Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Liar Liar Pants Are On Fire!

"Street Scene" by Giorgio Conrad
Here is what the on-line Urban Dictionary says “"Liar Liar Pants Are On Fire' is a phrase that children like to scream at each other whenever they think the other is lying. They also like to scream it at adults who tell them stories about fairies. It is an overall stupid thing to say, since if your pants actually caught on fire when you lied, more politicians would be dead.” If there was any truth behind the maxim then Ted Cruz would certainly be dead since he was  called a liar by both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. But there would probably be a lot more casualties both in an out of politics since when you tell a person that their perception of reality is wrong, you may be telling them they're liars. What disguises lying from misperception is intention. If you're saying that George W. Bush intentionally knew there were no WMD’s you're saying he was lying whether you explicitly use the word lie or not. If on the other hand you disagree with someone’s perception of events--let’s take for example Hillary Clinton’s chronology of Benghazi--but don’t think they're being intentionally misleading then you're simply accusing them of not being correctly informed. There's a huge difference from being misinformed and lying about something. Let’s go back to the WMD’s. Let’s naturally assume George W. Bush received intelligence reports about WMDs. Intelligence reports are complicated items since they need to be interpreted; if one is looking for a reason to do something one may have a skewed attitude about the reports. Subjectivity is involved and it could be argued that a report is just a rationalization for a policy that's the chrysalis of the butterfly that has yet to be born. Still, the fact that one might be easily swayed because of one’s inclinations does not make one a liar. This however is a very crucial point, particularly in the criminal context when you're dealing with murder. Either the murder is self-defense, is wrongful homicide that is the result of an impulsive action or premeditated in which case it's murder #1. Who's lying and who's telling the truth and what's in between? In the case of the Bladerunner, Oscar Pistorius, the ruling was “culpable homicide" which is the equivalent of manslaughter and the one time Olympic champ was sentenced to a mere 5 year term for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Though the judge Thokozile Masipa obviously decided that the defendant was not out and out lying when he claimed he thought an intruder came into the house, she concluded he bore some responsibility for his so called misperception. That verdict was subsequently overturned by South Africa's supreme court, which convicted Pistorius of murder ("Oscar Pistorius convicted of murder: key questions answered," The Guardian, 12/3/15). Ted Cruz was obviously lying when he initially denied doing nothing wrong in the Iowa primary ("Ted Cruz Apologizes After Ben Carson Accuses Campaign of Dirty Tricks," Time, 2/1/16), but what is Trump guilty of when he claims to be able to restore 5.5 million manufacturing jobs that have been lost to other countries or when he claims he will build a wall between Mexico and the United States which the Mexicans will pay for, or when he claims that by lowering taxes and streamlining government he will bring about prosperity? Are these statements lies are merely the ignorant, grandiose and deluded posturings of somebody who equates dealing with tenants to leading a country. 

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