Liar liar pants on fire

Calgary Herald, October 5, 2015: We could always tell when my mom was trying to go for control in a game of Hearts, because she’d clear her throat as she sloughed off the low clubs. All we’d have to say is: “Are you going for control?” and the jig was up.  My late mom was incapable telling a fib, even a teeny tiny one over a game of cards with her family.

I wonder what she would make of Brian Williams. The U.S. TV anchorman has told a few whoppers in his day, such as being in a helicopter under fire in Iraq in 2003 and seeing a corpse float by his hotel room in after Hurricane Katrina. He’s back on the air after a six month penalty for “embellishing,” which is about the same sentence I got for lying about swiping that Bar Six off the kitchen counter when I was in Grade 2.

Speaking of being grounded, no doubt millions of men around the world are suffering penance for signing up with the Ashley Madison website to try to find a mistress. “Life is short. Have an affair,” the site suggests. But it was a double down cheat.  The men wanted to cheat on their wives and Ashley Madison was cheating the men with software that sent flirty messages from 70,000 fictitious women.

Oh that clever software. It’s everywhere, including Volkswagen. The once widely respected German manufacturer installed software in 11,000 million cars all over the world to fudge emissions testing. If you drive an Audi, you may have a pretty good idea of how the Ashley Madison wives feel.

And, then there’s politics. Oh politics. While we can’t abide dirty, rotten, lying, stinking cheaters on a personal level, we are forced to deal with more than a few of them in our elected offices. Just because their titles start with “Honourable” doesn’t automatically make them so. It’s hard to know who to vote for — the people we think will do the least damage, I guess. You can envy the partisans because they don’t really have to work it through. They just vote for their team.

But my vote bounces around. I only ever joined a political party once, for about 20 minutes in university when a friend was running for leader of the Young Liberals during a leadership campaign. We went to a convention in Red Deer and I was horrified to see busloads of metal fans waving John Turner signs, in return apparently, for tickets to a concert. In their brand new political exuberance, some of the metal heads had taken a black marker to Turner’s perfect teeth.

Politics has always been a dirty game. But it’s filthy now.

I am not carrying a flag for any of the leaders in the federal election but I do have a pitchfork out for one of them. His name is banished from my family’s dinner table (and this column) lest I hear it and go off, flailing my arms, spilling the milk and upsetting the vegetable dish.

It’s policy, sure. But it’s more the lack of transparency and incessant rule breaking. The bending of the truth and the stretching of democracy to suit a partisan end. He doesn’t play fair. “Nana-nana-boo-boo” his fans reply. Politics is a blood sport and he’s just doing what he needs to do to win. Everyone games the system. Some are just more skilled at it than others.

That little hedge fund twerp should have paid closer attention to politicians before raising the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750. Martin Shkreli acquired the U.S. rights to the drug, Daraprim, and within weeks his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, jacked the price up 5,000 per cent.

It didn’t go well. His associates dropped him like a hot potato, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump called him names and the ever-righteous hacktivist group Anonymous revealed his address and phone number to the world. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” my mom always used to say. But I suspect even she would have been OK with Anonymous helping him get his.

He backed down, a little, but only after usurping the lion-killing dentist as most hated man in America. If only Shkreli had thought to hire a few spin doctors, like the politicians do. They would have done some advance work before the price gouging. Maybe start a charity for underprivileged children and trot out a couple of desperately ill people to help push the story that the gigantic price increase would pay for more drugs to save more lives.

He’ll probably do that next time. Or, maybe the backlash will have enlightened him and he will embrace that truism that most of us manage to live our lives by: Life is short. Don’t be a jerk.

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