Cheap, at twice the price!

Angela Hawken and I will rappel the Westin Pasadena to raise money for Shatterproof, a new drug-policy NGO. Why just sit there wishing I would break my neck when you can *actually do something about it*?



Shatterproof is a new organization intending to do for substance abuse disorder what the American Heart Association does for cardio-vascular disease: combining collective self-help, research support, and policy advocacy. What excites me is that the policy advocacy will be relentlessly aimed at reducing the damage, rather than at fighting the culture war (from either side). They had me at “addiction to alcohol and other drugs.”

I don’t have a clue whether they can bring it off, but after several long conversations with Gary Mendell, the founder, I’m willing to give it a shot.

And that’s where your part comes in. As a fundraiser, Shatterproof is organizing a group of us to rappel from the Westin in Pasadena a week from Wednesday. If you’re one of the countless people who would love to see me break my neck, you now have a chance to contribute to the cause. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I will get to the bottom in one piece, but that’s just the risk you take.

Angela Hawken will also be doing the reverse Rope Trick. I tried to explain that it would work better if people could contribute to prevent Angela from courting disaster, but it’s hard to fight organizational Standard Operating Procedure, so just go ahead and support her effort.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

22 thoughts on “Cheap, at twice the price!”

  1. Your link for donations take me to the page where you have to sign in. Creating an account seems to have committed me to find my own set of people to donate $1000, which commission I decline,

  2. I am broke-ish, but I will spread the word. Also I might show up for moral support? Or, would that make it worse?

  3. So will this group be looking at naloxone and syringe exchange and a full range of possible responses to the issue of addiction?

    1. Yes. They're already on the case with respect to naloxone distribution.

  4. It seems somewhat counterintuitive for such an organization to sponsor an activity in which no rational human being would take part except under the influence of copious amount of booze and other drugs. Seriously, Mark, have you totally lost your mind?

    1. As far as I can tell, rappelling is about as dangerous as sitting absolutely still.

      1. That, too, seems extremely counterintuitive. Do you have some factual basis for what you’re saying?It certainly looks dangerous to me. I find your voluntary reliance on the sturdiness of the rope particularly disturbing and ill advised. Why can’t they wash cars or have a bake sale like everybody else?

        1. From a cliff, tying your own rope and placing your own pitons, it's dangerous. From building, with a commercial rappelling organizaton in charge, it's not clear to me what the risk could be.

          1. I have never understood why anyone would engage in an activity such as parachuting or riding a roller coaster where the point of the activity is come as near to the precipice as humanly possible and with the most minimal margin for error without tipping over into catastrophe.

            Climbing down a building on a rope to escape a fire or an irate husband is one thing. Doing it for entertainment while praying that everything goes right and nothing breaks cannot possibly be a good idea

        2. I quite agree. I would feel guilty about donating, except that that's kind of not an option anyhow.

          Having said that, it is a very brave thing to do, so if someone's already decided to do it, I don't feel too bad about the moral support. In which case, had I the dough, what the bleep, I'd probably donate.

          I hate heights. If enough students are going to give said moral support, really I might not like to watch.

          And having said that… I too have hurt myself in daily living. It is probably not as risky as driving there. I'm sure they are extra careful with volunteers.

  5. I think that it might be more dangerous for Mark to wash a car or bake something.

  6. Rappelling under supervision is very safe, even rappelling down a cliff. Rappelling down a building with a fireman's belay at the base is very nearly as safe as sitting in your easy chair. With inexperienced rappellers (our gracious host among them) either a prusik knot below the descender or a fireman's belay (or both) will be used as safety devices.

    With these in place, if the rappeller tries to do something really stupid, like letting go of the rappel line entirely, the safety will engage and stop the descent. In other words, the fall stops. You might hit your head against the side of the building, but you should be wearing a helmet anyway.

    1. For Mark, maybe. I have complete and utter confidence in my ability to accidentally hurt myself doing just about anything. Then again, I guess that does make rappelling about as safe as sitting in a chair, doing which caused me to seriously pull a muscle once.

      1. We all have our own levels of risk tolerance. Know yourself, but time changes circumstances.

        When he was about 11, my son desperately wanted to learn to rappel, and as it happened, his uncle headed a large fire department's heavy rescue team at the time. My brother had the training (to the level of being a certified instructor) and the gear. We all went out to a spot he knew near Kernville and learned to rappel.

        Well, all of us except my son. He froze at the top and wouldn't trust the rope to hold him, despite the evidence before his eyes — the same rope was holding up his sister, his mother, my brother, his wife, their son and me. He was the only one who never got down the face.

        Eight or nine years later, he went through the Army's Mountain Warfare course… now he is an expert.

  7. Enjoy yourself, Mark! Wish I could be there, but you'll no doubt have a lot of your students wishing you well (or not).

    1. What Marks's students will be cheering for probably depends on how they think they did on the final and whether the grades have been turned in yet

  8. I noticed this on their front page:

    "Addiction is a scientifically proven, chronic disease that causes permanent changes to the brain and almost always originates during the narrow window of adolescence."

    Is that so?

    Anyway, the rest of their approach sounds, like you say, worth a shot…

  9. Once again the internet has proven the expert at generating tangential arguments (some great articles and physics of repelling on climbing websites, for those interested).

    Mark (professor Kleiman, as I know you), glad to read about the cause and the fundraiser, best of luck. If I were not a broke health researcher I would support (a lame excuse, I know). UW supports you from afar!

    Also, For the record: repelling is a blast, and I’ve always wanted to go down a building; jealous.

Comments are closed.