6/20/2013

Lies damned lies and government officials (part one)



Everyone has heard the term "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" which is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. And virtually every politician's words are taken with a a great deal of skepticism. After all, "how do you know a politician is lying to you ? His lips are moving." Badaboom.

As if it was not enough that we  have to worry about our elected officials misleading us for political gain,  now we have to worry about government "officials" deceiving us in order to protect their agendas or their fiefdoms of bureaucracy.

A recent example is that at the highest echelons of the IRS in collusion with the White House  they conspired how to reveal the conservative and Tea Party "targeting" scandal in order to get ahead of an Inspector Generals report.
Weeks before the world – and apparently President Barack Obama himself – heard about the details of the Internal Revenue Service scandal, top people in his administration started planning how to stage-manage the release of the information.
Actually nobody really blames them for trying to get ahead of the story, that is smart public relations, but they not only planted a fake question at a Bar Association conference of all places, they lied about what happened and failed to reveal the White house involvement  until well after the fact.  In other words they created a scandal by revealing a scandal, not too bright really.

To summarize, a career civil "servant" intentionally and with premeditation planed with her superiors  to mislead the public they ostensibly serve about what had occurred at a public agency. They did so either to protect their own culpability or to shield that agency from harm or both.  Out here in the real world we call that a cover up or just plain lying.

But not all lies are to protect from scandals, though government officials lying to the public is a scandal in of itself, sometimes they lie to cover for their agendas.

Consider Peter V. Lee the Executive Director of “Covered California,” the Golden State’s system of Obamacare insurance exchanges. Peter Ferarra at The American Spectator does an excellent job of explaining Mr. Lee's slight of hand.
The Covered California press release stated: “The rates submitted to Covered California for the 2014 individual market ranged from 2 percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average premium for small employer plans in California’s most populous regions.”

If you don’t read that sentence carefully, you may miss the trick that is being played on you. Instead of comparing the 2014 premiums under Obamacare for health insurance sold in the individual market in California to the 2013 premiums for health insurance sold in the individual market in California, which would be comparing apples to apples, the statement does something else. It compares the 2014 premiums under Obamacare for health insurance sold in the individual market in California to the 2013 premiums for “small employer plans” sold to employers in California.

That is like comparing the prices for laundry detergent sold to consumers for use in their homes to prices for industrial strength detergent sold to businesses for cleaning responsibilities in operating their businesses. Or it is like a Chevy dealer in a year when the prices for Chevys have soared issuing a press release that says, “The prices for 2014 Chevy cars and trucks ranged from 2 percent above to 29 percent below the 2013 average prices for Lincoln Town cars sold to limousine services and dump trucks sold to construction companies.” What consumers want to know is how the prices for 2014 Chevys compare to the prices for 2013 Chevys. That would be comparing apples to apples.
As the story points out Obama used  these false statement to show how well his signature program is doing, not.

So just because a government official makes a declarative reassuring statement it does not mean you should be reassured. It is one thing to have to monitor our elected politicians words for deception, after all we can hold them accountable through elections. It is quite another task to be leery  and skeptical of every statement of fact coming out of government officials mouths.

After all just the description or title as "government officials lends a certain authority to any pronouncement they may make on a subject of public policy, right? After all wouldn't it be automatically assumed that a government official making public statements are giving us the official version of whatever they are communicating about?  After all, unless they preface their statement by saying, "in my opinion" one must assume that what they are saying is truthful to the best of their knowledge and the "official" position of whatever agency or institution they represent.

Or based on recent performance we might just want to call them government unofficials.

This brings us to the recent revelations about the NSA and domestic surveillance. Asked directly whether the NSA was doing what we all now know is exactly what they are doing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had the following exchange with Senator Wyden at a Senate hearing.

Wyden: And this is for you, Director Clapper, again on the surveillance front. And I hope we can do this in just a yes or no answer because I know Senator Feinstein wants to move on. Last summer the NSA director was at a conference and he was asked a question about the NSA surveillance of Americans. He replied, and I quote here, '...the story that we have millions or hundreds of millions of dossiers on people is completely false.' The reason I'm asking the question is, having served on the committee now for a dozen years, I don't really know what a dossier is in this context. So what I wanted to see is if you could give me a yes or no answer to the question: Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" 
Clapper: "No, sir." 
Wyden: "It does not." 
Clapper: "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly."
Obviously that is a lie.  He knew it was a lie when he said it, but as he later explained when the truth came out “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner, by saying no.” The least untruthful? Is there a government agency that determines degrees of truthfulness now? How ridiculous

But he is not alone as we will see in part two of Lies, damned lies and government officials.


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