An unusual case of generosity

A recent NPR story tells the story behind Richard Leroy Walters and his legacy. To make a long story short, the late Richard Leroy Walters was an engineer who left behind an estate valued well into the millions of US dollars. He left it to several different nonprofits, including a Catholic mission in Phoenix and NPR.

The distinguishing factor between Walters and other millionaires? Walters was homeless; his physical possessions fit inside a backpack. He slept on the grounds of a local senior citizen’s center, ate at a hospital, and used telephones at both places.

I can’t honestly think of words to describe how I reacted to reading this story. Having never been truly homeless for longer than a day, it’s difficult to grasp how Richard could willingly just walk out of his last residence and take to the streets.

Maybe it was the sense of adventure, or a desire for freedom from not owning the material possessions of the rest of the world. Money can’t buy everything.

Apparently, two things were more important to Richard than anything else: leaving a legacy and dying a happy man. I have no doubts he fulfilled both, but I don’t think his choices are right for just anyone.

Penn & Teller’s organic food gaffe

A recent Green Blog article comments on an unfortunate gaffe by Penn & Teller.

In a recent episode of their TV show with a well-known and profane title often abbreviated to the letters “B.S.” in more polite circles, Penn and Teller question a so-called “food policy analyst expert” about organic food. (Not surprisingly, the YouTube copy of the video was pulled for a copyright claim, even though it’s arguably fair use to cite a portion of it for the purposes of Green Blog’s commentary, and mine. But, that’s another rant for another day.)

They fail to mention that their so-called expert, Alex Avery, is paid by the Hudson Institute, which is essentially a right-wing lobbyist organization funded by corporations like Monsanto which have an interest in discouraging the purchase of organic foods by consumers.

As if that was not enough, Penn and Teller are members of the Cato Institute (also see Sourcewatch entry for the show), which is also considered right-wing and funded by ExxonMobil.

It is inexcusable for a high-profile act like Penn & Teller to knowingly use their fame to mislead the public. The fact that the body of their work is entertainment as opposed to journalism does little to help their credibility. Usually, someone who works in television or radio will pick one or the other and stick with it.

So yes, I call “B.S.” on Penn & Teller.