Promises, Promises; OR, Why It's legal to Lie to Voters

 

 

                                  by Walter Brasch

 

With less than a week before the election, Marshbaum has been campaigning furiously.

 "A chicken in every pot! Natural gas drilling will save the universe. Free health care for everyone!"

 "Marshbaum!" I commanded, "you can't make those kinds of promises."

 "You're right. I don't want to offend the health care industry. There's a lot of campaign money there. I'll just make up something else."

 "You just can't make up campaign promises."

 "Sure I can. It's easy. How about 'Vote for Marshbaum and win a date with Bette Midler?'"

 "You don't even know Bette Midler."

  "I like her movies," he said casually.

 "It has nothing to do with her movies," I said.

 "Think someone doesn't like her singing? I sure don't want to offend anyone. I could make it a date with Angelina Jolie. How about Brad Pitt for the women? Justin Bieber for teens?"

 "MARSHBAUM!" I screamed. "Get reasonable!"

 He thought a moment. "You're right. Angelina and Brad are probably out wasting their time doing some kind of charity work. How about 'Elect Marshbaum and you'll never pay taxes again!'"

 "That's ridiculous," I said. "No one will believe you."

 "Doesn't matter if they do or don't as long as they vote for me."

 "But you'd be lying to the people," I said.

 "Look at campaign posters," Marshbaum commanded. "They all say the same thing. You can just change the candidates' names and faces and no one will even notice."

"People don't vote for someone based upon posters," I said.

 "You think voters actually read those newspaper articles or go to debates? It's all name recognition. You have more posters and ads than the next guy, and you win. You get three words on a poster. Try 'fair,' 'tough,' and 'experienced' Add a picture of the family for newspaper and TV ads, and mix it in with campaign promise not to raise taxes, and you have election assured."

 "There's probably some law that prevents politicians from lying."

 "Even for being a journalist, you're rather dense," said Marshbaum. "The FCC says it's OK to lie."

 "The Federal Communications Commission gives its approval?" I asked skeptically.

 "The FCC says that radio and TV stations can't refuse to run political ads even if the station management knows the ads are outright lies. Law says if a station takes even one ad from one candidate for federal office, it has to take all ads from all candidates for that office, even if the ad is highly offensive."

 "I'm sure when Congress wakes up they'll change this insane law." Marshbaum just laughed. "Most people don't believe most of what they see on TV anyhow," I sniffed.

 "Don't like the FCC and Congress? The Supreme Court said it was OK to lie," said Marshbaum.

 "The Supremes said lying to the people is acceptable?" I scoffed.

 "OK, not the U. ­­S­. Supreme Court, but A Supreme Court."

 "Which one? In Kabul?"

 "Albany. The New York Supreme Court."

 "Marshbaum, not even New York's court could be that incompetent."

 "Got it right here," he said, taking a wadded paper from his pocket. Case of O'Reilly v. Mitchell. Guy named O'Reilly sued a politician named Mitchell in 1912 and charged him with making promises that weren't kept."

 "A promise is a verbal contract," I said. "I'm sure you read it wrong. The Court undoubtedly upheld O'Reilly's claims."

 "Wrong, Newsprint Breath," said Marshbaum arrogantly. "Court said that politicians lie all the time, that promises in a campaign are just that. Promises. Verdict for the politician. Case closed."

 "But that occurred before World War I," I said. "Undoubtedly, some court overturned it."

"It's precedent," Marshbaum said. "It's on the books. And the ruling was based upon the First Amendment rights of free expression. Just like the FCC ruling. How about 'Vote for Marshbaum and he'll wash all your dirty laundry?'"

 "Marshbaum," I said disgustedly, "there's already too much dirty laundry in the legislature and Congress."

 "Problem solved," said a smug Marshbaum, "when the voters see my plan to give everyone a free clothes washer and dryer, they'll overwhelmingly vote for me."

"You can do whatever you want, but just remember that some politicians actually tell the truth."

 "Name one who did and got elected!" he demanded.

 "Honest Abe," I replied.

 

(For the legal scholars out there, the case of O'Reilly v. Mitchell is cited as 85MISC176, 148NYS, 88 SUP, 1914. For those who aren't lawyers, reflect upon Hitler's belief that "the victor will never be asked if he told the truth." Walter Brasch's next book is Before the First Snow, available in pre-orders at amazon.com)

 

 

Lie to Us…Please

Back in the day, con men were wizards of the lie. If they weren’t they’d find themselves in a jail cell with a guy who robbed a 7-11 for a pack of filter-tipped Camels and a bathtub-sized Slurpee. Good con-men know the secret to a lie is a shade of truthiness. Con men these days aren’t so sharp – perhaps because they can no longer tell lies from truth or even believe their own grifty stories, which is the kiss of death to a professional liar.

Take politicians. They used to switch positions by citing subtle nuances in language or deftly changing the topic in such a way as to show the discrepancy was really the sign of a world-class leader who earnestly believes both sides are equally correct.

Then, Busheney – the antithesis of good liars – came along.

‘I Was For It While I Was Against It’
“I’m totally against Position A,” they’d say at one speech. A week later they’re saying, “I’m totally for Position A.” When asked about the discrepancy – usually including videotape showing there was no ambiguity in either statement – they simply answered, “Yeah, what’s your point?”

This isn’t just a public sector problem either. Most big corporations have finally realized the world really does belong entirely to them. Look at BP.

From Day 1, BP has misappropriated the phrase, “We’ll be here until we’ve made things right.” First, BP showed their commitment to the slogan by having their CEO, then an Executive VP, and now an “operations coordinator” tell us how swell they are and how we’re lucky this whole oil leak didn’t involve another oil company.

I mean who knows what might have happened if it was an Exxon well. I know I’m counting my blessings.

Every day they issue a statement or agree to a rule or some other vitally important matter only to reverse course the next day when someone catches them looping the camera feed or preventing reporters from being on “their” beach.

If there were no lame attempts, there’d be no attempts at hiding the lie at all. Oh yeah, they do that too.

Surprisingly, I used to feel more comfortable when they made the effort to cover their tracks. I am a man who admires craftsmanship and telling a good lie is about as crafty as it gets. When they deftly lied, it made me feel I was important in my own small way. If I, the little cog in the big machine, was vital enough to be lied to, I must be important somehow.

If you Must Lie, Lie Big

It’s something like buying a used car and waiting for the Big Shoe Lie to drop. If it doesn’t, you’re more leery than if they had lied. You almost feel cheated. “I’m gonna get this car home and the tranny’s going to fall out into my driveway, isn’t it?”

I implore all you professional liars out there to take pride in your work. Politicians, tell us a whopper. CEO’s, tell us you’d give the big bonuses back if only the company would accept them. PR flaks, call oil spills, “marginally demonetized drilling operations with opportunities for enhanced change and profitability.”

Lie to me. Go ahead. I can’t take the unvarnished truth anymore.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Why Our Nobles Betray Us

As Robert the Bruce explains to Wallace in the movie, "They have much to lose." You see, those nobles profited from the status quo of that time. Wallace means to up end that status quo. It's naïve to think that they will help him because they love their country. Of course, they will work against him because they don't want to lose their status, power and riches. That status quo might suck for everyone else, but it's great for them.

And so it is with our nobles today. We keep expecting the politicians and the mainstream press to do the right thing. That is profoundly naive. Why is a television anchor making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year going to look to change the system? He loves the system. The system pays the bills.

That's even truer of our politicians. The status quo got them elected. The status quo will get them - and their staffers - great salaries when they retire and become lobbyists. They'd have to be crazy to change the system that put them up on top.

That's why change must come from outside the system. We keep waiting for the Obama administration to bring us the change they promised. What are we, children? The current system got Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, etc. where they are. They have gotten to the pinnacle of power by playing within that system. They've made millions in that system. That's why they have no intention of actually upending it. They just want to tweak it and do exactly what Obama said he wouldn't do if he got elected - play the Washington game just a little better.

This doesn't mean you give up all hope. There are some good guys in DC. I recently talked to a House staffer who said that Senator Franken's staff is excellent. The staff is so important because they are the ones who actually write the bills. I asked him why Franken's staff was better than the others. And he had a simple answer - they don't plan to work as lobbyists in DC when they're done serving in his office.

It's not just the honest senators that should give you hope. What should give you the most hope is that the motivations of people are actually quite simple. So, we can change the results by changing the incentives.

For example, if we pay the campaign expenses of politicians instead of letting the lobbyists pay them, then the politicians might actually work for us. If we ban the politicians and their staff from working as lobbyists, they might not have as much incentive to sell us out.

I know the people inside DC think that last proposal is absolute heresy. How would they get rich if they can't work as lobbyists? And that's precisely what the problem is. They're getting rich at our expense. We're crazy to allow this system to continue.

The nobles will never change it. This is how they got to where they are. This is how they maintain their power and salaries. We have to make them change it. And as William Wallace found out, you can only do that from the outside and by not listening to the establishment that has different (and almost exact opposite) motivations as you do.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks

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Why Our Nobles Betray Us

As Robert the Bruce explains to Wallace in the movie, "They have much to lose." You see, those nobles profited from the status quo of that time. Wallace means to up end that status quo. It's naïve to think that they will help him because they love their country. Of course, they will work against him because they don't want to lose their status, power and riches. That status quo might suck for everyone else, but it's great for them.

And so it is with our nobles today. We keep expecting the politicians and the mainstream press to do the right thing. That is profoundly naive. Why is a television anchor making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year going to look to change the system? He loves the system. The system pays the bills.

That's even truer of our politicians. The status quo got them elected. The status quo will get them - and their staffers - great salaries when they retire and become lobbyists. They'd have to be crazy to change the system that put them up on top.

That's why change must come from outside the system. We keep waiting for the Obama administration to bring us the change they promised. What are we, children? The current system got Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, etc. where they are. They have gotten to the pinnacle of power by playing within that system. They've made millions in that system. That's why they have no intention of actually upending it. They just want to tweak it and do exactly what Obama said he wouldn't do if he got elected - play the Washington game just a little better.

This doesn't mean you give up all hope. There are some good guys in DC. I recently talked to a House staffer who said that Senator Franken's staff is excellent. The staff is so important because they are the ones who actually write the bills. I asked him why Franken's staff was better than the others. And he had a simple answer - they don't plan to work as lobbyists in DC when they're done serving in his office.

It's not just the honest senators that should give you hope. What should give you the most hope is that the motivations of people are actually quite simple. So, we can change the results by changing the incentives.

For example, if we pay the campaign expenses of politicians instead of letting the lobbyists pay them, then the politicians might actually work for us. If we ban the politicians and their staff from working as lobbyists, they might not have as much incentive to sell us out.

I know the people inside DC think that last proposal is absolute heresy. How would they get rich if they can't work as lobbyists? And that's precisely what the problem is. They're getting rich at our expense. We're crazy to allow this system to continue.

The nobles will never change it. This is how they got to where they are. This is how they maintain their power and salaries. We have to make them change it. And as William Wallace found out, you can only do that from the outside and by not listening to the establishment that has different (and almost exact opposite) motivations as you do.

Watch The Young Turks Here

Follow Cenk Uygur on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheYoungTurks

Follow The Young Turks on Facebook: www.facebook.com/tytnation

 

An open letter to a number of politicians, including the President:

To the Majority leaders of the Senate, the House of Representatives, their Minority counterparts, the President of the United States, and various others (such as Senators McCain, Lieberman, and all the others who are making a mess out of our legislative system and the future of our economy and our government):

What the hell is wrong with you guys? Don't you know we are watching all of you as you behave like High School adolescents and make our lawmaking processes a joke? Don't you know you were elected by ordinary people like me and, while we don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure your campaign hotel accommodations are first rate, we believed that in voting for you... all of you...that you would not only represent us, but LISTEN to our concerns and work together to solve our collective problems?

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