Are they lying?


Lately I've been wondering how groups of people on different sides of issues can come to such dramatically different conclusions about the direction of public policy. In many cases, those differences appear to be grounded in honest disagreements. That's how I see the abortion issue, for example, where personal beliefs dominate the political landscape like so many hair-trigger land mines.

In other areas, the differences seem more rooted in deep philosophical divisions where honesty gets caught in the cross fire. That's what's happening in the continuing debate about global climate change, where free-market fundamentalists looking for free-market solutions are cooking the scientific books in pursuit of an ideological agenda. We need look no farther than the Journal of the John Locke Puppetshow to see the phenomenon in action. Today's edition features an ad for another seedy little free-market tank called the Heartland Institute.

Heartland's mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. Such solutions include parental choice in education, choice and personal responsibility in health care, market-based approaches to environmental protection, privatization of public services, and deregulation in areas where property rights and markets do a better job than government bureaucracies.

Heartland and the Puppetshow are like Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill of reason to push their ideological viewpoint. And what do they think about scientific claims of human effects on climate change? They think what any free-market extremist would think. No problem, no worries. The magic hand of the free market will make everything wonderful and bright.

To give them their due, the scientific community is not unanimous. As is the case with any statistical analysis, scientists allow for the possibility there are other explanations.

"[m]ost of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely [defined in the report as a greater than 90 percent chance] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic [human-caused] GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations." The IPCC's February 2007 Working Group I Report "The Physical Science Basis" similarly concluded that since 1750, "it is extremely likely [greater than a 95 percent chance] that humans have exerted a substantial warming influence on climate."

Latching on to the 5% chance, folks from the Puppetshow and Heartland literally get giddy in their mission to debunk the evidence that the vast majority of scientists accept. They select a set of delusions that fit their vision, and then distort those facts every chance they get.

From all I can see, these are not stupid people. They are clever and they work hard to pursue their free-market agenda.

Which means they must be liars.


How high a standard

do you set for defining a "lie"?

Liar or lie is such an emotionally loaded term that I only employ it when I believe that I've seen specific evidence of an individual knowingly and deliberately communicating as a fact something which he or she knows to be untrue.

Example: Dick Cheney claiming that Saddam was involved in the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

More frequently, I will see assertions which I believe are conclusively, factually untrue--but where I do not know with certainty that the party making the claim knows it to be false.

Example: The Jacksonville (NC) Daily News editorial this week asserting that global "temperatures have fallen while greenhouse gas emissions have risen".

In that latter case, I've read the documentation that proves the assertion false. That documentation is publicly available to the individual(s) writing the JDN editorial. JDN (like other papers owned by Freedom Communications Inc.) has chosen to rely instead on the nonsense churned out on this topic by sources like the Heritage Foundation (which it cites for its source).

Is the JDN statement inaccurate, foolish and ignorant? In my opinion, yes, without a doubt. Is it a lie? That is, did the author know the statement to be false? I have no way to know.

Institutions like Heartland and Locke are difficult cases by this definition. There is no doubt that they select reports and data to release which support their predetermined philosophical conclusions. They often choose to ignore, discount, and belittle the sources of more massive documentation which contradicts the findings they assert. I've seen cases in which Locke's statistical analyses twisted the data input beyond any reasonable interpretation, in my view.

(It's also a matter of public record that Heartland has received hefty sums from some of the industries whose financial interests stand to benefit from Heartland's advocacy. Of course, that just makes them a paid PR outfit masquerading as a "think tank", which is pretty much my opinion of Heartland overall.)

In at least some cases, these entities are putting out assertions which I have concluded are false, and which an intelligent and objective analyst should conclude are false. Does that necessarily make them liars? Not by my strict definition of the term. My own biases influence what I believe an "objective" analyst "should" conclude.

No matter how tempting it may be, therefore, I'm not ready to (publicly) call them "liars" or even "fools". And maybe by a less stringent definition of "liar" that counts as an act of Christmas Eve charity.

Happy holidays!

Dan Besse

You're more generous than I on this issue

and yes, "liar" is definitely a loaded term. Does it fit here? Let's see.

I can understand being misguided to the point of ignoring evidence that doesn't align with a particular world view. That's not lying, it's just delusion. But carrying that tattered flag into the halls of Congress and advocating for policy based on such selective reasoning? That borders on unethical. Perhaps even immoral given the issue at hand.

By arguing a view that supports business as usual with regard to climate change, free-market extremists ask policy makers to forgo sound strategic decision-making in favor of a reckless bet.

Given the potential risks of their advice, "liar" may be too blunt a label. Perhaps "dangerous ideologues" would be a better choice.

If a simple explanation works... make a narrow reality possible, then go ahead and jam people into neat little definitions like novice travelers try to shove all their worldly belongings into an overhead bin. It's entertaining...really.

There was once a time where I would get into the fray; but I realize that there is a small, yet vocal population that need to the world to fit into comic-book-like stereotypes. I found that they like their apple cart untouched more than the average person.

We all use stereotypes, Jason

And those who feel strongly enough about a subject to publicly advocate for it are prone to vilify those who are against it. It's a failing, but it's one that both sides share when sides are taken.

But consider this: accusing a subset of people of being the type to surrender to stereotyping is also a form of stereotyping...

As a former software developer...

...I appreciate the attempt at an infinite loop; but I didn't expand my characterization of James commenting on his navel-gazing about how people disagree with him are stupid or liars.

It's challenging to find value in the people we disagree with - even if we have a hard time valuing their opinions.

Believe it or not,

I have a lot of respect for the intelligence and erudition of many who are involved with JLF, including (especially?) John Hood. But I perceive their value as "unrealized", because their core principles are deeply flawed.

Their anti-planning stance is just one (really good) example. It is built upon and thrives under an aura of "distrust" in the abilities and motivations of those who pursue public service, yet they court those same elected officials in an effort to give more power to those who are even less trustworthy.

They rail against (and rightly so) the exercise of eminent domain to forcefully evict someone from their private property, but the roots of that action can almost always be traced to a private developer that has designs on that property. The same private developer that JLF believes should have the freedom to build whatever and wherever the "market" leads them.

The inherent conflicts and contradictions in many of their positions points to two possible conclusions: they haven't fully explored the implications of their positions, or they fully understand them and are hoping nobody makes the effort to tear down the facade to uncover their true motives. Evidence reveals that the former isn't very likely, so that just leaves the latter.

How do you know what their "core principles" are?

Seriously, do you know how many resources they themselves give to those less fortunate? Do you know how they treat their families?

The fact of the matter is that you don't.

One of the big takeaways from the 2008 election I made is that A LOT of people - on both sides - use someone's vote as shorthand for their morality. The two don't have much correlation to each other.

In this article, James is attempting to take someone's core personal values and devalue the person because they disagree with him. At it's most innocent - it's intellectual laziness; at its worst - it's bigotry. While most BlueNC's main authors like to think they are well-evolved past bigotry - I disagree.

My point is not to cast stones - it's to challenge the assertion that someone's moral performance has anything to do with the way they vote.


I am wrong. I was not attempting to devalue the person because they disagree with me. The source of my contempt is their deceptive use of facts.

That said, you're right. I shouldn't attempt to devalue the person. My focus should be on their behavior. Lying versus liars. I'll change my headline.




It's hard

I've been politically angry for almost eight years now, maybe longer. And I'm finding it hard to change my old habits. So thanks for calling me out.

I'm dense, what does n/t

I'm dense, what does n/t mean?

I'm a moderate Democrat.

n/t= no text

when you want to let folks know there was nothing unintentionally left out.

I'm talking about JLF as an organization,

not what each individual's core principles are. Which are reflected in the (public) positions they take in their writing.


Talk about pots calling kettles black!

You've selected a whiny little comic book character as your photographic alter-ego. Need I say more?

Merry Christmas all the same, Justin. It's good having you with us.


Example: Dick Cheney claiming that Saddam was involved in the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.

I will not label you a liar.

Artful deceiver

that he is, Cheney repeatedly sought to leave the impression of a connection without an outright lie, but in doing so he plainly attempted to deceive--and in his verbal web-weaving sometimes crossed the line into the outright lie. He could in one breath say "we don't know" whether there's a connection, and immediately plow right on into attempting to explain one. For example, take this excerpt from a Meet the Press interview on 9/14/03, linked at :
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.
I believe that Cheney in this interview was using what he knew to be weak and discredited "intelligence" to deliberatively mislead the listener into concluding responsibility for an event where none existed.

Unlike George W. Bush, Cheney is a sharp customer who scripts himself. Bush will make claims that have been fed to him and which prove to be false, but that he appears to believe at the time. (The alleged Iraqi attempt to purchase African yellowcake is a good example.)

The masterful deceiver Cheney has no such excuse. In my opinion, he is in fact a liar.

Dan Besse