Saturday, May 13, 2006

sweet land of liberty

Others will disagree but John Stossel's "new" way of thinking appeals to me. In fact, I'm going to try to get caught up on reading the archive of his newspaper columns. Recently I've heard Stossel say in interviews that he has changed how he feels about several issues, including secondhand smoke. Last night on 20/20, he tackled ten myths from his new book "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."

While I will always be an anti-smoker, I agree with Stossel that using the public health argument against secondhand smoke is tenuous. I am against secondhand smoke because it smells bad, makes me cough and makes my eyes sting, not because it might give me cancer if I inhale enough of it. Secondhand smoke ruins the taste of my meal at a restaurant, so I choose to spend my money at smoke-free establishments like Connors Steak & Seafood. Smokers can be very rude when they insist that their right to smoke trumps my right to avoid their stench.

The best parts of last night's "20/20" dealt with economics. Stossel says price-gouging is good and he convinced me to change my mind. He made me feel bad for an entrepreneur who tried to sell generators to hurricane victims. The man was jailed and his generators were impounded. The people who wanted to buy his generators, even at a higher price, were unable to get what they needed. Stossel's piece on oil supplies was also an eye-opener. The most moving segment may have been the one about foreign aid being stolen by corrupt third world governments.

A few weeks ago, Stossel devoted a whole show to "Freakonomics," the brilliant book that uses economic theory to explain why things are the way they are. I am excited about reading my daughter's copy of the book as soon as she gets home from college. Way back when I took an economics class in college, I really enjoyed the lectures from my libertarian professor who often quoted Arthur Laffer. Speaking of my alma mater, I found a provocative essay about the GMU economics department on a blog called MaxSpeak.

John Stossel's myth busting reminds me of another of my favorite shows. Now in it's fourth season, "Penn & Teller's Bull----!" pulls back the curtain on the "conventional wisdom" of many topics. I find that I agree with the opinionated magicians often but not all the time. They seem to have a strong anti-religion slant which I am willing to let slide when they expose the flaws of P.E.T.A., the death penalty and yes, even secondhand smoke.
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Anonymous Pam Mc said...

I saw that same John Stossel report last night. I had to tend to agree with him also and when he said that "gouging" was good, I laughed out loud at the television, then he made me see his point. He's very convincing. As for second hand smoke, I don't like it even tho I used to smoke, I know wish I could apologize to everyone that had to inhale my smoke when I used to smoke, now that it's been 8 years since I've quit, I am against secondhand smoke.

Anonymous Amy W said...

the Episode of Penn & Teller's Bull--- on P.E.T.A, they GROSSLY misrepresented P.E.T.A. Now, I realize that SOME people who support P.E.T.A are fanatics and give people like myself who support animal rights and are actively involved in animal rescue a bad name. Not everyone who supports animals' rights are psychos that throw paint on furs.

I grew up on a farm, and my relatives are active black angus farmers. I recently wrote a paper in one of my college classes about beef production, and the negative aspects of it, including the antibiotics used, and how it's making us sick, as well as the inhumane conditions the cows are kept in. If you had read my paper, you'd be supporting P.E.T.A's efforts for more humane farming methods. My family definately respects the cattle, and NEVER mistreats them like is often depicted by P.E.T.A.

I think Penn & Teller need to get their facts straight. They definately don't address both sides of the argument.

Blogger Frank Murphy said...

Hi Amy,

I'm all for the prevention of cruelty to animals and the humane treatment of animals. As far as I know, the SPCA and the Humane Society both do great work. PETA gets all the headlines because they are the most extreme. I'm a moderate, not an extremist.

When I think about PETA, I always think of my friend's wife. She once chastised my young son for stepping on a bug on the sidewalk. She's a full fledged vegan and is about as vocal as anyone I know for animal rights. I asked her how she felt about the animals that high school students dissect in class. She's against it. She feels that no fetal pig should be treated that way. She is, however, in favor of human abortion rights.

I wonder if she would be in favor of this "modest proposal." (Look up that Swift literary reference if you don't already know it.) What if all the aborted human fetuses were sent to high school classrooms for dissection? Think of all the fetal pigs that would be saved.



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