victories.”

And the FBI isn’t alone in believing that acts of simple humanity can turn even sworn entmies into allies.

No less an authority on “real-politick” than Niccolo Machiavelli reached the same conclusion more than 500 years ago.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on November 14, 2011 at 9:06 am

Throughout the 46-year history of the Cold War, Republicans deliberately slandered their Democratic opponents as outright traitors.

Republicans like Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon charged that Democrats were “Reds,” “pinkos” or “Comsymps” who wanted to sell out America to their “Muscovite masters in the Kremlin.”

Or they were vilified as would-be appeasers who were “soft on Communism.”  At best they were simply naive dupes; at worst they were “conscientious agents of the Communist conspiracy.”

Then a terrible thing happened to the Republicans.

Their worst enemy–the Soviet Union–suddenly collapsed on itself following the unsuccessful KGB-led coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev in August, 1991.

Four months later, on December 31, the Union of Soviet Social Republics officially ceased to exist, and was succeeded by the Russian Federation.

Of course, that did not prevent the Republicans from once again raising the spectre of the Red Bogeyman during the 1992 Presidential race between George H.W. Bush and his would-be (and eventual) successor, Bill Clinton.

Republican propagandists noted that Clinton had made a visit to the Soviet Union in December, 1969, while still in college.

They more than hinted that the KGB might have programmed him–with or against his consent–to return to the United States as their “Manchurian Candidate.”

But Americans–facing massive unemployment and seeing no end to it in sight–elected Clinton anyway.

Unable to resuscitate the enemy that had kept them in power for most of the latter 20th Century, the Republicans found a new one: Islamic terrorism.

During the 2008 campaign, they tried to convince voters that electing Barack Obama would usher in a wave of appeasement to “Islamofascism.”

After all, “Obama” and “Osama” were practically the same name, weren’t they?

Unfortunately for Republicans, the country was once again caught up in a near-depression.  To their horror, Americans overwhelmingly elected not only a Democrat–but a black one with a “foreign-sounding” name.

Then–for Republicans–more horror followed.

In 2003, their President, George W. Bush, had lied the nation into an unprovoked war with Iraq–the same way Adolf Hitler had lied Germany into an unprovoked war with Poland.  Now Obama started to wind down that endless quagmire.

To their further dismay, Obama began winding down the equally open-ended commitment to Afghanistan.

And, on May 2, 2011, Obama scored the victory that Bush had called for but had failed to deliver: He sent Navy SEALS to Pakistan to serve a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” warrant on Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for 9/11.

Then, taking a more cautious approach, Obama authorized American warplanes to assist Libyan rebels in toppling longtime dictator Mommar Kadaffi.

At first, it seemed Obama had bet on the wrong horse.  But, on October 20, Kadaffi was finally cornered by his enemies and murdered.

Soon afterward, Obama ordered American forces to “stand down” from Libya.

So what do we now hear from the Republicans?  Obama is “soft on terrorism.”

At the November 12 Republican debate on foreign policy, all seven candidates–however much they might disagree with each other on everything else–agreed on this:

Obama has been a failure at protecting America from terrArabism.

Speaking for himself and his rivals, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said at the Spartanburg, SC, debate: “We’re here tonight talking to the American people about why every single one of us is better than Barack Obama, and that’s something everyone here can agree with.”

No doubt the topmost officials of the Third Reich would have agreed that “every single one of us is better than” Franklin Roosevelt.

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain decided to prove that he “is better than Barack Obama” by calling for the re-authorized use of waterboarding to “persuade” captured terrArabists to talk.

“I don’t see it as torture, I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique,” said Cain.

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Governor Rick Perry agreed with Cain.

And Perry drew sustained applause when he declared, “This is war…I will defend them [waterboarding and other coercive techniques] until I die.”

The use of waterboarding was discontinued late in the administration of President George W. Bush.

Following much heated, internal debate, officials in the FBI and Justice Department admitted that it constituted torture and was therefore illegal.

But after the killing of Osama bin Laden, several Bush administration officials–notably former Vice President Dick Cheney–tried to reinstitute the technique, or at least its reputation.

They suggested that information acquired during the earlier waterboarding years may have provided an essential clue to locating bin Laden.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the truth about torture generally–and waterboarding in particular–is just the opposite.

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.  And, in fact, subsequent investigations have shown that just that happened with Al Qaeda suspects.

In our next column, we’ll examine what has been found to work in persuading captured terrArabists to talk.


In Bureaucracy, Politics on November 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Herman Cain hasn’t been elected Emperor yet, but he’s already starting to act like one.

The former Godfather Pizza CEO is facing accusations of sexual harassment from three unnamed women. But he has refused to fully answer reporters’ questions about those alleged incidents.

Then, on November 7, a fourth woman–Sharon Bialek–came forward to accuse Cain of making improper advances toward her.   

Even worse for Cain, Bialek is 
  • a lifelong Republican (not a rabid Democrat);
  • a professional businesswoman (not a bimbo);
  • white;
  • blonde. 
And she has two sworn statements from people to whom she told the story of Cain’s sexual advances at the time they happened. 
It hasn’t helped Cain that he–and his paid shills–have dared his anonymous accusers to “come out from the shadows” and state their charges openly. 
Nor has it helped him that, in true Godfather fashion, he’s recently said that he does not intend to discuss the matter again.  Ever.  

What is especially damning for Cain is that Bialek claims he made his advances when she desperately sought his help in finding a job after her recent termination from the National Restaurant Association.

It was Cain, after all, who famously said the unemployed should blame themselves for not having jobs and/or being rich.

According to Bialek:

“While we were driving back to the hotel, he said that he would show me where the National Restaurant Association offices were. He parked the car down the block. I thought that we were going to go into the offices so he that could show me around.

“At that time I had on a black pleated skirt, a suit jacket and a blouse. He had on a suit with his shirt open. But instead of going into the offices, he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg under my skirt and reached for my genitals. He also grabbed my head and brought it toward his crotch. I was very, very surprised and very shocked.

“I said: ‘What are you doing? You know I have a boyfriend. This isn’t what I came here for.’ Mr. Cain said, ‘You want a job, right?’

“I asked him to stop and he did. I asked him to take me back to my hotel which he did, right away.”

Needless to say, Bialek didn’t get any job-placement assistance from Cain. 

His idea of a “stimulus package,” as Bialek’s attorney, Gloria Allred, put it, was exactly that offered by those who feel entitled to play ruthless games with the lives of others.

Assuming that Bialek’s charges are true, Cain’s behavior proves once again that it is not the laziness of job-seekers that’s responsible for the joblessness of at least 14 million Americans.

It is, instead, the arrogance and greed of employers, who use their Godlike power to hire–or fire–to callously manipulate the lives of their fellow citizens.

Emperors resent being questioned–or, worse, criticized.  It’s easy to imagine Cain, as a true Godfather, ordering the imprisonment or execution of anyone who dares question whatever official verdict he deigns to render.

Unfortunately for him, the Constitution stands in his way.  Even would-be emperors like Herman Cain must abide by the law–including those laws that protect citizens from the sort of rapacious conduct described by Bialek.

In tribute to Cain’s efforts to replace President Clinton as the nation’s highest-ranking serial philanderer, the following is dedicated:


(To be sung to the tune of “Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box”)  

Herman’s got a big hand he slips up your dress.

And when he’s feeling his oats you’ll never get any rest. 

‘Cause he likes his girls white, when he’s leaning to the Right.

Herman’s got a boner, girl, you’ll never sleep tonight.

He’s got a big booming voice and a floppy pimp hat.

It doesn’t matter to him if you’ve never done that. 

‘Cause he delivers all night, when his wife is out of sight.

Herman’s got a boner, girl, you’ll never sleep tonight. 

He goes in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out. 

‘Cause he likes his girls white, and you know he’s far-Right.

Herman’s got a boner, girl, you’ll never sleep tonight. 

He goes, “Squeeze me, come on and tease me.

Come on and sleaze me for a job.

Just act like I’m your God.”

Herman’s got a boner, girl, you’ll never sleep tonight. 

He goes in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out. 

‘Cause he represents the rich, and now his life is such a bitch.

Herman’s got a boner, girl, you’ll never sleep tonight.


In Politics, Self-Help on November 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

“How can you tell when a politician is lying?” goes the old joke.

“His lips are moving,” goes the answer.

That’s good for a laugh, but for those who seriously follow business and political news (where most lying occurs) it’s not very helpful.

The ongoing Herman Cain sexual harassment allegations saga is a good place to start.

  1. The person refuses to answer questions.  That’s how Cain initially reacted to the charge that he sexually harassed two female employees during the 1990s.  If you ask someone, “Did you murder your wife?” and he refuses to say, “No, I didn’t,” the odds are good that he did.  Of course, it’s possible he’s refusing to answer because he simply resents being accused of a crime.  That’s his right.  But it’s your right as a truth-seeker to suspect that he did until he conclusively proves that he didn’t.
  2. The person gets testy when being questioned.  That’s how Cain reacted when questioned by reporters before he met with a group of doctors:.  His entire manner said:  “Who are you to dare question me?”  Again, it’s possible that he simply believes it’s none of your business.  But it’s also possible he has something he desperately needs to hide–and he resents your trying to find it out.
  3. The person claims to be an innocent victim of racist prejudice. Clarence Thomas made this claim during his 1991 hearings for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.  His former subordinate, Anita Hill, charged that he had sexually harassed her at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Thomas famously said: “This is a circus. It’s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas….”  The truth is that (1) it was a black woman who had made the charge; (2) Thomas was not an “uppity black” radical; his rightist views captivated the far right; and (3) he got the support of the Senate’s most dedicated racists–such as Senators Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond.
  4. The person attacks the media who carried the charges.  Liberals point to right-wing media such as Fox News, and rightists blame left-wing media such as the New York Times.   But this simply attacks the messenger, not the person making the charge.  The implication is: “The charge must be false if [so-and-so media] is carrying it.”
  5. The person can’t keep his story straight.  In his earliest remarks about the scandal, Cain said: “I am unaware of any sort of settlement.”  But Cain must have been aware of a settlement if he knew the results of an investigation into the charges.  Later in the same day, he admitted that he had known of an “agreement.”
  6. The person tries to cover up or explain away his misdeeds with language tricks.  In 1998 President Bill Clinton responded to a grand jury question with the now-infamous answer: “It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘is’ is.”  Similarly, when questioned about the contradiction between the two statements, Cain used weasel words to explain it away:  “I was aware that an agreement was reached. The word ‘settlement’ versus the word ‘agreement,’ you know, I’m not sure what they called it.”
  7. The person repeatedly says “I can’t recall” or “I don’t remember” when pressed about embarrassing or illegal behavior.  This is especially true when he’s testifying under oath; he thinks: “No one can prove I didn’t remember such-and-such when I said I couldn’t remember it.”  Cain repeatedly cited memory lapses when questioned about charges of harassment.

Your best defense against being misled: Keep yourself fully informed.  If you already knew about Richard Nixon’s  reputation for “smear-and-fear” campaigns, you wouldn’t be surprised at the news that he ran a similar one for re-election in 1972.

An additional defense: “Who is supporting this person or campaign?”  When a blitz of TV ads praises the environmental record of an oil company, don’t be fooled by the claim: “Paid for by Citizens For….”  How many “citizens” can afford millions of dollars for TV advertising?  And why would ordinary “citizens” spend so much money to glorify an oil company?

Politicians often wrap themselves as much in the Bible as the flag.  But their audiences should remember the advice given in Matthew 7: 7-8:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

The reward for such searching has been classically summed up in another Biblical verse–John 8:32:  “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

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