Tag: hypocrisy

Vitter went a whoring

June 8, 2011 | By | 8 Replies More
Vitter went a whoring

I wrote the following poem to commemorate the ongoing rampant hypocrisy.
Tim Hogan

Rep. Vitter (R-LA) went a “DC Madam” whoring, he was elected US Senator and the GOP found it boring.
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

Sen. Craig (R-ID) had a “wide stance” but, the GOP said; “so what?” to his advance.
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

The National Republican Campaign Committee twice went a Vegas sex clubbing, the GOP gave it no drubbing.
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

The RNC youth went to club featuring bondage and had its fill; the GOP didn’t blink an eye paying the bill!
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang; the GOP made it into a big thang!

Gov. Mark Sanford (R-NC) went a “hiking;” the GOP still kept its liking!
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) preyed upon a married staffer; to the GOP, it was a laugher!
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) pushed and threatened a server when rebuffed, the GOP elected him Governor, the charges were stuffed!
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

Reps. Bunn (R-OR), Burton (R-IN), Calvert (R-CA), Dan Crane (R-IL), Chenoweth (R-ID), Gingrich (R-GA), Hyde (R-IL), Scmitz (R-CA) and Sherwood (R-PA) cheated and lied; the GOP just sighed.
Rep. Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

Sen. Thurmond (R-SC) had knowledge of his family’s “colored” maid, had a child and about the races the Senator ranted and raved; the GOP and the South were saved!
Weiner tweeted his clothed wang, the GOP made it into a big thang!

The Republicans have cheated, whored and upon women and children preyed, all the while politics they’ve played. Me, I’m just dismayed.

[And here’s a one-stop source for Republican sex scandals]

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Why are human animals such hypocrites? Because we are little lawyers riding big elephants

June 26, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Why are human animals such hypocrites? Because we are little lawyers riding big elephants

Possibly the most salient feature of human beings is that they so often act contrary to the principles they publicly extol. People in the process of getting ever more obese sincerely acknowledge that they need to eat less and exercise more. Most Americans freely acknowledge that television is a “boob tube” that makes them stupid, yet they watch an average of 4.5 hours per day. Parents who sincerely claim that spending quality time with their young children is the most important thing they could do, work long hours at the office in order to afford pricey cars, houses and vacations. Most Americans who proclaim that we are in the midst of an energy crisis and global warming are doing next to nothing to change their energy-wasting personal lifestyles. Conservative American church-goers who claim that their highest religious duty is to love their enemies exuberantly support wars in which U.S. bombs shred and burn both enemies and innocent children.

How frustrating it is to try to explain this ubiquitous hypocrisy! This self-contradiction between our (oftentimes sincere) beliefs and our physical cravings defines us so well that we are often surprised when we find humans who are actually living according to the principles they declare to be sacred. Why is it that we such excellent hypocrites?

In The Happiness Hypothesis, psychologist Jonathan Haidt uses a simple metaphor to illustrate the extent to which human beings are profoundly conflicted beings. On pages 12 – 22, Haidt asks us to consider each human being as a tandem enterprise: a lawyer trying to ride an elephant. The part of us that is conscious, careful and calculating (the lawyer) is often outmatched by the huge lumbering bag of electro-chemical processes, appetites and cravings that characterizes the physical human body (the elephant). The good news is that our intellect is often quite reliable in telling us what we need to do. The bad news is that the intellect is often overwhelmed by the “elephant’s” unrelenting unconscious bodily impulses. What passes as human rationality is born of a conflict between these two aspects of who we are.

Human rationality depends critically on sophisticated emotionality. It is only because our emotional brain’s work so well that our reasoning can work at all. Plato’s image of reason as a charioteer controlling the dumb beasts of passion may overstate not only the wisdom but also the power of the charioteer. The metaphor of a rider on an elephant fits Damasio’s findings more closely: reason and emotion must both work together to create intelligent behavior, but emotion (a major part of the elephant) does most of the work. When the neocortex came along, it made a rider possible, but it may be elephant much smarter too.

As indicated above, Haidt explains that human animals each consist of two processing systems that are both constantly at work: A) controlled conscious processes and B) unconscious automatic processes. Most mental processes happen automatically, without any need for conscious attention or control. Our controlled conscious ability depend heavily on language, which is a recent arrival on the evolutionary time scale.

[When language evolved,] the human brain was not re-engineered to hand over the reins of power to the rider (conscious verbal thinking). Things were already working pretty well, and linguistic ability spread to the extent that it helps the elephant do something important in a better way. The rider involved to serve the elephant. But whatever its origin, once we had it, language was a powerful tool that could be used in new ways, and evolution then selected those individuals who got the best use out of it.

Haidt also notes that controlled processing is limited in scope–we can only think consciously about one thing at a time. Compare this limited conscious processing to our unconscious automatic processes which, because they run in parallel, can handle many tasks simultaneously.

Language allows us to think about long-term goals, “and thereby escape the tyranny of the here and now.” On the other hand, our controlled system of conscious thinking “has relatively little power to cause behavior,” because it is overwhelmed by the vast automatic system that evolved to “trigger quick and reliable action.” Haidt thus sees our conscious control system as a mere advisor:

It’s a rider placed on the elephant’s back to help the elephant make better choices. The rider can see farther into the future, and the writer can learn valuable information by talking to other writers or by reading maps, but the writer cannot order the elephant around against his will. I often believe the Scottish philosopher David Hume was closer to the truth than Plato when he said, “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” In sum, the writer is an advisor or servant; not a king, president, or charioteer with a firm grip on the reins. . . . the elephant, in contrast, is everything else. The elephant includes the gut feelings, visceral reactions, emotions and intuitions that comprise much of the automatic system.

What Haidt articulates so well is known understood by each of us, even at a gut level. We are constantly at war with ourselves. How else can it possibly be that so many people act in ways that are contrary to their cherished principles? How else could it be that so many sincere humans act absolutely contrary to their self-defined best interests?

All is not lost, however. Skilled riders cleverly shift attention away from the elephant. Skilled riders cause the elephant to think about things other than those things that will tempt the elephant. When I absolutely need to be working late at the office, I try to distract myself from thinking about being at home with my family because those sorts of thoughts will sorely tempt me to abandon my work at the office. Instead, I constantly remind myself to keep my attention on the project at hand. Riders must be content to distract the elephant rather than directly confronting the elephant because it’s too hard for the conscious control system to maintain any control over the automatic system of the elephant through will power alone. Haidt writes that sustained attempts by the rider to control the elephant through brute strength inevitably fail. “Just say no” campaigns and virginity pledges usually fail. The small rider eventually wears down like “a tired muscle.”

What kind of rider is most successful at controlling the elephant? “An emotionally intelligent person has a skilled rider who knows how to distract and coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills.” To illustrate this principle, Haidt discusses a classic experiment involving marshmallows, in which children who grew up to be successful were able (well young children) to distract themselves from eating a marshmallow in order to be rewarded with a second marshmallow.

The same conflict of rider versus elephant plays out in the moral arena. Haidt describes moral judgment is much like aesthetic judgment. We know what we like and don’t like immediately and a gut feeling. Our explanations usually amount to confabulation. “It is the elephant who decides what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly.” (See here for Haidt’s elegant theory of moral psychology)

But again, all is not lost. Not for all of us all of the time, anyway. There are many clever riders out there who can distract their elephants for sustained periods. Not all people overeat. Many people consistently choose to shut down their televisions and choose to live challenging lives in the real world. Further, when those of use with good self-control act collectively, we can assist those without as much self-control (e.g., by enacting laws to force food manufacturers to put food’s nutritional information on a label)

A good rider can assist an elephant to do incredible things, such as the ability to collaborate. “Only the rider can string sentences together and create arguments to give to other people. In moral arguments, the writer goes beyond being just an advisor to the elephant; he becomes a lawyer, fighting in the court of public opinion to persuade others of the elephant’s point of view.”

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Google, China, and hypocrisy

January 18, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More
Google, China, and hypocrisy

You’ve probably heard the stories in the news. A superpower has been shamed, a totalitarian state has been outed. A tyrannical government has been spying on the private communications of its citizens, including that of activists and journalists. What they plan to do with the fruits of their techno-espionage is not well understood, but given their history they can hardly be up to any good. What is clear is that this government is fanatical about crushing any challenge to their perceived supremacy, whether those challenges are internal or external. They even demand that private companies aid them in censoring unfavorable news (with a stunning degree of success), and these private companies (mostly based in the United States) may even have helped them spy on their citizenry.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this was just another blog posting about Google and China. It’s actually a post about hypocrisy.

First, if you haven’t heard, Google is re-evaluating their decision to do business in China, ostensibly as a result of some cyber-attacks directed at the Gmail accounts of some human-rights activists. The U.S. State Department is planning to lodge a formal protest on the alleged attacks. Plenty of others have already analyzed this story. As usual, the real story is behind the headlines.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week:

The Google-China flap has already reignited the debate over global censorship, reinvigorating human rights groups drawing attention to abuses in the country and prompting U.S. politicians to take a hard look at trade relations. The Obama administration issued statements of support for Google, and members of Congress are pushing to revive a bill banning U.S. tech companies from working with governments that digitally spy on their citizens.

To prevent United States businesses from cooperating with repressive governments in transforming the Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance, to fulfill the responsibility of the United States Government to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to restore public confidence in the integrity of United States businesses…

So far, so good. Restoring public confidence in the integrity of U.S. businesses might be a tall order for any bill, but whatever. The rest are all noble goals: preventing repressive governments from using the internet as a tool of censorship and surveillance, promoting freedom of expression, and so on. Just one problem: none of these provisions apply to the U.S. Government.

You see, the U.S. Government is the tyrannical superpower from the first paragraph of this blog post. You might have asked yourself why it is that the Chinese people put up with having their private communications read by their government. The real question is this: Why do you put up with it?

[More . . . ]

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Report thousands of crimes? Go to prison. Commit thousands of crimes? No problem.

January 7, 2010 | By | 9 Replies More
Report thousands of crimes?  Go to prison.  Commit thousands of crimes? No problem.

Check out this incredible display of hypocrisy vividly demonstrating the raw power of money. It’s a story about Bradley Birkenfeld published at DemocracyNow by Amy Goodman. Birkenfeld was a banker for the Swiss giant UBS. In 2007, he “blew the whistle on the biggest tax evasion scheme in US history.” He is preparing to head to prison tomorrow to begin serving a forty-month federal sentence. The written record is clear that Birkenfeld provided inside information to the U.S. Senate, to the IRS and the Justice Department demonstrating that more than 19,000 Americans have been hiding vast amounts of financial assets in secret UBS Swiss accounts.

None of these tax cheats–they have all cheated the U.S. government out of substantial tax revenue–is spending any time in jail. Who are these tax cheats who hid more than $20 billion from the U.S. government in secret Swiss accounts? Their names have not been disclosed according to Stephen Kohn, Birkenfeld’s attorney:

[T]hey’re all very rich people, very powerful people. They could be judges. They could be senators. They’re all rich. They’re all probably very powerful in their local communities. How guilty were they? . . . Every year they checked a box that was a lie on their tax form that permitted them to hide millions and millions in assets. Each time they checked that box, they committed a felony. So if they were doing it for fifteen, twenty years, these are large felonies.

But wasn’t there a possibility that these wealthy American tax cheats could have gotten caught without Birkenfeld’s efforts? After all, weren’t these rich tax cheats receiving bank statements from an big overseas bank? Nope. That “problem” was taken care of by a special arrangement between the bank and each of its tax cheat customers. According to Stephen Kohn:

They also had this thing called “mail hold.” The Swiss bank would never send them a letter, so no one could ever track it down. It was personal between that millionaire cheater and the bank. And all of their mail would be held in a secret vault. So when they traveled to Switzerland, they could sit and open all their mail, all their receipts, all their statements, and then shred them when they were done looking at them. In other words, the bank was actively facilitating the fraud, but each client was actively engaged. And these were not small frauds. These were major frauds by millionaires and billionaires. And right now, the American people don’t know who they were. Think of that. Fourteen thousand multimillionaires and, we know, billionaires had illegal accounts for years. They hold positions of authority in the United States. And the Justice Department has essentially given cover to every single one of them.

But wait! Why is Birkenfeld going to prison? Well, U.S. authorities have accused him of helping his own billionaire client hide assets–a man named Igor Olenicoff. Olenicoff ended up getting probation while Birkenfeld is going to spend four years in the slammer.

All of this goes to show you that there are some mighty powerful unwritten laws here in the United States. We are a country of two versions of justice, one for the rich and another for the poor. What kind of justice do the poor get? Consider another example: 750,000 people are arrested for possession of marijuana every year, the equivalent to the entire population of South Dakota. At the same time, large monied pharmaceutical companies crank out expensive drugs that mimic virtually every street drug out there, perfectly legally and in many cases financed by the U.S. Medicare system.

Yes, there are two versions of justice here in the U.S. It reminds me of that famous quote by Anatole France:

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anyone, rich or poor, who wants to cheat the U.S. government by stashing their possessions in an overseas bank account is welcome to do so. But if you cheat the government out of food stamps, God help you. Anyone who wants to produce mind-altering medication by starting their own pharmaceutical company is allowed to do so under the law. But if you grow marijuana at home, you’ll face the full weight of the law.

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Anti-socialist protesters resort to inferior free-market solution

September 18, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Anti-socialist protesters resort to inferior free-market solution

Sometimes, the hypocrisy is so delicious, I can’t stand it. Texas Representative Kevin Brady is apparently upset that the D.C. metro subway system did not provide added services to accommodate the Tea-party protests last weekend. From the Wall Street Journal:

“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.”

He added that an 80 year old woman and several veterans in wheelchairs were forced to pay for cabs. These private sector cabs (which were much more expensive and much less convenient) took them to their protest against government-provided services, when they would have preferred to ride on a taxpayer-funded socialist subway. No word yet on whether any heads exploded due to massive internal contradictions.

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“Extenuating circumstances” for faking drug testing data?

March 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
“Extenuating circumstances” for faking drug testing data?

I don’t get it.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that

A prominent Massachusetts anesthesiologist allegedly fabricated 21 medical studies that claimed to show benefits from painkillers like Vioxx and Celebrex, according to the hospital where he worked.

This fabrication is not surprising in light of the fact that Vioxx has now been shown to be of highly questionable effectiveness and based on real world use that has arguably caused tens of thousands of deaths–people who had heart attacks because they used Vioxx when they could have, instead, continued to use the extremely safe over-the-counter drug Naproxen. But then comes the good part, a claim by Dr. Rueben’s attorney:

“Dr. Reuben deeply regrets that this happened,” said the doctor’s attorney, Ingrid Martin. “Dr. Reuben cooperated fully with the peer review committee. There were extenuating circumstances that the committee fairly and justly considered.” She declined to explain the extenuating circumstances.

There you have it. There were “extenuating circumstances” for faking data in 21 medical studies. I wonder what those “extenuating circumstances” were? The desire to get rich by conniving with a dirty drug company (see the article for the evidence)? Our did those “extenuating circumstances” include the lack of any sense of professional responsibility? Or did those “extenuating circumstances” include sadistic impulses to endanger the lives of thousands of people?

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Judging the violence of others

January 15, 2009 | By | 4 Replies More
Judging the violence of others

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt has written an excellent multidisciplinary work on the meaning of life, entitled The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006). I am presently reading Haidt’s book for the second time, paragraph by paragraph.  This is clearly one of the books I would take to a desert island if I were […]

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President Bush gave up golf? What about his many other amusements?

May 20, 2008 | By | Reply More
President Bush gave up golf? What about his many other amusements?

Slate asks why Bush hasn’t given up his other amusements. Or maybe Slate is asking what is so damned patriotic about giving up golf. However you frame it, there’s hypocrisy in the air.

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Hypocrisy, anyone? The MSM and politicians do more than their share this week.

April 26, 2008 | By | Reply More
Hypocrisy, anyone?  The MSM and politicians do more than their share this week.

Arianna Huffington recently wrote a post that summarizes enough hypocrisy to throw the happiest concerned citizen into a long-term funk. The deep theme that all of these recent events have in common is that prominent American sources of information are demonstrably untrustworthy. How else can you explain the Administration’s military propaganda being spewed out by […]

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