Penn Jillette and Teller are truly the epitome of the American dream when it comes to success earned through hard work and their unrelenting journey to seek the truth.
We had the fortunate opportunity to see the duo at the Rio in Las Vegas last month. Along with being hard workers, they are brilliant marketers and entertainers. A perfect example of this is them taking pictures with everyone after their show each night, 6 nights a week. That’s right, they perform 6 nights a week among all the other commitments they have.
Over the past 40 years they have appeared in a huge number of shows, including one of my favorite shows called “Bullshit,” and soon they are starting a 6 week run on Broadway. “Bullshit” is their own show on Showtime and if you haven’t seen any of their 89 episodes, you really should. They are skeptics and love to debunk all the bullshit that is out there. Some is for fun and some much more serious.
After watching their episode on the death penalty, I changed my mind and am now against it. Think of how powerful of an endorsement that is since most people, including myself, don’t change their mind on subjects like that very often. So you ask, “Why would I change my mind and no longer support the death penalty?”
They laid out an argument with three simple reasons as to why it never works as a deterrent. When a murder is
committed it falls under three scenarios: profit, passion, or compulsion. If under profit, it is done rationally and they only do it because they believe they will never be caught. If done through passion, the person doesn’t stop to worry about what the penalty may be. Compulsion is seen in serial killers, who try to hide their killings but are compelled to continue to kill. The death penalty is clearly not a deterrent, and it loses even more credibility when you hear that since 1971 there have been 121 innocent people on death row. Their innocence has been discovered in part because of better ways to prove their innocence, such as with DNA findings. Unjustly killing one innocent person seems reason enough to not put others to death. Otherwise we create a paradox where we become murderers. Just keep convicted murderers in prison for life.
When I was in college, Mills Lane, the District Attorney, came to speak to our class. After the class we were able to ask him some questions. Remember, this is in the late 1980s. I asked him about the costs of having people in prison for life as compared to the death penalty. He said it costs $1,000,000 more to put them to death than to keep them in prison for life. That was eye opening for me.
One of my favorite “Bullshit” shows is when Penn and Teller go to an Earth Day event and have people sign a petition to ban water. They have a lady ask people to sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide because it is in our rivers, lakes, and drinking water. People just sign away. It fits with their beliefs that all this bad stuff is ruining our environment, and they blindly sign away. Well, dihydrogen monoxide is just water by a different name. I sure am going to miss that water when Congress passes the law to ban it!
Another fun thing Penn and Teller do in their show at the Rio is pull out a metal detector of their own on stage just like at the airports. They have created a playing card size of metal with the Bill of Rights on it which is the perfect material to set off the metal detector. They sell it for cheap after the show so you can keep it in your pocket when you go through security in the airport. When you get stopped and frisked you can tell the TSA agent, “Oh that is just my Bill of Rights which protects me from unreasonable search and seizure, security in personal effects, and from warrants issued without probable cause.” Usually it is hard to get the TSA agent to stop laughing and congratulating you on such a brilliant move… not!!
We watched a TSA agent basically shake down an 80 year old woman that could hardly stand still in the x-ray machine in the Reno airport. It’s just silly, and yet we all give up our rights like sheep to prevent what? I have to make one more comment about airport security. What is it about not being able to park for a few minutes while you wait for your travelers to come out of the airport? I have heard it is to prevent bombers. Do you really think this is going to work if someone wants to drive up with a bomb in their car and walk-away?
The TSA version of what this prevents must go like this in their TSA head:
Bomber talking to his buddy bomber: Bomber 1, “I think we should bomb the Reno airport by putting a bomb in a car, then drive up to where they pick people up, and run away.” Bomber 2, “Oh no, we can’t do that because they have that TSA security person walking up and down that area. She will make us move the car and go around the airport.” Bomber 1, “Yeah, you are right, that’s not going to work. Hey, what about getting some liquids onto a plane and make an 80 year old woman do it for us.” Bomber 2, “Now you are thinking.”