Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Learners vs. Non-Learners

It has lately come to pass that the word incompetent is the single term most likely to be associated with President Bush. It's about time. Those of us who were aware of this all along are quite happy to find others catching on. Yay, team.

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

— Praising Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the morning after he revealed (in a network television interview) that he did not know about the thousands of people stranded at New Orleans' convention center until a day after extensive media reports on the situation. (Washington Post, "FEMA Director Singled Out by Response Critics", Spencer S. Hsu and Susan B. Glasser, Sept. 6, 2005.)

Incompetent, and also unaware of it. Yes, this has been rather thoroughly discussed among the Atriots and other real bloggers, but I will chime this bell repeatedly until I hear the mainstream media taking it up as an acceptable narrative. Or until hell freezes over, likely first.

We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.

Snipped from a nifty study put out by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology a few years back, which you can see here if you like.

It so applies to our current assinine dunce of a president.

And again, thoroughly discussed by the Atriots, god bless 'em all. I just love those people.

The essence of it all is that some people just do not learn from their mistakes. Most of us do. Bush does not. He's one of those "doomed to repeat it" kind of guys. Plus, he's a psychopath, so even if he could learn from mistakes, he wouldn't care if he did, and he wouldn't bother unless it accrued him greater power or ability to command misery upon others.


The Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the oldest written story to have come down to us over lo so many centuries. Interestingly, part of it involves a pre-emptive attack on a "monster" which turns out very badly for the hero, as his best friend Enkidu (who apparently has the sexual stamina of an ultra-marathoner) is subsequently taken from Gilgamesh and killed.

Let's recap, shall we:

The mighty hero Gilgamesh who somehow fashions himself part-divine pre-emptively attacks a Middle-Eastern "monster" and this turns out badly for him and his nation.

I read Gilgamesh when I was a highschool student. Bush, not much of a reader himself, has probably not been exposed to this. The oldest story known to mankind. And if not exposed to it, how could he then learn from it?

Well, not at all. Which just happens to be the same way he learns from things he has been exposed to. That is to say, not at all.

He just doesn't learn.

Because everything is going OK, and no mistakes have been made, and even though New Orleans was drowning and its population devastated and dispersed, everything was just swell. In Iraq every day more of our young soldiers die senselesly, but this is progress in the minds of many in this Administration.

He screws up, but he thinks everything is just fine, because he is unable to see otherwise. He's blind.

And naked. And, to tell you all the sad truth, quite small, if you know what I mean.

Tiny, in fact.


There remains a schism between two types of people in the world: those who learn from mistakes, and those who don't.

We apparently now are ruled by those for whom a thousands-years-old story holds no lessons at all. They don't get it, and they never will, because they do not learn, and besides that they are incompetent psychopaths.

Get into the groove, patriots. It's still your country, and mine.

The Sign Says Not to Feed Them

They look just like you and me, but they have no emotional center, no way to put the brakes on their wants and desires. They are not burdened by care for others, and they are quite willing to exploit the empathy of other individuals if this will further their own selfish aims.

"It has often been noted that psychopaths have a distinct advantage over human beings with conscience and feelings because the psychopath does not have conscience and feelings. What seems to be so is that conscience and feelings are related to the abstract concepts of "future" and "others." It is "spatio-temporal." We can feel fear, sympathy, empathy, sadness, and so on because we can IMAGINE in an abstract way, the future based on our own experiences in the past, or even just "concepts of experiences" in myriad variations. We can "predict" how others will react because we are able to "see ourselves" in them even though they are "out there" and the situation is somewhat different externally, though similar in dynamic. In other words, we can not only identify with others spatially - so to say - but also temporally - in time. "

They realize that they are different, yet also generally play-act as if they sincerely do have the same feelings the rest of us have. They wear the "Mask of Sanity." This can be stressful for them, though, and tell-tale slips often occur.

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

—Bush addressing a group of witnesses at the signing of the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005 in Washington, DC on Aug. 4.

The article linked above even contains a suggestion that the psychopath is a new kind of hominid, with the survival advantage of lack of a constraining conscience. That scares the heck out of me, and I'd hate to see what the planet would end up like after Homo psychopathosis became the dominant species on our once-fair Earth. I don't think it's yet too late for us to take our country, all countries, back from these monsterous people.

The points bearing repetiton here are that psychopaths are all around us, and they are making a miserable mess of things, and we should do our best to recognize and contain them. We should stop electing them. We should see to it that their political party ceases to have power over us.

This next quote comes from one of the comment moderators for the political blog called "Red State," which was at the center of the fleeting Ben Domenech fiasco at the Washington Post.

"For the record By: Thomas

I repeat: Should the entire American Left fall over dead tomorrow, I would rejoice, and order pizza to celebrate. They are not my countrymen; they are animals who happen to walk upright and make noises that approximate speech. They are below human. I look forward to seeing each and every one in Hell.

To those conservatives who couldn't wait to find wrongdoing where none existed: Gee, funny you didn't get all hyped up about this with Bob Bork. Or Sam Alito. I guess maybe your common sense detector -- or decency reserve -- only kicks in when it gets you something you want?

You're all dead to me, as well. Too bad: One lady in particular was a favorite writer of mine. Ah, well.

If this is mastery, then I'm a donut. - Mike Krempasky

Personally, I think it might very well be that "Thomas" is himself a bit of a psychopath. In that quote he certainly espouses the tone of one. If you hold your nose and peruse that thread you will see that other posters there call him to task, but with the expected futility.

A psychopath of the more severe variety could slaughter a whole dormitory full of schoolgirls and similarly order a pizza, no? And the projection is also a common sign amongst these unholy bretheren; to repeat Thomas:

I guess maybe your common sense detector -- or decency reserve -- only kicks in when it gets you something you want?

I believe he might be trying to tell us that he feigns common decency only on occasions when it would appear to be advantageous for himself. And of course, he tries to weasel out of things later by posting this:

Properly, by the way, I was not "expressing approval of harassment, arrest, immprisonment, torture, or death of liberals and Democrats." I was stating preemptive joy at the sudden, accidental death of the American Left. I'm frequently told by liberals that liberal does not equal Left; I took that as a given.

Yes of course, that's much better. Whatever.

Anyways, the next time you get flamed by some illogical rightwing freeper-type keep in mind that they are most certainly a psychopath. Treat them as such, protect yourself, and above all, discourage their reproduction, both figuratively and biologically.

They have also their disadvantages. They are predictable, they are unclear in their desires, except perhaps to repeatedly harm others, they can be sloppy, and they can be beaten, as they must be.

Satire Over a Cliff

Craig Cantoni (see link below) recently wrote:

"You might think this is a leap of logic, but the installation of new digital cameras and recorders costing $1,400 apiece on 85 Scottsdale Unified School District buses is a symbol of social decay and a harbinger of the nation's eventual demise ("Schools upgrade cameras on buses," Scottsdale Republic, March 2). "

Leap of logic?!


Well, lemming logic, maybe.

So you see, it's not the deficits, which have saddled every man, woman, and child in the U.S with $30K of debt each.

It's not the way the Bush administration has chiselled out whole sections of the Bill of Rights and tossed the rubble into the cold and dirty Potomac.

It's not the failure of our government to yet fully investigate the 9/11 attacks and explain the odd implosion of WTC 7.

It's not the rampant corruption of campaign financing, not the outing of CIA agents, not the immigration issue, not our failure to fund healthcare for the neediest among our fellow countrymen, not the dismal failure of a war in Iraq, nor is it global warming.

It's our misguided devotion to school bus safety that is tearing at the fabric of society.

If Dave Barry were to take over writing columns for Craig Cantoni, yet maintaining his byline, I suspect many people would not see any difference.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

All Alkaloids End With "ine"

What is pain? How does it work? Downy duck if I know. And I even suppose that I don't care much.

Having said that...

I am rather generous with pain medications. I've worked with enough really hurting people to realize that an amount of pain medication that would probably kill you or me or your average Bengal tiger in a trap does not always relieve the pain of someone like that little old lady in the halo. You know, the one who went through eight 30-milligram Dilaudid PCA cartridges in one twelve-hour shift when I worked with her a few weeks ago?

Chest pain. Tell me about it. I basically don't even bother with sublingual nitroglycerin anymore. Bad habit, you think? Maybe me too.

But if your mother had chest pain rated at an 8-out-of-10 and I gave her a sublingual 0.4mg dose of nitro and took her blood pressure and it was 180 systolic, and then I went and fixed another patient a cup of tea and changed out the bed of a bowel-prepping 95-year-old demented nursing home resident who just luckily came to stay with us, and then came back to your mommy and her chest pain was now a 9 and her pressure was still 180 and I gave her another nitro, you would be very happy, no?

Because I was following protocol.

So I then go answer a call light and take a 50-year-old retired NBA star to the bathroom because he's "afraid to go by himself" and eventually get around to your mommy again, after fielding a few phone calls from out-of-state distant relatives who don't even bother to identify themselves but want to know everything about their dear uncle's condition because they're from Connecticut and they can't get there but federal healthcare information privacy act legislation prevents me from acknowledging that dearest uncle is even a client of ours and they insist that I tell them anyways and I politely apologize and they further insist that I get my manager and then I "accidentally" lose their call so I can see how your mother's doing with her chest pain.

Yes, I do that.

No, I'm not proud.

But there's only so much time in the day.

She looks OK on the monitor, sinus rhythm in the 90's and her pressure's down into the 140's and you're holding her hand but her pain's still a "5" so I go get a couple milligrams of intravenous morphine for her, administer it over a little bit, like a couple television commercials (one of those daytime "judge" shows is on the room TV) and it makes the pain almost entirely go away and your mother says she'd like to take a little nap, but she has a headache (from the nitroglycerin,) so could I get her something for that?

So I get some tea and tylenol and and fifteen minutes later she's sinus rhythm in the 80's and her pressure's 136/80 and the stupid judge just gave the ex-boyfriend his car back when he was plainly being a jerk about the barbecue sauce on his girlfriend's new white shag carpet and her other boyfriend stole the car to pay for the carpet cleaner and was going to give it back anyways, after he got back from Austin because he had to visit his other girlfriend who was sick there. You know, that story.

Sometimes I just go get the morphine first and skip the nitroglycerin completely, and the patient says "thank you" and they get a few moments of precious relief before they go off to the cardiac catheterization lab to get a few stents placed.

There's enough pain in the world. We do not need more. Morphine's cheap and I've got a ton of it in the Pyxis down the hall.

Oh wait... we don't have a Pyxis anymore. Some other thing. Whatever. Some pricey medicine dispensing machine.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Why I Use Brass Knuckles At Work

This comes from a recent LTTE in our locally renowned and ever-useful ink-smeared forest by-product:

"Three years ago, I worked a whopping nine days at two Valley hospitals before I quit for greener pastures. What I saw was two ERs filled with people with the sniffles, sunburn, minor headaches, paper cuts, watery eyes, etc."

No doubt.

I am certain of this not because I myself work in an emergency room flooded by uninsured people who have no other outlet to which they can go with their minor and often non-existent medical issues. My certaintly comes from my experience with such people who manage to actually get fully admitted to my particular work area.

People may be uninsured and deranged, manipulative, a bit stupid, and desparate. But after a couple-few emergency room visits, some will learn that if they exaggerate or outright fake some symptoms, they are in and a heavenload of nitroglycerin, morphine injections, lab draws, X-rays, stress tests and if they really hit pay dirt, a trip to the cardiac catheterization lab await them, luminous in full glory like Saint Peter's gates. And there is our three-star cuisine, of course.

The sugar-free apple pie is very popular.

Finally a day or two later some sympathetic but discerning cardiologist will rub a knuckle on the patient's sternum, note the outcry, write in their sign-off note that the chest pain is "atypical and reproducible," and the hospitalist sends the patient home, if they should happen to have one.

But the next time the patient shows up at the emergency room complaining of severe chest pain that goes down their arm, the knuckle-on-the-sternum trick earns nothing. Because now they know.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Waters of Babylon

The good news is that huge new areas of coastal playland will become available upon which the slimy rich will put up new vacation-get-away dachas. But the bad news is that other areas will be adversly affected by rising sea levels and climatic instability.

This nice new real estate will be on the lovely continent of Antarctica, already noted for its fine five-star amenities and friendly and colorful locals.

"Those same areas have lost an estimated 5,500 square miles of ice in the last 30 years, calving icebergs the size of Belgium and Rhode Island. In 2002, an entire ice shelf collapsed into the sea.

But the newest work signals a broader loss across the entire continent — an amount equal to more than 13% of the annual sea level rise measured in recent years, the researchers said. The shrinkage is concentrated in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which has enough fresh water to raise sea levels more than 20 feet."

That's a lotta feet. Way too many for other coastal places. So say good-bye to Venice.

And Boston.

"Their research shows that over the next century, damage to residential, commercial and industrial buildings and their contents in metropolitan Boston (an area stretching from Ipswich to Duxbury) could exceed $20 billion, depending on how the city responds to rising sea levels. Costs could run as high as $94 billion, if climate weather conditions are more severe than expected."

Say good-bye to Florida and Louisiana. What's left of Louisiana, that is.

"Moreover, a rise in sea level would increase the exposure of many communities to storm waves. This poses a significant threat to low-lying urban areas. At particular risk would be many areas of southern Louisiana and Florida -- the highest point in Florida is only 53 feet above sea level, and the Florida Keys are all less than 10 feet above sea level. In addition, the low-lying barrier islands off the North Carolina coast already are highly vulnerable to the damages associated with storm waves, a phenomenon that will experience increasing stress as sea level rises."

Say good-bye to Manhatten.

"At our Global Initiative, which the Mayor mentioned, in New York around the opening of the UN, we were told that insurance losses from severe weather events in the last 10 years were triple those of any previous decade in history. And I know that if the climate warms for the next 50 years at the rate of the last 10, rising sea levels in the North Atlantic will claim at least 50 feet of Manhatten Island. It might good for the value of the real estate that is left there, but it will be a very bad thing indeed. It will be a harbinger of changing of agricultural production patterns, millions of food refugees created throughout the world, intense disruptions."

It just gets worse. Say good-bye to Beacon's Beach, too. Right sad, the loss of that.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


The play was to open that very night, and I was to act as one of the leads. The character was a good fit for me. I was costumed in a black shirt, black pants, black boots, and a black beret. I was also to wear black-framed horn-rim eyeglasses, and I would play a philosophical type.

But I had not yet read the play nor learned my lines.

I flipped through a copy of the script, but I couldn't even find my entry points. And none of my speaking lines. So I just decided to wing it.

As this was a play with occasional musical numbers, I had a song. Of course I didn't know what it was, so when the pit band began and the conductor cued me I improvised a plaintive lament in a minor key, singing with the shattered passion and pianissimo yearning of Blake's wild tiger confined to a depressing zoo, my voice moving in a range narrow as the opening measures of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto:

This is my philosophy,
its time has come.

It is no philosophy
just for me,
It is no philosophy
for two or three.

It is a philosophy of one.
It is love.

The other players on stage and in the pit were aghast. The audience, however, was relatively clueless as to the improvisatory nature of my dirge, and they came around to the mournful tune and clapped. Routinely enough, like they wanted things to move along to whatever was supposed to happen next.

I woke up with the tune in my head still.

It was a work anxiety dream. I've had these ever since I can remember. But this one had a happier ending than most.

Often I wake up perplexed and exhausted by dreams of impossible workloads, shifting responsibilities and priorities, and interpersonal conflicts gone unresolved. Then I go off to work where it's just the same but real and wakeful.

We sat on the couch and drank our coffee, sharing dreams, before the young one was up and about. My spouse has been going through a series of death-avoidance dreams. I listened to their dream, then recounted mine and sang my sad little cavatina.

It was a cloudy morning with the smell of rain in the air, but none came.