Leave it to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to take something as tragic as the death of beloved actor Robin Williams and spin it into something both political and ridiculous. Here’s what he had to say on Tuesday’s broadcast:
“He had it all but he had nothing. Made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside. I mean, it fits a certain picture or a certain image that the left has. Talk about low expectations and general unhappiness and so forth.”
Basically, this bloated gas-bag said people on the left side of the political spectrum—namely Democrats—are pessimistic, dark and sad. “They’re always angry about something. No matter what they get, they’re always angry.”
Limbaugh even claimed to know why Williams killed himself: he felt guilty to still be alive while friends like Christopher Reeve, Andy Kaufman and John Belushi had already passed.
“He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t. Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists when judging the country.”
Of course, one could argue that those on the right only care about money, corporations and the elimination of all minorities and fringe groups—like homosexuals—but that’s beside the point, isn’t it Rush? We all know Republicans are perfect and were sent here by God himself to show the rest of us the true path to righteousness… or in Rush’s case, self-righteousness.
What I find hilarious about all this is that what little research exists regarding politics and suicide rates flies in the face of Limbaugh’s outrageous claims. One study published last year found that suicide rates are higher in states that have high rates of gun ownership and that frequently vote Republican. Suicide rates also tend to rise while Republican presidents are in office, but drop once Democrats enter the White House.
None of this comes as much of a surprise to me, of course. I considered suicide nearly every day that George W. Bush was in office. However, Rush should probably do his homework before making jackass statements like these in the future. Better yet, the media should ignore this crazy bastard because honestly, most of what comes out of him is complete horse shit. And judging from his plump physique, he is obviously full of it.
These words were taken from a statement issued in early November by the Animal Rights Foundation, an animal rescue organization in Ohio. They were meant to honor the group’s founder, 62-year-old Sandy Lertzman, who was found dead in her garage on November 4th.
The car had been running, which means Sandy’s death was intentional. She had committed suicide.
Some may have heard this story before—it isn’t exactly breaking news—but Sandy killed herself through apparent carbon monoxide poisoning and, as far as I know, a clear motive was never released. Police did discover some prescription medication and a suicide note, though, so more details are likely available. I didn’t research as thoroughly as I likely should have.
Of course, the mystery of Sandy’s suicide isn’t even the worst part of this tragic story. What struck me even more was the fact that she took 31 small rescue dogs with her!
That’s right. When police entered the garage, they discovered Sandy’s body along with the carcasses of dozens of slaughtered canines. Only one dog survived the massacre by jumping from the car and hiding in the back of the garage. I’m happy to say he is now resting comfortably with Sandy’s husband and son.
I have no idea what possessed this so-called “lover of animals” to destroy so many of them when she elected to take her own life, but one thing is perfectly clear: Sandy’s is not a safe haven for animals anymore!
This week marks the anniversaries of two very tragic events in America’s history, both of which have fascinated me—and others—for decades: the Jonestown massacre and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Although I still believe JFK’s murder was part of a larger conspiracy—and that Lee Harvey Oswald was likely just a “patsy,” as he claimed shortly before being gunned down by nightclub owner Jack Ruby—the truth may never be revealed to the American public, especially given their recent distrust in elected officials and all the partisan politics in Washington.
Jonestown, on the other hand, is well established in fact. And honestly, it’s too freaky a story for me to ignore, which is why this is the anniversary I will commemorate—for lack of a better word—today.
Jonestown—which was actually called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project—was a community established in Guyana by Reverend Jim Jones, a controversial religious leader in the 1960s known for his integrationist views and his strong belief in apostolic socialism—the basic concept being that “those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion had to be brought to enlightenment—socialism.”
In his early career—and despite harboring great sympathy and respect for Communism, which was a big “no-no” at the time—Jones seemed intent on fighting for civil rights, love and understanding. He and his wife Marceline adopted children of Korean descent to create a “rainbow family” and later became the first white couple in Indiana to adopt a black child. Jones also fought to integrate churches, restaurants and a host of other Indiana businesses, which resulted in harsh criticism, threats and even a bomb scare—a stick of dynamite was once discovered in the coal pile of his church, the Peoples Temple.
In 1961, Jones heard mention of a possible nuclear holocaust—which he believed would occur in 1967—and started visiting South America in an effort to find a suitable location upon which to establish a utopian society. He read in Esquire magazine that Brazil would likely be safe from nuclear fallout and decided to visit, stopping in the British colony of Guyana along the way. When he returned from Brazil in 1965, he immediately moved the Peoples Temple to San Francisco for safety, hoping to eventually build and relocate to a “new socialist Eden on earth.”
Jonestown was starting to come into focus.
While in San Francisco, Jones and the Peoples Temple became extremely political and were integral in the 1975 election of Mayor George Moscone, who soon appointed Jones as chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. California assemblyman Willie Brown even described Jones as “a combination of Martin King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein and Chairman Mao.” He had friends in high places—including First Lady Rosalyn Carter and vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale—and his church grew exponentially, with branches popping up in San Fernando and Los Angeles.
Underneath it all, though, was a growing sense of fear and paranoia. Jones denounced Christianity, continued to drift closer and closer to Communism, worried the IRS was investigating the tax-exempt status of his church, and faced intense media scrutiny—culminating in the threat of an exposé in New West magazine claiming some Peoples Temple defectors were sexually, physically and emotionally abused.
Rather than living in a society that seemed increasingly critical and wary of he and his followers—and anticipating the publication of that damning exposé, which would undoubtedly bring even more negativity—Jones and his congregation decided to create a society of their own in Guyana, which he affectionately referred to as Jonestown. In the summer of 1976, he and several hundred of his congregation members—most of whom were black—were living in South America. And by its peak in 1978, Jonestown boasted almost 1,000 residents.
Unfortunately, life in Jonestown wasn’t as pleasant as people expected it to be, and it was a far cry from the utopian paradise promised by their beloved leader. Work days were long and tiresome, buildings quickly fell into disrepair, supplies were hard to come by and illnesses spread through the community like a brush fire. To make matters worse, members identified as having disciplinary problems were harshly punished—many were beaten or imprisoned—and anyone who attempted to escape would be detained by armed guards or even “treated” with powerful drugs like Thorazine and sodium pentothal.
Meanwhile, Jones’ fear and paranoia—as well as his descent into madness—seemed to be growing and progressing at an alarming rate. Members were subjected to behavior modification and mind control techniques—which were inspired by common practices in Communist China and North Korea—and recordings of Jones ranting and raving about the evil “capitalist and imperialist villains” in America boomed from loudspeakers throughout the compound. In Jones’ view, the CIA and other “capitalist pigs” intended to harm the Peoples Temple and to destroy Jonestown, so the disillusioned leader instituted White Nights—large group events designed to help plan for the so-called worst case scenario. He gave members four choices in terms of responding to outside—and impending—threats: defect to the Soviet Union, stand and fight, flee into the jungle or—most frightening of all—commit mass, revolutionary suicide.
And since Jones obtained a jeweler’s license in 1976 and had been receiving shipments of cyanide on a regular basis, he had everything he needed to make this final option a reality.
By late 1977 and early 1978—and amidst rumors of abuse, religious and political indoctrination, and imprisonment in Jonestown—friends and relatives of Peoples Temple members started to get very concerned about their loved ones. A group of Temple defectors calling themselves “Concerned Relatives” eventually got the attention of Congressman Leo Ryan from California, who decided to investigate for himself. He and a delegation of 18 people—including reporters, photographers and representatives from the Concerned Relatives group—arranged to visit Jonestown in November of 1978.
What Ryan and his group didn’t know was that Jones’ decline into madness and paranoid delusion had grown substantially and his health had even started to deteriorate. He suffered from weight loss, convulsions, temporary blindness, chronic insomnia and a host of other problems, most of which he treated with injectable stimulants and barbiturates. In the months prior to Ryan’s visit, Jones’ persecution complex and megalomania continued to grow and his White Nights events became much more frequent—even to the point of rehearsing mass suicide with his members.
And to say he was suspicious of Congressman Ryan’s visit would be an understatement.
Despite his reservations—and unable to prevent Ryan from visiting once he and his delegation landed in Guyana—Jones reluctantly agreed to let the party enter Jonestown on November 17, 1978. All but four of Ryan’s contingent landed at a small airstrip at Port Kaituma—six miles away from the compound—and arrived just after sunset. Initially, they were accepted with open arms and even invited to a musical celebration that night. Temple members raved about their lives in Guyana and seemed to be in good spirits, but things soon took a much darker turn.
The first Peoples Temple defector to approach Congressman Ryan at the celebration was Vernon Gosney, who mistakenly handed a note intended for Ryan to NBC reporter Don Harris that read, “Dear Congressman Ryan, Vernon Gosney and Monica Bagby. Please help us get out of Jonestown.” The next morning, eleven members fled Jonestown and took a train to nearby Matthew’s Ridge. Among them was Joe Wilson, Jonestown’s head of security.
Reporters and Concerned Relatives members who were unable to take the earlier flight with Ryan arrived at Jonestown that afternoon and were greeted by Marceline Jones, who took them on a tour of the compound. At the same time, even more Peoples Temple members approached Ryan’s delegation and asked to be escorted home. Oddly enough, Jones granted them permission to leave, even after Harris showed him Gosney’s note. Jones, of course, claimed they were lies intended to destroy Jonestown, but nevertheless agreed to let anyone leave who felt they should.
Following a violent rainstorm that afternoon, Ryan’s delegation and a number of defectors—including Temple loyalist Larry Layton, whose presence seemed suspicious to other members—loaded into a dump truck and set out for the airstrip and the long flight home. Congressman Ryan was planning to stay behind, but joined the group after being attacked by a knife-wielding Temple member named Don Sly. He was reluctant to leave—feeling there was still work to be done and other members who may be interested in leaving—but promised to return later.
This was obviously a promise he would never keep—more on that in a moment.
The group reached the airstrip but due to their increased size, they had to wait for two planes to arrive: a 19-passenger Twin Otter from Guyana Airways and a 6-passenger Cessna, which was dispatched by the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown. The planes arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and since it was the first to depart, passengers started to board the Cessna first. Among them was Larry Layton, who waited until the plane taxied to the runway before producing a gun and shooting at the passengers. Gosney and Bagby were injured in the attack, but Layton was disarmed by passenger Dale Parks before he could do any further damage.
Around the same time, passengers were boarding the Twin Otter when they suddenly noticed a tractor with a trailer approaching. In the back were members of the Peoples Temple Security Brigade—all of them armed to the teeth—and before anyone knew what was happening, the gunmen opened fire.
NBC cameraman Bob Brown caught the first few seconds of the attack on film, but was killed along with Bob Harris, defector Patricia Parks and Congressman Ryan, who was shot more than twenty times. As many as nine others were injured before the shooting stopped and the Twin Otter was too damaged to fly. Unfortunately, the pilots of the Cessna weren’t taking any chances and immediately took off for Georgetown, leaving everyone else either injured or dead on the isolated airstrip. Some fled into the jungle, but those who survived the deadly attack were eventually rescued by Guyanese soldiers.
Larry Layton was arrested by the Guyanese state police and was later convicted of conspiracy and of aiding and abetting the murder of Ryan and the attempted murder of Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of the U.S. Embassy to Guyana. He remains the only person held criminally responsible for the events on that fateful November day.
Meanwhile—back in Jonestown—Reverend Jones assembled his remaining followers in the pavilion and told them that “one of the people on that plane is gonna shoot the pilot” and that they “better not have any of [their] children left when it’s over, because they’ll parachute in here on us.” His threats intensified once the airstrip shooters returned and confirmed Ryan’s death. And in Jones’ view, there was only one solution: revolutionary suicide.
“You can go down in history, saying you chose your own way to go,” the deranged religious leader told his congregation. “It is your commitment to refuse capitalism and in support of socialism.”
Prior to the meeting, Temple members prepared a large vat of Flavor Aid—not Kool-Aid—and laced it with cyanide, Phenergan, Valium and chloral hydrate. According to reports from escaped Temple members, the first to take the deadly concoction were Ruletta Paul and her one-year-old infant. A syringe was used to squirt the poison into the infant’s mouth and within minutes, others were stepping up to take their doses. Jones circulated through the crowd and encouraged people to drink, but many were reluctant once they watched their friends and loved ones drop dead within five minutes of ingesting the poison.
“Die with a degree of dignity,” he told them. “Lay down your life with dignity; don’t lay down with tears and agony… death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life. If you knew what was ahead of you, you’d be glad to be stepping over tonight.”
One by one, Temple members drank their share of Flavor Aid and used syringes to dose their children. A few people managed to escape, but generally those who refused to take the poison weren’t given a choice. Of course, Jones chose a different method and instead died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His body was found beside his chair with his head resting comfortably on a pillow.
By the time it was all said and done, the mass suicide at Jonestown—which many considered to be mass murder—claimed 909 lives. The total climbs to 918 once the airstrip victims and a few additional Temple members are included—Jones commanded four of his members in Georgetown to die, which they did obediently. And until the events of September 11, 2001, the Jonestown massacre stood as the single largest loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act in our nation’s history.
I certainly hope this is a record we never break again. And my heart goes out to anyone who lost a loved one on that terrible November day in 1978. This is one anniversary that no one should have to experience.
If you ask me, few things are more hilarious than newspaper headlines—or headlines on news websites—that do little more than state the obvious. A case in point comes from CNN, which covered a recent story from Newport Beach, California.
Here’s what happened.
On Tuesday afternoon, 61-year-old Gregory McFadden walked into Anaheim Helicopters in nearby Fullerton and arranged for a 30-minute tour of the coastline. He seemed strange to the owners of the company—Chuck Street and his son Corbin—and had scabs on his arms, but they had no reason to deny his request and 25-year-old Corbin soon “took him up.”
What happened next, though, was completely unexpected. Corbin’s father described it like this:
“During the flight, [McFadden] kept asking to go higher and higher. ‘Can you fly right here along the shore?’ My son was starting to get suspicious. When they got towards Balboa Pier, he started to take his seat belt off and he started to open the door. My son said, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’”
Corbin grabbed ahold of McFadden’s shirt and tried to restrain him—all the while struggling to pilot the craft so they both didn’t crash and burn—but McFadden resisted and his shirt ripped. Then he simply opened the door and jumped out, plummeting 750 feet to the water below.
Corbin immediately reported the incident to air traffic controllers at nearby John Wayne Airport and a Huntington Beach police chopper was dispatched to help search for the missing man. They spotted McFadden and informed lifeguards and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Harbor Patrol, who were able to rescue him and bring him to shore. Lifesaving efforts were made before McFadden was transported to a local hospital, but it was too late. He died from his injuries a short time later.
According to McFadden’s estranged brother, he suffered from a severe throat disease, depression and mental illness. Based on this information, the authorities are investigating the incident as a possible suicide. And to me, the case seems pretty “cut and dry.”
Of course, this didn’t stop CNN from tagging the story with that obvious headline I mentioned earlier—one that immediately drew a response of “duh” from me and likely countless others. What was it, you ask?
Man Falls 750 Feet, Dies
All together now: “DUH!”
On June 11, 1963—in the streets of war-torn Saigon—Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc protested the persecution of Buddhists by the government of South Korea in the most unthinkable way: he sat down in a busy intersection, facing west with his palms up, and set himself on fire.
Duc self-immolated and burned himself alive—and his image has been burned into our collective memory ever since. Take a look at this enhanced and colored version.
Creepy, isn’t it?
Well, it turns out that self-immolation was on the menu in our nation’s capital yesterday afternoon, too. An as-yet-unidentified man appeared on the National Mall at 4:30 Friday afternoon—between the Air and Space Museum and the National Mall—muttered something unintelligible, doused himself in gasoline and promptly set himself aflame, much to the shock of passersby like Tommy Hess.
“I was milling around, because everything is closed due to the shutdown,” Hess explained. “I never expected to see anything like that. It’s crazy.”
Equally crazy is what eyewitness Katy Scheflen claimed to see moments before the man did his tragically accurate impression of the Fantastic Four’s Human Torch—flame on!
According to Scheflen—a Justice Department civil rights attorney currently furloughed by this ridiculous government shutdown—she stopped because she saw “a guy with a tripod set up” and thought a scene or protest was being filmed—the camera appeared to be trained on the man with the gas can.
“And then he set himself on fire and went up in flames,” Scheflen later told reporters. “Whoosh! We didn’t know what was going on.”
Some joggers rushed over to beat out the flames and shortly after authorities arrived on the scene, a helicopter was dispatched to transport the burned man to MedStar Washington Hospital Center. He thanked the joggers just before takeoff, but with burns over 80% of his body, there was nothing to be done. The unidentified man died of his injuries earlier today.
No one knows what led this poor bastard to self-immolate in Washington yesterday, but many suspect the government shutdown may be to blame. People are fed up with our contentious, self-serving leaders, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t at least part of his motivation. Discovering his reasons now is impossible, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more violent protests in the near future… especially if our elected officials can’t pull it together and get our nation back on track soon. It just sucks that regular people have to die to make any sort of impression on Washington… if any real impression was made, that is.
In many ways, sacrificing your life to protest injustice, further a worthy cause or affect positive change can be quite noble. It would take a lot of forethought, planning and—most of all—convincing yourself to go through with it, but once the decision had been made, the resolve from that point forward would likely be unbreakable.
But after all that thought, the best you can come up with is burning yourself alive? I’m sorry, but there is just as much honor in sacrificing your life in a less painful way. I know that I wouldn’t think any less of you… at least not any less than I do already…
Ariel Castro is dead.
The Cleveland man convicted of kidnapping Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, holding them prisoner and abusing them for more than a decade was found dead in his prison cell on Tuesday evening. He used a bed sheet to hang himself.
Oddly enough, guards were supposed to check on Castro every 30 minutes at staggered intervals—he was being held in protective custody, after all—but even this didn’t prevent him from taking his own life.
Some of Castro’s family members were not very happy about this, of course. And hearing about their relative’s suicide in the media before being officially notified by prison officials certainly didn’t help—the warden only contacted Castro’s brother-in-law with the news.
Last month, Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts that included murder, kidnapping, rape and assault. He was subsequently sentenced to life plus 1,000 years, which is just another way of saying he would never leave prison alive.
Mission accomplished, I suppose. And though I would never celebrate the death of another human being—even one as evil as Ariel Castro—I hope his suicide finally brings some closure to his victims and, more importantly, this story.
How I long for the days when the only Castro mentioned in the news was the cigar-smoking Cuban dictator…
I just heard a really sad story that shows just how fragile life can be—and how for each death there is also new life. It happened in Texas and involved 32-year-old Michael Carl Nobles.
Michael and his wife Kendra rushed to Willowbrook Methodist Hospital in Houston on Sunday afternoon after she went into labor. Everything went well and a short time later, she gave birth to a healthy child.
Unfortunately, that’s also when things took a turn for the worst.
Within an hour or two of bringing new life into the world, the young couple could be heard arguing inside Kendra’s maternity room. Suddenly, there was a gunshot.
Somehow Michael had smuggled a .380 pistol into the hospital and used it to commit suicide in front of his recovering wife. Thankfully, their child was not in the room at the time.
Family members told authorities that Michael had seemed distressed recently, but none of them suspected he would be capable of something like this. And now the poor child whose life just began will have no father to help guide the way.
John Littig—a life coach, workshop facilitator and motivational speaker—and his common-law wife Lynne Rosen—a psychotherapist, speaker, consultant and life coach in her own right—hosted a radio show on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York called “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
The show focused on “personal development, growth and creativity” and aired every other Thursday afternoon. The couple also ran a business called Why Not Now that—according to their now inactive website—offered “life coaching designed to help foster and encourage your inner strengths, identify hidden and untapped resources, and put you confidently on the path to designing the life you’ve always wanted to live.”
Basically, Littig and Rosen liked helping people. The ironic thing is that for all their efforts and good advice, nothing could save them from themselves.
The couple was seated on the couch, holding hands and wearing plastic bags over their heads. A tube attached to a canister of helium ran into each bag and nearby were two notes, one written by each of the victims. When he was asked later what the notes said, Boztepe could recall only one line from Littig’s final writing assignment: “I can’t take it anymore. My wife is in too much pain.”
“I was shocked,” the apartment manager told reporters. “I am still in shock. I feel so bad for these people.”
What caused two radio hosts who prided themselves on bettering the lives of their listeners to suddenly end their own—together, nonetheless—remains to be seen. Perhaps a clue can be found in a comment Littig made on one of his recent shows, a comment that now takes on a much darker meaning.
“So much of life is about impulse, it’s about doing it right now,” he told his listeners. “Go with your gut. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
On a cold dark cloud with nowhere to fall but down, like a single, naked, unrelenting tear… I’m still here.
These are some of the lyrics from the title track of country star Mindy McCready’s most recent album, “I’m Still Here.” Unfortunately, words that were intended to express resilience and strength now represent tragedy.
The body of the 37-year-old singer was found Sunday on the porch of her Heber Springs, Arkansas home. Authorities report that she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Oddly enough, her boyfriend David Wilson died the very same way only a month before.
McCready first gained attention in 1996 when she released “Ten Thousand Angels,” her debut album. It sold more than two million copies and launched her career as a chart-topping country star. In all, McCready saw six of her albums and 14 of her songs reach the charts, and she was an inspiration to many artists that followed.
Sadly, McCready’s personal life was far from perfect. For years, she struggled with addiction and mental illness. And thanks to the media, most of her struggles and missteps were broadcast publicly for all the world to see.
In 2004, McCready received three years of probation for fraudulently obtaining the controlled substance Oxycontin. The following year, she was arrested for drunk driving and suffered abuse at the hands of boyfriend Billy McKnight, who was subsequently charged with attempted murder.
As if being choked by her boyfriend weren’t bad enough, 2005 also saw McCready overdose on drugs numerous times, arrested for drug charges, attempting suicide and becoming pregnant with McKnight’s child.
Another suicide attempt followed in 2008, with another drug overdose two years later. As a result, McCready joined the cast of VH1’s “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2010 and, it seemed to many, was poised for both recovery and a comeback.
Unfortunately, that never happened.
2010 also saw Vivid Entertainment release a sex tape entitled “Mindy McCready: Baseball Mistress” that showed the country star having sex with a boyfriend known only as “Peter.” However, it’s not widely known what effect this may have had on the young singer.
Life got worse for McCready in 2011 when she fought a very public custody battle for her oldest son Zander. Her mother was given custody of the child and, in response, McCready took the boy and retreated to her Arkansas home. When authorities went to retrieve Zander later, they found him hiding in a closet with his mother.
It’s obvious that McCready didn’t live the life that most people associate with stardom, aside from all the negative exposure in the media, that is. What is even more tragic is the fact that just last year, things seemed to be looking up for her. McCready was planning to release a book about her life and even posted the following message to her official fan website. In retrospect, her words make this latest news even more troubling.
“I haven’t had a hit in almost a decade. I’ve been beaten, sued, robbed, arrested, jailed and evicted,” she wrote. “But I’m still here. With a handful of people that I know and trust, a revived determination, and both middle fingers up in the air, I’m ready. I’ve been here before. I’m a fighter. I’m down, but I’ll never be out.”
If only this were true.
Farewell, Mindy McCready. Here’s hoping you find the peace in death that eluded you in life.