Saturday, July 12, 2008
And Gene Upshaw is a disease:
July 12, 2008
Can Of Corn
by Dayn Perry
The unfortunate reality—both now and throughout recent decades—is that football as the NFL practices it is the most popular sport in the United States. There's no accounting for taste, of course, but this fact nonetheless speaks ill of our ability as a people to make sensible choices as consumers. Subjectively, as a nation it's a matter of our favoring a sport that's far less entertaining and compelling than what MLB offers us; objectively—and more importantly—it's a case of our favoring a sport that's morally bankrupt in comparison to leagues of similar aims and dimensions.
It's not a question that's often asked: Is the NFL somehow less "moral" than MLB? However, it's an important one to ask, and it's one that, I think, has a clear answer.
First, in comparing the two industries, there's the noisome labor structure of the NFL. It's the most violent of major professional team sports (more on that in a moment), and it's the one that's most structurally hostile toward its workforce. Mostly, this is the fault of the NFLPA and Gene Upshaw, who's less a fire-eyed labor leader than an obedient valet to the owners. So, we've got a league that has a salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. It's tempting to view the outgrowths of labor-management negotiations as value-neutral and beyond some common range of moral understanding. If those subject to the NFLPA's terminal ankle-grabbing were, say, actuaries, schoolteachers, or lawyers, then perhaps that would be true. But professional football players have dangerous jobs. Whether it's the cumulative harm absorbed or the single, transformative incident—a crack-back block, a blindside sack, or a receiver simply going across the middle—the NFL player's gladiatorial existence means he should be entitled to more safeguards. But the owners won't give it to him, and the union won't fight for it on his behalf.
In spite of those grim possibilities, NFL players have their wages capped, and the concept of "contractual obligations" doesn't extend to their employers. This is precisely the sport that shouldn't countenance such an arrangement. That's because, as intimated above, the game of football at the highest level is uncommonly violent. There are those who have suffered life-altering spinal injuries (Darryl Stingley, Mike Utley, Dennis Byrd, and, more recently, Al Lucas, Kevin Everett, and Cedric Killings, to name just a few), there are those who have died from heatstroke (Korey Stringer), and then there are those whose brain functions have been hopelessly compromised (Andre Waters and Ted Johnson, among countless others). It's that last category of horrifying danger that's particularly troubling. While the neck injuries and heat-related deaths can be callously dismissed as trumped-up anecdotal accounts, the head injuries cannot. In fact, according to a University of North Carolina study conducted 1995-96, more than half of NFL players had been knocked unconscious at least once, and almost a third had suffered three or more concussions. Worse, almost three-fourths of those suffering concussions were given no time to recover from their injuries.
All of this is to say nothing of the epidemic of obesity among interior lineman. In 1990, for instance, 39 NFL players weighed in at 300 pounds of more. By 2005, that figure rose to 338. NFL organizations cherish beefy linemen, and there's a financial incentive for amateur linemen to meet the size standards established by the NFL. But what becomes of these players after they retire, when the 10,000-calorie diet isn't at least partially mitigated by the rigors of the job? Most are luckier than Thomas Herrion, in that they make it to retirement. However, later in life retired NFL linemen suffer heart disease at more than twice the rate of "civilians" of the same age.
Of course, if a player indeed suffers one of these workaday terrors, then his own resources may prove to be more useful than the league's disability plan. That disability plan, based on the demerits, was the subject of recent Congressional inquiry, and Upshaw has been known to threaten critics of it with severe bodily harm. On a certain level, it makes perfect sense—the NFL so routinely damages its employees that it necessarily must neglect some of them in order for its pension and disability systems to remain viable. If that's the case, then the structure itself is to be demonized and bullied, not those who seek redress.
This discussion of sports and their individual moral implications would be incomplete without touching upon the matter of performance-enhancing drugs. On this point, the NFL fails miserably. While baseball has been subject to transcendent levels of ridicule over its supposed problems, it's worth noting that the NFL's vaunted testing program was manifestly inadequate until recent changes took hold. But this does nothing to forgive the NFL's ugly, extensive history when it comes to steroid use, especially as exemplified by the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty of the '70s. Imagine the spittle-flecked outrage that would follow if one of baseball's signature dynastic franchises had ever similarly been so indulgent of PED abuse.
It's football's sanctioned violence that urges to many players to seek such self-destructive edges over their rivals for roster spots and opponents on the field, and it's also that sanctioned violence that leads to violent tendencies among players, even at the lower levels. It doesn't take an accomplished theorist to surmise that, in the NFL, the scourge of domestic violence is an echo of those early tendencies. While no major sport does an exemplary job of punishing domestic violence, the NFL stands out as a main offender. In 2006, for instance, the Washington Post compiled a non-exhaustive list of NFL player arrests for the year. Of those 41 (!) arrests, five were for various flavors of domestic assault. Those numbers are hardly aberrant. They also don't include some of the more famous incidents (Warren Moon, Lawrence Phillips, Michael Pittman, and, of course, O.J. Simpson).
None of this is meant to imply that baseball is somehow a paragon of responsibility and virtue—it isn't. However, the facts bear out a few straightforward claims. Major League Baseball is less deadly, less physically damaging, less imbalanced in terms of player-owner relations, less socially perilous, and less culpable when it comes to the pervasive "Steroids Age" than is the more popular and more profitable NFL. That the NFL is, in fact, so popular and profitable should be a source of shame to American consumers—ruthlessness may be profitable, but it's not a virtue. It's a blood sport, so lavish it in scorn, not dollars.
Dayn Perry is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact Dayn by clicking here or click here to see Dayn's other articles.
Friday, July 11, 2008
This may come as a shock, but a prominent anti-homosexual Republican attorney general has apparently been caught having homosexual sex intercourse with his homosexual gay male assistant. Bonus: The dude’s wife caught him, in their bed. This is the rumor that the AG’s office has officially denied, so now of course everybody is spilling the sordid details.
AG in question is Troy King, who, of course, is only interested in outlawing homosexuality and sex toys. His gay lover is either a college “buddy,” or a very young youngster and “Homecoming King” from Troy University. What are the odds of a dude named Troy King getting caught in bed with a Homecoming King from Troy University? This seems like a wacky sitcom plot, on a gay porn channel. (Is this what that Will & Grace was about?) Read on…
King, (pictured above, seated on the left) the State Chairman of John McCain’s Alabama campaign, joined a number of Attorneys General who supported the GOP presidential candidate this past spring and the following is a quote from King on John McCain’s campaign website:
“Alabama is a state where actions definitely speak louder than words,” said King. “More than just talk, John McCain’s strong record of support for state rights, and his devotion to the conservative principles of protecting life and the institution of marriage make him the right leader for Alabama.”
Yes, Mr. King, actions certainly do speak louder than words. I wish I could I could take credit for writing something this hilarious, but I can’t. It appears King has made a few enemies during his tenure in Alabama as well.
When the Badwater Ultramarathon begins on Monday, two of the favorites will be from here. It will be insane: One hundred thirty-five miles through Death Valley. Temperatures in the 120s. 13,000 feet of cumulative climbing. 4,700 feet of descent. The reward for those finishing in less than 48 hours? A belt buckle.
The economic stimulus checks that arrived in American mailboxes in recent weeks were apparently even more stimulating than the U.S. government intended. According to the people who get paid to monitor such things, porn Web sites experienced an upswing in sales in the weeks after people received their economic stimulus checks.
Instead of New Rules, More Comment Sought
The Bush administration has decided not to take any new steps to regulate greenhouse gas emissions before the president leaves office, despite pressure from the Supreme Court and broad accord among senior federal officials that new regulation is appropriate now...
The proposal that the EPA will unveil today, known as an advance notice of proposed rulemaking, stands in stark contrast to the agency's original Dec. 5 finding -- backed up by a lengthy scientific analysis -- that global warming is unequivocal, that there is "compelling and robust" evidence that the emissions endanger public welfare and that the EPA administrator is "required by law" to act to protect Americans from future harm.
Anger in the workplace -- employees and employers who are grumpy, insulting, short-tempered or worse -- is shockingly common and likely growing as Americans cope with woes of rising costs, job uncertainty or overwhelming debt, experts say.
"It runs the gamut from just rudeness up to pretty extreme abusive behaviors," said Paul Spector, professor of industrial and organizational psychology at the University of South Florida. "The severe cases of fatal violence get a lot of press but in some ways this is more insidious because it affects millions of people."
Nearly half of U.S. workers in America report yelling and verbal abuse on the job, with roughly a quarter saying it has driven them to tears, research has shown.
Other research showed one-sixth of workers reported anger at work has led to property damage, while a tenth reported physical violence and fear their workplace might not be safe.
"It's a total disaster," said Anna Maravelas, author of "How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress." "Rudeness, impatience, people being angry -- we used to do that kind of stuff at home but at work, we were professional. Now it's almost becoming trendy to do it at work.
Is Google casting aside the library community? That’s the recent conclusion of some librarians. The giant technology company once courted librarians to back its controversial project that digitizes books from academic libraries and makes all or parts of the texts available online. Now it seems Google no longer needs them, the librarians say.
Steven M. Cohen, a senior librarian at Law Library Management Inc., notes on his blog that Google last updated its “Librarian Central” blog a year ago. And he and Roy Tennant, a librarian with the Online Computer Library Center, say that, atypically, Google wasn’t present at the American Library Association’s annual conference last month, even though it was held in Anaheim, Calif. “only one short plane ride away from the Googleplex” also in California, writes Mr. Tennant.
“So, Google will continue to use librarians, scan their books, profit from it, and then leave us in the information dust to rot like an old microfilm machine,” writes Mr. Cohen. “It’s sad really. But then again, we fell for it.”
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Later asked if Gramm would have a role in a McCain administration, McCain raised the possibility of what could be seen as a less-than-desirable job. "I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that."
Phil Gramm, a former Texas senator and a co-chair of McCain's presidential campaign...told the Washington Times that America has "become a nation of whiners" and the country is in the midst of a "mental recession."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline," he said. “You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession."
Gramm also said the media was responsible for fostering unnecessary anxiety over the state of the economy. "Misery sells newspapers,” he said. “Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."
Well, sure, if you could just go over and tell my friend that - he was laid off last week.
Oh, and the six teachers excessed at my school, and the two guidance counselors, including one who did amazing work - we had about one guidance counselor for every 500 or so students this year. They want to hear how well the economy is doing.
In New York City the tax revenues are so far down that they're going to be cutting all kinds of transit related work - they have seen the future and it is the CTA.
Let's not even talk about California. Or Michigan, where GM is quickly becoming a junk stock - $43 to $9 in about ten months.
It is not always the media's fault. Usually the fault in the media is that they present both sides as if each side in an argument has an equally compelling argument. Your argument is the argument of an insane or angry man, and is only worth noting as a way of showing just how far out of touch the wealthy powerful men of this country are.
Please go hide under a rock.
Oscar Villarreal has refused his assignment to Triple-A, with the Houston Chronicle reporting that the Astros will release him if they can't find a taker via trade. Villarreal was designated for assignment last week, just three months after inking a two-year, $2.85 million deal with the Astros.
This is according to a social and demographic trends survey released recently by the Pew Research Center. The survey measured the pessimism, dissatisfaction and general curmudgeonliness of 2,413 adults in various generations.
The results validate any member of the Greatest Generation who ever looked at his or her offspring and sadly thought, "soft." Simply put, boomers are a bunch of . . . whiners.
More than older or younger generations, boomers -- born from 1946 to 1964 -- worry that their income won't keep up with rising costs of living. They say it's harder to get ahead today than it was 10 years ago. They are more likely to say that their standard of living is lower than their folks' but that things don't look too good for their kids either (67 percent of younger generations, meanwhile, feel they have it better than their parents).
Everything stinks, except for the things that stink even more, and it's not exactly clear why, considering that this is the population with the highest median income. Boomers also have fewer difficulties affording housing or medical care, the survey says, and they enjoyed greater job security last year than older or younger generations.
"This legislation is critical to America's safety. It is long overdue," the president said...GO FUCK YOURSELF.
Senators voted 69 to 28 to pass the measure...chumps.
Not sure what Obama is thinking here. Not that his vote would have made a difference either way, so...why vote with Bush and Cheney in taking a dump on the Constitution? and sliding through it? WHY VOTE WITH THOSE IMMORAL LYING FUCKERS ON ANYTHING?!?!?!?!?
Independents and "people in the middle" will be less likely to vote for him because he voted to uphold the 4th amendment and hold the spying telecoms accountable? Moving to the center...really, fuck that crap. Show some cojones for chrissakes, Barack. Even Hill-Rod voted against it. Of course, McCain was asleep and couldn't be bothered.
Someone throw Smiff a bone here...
Flint residents now have to watch their butts because Police Chief David Dicks (Eh, eh, he said dicks--ed.) is on the lookout.
Dicks, who took over the department last month on an interim basis, announced that his officers would start arresting people wearing saggy pants that expose skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.
"Some people call it a fad," Dicks told the Free Press this week while patrolling the streets of Flint. "But I believe it's a national nuisance. It is indecent and thus it is indecent exposure, which has been on the books for years."
On June 27, the chief issued a departmental memorandum telling officers: "This immoral self expression goes beyond freedom of expression."
The crime, he says, is disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, both misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.
Dicks, 41, broke down his interpretation of the laws as such: Pants pulled completely below the buttocks with underwear showing is disorderly conduct; saggy pants with skin of the buttocks showing is indecent exposure, and saggy pants, not completely below the buttocks, with underwear exposed results in a warning....
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
-- Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for CBS News
Why does Lara hate free markets? The media give the people what they want, and war is really depressing. (And the people are pretty stupid.)
By Joey Bunch The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 07/08/2008 10:32:20 PM MDT
As library fines go, Thomas Pilaar has a doozy: $53,549. The 34-year-old Denver man also was sentenced to 10 years in state prison today for checking out roughly 1,400 books and DVDs and reselling most of them online. About 500 items were recovered when Pilaar was picked up on an unrelated arrest warrant last year. He had seven library cards in his name and other people's for branches in Denver, Douglas County, Aurora and Littleton. He checked out dozens of books and movies on each library card. He was prosecuted by the Denver District attorney's office.
A teenager who thought movement in her underwear was caused by her vibrating mobile phone found a bat curled up asleep in her bra.
Abbie Hawkins, 19, of Norwich, had been wearing the bra for five hours when she plucked up the courage to investigate.
When she did, she found a baby bat in padding in her 34FF bra. The hotel receptionist said she was shocked but felt bad for removing the "cuddly" bat. "It looked cosy and comfortable and I was sorry for disturbing it," she said.
She was sitting at her desk at work when she decided to investigate the strange movements in her underwear.
"I put my hand down my bra and pulled out a cuddly little bat.
"That shocked me very much at the time, but it scuttled off under the desk into the dark. I was shaking from head to toe.
"It looked quite cosy and comfortable in there so it was quite rude of me to take it out.
"When I realised it was a bat the first thing that occurred to me was how did it get in there.
"I felt quite sorry for it. Perhaps I should have left it there and given it a good home.
"I did not notice anything as I put my bra on. The night before I had had one or two drinks and I was getting ready quickly.
"The bra was in my drawer but it had been on the washing line the day before.
"When I was driving to work, I felt a slight vibration but I thought it was just my mobile phone in my jacket pocket."
The bat was captured by one of her colleagues and released.
A best seller in France, and already translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, and Korean, Hervé Kempf's How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth now appears in its first English edition. Bringing to bear more than twenty years of experience as an environmental journalist, Kempf describes the invincibility that many of the world's wealthy feel in the face of global warming, and how their unchecked privilege is thwarting action on the single most vexing problem facing our world.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
At last, our dream of a Nation free of annoying, pointy-headed elitists is within our ham-fisted reach
A startling and profoundly important fact about the US economy has received surprisingly little attention. The educational quality of the country’s workers is starting to decline – not just relatively (because other countries are catching up and moving ahead) but also, for the first time, in absolute terms. Over the coming years, baby-boomers departing from the labour force will have better educational qualifications than the younger workers replacing them.
totally phokked (93)
that's so America (87)
we are living in a golden age (cont'd) (83)
expect delays (75)
bad ideas (73)
s#i+ blowing up (68)
whitey keeping darky down (cont) (64)
he SUCKS (59)
The top 5 remain the same, with we are living in a golden age (cont) shooting up two spots, and bad ideas falling 3 spots. The 12 above were the top 12 before, so we need to start rooting for some of the lower ones. I'm rooting for Idiocracy myself, with Fung needs a suga mommie a close second.
We also perhaps need an analysis grouping some of the similar ones together - like the brain-dead's and the how to suck at and the whitey/darky ones. Also the ones that have one of us mentioned - though I think K-Mad destroys us there.
Well, off to the Florian...
In related news:
So how dumb are we?
Bob Edwards Radio.com explores Rick Shenkman’s new book, “Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth About the American Voter“:
–Only 2 in 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government.
–Only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a map.
–Only 1 in 5 know that there are 100 federal senators.
–Two out of three people you see on the street think the First Amendment "goes too far."
And the most chilling…
–Nearly half (49%) of Americans think the President has the authority to suspend the Constitution.
"Inconsolable" Scrabulous expert vows revenge
July 8, 2008
It took over 3 weeks and 17 games, but finally, Corms played "litu" to beat the Fungster at Scrabulous. Their games had fallen into a "win one, lose one" routine, with one player sometimes winning two or maybe 3 in a row. But the Fungster just suddenly went on a tear, winnng 9 games in a row.
Then Corms tried something new. The scrabulous server, which had come under criticism for locking up, crashing, and all sorts of other monkey business, started two games for him, when he only meant to start one. "I'll play both then" Corms said. "Mebbe dis will throw him off." Fungster was worried about his precious streak. "Well, what happens if I lose the first one, but win the second? Does that make my streak 10, or 9?" But, as it turned out, Fungster won both games. So the answer was neither. His streak was at 11.
Then the scrabulous server did something even more amazing. It started 6 (six!) games at the same time. "Well, may as well play them all too" said Corms. So Corms set out to make plays in 6 games. 6 chances to defeat the Fungster.
Things started brightly enough. He made fast starts in a couple of games, not so fast in the other ones. Fungster had his work cut out for him. He made fast plays, slow plays, plays left, right and center. Games started ending. Fung wins. Fung wins. Fung wins again. He took the first 5 games that completed. But there was one game he was just never in. He battled back to make the score respectable, but it was all in vain.
Finally, Corms had triumphed.
"I was hoping to throw him off, maybe split the 6 game series" said a relieved Corms. "But he just kept getting good scores and winning close games. In the end, I was lucky to get the game I did win." Asked what he was going to do next, Corms replied "I'm gonna start 2 games up and see how things go."
Reached for comment, Fungster was beside himself. "I'm gonna win like 40 in a row now, you just watch. That was bull$#!+." Asked how it was the excrement of a male cow, Fungster got all enraged: "It just was, okay! Now leave me alone."
When it was further brought up that Hasbro and Mattel had launched the official version of Scrabble on Facebook, which could lead to Scrabulous being removed from Facebook as it infringes on copyright, and therefore record of his astonishing feat would be deleted, Fungster slammed the door in this reporter's face.
What does a 30 percent chance of rain mean?
The percent chance (or probability) of rain is the forecaster's way of expressing how certain he is that it will rain. Ideally, a forecaster wouldprefer to issue a zero-percent forecast (it absolutely will not rain) or a 100-percent forecast (it absolutely will rain), but the present "state of the art" does not give forecasters that ability.
The proper interpretation of a 30 percent chance of rain (assuming the forecasts verify perfectly) is that you will have rain on your head three out of ten times that you hear such a forecast.
Please note that the percent chance of rain does not address the duration of rainfall (it might rain all day or only a few minutes) or the amount of rainthat comes down (unless the forecaster uses a qualifying term such as"heavy" or "light").
Anyone keeping a running count of how often they're right or wrong and how it compares to dem percentages dey use? Smiff?
He's a gritty, gutty gamer...a throwback, a BALLPAYER!, comes to play...eats nails, check his stool, etc.... (cont'd)
"been through these kind of things"...last place?
Also, Madonna?? Dude, she's old enough to be your mother and she's slept with half the men and women on the planet. Slept with Decker twice i heard...
At a July 3 briefing, White House press secretary Dana "Fullas#i+" Perino made the bizarre claim that the United States has "actually" reduced "actual emissions" of greenhouse gases, complaining that President Bush "gets absolutely no credit at all." (Waaaaahhh... Ed.)
Wellness Center on notice, freaked out
"Bart the Murderer" - original air date October 10, 1991
At work, Fat Tony gives Bart a present, in gratitude for his help with the cigarettes.
Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?
Tony: Bart, um, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving
Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal
a truckload of bread to feed them?
Bart: Uh uh.
Tony: And, what if your family don't like bread? Say they like... cigarettes?
Bart: I guess that's okay.
Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price
that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?
Bart: Hell, no!
Tony: Enjoy your gift.
At a press conference, Chief Wiggum explains that 12,000 cartons of
Laramie 100's were stolen.
Wiggum: Let me assure all you smokers out there, there is no shortage of cigarettes.
Reporter: [shouts] How do we know that?
Wiggum: Um, let me refer that question back to Jack Larson, Laramie Tobacco Products. Jack?
Jack: Thank you, Chief. Folks, I'm pleased to announce that a new truckload of Laramie's, with their smoooooooooth good taste of fresh tobacco flavor is already heading towards Springfield. The driver has been instructed to ignore all stop signs and crosswalks.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I want my staff working at 110 percent, and I want my coffee harvested by formerly indigent people making a decent living wage so they can feed their families, sustain their farms, and become sources for community development at a local level. What part of that is confusing? Let me repeat myself: I want a large cup of organochlorine-free, unbleached-filter-brewed, environmentally sound cocksucking coffee 10 minutes ago.
Minutes later, Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglass came to the back of the aeroplane to inform reporters of a "minor little problem with the aeroplane" and said the aeroplane would make a precautionary landing in St. Louis.
NY Times, Oct. 14, 2001
-- Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Republican President Dwight Eisenhower
In Northwest Washington stands a pretty neoclassical-style bridge named for one of the city’s most famous native sons, Duke Ellington. Running perpendicular to the Ellington, a stone’s throw away, is another bridge, the Taft. Both span Rock Creek, and even though they have virtually identical drops into the gorge below — about 125 feet — it is the Ellington that has always been notorious as Washington’s “suicide bridge.” By the 1980s, the four people who, on average, leapt from its stone balustrades each year accounted for half of all jumping suicides in the nation’s capital. The adjacent Taft, by contrast, averaged less than two.
After three people leapt from the Ellington in a single 10-day period in 1985, a consortium of civic groups lobbied for a suicide barrier to be erected on the span. Opponents to the plan, which included the National Trust for Historic Preservation, countered with the same argument that is made whenever a suicide barrier on a bridge or landmark building is proposed: that such barriers don’t really work, that those intent on killing themselves will merely go elsewhere. In the Ellington’s case, opponents had the added ammunition of pointing to the equally lethal Taft standing just yards away: if a barrier were placed on the Ellington, it was not at all hard to see exactly where thwarted jumpers would head.
Except the opponents were wrong. A study conducted five years after the Ellington barrier went up showed that while suicides at the Ellington were eliminated completely, the rate at the Taft barely changed, inching up from 1.7 to 2 deaths per year. What’s more, over the same five-year span, the total number of jumping suicides in Washington had decreased by 50 percent, or the precise percentage the Ellington once accounted for.
What makes looking at jumping suicides potentially instructive is that it is a method associated with a very high degree of impulsivity, and its victims often display few of the classic warning signs associated with suicidal behavior. In fact, jumpers have a lower history of prior suicide attempts, diagnosed mental illness (with the exception of schizophrenia) or drug and alcohol abuse than is found among those who die by less lethal methods, like taking pills or poison. Instead, many who choose this method seem to be drawn by a set of environmental cues that, together, offer three crucial ingredients: ease, speed and the certainty of death.
So why the Ellington more than the Taft? In its own way, that little riddle rather buttresses the environmental-cue theory, for the one glaring difference between the two bridges — a difference readily apparent to most anyone who walked over them in their original state — was the height of their balustrades. The concrete railing on the Taft stands chest-high on an average man, while the pre-barrier Ellington came to just above the belt line. A jump from either was lethal, but one required a bit more effort and a bit more time, and both factors stand in the way of impulsive action.
But how do you prove that those thwarted from the Ellington, or by any other suicide barrier, don’t simply choose another method entirely? As it turns out, one man found a clever way to do just that. With a somewhat whimsical manner and the trace of a grin constantly working at one corner of his mouth, Richard Seiden has the appearance of someone always in the middle of telling a joke. It’s not what you might expect considering that Seiden, a professor emeritus and clinical psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health, is probably best known for his pioneering work on the study of suicide. Much of that work has focused on the bridge that lies just across San Francisco Bay from campus, the Golden Gate.
Since its opening in 1937, the bridge has been regarded as one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the 20th century. For nearly as long, the Golden Gate has had the distinction of being the most popular suicide magnet on earth, a place where an estimated 2,000 people have ended their lives. Over the years, there have been a number of civic campaigns to erect a suicide barrier on the bridge, but all have foundered on the same “they’ll just find another way” belief that made the Ellington barrier so contentious.
In the late 1970s, Seiden set out to test the notion of inevitability in jumping suicides. Obtaining a Police Department list of all would-be jumpers who were thwarted from leaping off the Golden Gate between 1937 and 1971 — an astonishing 515 individuals in all — he painstakingly culled death-certificate records to see how many had subsequently “completed.” His report, “Where Are They Now?” remains a landmark in the study of suicide, for what he found was that just 6 percent of those pulled off the bridge went on to kill themselves. Even allowing for suicides that might have been mislabeled as accidents only raised the total to 10 percent.
“That’s still a lot higher than the general population, of course,” Seiden, 75, explained to me over lunch in a busy restaurant in downtown San Franciso. “But to me, the more significant fact is that 90 percent of them got past it. They were having an acute temporary crisis, they passed through it and, coming out the other side, they got on with their lives.”
In Seiden’s view, a crucial factor in this boils down to the issue of time. In the case of people who attempt suicide impulsively, cutting off or slowing down their means to act allows time for the impulse to pass — perhaps even blocks the impulse from being triggered to begin with. What is remarkable, though, is that it appears that the same holds true for the nonimpulsive, with people who may have been contemplating the act for days or weeks.
“At the risk of stating the obvious,” Seiden said, “people who attempt suicide aren’t thinking clearly. They might have a Plan A, but there’s no Plan B. They get fixated. They don’t say, ‘Well, I can’t jump, so now I’m going to go shoot myself.’ And that fixation extends to whatever method they’ve chosen. They decide they’re going to jump off a particular spot on a particular bridge, or maybe they decide that when they get there, but if they discover the bridge is closed for renovations or the railing is higher than they thought, most of them don’t look around for another place to do it. They just retreat.”
Seiden cited a particularly striking example of this, a young man he interviewed over the course of his Golden Gate research. The man was grabbed on the eastern promenade of the bridge after passers-by noticed him pacing and growing increasingly despondent. The reason? He had picked out a spot on the western promenade that he wanted to jump from, but separated by six lanes of traffic, he was afraid of getting hit by a car on his way there.
“Crazy, huh?” Seiden chuckled. “But he recognized it. When he told me the story, we both laughed about it.”
The offices of the Injury Control Research Center are on the third floor of the Harvard School of Public Health building in Boston. The center, directed by David Hemenway, consists of an internationally renowned team of public-health officials, social scientists and statisticians, and over the past decade they have been in the vanguard of a movement that looks at suicide prevention in a new and very different way: call it the Band-Aid approach.
“One of the differences between us and those in mental health,” Hemenway explained, “is that we focus on the ‘how’ of suicide. What are the methods used? Is there a way to mitigate them? And that’s where examples like the British coal-gas story are very instructive, because they show that if you can somehow remove or complicate a method, you have the potential of saving a tremendous number of lives.”
Animating their efforts is one of the most peculiar — in fact, downright perverse — aspects to the premeditation-versus-passion dichotomy in suicide. Put simply, those methods that require forethought or exertion on the actor’s part (taking an overdose of pills, say, or cutting your wrists), and thus most strongly suggest premeditation, happen to be the methods with the least chance of “success.” Conversely, those methods that require the least effort or planning (shooting yourself, jumping from a precipice) happen to be the deadliest. The natural inference, then, is that the person who best fits the classic definition of “being suicidal” might actually be safer than one acting in the heat of the moment — at least 40 times safer in the case of someone opting for an overdose of pills over shooting himself.
As illogical as this might seem, it is a phenomenon confirmed by research. According to statistics collected by the Injury Control Research Center on nearly 4,000 suicides across the United States, those who had killed themselves with firearms — by far the most lethal common method of suicide — had a markedly lower history of depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, previous suicide attempts or drug or alcohol abuse than those who died by the least lethal methods. On the flip side, those who ranked the highest for at-risk factors tended to choose those methods with low “success” rates.
“We’re always going to have suicide,” Hemenway said, “and there’s probably not that much to be done for the ones who are determined, who succeed on their 4th or 5th or 25th try. The ones we have a good chance of saving are those who, right now, succeed on their first attempt because of the lethal methods they’ve chosen.”
Inevitably, this approach means focusing on the most common method of suicide in the United States: firearms. Even though guns account for less than 1 percent of all American suicide attempts, their extreme fatality rate — anywhere from 85 percent and 92 percent, depending on how the statistics are compiled — means that they account for 54 percent of all completions. In 2005, the last year for which statistics are available, that translated into about 17,000 deaths. Public-health officials like Hemenway can point to a mountain of research going back 40 years that shows that the incidence of firearm suicide runs in close parallel with the prevalence of firearms in a community. In a 2007 study that grouped the 15 states with the highest rate of gun ownership alongside the six states with the lowest (each group had a population of about 40 million), Hemenway and his associates found that when it came to all nonfirearm methods, the two populations committed suicide in nearly equal numbers. The more than three-times-greater prevalence of firearms in the “high gun” states, however, translated into a more than three-times-greater incidence of firearm suicides, which in turn translated into an annual suicide rate nearly double that of the “low gun” states. In the same vein, their 2004 study of seven Northeastern states found that the 3.5 times greater rate of gun suicides in Vermont than in New Jersey exactly matched the difference in gun ownership between the two states (42 percent of all households in Vermont opposed to 12 percent in New Jersey). From these and other such studies, the Injury Control Research Center has extrapolated that a 10 percent reduction in firearm ownership in the United States would translate into a 2.5 percent reduction in the overall suicide rate, or about 800 fewer deaths a year.
Beyond sheer lethality, however, what makes gun suicide attempts so resistant to traditional psychological suicide-prevention protocols is the high degree of impulsivity that often accompanies them. In a 1985 study of 30 people who had survived self-inflicted gunshot wounds, more than half reported having had suicidal thoughts for less than 24 hours, and none of the 30 had written suicide notes. This tendency toward impulsivity is especially common among young people — and not only with gun suicides. In a 2001 University of Houston study of 153 survivors of nearly lethal attempts between the ages of 13 and 34, only 13 percent reported having contemplated their act for eight hours or longer. To the contrary, 70 percent set the interval between deciding to kill themselves and acting at less than an hour, including an astonishing 24 percent who pegged the interval at less than five minutes.
The element of impulsivity in firearm suicide means that it is a method in which mechanical intervention — or “means restriction” — might work to great effect. As to how, Dr. Matthew Miller, the associate director of the Injury Control Research Center, outlined for me a number of very basic steps. Storing a gun in a lockbox, for example, slows down the decision-making process and puts that gun off-limits to everyone but the possessor of the key. Similarly, studies have shown that merely keeping a gun unloaded and storing its ammunition in a different room significantly reduces the odds of that gun being used in a suicide.
“The goal is to put more time between the person and his ability to act,” Miller said. “If he has to go down to the basement to get his ammunition or rummage around in his dresser for the key to the gun safe, you’re injecting time and effort into the equation — maybe just a couple of minutes, but in a lot of cases that may be enough.”
It reminded me of what Richard Seiden said about people thwarted from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. When I mentioned this to Miller, he smiled. “It’s very much the same,” he said. “The more obstacles you can throw up, the more you move it away from being an impulsive act. And once you’ve done that, you take a lot of people out of the game. If you look at how people get into trouble, it’s usually because they’re acting impulsively, they haven’t thought things through. And that’s just as true with suicides as it is with traffic accidents.”
Sunday, July 6, 2008
this is nothing to worry about as long as we get it before da tarrists do, or, this won't matter when the bees disappear... wait... yes it will...
The Sierra Nevada Corporation claimed this week that it is ready to begin production on the MEDUSA, a damned scary ray gun that uses the "microwave audio effect" to implant sounds and perhaps even specific messages inside people's heads. Short for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio, MEDUSA creates the audio effect with short microwave pulses. The pulses create a shockwave inside the skull that's detected by the ears, and basically makes you think you're going balls-to-the-wall batshit insane. The MEDUSA can also "produce recognizable sounds" and is aimed primarily at military uses, but New Scientist revealed there are other uses in the works, too. (YAY! Ed.)
No, it would show that you (and by extension we) care about those who the Chinese Government harm. Bring their plight to the forefront. You know, what we freedom loving countries are supposed to be doing. Your going says everything's A OK. Which it ain't. Don't you see how this weakens your denouncing of other countries for their human rights abuses?
The Worms Crawl In
In 2004, David Pritchard applied a dressing to his arm that was crawling
with pin-size hookworm larvae, like maggots on the surface of meat. He left the
wrap on for several days to make sure that the squirming freeloaders would
infiltrate his system.
I love it when scientists face so much resistance to their theories that they perform the initial experiments on themselves to proove they are not dangerous.
“The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the
worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive,”
he said. “That’s why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms.”
This is a pretty old hypothesis, but it's a nice summary that everyone can understand.
[H]e completed his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Birmingham on that
topic. Afterward, he was an allergist at a pharmaceutical company, but the
work bored him In the late 1980s, the Wellcome Trust issued a grant, and Dr. Pritchard and his Nottingham team set up camp on Karkar Island, Papua New Guinea. “We didn’t speak the language, and we were sparsely equipped,” he recalled. “But we established a rapport with the people. We gave them worm tablets and would ask them politely, in pidgin English, to collect their fecal matter in buckets for
That must have been an interesting conversation.
Some allergy sufferers cannot wait. The moderator of the Yahoo group,
Jasper Lawrence, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has started a clinic in Mexico,
to offer the unproven therapy (a basic worm “inoculation” costs $3,900).
Paying money to get a hookworm infection. Brilliant. Perhaps this is where those internet ads come from, "I work at home and earn $3000-$5000 a day." My clinic will be opening soon.
“We’re looking at the molecular mechanisms the worms are using, and we’re
hoping to find molecules that veer the immune response away from allergy,” he
said. A new class of drugs that mimics worms’ effects on the immune system
could also potentially treat Crohn’s disease, arthritis and other autoimmune conditions.Though he eventually hopes to eliminate hookworms entirely from his allergy treatment, Dr. Pritchard has few qualms about venturing where no parasite researcher has gone before. “I gave myself 50 worms, and I felt it,” he recounted. “I had stomach pains and diarrhea. But with 10 worms, we’ve ascertained a dose that does not cause symptoms. The patients are happy. They’ve kept their worms, and I get an e-mail a day from people all over the world who want to be infected.”
If they can distill the parasite's effect into a drug... Nobel Prize baby.
Apparently, you can recycle your compact fluorecent lightbulbs (CFL) at any Home Depot.
I'm buying stock!