Forgery Equivalent to Original

Mark-Landis-ForgerA friend posted an interesting story on Facebook about how a forger convinced dozens of museums to display his work over the years. One of the first comments on the story suggested that it made no difference to the viewer. If the piece of art was indistinguishable from the original, even to an expert, then the regular museum goer would have the same experience as if it was the original and should be satisfied.

It’s an interesting argument. One of the first analogies that someone offered was the idea that if you went to a concert and saw a band that looked exactly like the authentic members of the band, who played the music the same way; your experience would be no different than if you had seen the actual artists. It’s an appealing idea. That our perception of events equates to reality when, to our senses, the two are identical.

Before I launch into my interpretation of events I’d just like to mention that everyone should read the story itself. The forger in question is a man named Mark Landis who has relatively severe mental problems. He forged the paintings not for financial gain but for a sense of doing something perfectly. He has what is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder and his ability to copy things, both painstakingly and exactingly, is remarkable. He committed no crime and is now available to paint portraits from pictures provided by customers. Anyway, it’s a fascinating story but it doesn’t really have much to do with the point I’m examining today.

So the question becomes if my senses cannot tell the difference between two things are they then the same? Is my experience untainted even though I was given something different than what I expected. I remember being blindfolded and having my nose held while being fed various foods and the ability to distinguish the difference between an onion and an apple was noticeably effected. Naturally in such a case my biological processes would have instantly detected the difference and reacted accordingly. Let’s say we made a brick taste exactly like a steak and tree bark like potatoes. Eating nothing but bricks and tree bark would soon kill me despite my own satisfaction. Clearly our perception of reality is not going to save us there.

Let’s say that we created an illusion of a bridge across a chasm when there was no bridge. Again death ensues. Both of these examples are not truly fair though. When I go to the museum and see a beautiful painting and it touches my emotions is there a difference if the picture was a forgery? In this example my body is not physically effected by the deception. My emotions upon seeing the art are not hurt in the way my body might be from a physical deceit.

What happens if someone you love tells you they reciprocate that feeling when they don’t. Are you undamaged by the deception? When you find out the truth do you have no right to be angry? The love you felt at that moment is not changed in retrospect. You still felt it then. As long as my beloved St. Louis Cardinals are once again in the playoffs let’s take an example from that realm. When Mark McGuire was hitting home runs many people believed he wasn’t using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDS). Were not their feeling of elation and inspiration at his feats of power betrayed by his later admission? Certainly they way they felt at the time was genuine. That emotion cannot be changed any more than anything in the past can be changed. Once I make a left turn it can never be anything but a left turn. No matter what happens, that’s what happened.

Does this mean that the people shouldn’t feel upset by the fact that McGuire was using PEDs?

Should those people who saw fake art, even though it was indistinguishable from the real artist’s work, have no complaint? Should they not feel they were deceived? Should the memory of the event not be diminished? Certainly the elation of the original moment will always be there but our lives are little more than memories. When something happens, it happens, and then it only lives on in our memories. Subsequent events can and do change that perception.

I can well imagine you’ve figured out my opinion on this subject.

If you were elated and inspired by art that turns out to be a forgery, then you have every right to be upset. Your memory has been tarnished. But also remember the original joy. Remember that you were inspired by that art. That really happened and nothing can change it.

If you pay to see a particular band and someone else plays, providing the exact same experience, you have been deceived but it doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy the show. You should demand a refund. Someone lied to you. However, don’t let that stop you from remembering how much you loved the concert at the time. Wonderful moments are out there. Seek them out, find them, and relish them. If subsequent events tarnish what you imagined, you have every right to be angry but also try to remember the joy of the original moment. That can never be stolen from you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Forced out of Walmart because of Resume Discrepancy

David-tovarI spotted an interesting story in the news today about a vice president at Walmart who was forced to resign his position because of a discrepancy in his resume. What I’d like to discuss is the forced resignation over something that has nothing to do with his work performance. Certainly there is cause for the resignation as having false information on your resume brings up the possibility that you got the job through subterfuge in the first place.

David Tovar thought he graduated from the University of Delaware but because of a transcript mistake it turned out he was actually a few credits short. By then he already had his first job and didn’t think it was worthwhile to go back and finish his art degree. He went on to work in the communication field at several places eventually arriving at Walmart eight years ago. He was in the final stages of being promoted to the position of senior vice president when a check revealed the resume discrepancy.

Tovar immediately admitted to the error and is apparently leaving Walmart on good terms. He wanted the job and Walmart refused to give it to him because of the lack of a college degree. He didn’t want to stay in his old position and so resigned.

I’m of two minds on this one. I do think it’s fairly important to be relatively accurate with data on your resume. Most people will alter a date or two to accommodate for time between jobs but lying about whether or not you got a degree is a little more serious. In this case it seems pretty clear to me that Tovar could have gotten his degree if he wanted. That his deceit was fairly minor in that he was a few credits away from his degree. He had largely done the work.

It must be assumed that he was good as his job to have reached the potential level of senior vice president at a company like Walmart. That is a position that certainly carries a salary well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more.

So what we have here is a company refusing to promote someone they truly felt could do the job because of a relatively minor transgression. I’m sure Walmart will justify the move by noting that if they let Tovar continue upward with a false resume they would not have a leg to stand on when trying to fire others for a similar offense. I understand this argument as well but I just think it’s a mistake to let go a talented employee over something that is, in my opinion, so minor. It’s not easy to find good people and when you find them you need to do your best to keep them.

I understand Walmart’s fear that they might be handcuffed in future labor disputes. At least I’m guessing that was one reason for the decision to let Tovar go. Still, the idea that a company  cannot keep a talented employee because said employee made a mistake rankles my sensibilities. It seems like someone could have stepped up and taken the responsibility for keeping Tovar although undoubtedly the legal department had their say.

What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Corporal Discipline and a Child’s Future

corporal-punishmentChild abuse is in the news in the NFL these days because of incidents surrounding Minnesota Viking’s running back Adrian Peterson and his four year old son. I’ve been reading and watching comments on the story including those made by Charles Barkley and everyday people in the section below the stories themselves.

There seems to be a trend that while Peterson may have “gone too far” that the old biblical admonishment to spare the rod is to spoil the child holds wisdom.

I’m going to be clear. Every time you use corporal punishment on your child you increase the odds the child will grow up and commit crimes. The more you hit a child the better chance there is that child will break laws, will rape women, will murder, will become a sociopath. Every time. The statistics are overwhelming. Children that suffer more physical violence in the home are more likely to be violent in society, to break laws, to hurt others. Study after study shows the same thing.

Children who grow up in homes where violence is not used are generally not violent themselves. The biblical adage is the opposite of the truth. It’s called a lie.

Children subject to violence become violent themselves. The more violence to which they are subjected the more anti-social they become. It is readily obvious to me that children who learn violence as a way to solve problems will naturally gravitate towards violence themselves. I don’t need a million studies to prove that point. The studies exist. I’d urge anyone who disagrees with me to do some research on the subject.

They’ve put video cameras in the homes of parents who claim they only hit children who are misbehaving and always do it with an explanation of what the child did wrong so it is a learning moment. It turns out most of the time the parents hit the child on the spur of the moment with nothing more than a “no” or a “stop”. That the intensity of the punishment is generally without regard to the transgression of the child but completely related to the mood of the parent. Tired parents, frustrated parents, angry parents, hit longer, hit harder, and do it with less provocation.

I can’t really write a lot more on this subject. Virtually every scientifically sound study shows exactly the same thing. There is no benefit to corporal punishment and great harm is possible.

It is certainly possible that parents use such punishment as measures of last resort and that children who were punished fairly, judicially, and with an explanation will grow up to be outstanding adults. It is even possible that children who are punished more egregiously will grow up to be excellent adults.

The statistics just tell us patterns and trends. They do not predict exactly what will happen to every child in every situation.

My advice is simple. Don’t hit your child.

I don’t have any children although I think I can understand a parent’s frustration and anger at a misbehaving child. I can understand the desire to lash out. To harm. I don’t think a well-deserved spanking is going to turn a child into a criminal. I do think the statistics are clear. The evidence is clear.

Avoid corporal punishment as much as possible and your child will be better off. That is the outcome we desire. Healthy and well adjusted children who grow into better adults.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Lies in Ohio – Political Lies Protected by First Amendment

Legal Lies OhioThere was an interesting ruling handed down today by U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black in regards to an Ohio law which prohibited an organization knowingly lying about a candidate during the election process.

The First Amendment protects our freedom of speech. There are certainly laws against slander and libel but there is largely no legal remedy against someone who tells a lie that does not rise to either of those illegal activities. In this case a campaign organization wanted to post an ad that was completely false. The candidate said the organization would be charged with a crime if it did so and the court battle ensued. It is now perfectly acceptable to knowingly lie about a candidate in a campaign advertisement in Ohio.

A similar case was adjudicated by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case in Minnesota covering lying about ballot initiatives. In that case the right to lie was also upheld. Neither case has reached the Supreme Court at this junction so, presuming appeals, these decisions might yet be overturned.

I find the case interesting because the people arguing against the laws are basically saying they want to tell lies to help win an election. That by telling lies they should not be subject to legal remedy. They, of course, argue that they are fighting for the First Amendment but the reality is they want to be able to lie in campaigns to swing the election towards their candidate. What they forget, as usual, is that this is dual edged weapon. If they can knowingly tell lies in a campaign advertisement so also can their opponents.

To a certain degree there are already so many lies, so many half-truths, and so much misleading information out there that I’m not sure the judgement really amounts to anything. Anyone who believes attack ads about a candidate without bothering to go to one of the many readily available fact-checking sites probably has no real interest in the truth. They prefer to be fed lies as long as they coincide with their preconceived political ideology.

This just continues the ongoing slide of our nation into a morass of people who don’t really care about the truth. We, the voters, undeniably care only about that which confirms our notions. Anything that disavows them we ignore or convince ourselves are lies. Anything that confirms them is the truth. If the truth were different. If people looked at the facts and judged statements for their true worth we would not have the current elected officials we have. We want to be told lies and proceed to lap them up while begging for more.

My only real surprise in this outcome is that Ohio and Minnesota were allowed to prohibit lying for so long!

To those who “won” this case; I congratulations you on your victory. You will reap your just reward.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Ray Rice and Double Jeopardy

Ray Rice and WifeThere’s a big controversy going on over Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and I find the situation pretty deplorable for a number of reasons.

For those of you haven’t been following this story it’s pretty grim all the way around. In February of 2014 Rice was accused of punching his fiancé while they were in an elevator at the now closed Revel casino in Atlantic City, NJ. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault; the result of the case currently pending trial. He has since married the woman.

The NFL has a policy where they will suspend players based on personal conduct even if they are not found guilty in the court of law . Several prominent cases have arisen over the years with the most well known involving Ben Roethlesburger. This policy was implemented for Rice and he was given a two game suspension for the alleged assault. The woman in the case argued for him during the hearing.

Quite a number of people came forward arguing the suspension was far too lenient and that league commissioner Roger Goodell should have imposed a longer penalty.

Months went by. Rice played in his team’s preseason game and was widely cheered during those games.

Then, just a couple of days ago, the video of the incident surface. The league immediately suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens released him from the roster.

I’ve got a problem with both of those actions. Both the league and the team were aware of the nature of the crime and the police report pretty much describes events as they happened in the elevator. The only new evidence is the video.

I’m no Rice fan. I thought he should have faced a longer suspension originally but the reality is the league and the team made their bed and want to go back and remake it because the public has seen the video. Rice has not been convicted of any crime at this stage although certainly the video is damning evidence.

My real problem here is that punishment was meted out for the crime. No new crime has been committed. It’s the same crime but the league can now go back and completely change the penalty which was agreed to by all parties? That just strikes me as wrong. I’m not saying new evidence shouldn’t be able to force a change but I just don’t see any new evidence here. The league knew what he did, his then fiancé asked for leniency against him, and a resolution was settled upon.

Was the league wrong in its original penalty? Certainly one can argue that.

Does Rice deserve the harsher penalty? Not an unreasonable conclusion.

I just don’t like this changing of the rules because of public perception. That’s really what is happening here. The crime is the same, the league the same, Rice the same. What has happened is that people are now visually aware of the brutality and the NFL wants to keep its fans. They should have thought of that in the first place!

Frankly, I’m a little skeptical of these personal conduct penalties in the first place. What if it turned out the video showed that Rice accidently slipped, fell and in flailing about hit his fiancé? What if we didn’t find out until after the suspension? What if it turned out she was lying? That’s why we have criminal and civil courts. Once a person is found guilty of a crime I’m more reasonably disposed to a company firing its employee.

I know it won’t be popular but I don’t think Rice should have faced any additional penalties until after the case was decided. I think the NFL and the Ravens were wrong to change the penalty based on the video when they knew the crime all along. Once the legal case is decided I think they will be well within their rights to impose further penalties.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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