A few years ago, the filmmaker Errol Morris wrote a strange and fascinating 5-part series in the New York Times Opinionator blog called “The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is.” Anosognosia, medically speaking, is a neurological condition “in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware of or denies the existence of his or her disability.” Or put more simply, it’s an utter lack of self-awareness. Morris also explained the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or “the anosognosia of everyday life.” (This explains so much, right?) Morris also writes,
[V.S.] Ramachandran has used the notion of layered belief — the idea that some part of the brain can believe something and some other part of the brain can believe the opposite (or deny that belief) — to help explain anosognosia.
Morris seemed, in part, like he was trying to understand the subject of his later film, The Unknown Known, about former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But I found it incredibly useful in trying to decipher the brain function of Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest corporate lobby group. Donohue just gave a speech announcing the “State of American Business 2015” and the Chamber’s priorities for the new Congress. Morris points out that, “by definition one can never be aware of one’s own anosognosia. It takes someone else to point it out.” And one way to diagnose this condition is apparently through the use of an “anosognosia questionnaire.” So let’s do one for Mr. Donahue and then we’ll pass it along. We’ll see if it helps.
- In your speech, Mr. Donahue, you complain about lawsuits and announce the need for “legal reform,” i.e., laws that block everyday people from suing big corporations. In literally the next paragraph, you boast about how “extremely busy” the Chamber is filing lawsuits (which it does on average three times a week). Are you aware of how (insanely, we might add) hypocritical your position is?
- In your speech, you boast that “the Chamber’s Litigation Center successfully filed a record number of briefs in federal and state courts, and we’ll likely surpass that record this year.” One example? A day after BP was found to be grossly negligent in causing the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, the U.S. Chamber filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting BP's decision to stop spending money to help businesses it harmed and agreed to compensate. Those businesses, of course, included many of the Chamber's own members. Luckily the Supreme Court said “NO” to this ridiculous petition. However, are you aware that your position was (and continues to be) in direct conflict with the interests of your own members, whose pending claims would be tossed out if the Chamber got its way?
- In your speech, you announced that the Chamber will fight to “preserv[e] the availability of arbitration” although you really mean ONLY forced arbitration clauses imposed ON consumers and employees BY big banks, credit card companies, internet companies, payday lenders, nursing homes and other big corporations. If you supported forcing these clauses ON big banks, credit card companies, internet companies, payday lenders, nursing homes and other big corporations, forcing them to arbitrate to resolve their own business disputes, you'd have an insurrection on your hands. Why? Arbitration - they apparently hate it!
[A] study, that included contracts by 21 different telecommunications and financial service companies, found mandatory arbitration clauses jammed into 75 percent of consumer agreements, but just 24 percent of contracts overall. And in previous studies, the report’s authors found that just 11 percent of companies used arbitration clauses when contracting with fellow businesses.
We get it. Forced arbitration is biased, rigged, expensive, unfair and binding. So we gotta ask: any awareness, any at all, of your own duplicity on this matter?
Finally, in your speech, you advocate “passing the FACT Act to help prevent fraudulent asbestos claims.” What fraud? The fraud where BASF and its corporate lawyers, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, were shown to have "systematically collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products produced by a BASF predecessor, Engelhard, in order to evade liability and forge quick settlements"? The fraud "committed on the court" by asbestos company Garlock Sealing Technologies, which, "violated [the judges'] discovery orders, hid evidence from the bankruptcy court and presented false testimony"? The 50 years of fraud committed on millions of people – including former servicemembers - by the entire asbestos industry, which covered-up the lethal effects of asbestos for decades, causing the death of 10,000 people every year - still today! Or the utter lack of fraud by dying asbestos claimants?
The Chamber’s bill would require asbestos trusts to disclose on a public web site private, confidential information about every asbestos claimant and their families, including their names, addresses, where they work, how much they make, some medical information, how much they received in compensation and the last four digits of their social security numbers. (Alert the identity thieves!) At the same time, as noted by the New York Times, the legislation does not ask the companies to do one thing to help the victims, or to disclose any information that could help a claimant with his or her case.
Anosognosia is a disease. Step one - admit you have a problem. Hope we've helped.