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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Middle of the road

Today I'm going to briefly discuss a few positions that should highlight why we are in the state we are in as a society. The first is the position on information on food. I have a good friend who is by no means an ignorant person, but who is very far left on many things. Recently we were discussing the government's role in people's eating habits. He thinks there needs to be more money spent on educating people over food choices and he even supports things like taxes on soda. 

Now I can't even remember the last time I drank soda, so trust me when I say I am no soda advocate......BUT....a tax? To get people to stop drinking something that is probably not good for them? No. This a personal choice ....with personal responsibility attached. And I also think that nowadays, there is plenty of information out there which is easily accessible to anyone on food. I asked him if he thought spending more money on this was really the answer when the information was already everywhere, including "Health Classes" in schools, and that the people still eating unhealthily are doing so out of choice?  He said that people needed to be steered into the right choices, even by penalty taxes if necessary. 

In other words, the government should have full authority to guide us into what 'is best' for us'. AND THAT is the problem with the far left.

Now, on the other side of the coin, you have conservatives who think this way:

When I first saw this all I could think of was adding a caption of my own:
"This is the opinion of  the late Mr. & Mrs. Jones......both deceased due to lung cancer related to smoking cigarettes...prior to warning labels."

The far right is only after a buck and they disguise corporate irresponsibility in the guise of folksy "caveat emptor" common sense. But that too is nonsense. If something has a carcinogen in it, I WANT TO KNOW! Likewise for anything else that may be a concern. Granted conservatives love to point to things like the warning that coffee might be hot in order to discount warnings of any kind, but that is again why we are in the state we're in. Someone thought that "hot" label was a good way to avoid a lawsuit from a stupid person but is that really the fault of the stupid person? or the company trying to settle the issue? or the fucking JURY that found in favor of the burnt, coffee-spilling idiot?

But the answer from the conservatives is that we don't need any regulations on business and everyone just needs to make their own decisions....even if without information those decisions will be made in relative ignorance of the potential dangers. And THAT is what is wrong with the far right.

And lastly let's talk about something I have seen develop in my lifetime: the yield to pedestrian in crosswalk law. WHO THE FUCK THOUGHT THIS ONE UP? Did that person think this was a GOOD idea? Because here is my 'middle ground' take on it:

Growing up in the 60's there was a famous commercial we kids got blitzed with constantly warning us with a catchy jingle to not cross in the middle and 'wait for the green'.  So there you have the warning: follow the simple rules of street crossing and you'll be safer.

Now I have been around zones where this sign is everywhere:

And what I have seen is that it has made people dangerously callous to their own self-preservation. As a pedestrian I have no problem walking to a crosswalk and waiting for a light to change. In fact I prefer it to just going into one of these crosswalks and hoping someone will just stop. And as a driver I hate these things.....because they have so emboldened clueless pedestrians to just walk into the street that sometimes I barely see them before it's almost too late. 

Recently I was driving around the University of Pittsburgh and students were just walking out in front of me from every direction. I could barely drive a block without having to stop and wonder who was going to pop out next and from where. However, in Jersey City, where Ana goes, their students also have crosswalks, BUT they are required to let the light change before just walking out into the street. That just makes sense!

So what we have done with these new pedestrian crossings, in the name of safety, is make people more of a danger to themselves. And that's where we are at as a society. We have one group that thinks it's every man for himself and another that thinks that some benevolent guardian needs to protect everyone from everything. Doesn't it just make more sense to go to the logical middle: GIVE PEOPLE THE INFORMATION THEY NEED TO BE SAFE, AND THEN REASONABLY EXPECT THEM TO ACT SAFELY? 

But a lot of this has to do with the people themselves. They are after all the ones occupying those jury seats when some silly litigation awards money to an idiot..... thus forcing someone else to enact a ridiculous law or attach an obvious warning label. Then when people get sick of this, they swing the pendulum back to the opposite extreme and try to cap awards in cases where companies ARE at fault and eliminate labeling that could very well be life-saving. 

And as always, it's always "the other idiot". I am sure that the person who created the anti-warning label meme would be the first to litigate for millions if their kid ended up hurt or dead because of the LACK of a warning label, and perhaps even the far left activist rolls their eyes at hearing about someone who sued over hot coffee. But until we can use logic and reason instead of emotion, we are doomed to keep going from ditch to ditch. Maybe what we need is a street sign that would encourage both sides to safely meet in the middle of the road?


  1. I don't disagree with much of the above. But, "line drawing" is inevitable, and I'm not sure it breaks down nicely along partisan lines. You and I both consider ourselves "small l" libertarians. And, while I'm pretty liberal in some areas, the grandpa on the porch captioning isn't real far from my own attitude toward many, but certainly not all, warning labels. Look at drug commercials -- they are basically just one long, tedious vocal warning label that explores every theoretical risk in exacting detail.

    Where I disagree a bit is around warnings versus taxes. Take cigarettes as an example. You really have to be living under a rock if you don't know cigarettes are bad for you. No one needs a warning label, and I doubt a single smoker anywhere has been dissuaded by one. But, crank up the price of cigarettes by taxing the shit out of them -- that has a demonstrable impact on actually reducing smoking-related deaths and disease. Similarly, with your soda example, diabetes is one of the MAJOR drivers of our exploding public health care costs and form a major, major part of Medicare and Medicaid spending. And, sugar-laden, supersized soft drinks play a major role in the exploding incidence of diabetes. Want to go a long way toward solving the Medicare budget crisis? Reduce diabetes. So, if taxing soft drinks reduces consumption, I'm OK with that, not because it is protecting people from their own choices but because we have to generate revenue somewhere, and I'm fine taxing the users of things like cigarettes and soda that have lots of negative externalities that are, essentially, subsidized by the users fellow taxpayers in the form of Medicare and Medicaid taxes. Similarly, coal is "cheap" as an energy source, to a large extent because the impacts on health and agriculture aren't priced into it so, yeah, I'd be fine pricing in those externalities in the form of a tax.

    Now, on the crosswalk example, totally agree. It's truly stunning how many people just walk blithely across the street in traffic--in our outside the cross-walk--without even looking. Yeah, they have the "right of way"; doesn't mean they won't be just as dead when someone takes them out.

    1. You bring up a good point on the tax thing.....I could probably change my position on that one.....IF I could be sure the tax money was going to the types of things you mentioned.

      As for the labels, I guess maybe we'll just have to disagree on that one. Like I said, f something has a carcinogen in it, want to know.....and not by having to look everything up somewhere. I want it right on the label. Drugs too. Yest those commercials are annoying (that's why I don't watch regular television unless I'm stuck in a waiting room without a distant corner). But honestly? What good is a drug ad that touts the benefit of some pill WITHOUT also telling you the risks in taking it? I have had drug side-effects and I am glad I was aware of what they might be so that I could decide whether or not to risk taking the drug again.

      Glad we agree on those pedestrian yield zones. NJ is crowded to begin with, now we have these zones all around main streets where people shop, restaurant areas, schools, etc. And as I wrote, all I've seen it do is desensitize people from being cautious.

    2. On labels, it's like everything else in life -- fine in moderation. What I want to know are what are the real, significant risks. And, I'd also like to know one thing you never see in those commercials -- what is the real efficacy? In other words, how much is this really likely to help me, and what are the actual odds of each thing you are warning me about actually happening. And, I stil maintain some of them are just retarded. Like the warning to check with your doctor on whether you are healthy enough for sex before getting Viagara. How many people do you think are healthy enough to be enthusiastic enough about the prospect of sex to seek out drugs to help them have it, but so unhealthy that having it is a significant danger?? Somehow, I suspect that if I was too ill to *have* sex, I also would be too ill to *want* sex.

    3. And, btw, did you check with your doctor to make sure you're healthy enough for an O every day? ;-)

    4. I have to say that the 'check with your doctor'-thing makes sense to me. Picture a guy, perhaps older, who do to E.D. hasn't had intercourse (which requires some effort and stamina) in perhaps years. Now all of a sudden he has a magic pill to make an erection possible. It doesn't mean he'll be physically robust enough to bang away all night, especially if that's the first exercise he's had in ages. And i think my example fits the profile for a good portion of Viagra-seeking men, though not all.

      I did not check with my doctor, but my o's do not exactly require a lot of physical effort. ;-)

  2. As far as peds and cross walks I could not agree more. So many people seem to go brain dead when crossing the street
    On drug ads I believe they should not exist at all. Medication should be discussed between patient, health care professional and pharmacist. No TV ad is going to tell me what med I need and there are plenty of resources to check possible side effects and benefits of meds if you another opinion.
    Taxing soda cigarettes and all tobacco all for it with proceeds paying for the users medical care not my tax money.

    1. Yes, Joe, I think I am going to change my position on the tax thing. As long as it does what you and Dan said, I think perhaps it IS a good idea. I just bristled at the inherent "nanny-factor" in it. But I could get over that.

    2. I too hate the "nanny state" thing, but isn't that basically the impetus behind warning us of every little risk we might ever encounter in life?

      I was, btw, thinking of you as I went through an international airport today and looked down at the top of my McDonald's coffee cup and saw the stenciled warning, "Esta Caliente." Interestingly, my 1000+ calorie sausage sandwich, laden with fat and simple carbs didn't say, "No comas esto, tu puerco gordo."

    3. See, for me there is a huge difference between 'warning' me about something and instead compelling me through a law or even a penalty tax to do what someone else decided for me. Warn away! Knock yourself out. Who knows? I might even benefit from one or more of those warnings? But unless it hurts someone else, don't force me into something.

      As for the difference between the cup and the sausage? I think I covered that in the post. No one SUED over the sausage, with some jury siding in their favor (yet).It's that simple. People can't complain about idiots walking among them, if when these same people sit down in a group they consistently legally decide to financially reward their stupidity. As a society we are like a parent that spoils their child and then complains later that the kid has no common sense, taking no blame ourselves.

      Like I said, for me it's as simple as: Don't withhold warnings in order to protect a greedy irresponsible company, and don't assume that with that information I still can't make my own decision and therefore need some bureaucrat to make it for me.

  3. I'm certainly in agreement on the crosswalk issue--people, especially teenagers and young adults, are already careless enough in crossing streets, they certainly shouldn't have signs making them feel even more 'entitled' to step blindly into traffic without any danger to themselves.

    I'm supportive of warnings for over-the-counter medication, or even prescription drugs which are publicly advertised--although upon hearing or reading the warning, I'm generally dismissive of the product as too risky.

    However, I tend to sneer at lawsuits against tobacco companies if they're brought by people (at least Americans) who began smoking as adults after 1964, when the hazards of cigarette smoking were publicly announced and warning labels required on each pack of cigarettes. "The company deliberately made smoking highly addictive, that was exploiting me." Not if you hadn't decided to smoke anyway, ignoring the warnings, it wouldn't have been.

    I'm always amused at that "Seinfeld" episode, in which Kramer has a hot tub in his apartment and tells Jerry how heated up he needs the water in it to be. Jerry asks, "Isn't that the same temperature as the coffee that you said scalded you?" in an earlier episode's lawsuit.

    Right-wingers trying to avoid providing legitimately needed product warnings in order to line their pockets even more, that's truly anti-American... --C.K.

    1. Nice to see you again, CK. And it looks like we're pretty much in agreement.