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Archive for February, 2009

This is sad.

Four members of the Final Exit Network, including its president and its medical director, were arrested Wednesday and charged with assisted suicide in the death of 58-year-old John Celmer last June at his home near Atlanta. Investigators said the organization may have been involved in as many as 200 other deaths around the country.

[…] The arrests came after an eight-month investigation in which an undercover agent posing as someone bent on suicide infiltrated the Final Exit Network, which bases its work on “The Final Exit,” a best-selling suicide manual by British author Derek Humphry.

Members of the Final Exit Network are instructed to buy two new helium tanks and a hood, known as an “exit bag,” according to the GBI. In court papers, investigators said the organization recommends helium because it is undetectable during an autopsy.

Final Exit is a book I possess and have read. I think it is a tremendously important work and, along with the eponymous network,  performs an invaluable service. As I have often stated on this blog, I view right to suicide on par with the right to life — the most fundamental right of man.

Of course, most don’t view it that way and my advice to others like me who wish to have complete control over their moment of exit is: buy those helium tanks and bags now and keep them in multiple locations. Have sensible backup plans. Don’t wait till you are so weak that you need assistance to get that stuff — for there will always be people who will fight to deny you liberty. And needless to say, before you take any irreversible decision, think long and hard.

And to those noble members who were arrested today: you were punished for doing good, for helping a man exercise his most precious freedom. You are not the first to face such injustice nor will you be the last; but the work you were doing will be carried on by others in your absence and your contributions and deeds respected and fondly remembered.

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I like driving fast. And no urban freeway rewards the skilled, fast driver more than the historic Pasadena freeway, the  section of the 110 north of downtown LA .

In many ways, the Pasadena Freeway is an anomaly. The oldest freeway in the US, it connects the business district of Los Angeles to the city of Pasadena. It is a narrow, winding 8 miles long stretch of concrete road with several features to strike fear into the heart of the novice driver. The lanes are narrower than usual, the curves unrelentingly sharp and the traffic always heavy. The exits have a 5 mile speed limit, the entrances have stop signs and neither have any acceleration or deceleration lanes. The maximum speed limit is 55 miles per hour, yet traffic on the faster lane often goes at 80. Every aspect of the design of this freeway is outdated: the curves are underbanked and designed for traffic no faster than 40, the shoulder nonexistent. And fierce lane changes are the norm.

All of which makes it the most fun urban freeway to drive in probably all of US. Going fast on empty interstates is a joke; you just have to press the accelerator. To drive fast on the 110 safely requires real skill. I need to take the 110 two to three times on most weeks and I know it like the back of my hand. And oh, what a joy it is to pass those fancy convertibles and sports cars everytime: me in my ancient Corolla, veering smoothly from lane to lane, passing all those drivers many of whom are clearly out of their league and just want to get out of there, feeling the g-forces on my body as I conquer those curves at speeds that are about thirty miles faster than the recommended one yet not so fast as to make me lose control in any manner. My driving skills are one of those things I take pride in and the 110 is an arena where it is amply rewarded.

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The Washington Times says so in an editorial full of huffy misdirection and false alternatives. Radley Balko, rightly, takes the piece apart.

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I am the guy with the blue helmet.

rappel

Rope skills at 9900 feet on a cold Sunday morning

(Photo courtesy of Stephan)

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This is terrific news.

Around three months before the elections, I had listed the possible re-imposition of the fairness doctrine as one of the downsides of an Obama victory. Now that Obama has categorically ruled out that option, I think it is safe to strike it off from my list of fallouts.

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The Crapola network has the scoop.

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They say rightly that truth is stranger than fiction.

So Muthalik and his gang of goons beat up women at pubs because they deem the activity is against Indian culture. This sets off similar acts of violence and vandalism by other Hindu right-wing groups. One of their victims, a fifteen year old girl, is so traumatized by the incident that she commits suicide.

What next? At the very least, you’d expect legal action against the perpetrators, right? But this is India, where miracles happen everyday, only in a bad way. Instead of directing its ire at the bad guys, a Mangalore local court directs the police to file a FIR against the Union minister Renuka Chowdhury for her statement comparing these incidents to the acts of the Taliban.

The whole thing beggars belief. The first news report I read on the matter didn’t mention the law that Ms. Chowdhury had allegedly violated (and for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out); so I scoured around some more. Finally I found it:

…directed the police to register the FIR under section 153 A (Promoting enmity between different groups) and B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505 (Statements conducive to public mischief) IPC and also to submit the investigation report before March 20,

The only thing more WTF than the act of the local court is this terrible set of sections under which the FIR was filed. There are ridiculous laws and  then there are ridiculous laws. In the theater of the absurd, anything is possible — and if the results are mostly tragic, hey that’s life!

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