Friday, December 31, 2010

Walk Away

" Mortgage defaults continue to set new records. Foreclosures continue to set new records. Home repossessions by banks continue to set new records. The number of homes being constructed and the number of Americans applying for home loans is at stunningly low levels. For decades, owning a home has been touted as the very heart of "the American Dream", but today that dream is out of reach for an increasing number of Americans. Why? It is because there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone."

You can read the read the rest of that good news at The American Dream. You can look to see if your city is on this recent "Case-Shiller Price Cumulative Declines From Peak" graph over on Calculated Risk.

This is my advice to you if you have lost your job and face home foreclosure: Walk Away. Things are so fucked-up right now that doing so is the only thing that would make sense for you and your family if you unfortunately land in such a situation.

Ugly House Photos has even more lovely pictures of Phoenix neighborhoods. The more people that walk away from messes like these, the better.

Luke, I Am Your Father

This is odd. Neither Barack Obama Senior nor Frank Marshall Davis served in the second world war:

The working theory is that Frank Marshall Davis is Obama's father, and as such he is listed on the "real" Hawaiian birth certificate. Not Barack Senior.


Barack Senior:

The whole little conspiracy theory is laid out at The Astute Bloggers. I ran into it over at bartcop in his recent issue #2630. He just gives it a link.

Apparently Obama's grandfather used to take him to visit Davis often when our president was but little. Davis and Stanley Dunham (Obama's grandfather) were close friends. The claim that his "father served in World War II" seems not to be the case; it isn't mentioned in the brief online biographies I have read, such as this one at

I don't really care one way or another. It's just gossip. No matter who his father is, Obama is still cute. What could be more important than that?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How I Got My Nursing License

Nursing school was basically free (or at least very inexpensive) for me. I was working at a community hospital while taking classes and 8-hour-long clinicals. The hospital had a pool of money available to share among its employees who were taking work-related courses. I paid up-front for tuition each semester and afterwards submitted grades to the nice lady in the financial office. A grade of B or better would mean I got a check to cover my tuition. Sweet.

I hardly ever bought texts. The RN's I worked with either loaned or gave me theirs. All the good parts were already underlined or highlighted for me.

I didn't stick my neck out. I got through nursing school by avoiding eye contact and keeping my head down. I'd let other students comment in class, then I'd either chime in or stay quiet depending upon how the instructors reacted to the question or opinion.

I wore solid black to every class.

Except sometimes, often in fact, I wore red sneakers. I like the shoes that collegiate wrestlers wear. These are light and have little sole. They come up around the ankles. Plus, nobody else wears them out and about. People would ask me where I got them, and I would tell them about the sports catalogues from which these things could be purchased. Wrestling shoes. Be the first kid on your block to sport them around.

I only missed two classes of the whole of them. One was to go to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins were the warm-ups. At the end of their set, Billy Corgin purposely left his guitar leaning up against a speaker cabinet and the arena was filled with screeching feedback as they left the stage. Very cool. The other was for the Public Enemy and Anthrax tour, with Primus and the Young Black Teenagers opening. Flavor Flav came out in pink bunny slippers and his trademark clock medallion. Anthrax did a speed-of-light version of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time."

I claimed to be sick for the first, and said in half-truth that I had to go to traffic court the second time. Truth is not always your friend.

Nursing schools pride themselves on their graduation rates and the percentage of their graduates who pass the boards on the first go. They mercilessly weed out any student that they even remotely think might fail the board exams. Many people who I wanted to pull along because I thought they would be good nurses were flunked because the instructors just plain didn't like their board prospects. Secretly I tried to help some of my fellow classmates. If it became apparent that they were getting help it drew negative attention to them. I would meet them in their cars in the parking lot after class.

One young woman I helped in this way was cut. We were making our "drug cards" together in her car after a clinical and one of the instructors saw us together. This young girl, fresh out of high school and eager to be a nurse, got the dump after being pommeled, scrutinized, and harrassed by our mostly elderly nurse instructors; people who hadn't worked at the bedside in many years.

One of my male classmates who had already had a physical-therapy degree was bumped off the rails simply because one of the more mean-spirited old-fashioned instructors didn't like him personally, I am quite sure. I saw single mothers struggling through school get dumped in the last semester just because some entrenched instructor didn't like one of their patient care-plans. That was particularly sad. One had two kids. Her mother cared for them so she could go to school and study.


I am luckily one of those people who "tests well," and I graduated in the top four of my class. Not that I'm proud. I maintained my training schedule during nursing school, qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon in those years. That was probably easier than nursing school itself.

Though most of my teachers and clinical instructors were jack-assed throwbacks, I did like a few. Our mental-health nurse teacher was great. We had "positive group" at the end of our clinicals, in which she randomly challenged us to say good things that we observed one another do.

There was a drug bust during one of those 8-hour sessions in the mental-health unit. One of the younger patients was caught dealing cocaine to other patients. State troopers hauled him away. I have no idea how he managed to get his friends to sneak cocaine into a locked unit such as that one.

One of my classroom instructors was one of those people who had a wide variety of interests. I liked her and she liked me. She herself had graduated from the famed Boston University nursing school, and she knew well of my interests in Boston at that time. She said she could pull a few strings and get me a job there after graduation. That didn't pan out because I followed the love of my life to The Dismal Wilderness instead. The things we do for love...

I wrote papers on suicide, Menier's disease, and the moral development of children, among other things, for that instructor. I thought she graded them rather generously. As part of my research I visited suicide self-help groups for family members of people who had killed themselves, and I visited Montessori schools. I read Freud, Erickson, and Kohlberg and learned to pretty much hate one of those guys. I think that teacher appreciated my outside work, as if it were an effort. I actually just did it for enjoyment.

I also remember reading Paradise Lost while eating at the college snackbar between work and class, watching Sam Nunn cast his vote in favor of Clarence Thomas on the television news. Fucking bastards the both of them. While doing that I stumbled across one of my favorite words, said to have been coined by Milton: Pandemonium.

I paid about $200 to take my nursing board exams back in the day. But before the results were mailed out to us, the company that administered the tests for the state of New York demanded about another $180 from each of us. They raised the price of the licensing exam retroactively!


When I received the congratulatory letter in the mail months later, it wasn't for me but for another nursing graduate with a similar name. I called them up (they lived in Malone, about an hours' drive from where I was living at the time,) to tell them that they passed.

That person did not, however, have my results, as I had hoped. After several phone calls and an annoying written appeal or two, I finally got my passing grade and was able to collect an RN's pay instead of a "graduate nurse" pay.

Fucking incompetent greedy fuckers.

I was in the last class of NY nurses that took exams the old-fashioned way: on paper, with some skinny bitch exam proctor wandering among us to make sure we didn't cheat and to follow us to the bathroom. I took this test with about 4,000 others in a large convention room at the state capitol hundreds of miles from my home. The exam took two days. Many of my classmates pooled resources and shared local hotel rooms. I instead drove from Albany to my father's place in Saratoga Springs and he put me up for the night.

He said he was proud of me. He never obtained a college degree nor did he practice a profession.

I was lucky.

The cost of national board certification for teachers totals up to $2,500. That's sick. That's more than doctors pay for their basic three stages of exams.

Now, back to the Crack Den.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hidden Argument

One of the best "nurse bloggers" is Jo over at Head Nurse. She does neuro intensive care stuff at her job, but of course being a nurse is so much more than just a job and her writings reflect that.

She has been through a lot lately and she has come through it well from a clinical standpoint. Her health problems appear to basically be done with, but at each ending there is a beginning. She writes:

You told Rosie up at the Magic Prosthetist Elf's that you wouldn't cover but about a grand of the cost of my oral prosthetic. That's less, BCBS-TX, than Medicare covers on the same sort of prosthetic. You are actually reimbursing *less than Medicare* for something that allows me to eat, talk, and breathe properly.

Medicare operates on about a 3% administrative overhead. Their top executives receive well under $200K per year in pay; more accurately about $180K. Compare this to the multi-million-dollar payouts to corporate executives, and you might get some idea as to just why private insurance companies maintain about a 20% skim for overhead.

Private insurance companies would be even less efficient if it were not for one thing: the law. They are required by law to spend at least 80% of their premium intake on patients' claims. Even then they use accounting tricks to fudge this a little.

They'd take it all if they could.

And for what?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

"I think — I'll have my staff get to you," McCain told Politico in Las Cruces, N.M. "It's condominiums where — I'll have them get to you."

Even the rich themselves appear not to know why they need so much money nor upon what exactly they spend it.

Why is this?

According to some, the McCains aren't even all that wealthy. They are rather what is called "pikers."

A few years ago they sold the home that contains this room. Cindy grew up there. It's on Central Avenue in Phoenix across from the shady Bridle Path where I like to walk or run on my days off. I think they got about $4 million for the place. The purchaser "renovated" it (in other words, further ruined it) by among other things covering the backyard with nice warm summer-sunlight-absorbing pavers. Ouch. That's hot!

The idiot.

He tried to get $11 million for it. Rotsa ruck. That's a lot of money for generic dreck.

Oh well. Who summers in Phoenix anyways? That's what the ranch in Sedona is for.

Some say that money doesn't buy happiness. They will tell you that the wealthy also have problems. Indeed, they will insist, some poor people are in fact much more satisfied with their lives than the richest of the rich. Well then, let us take everything from the rich and make them poor, so they can show us just how happy one can be with little or nothing. If they are as talented and deserving as so many of them claim, they will quickly pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. No worries then. Merry Xmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gummo's Grand Experience and ludkmr, voted for Debs' Additional Mighty Lesson

Posted by "Gummo" over at the Crack Den:

One of the most valuable courses I took in college was called The History and Psychology of the Holocaust.

For one assignment, the professors had us read Sartre's Anti-Semite & Jew. The day it was due they asked the lecture hall at large what we all thought of it. People heaped praise on how it destroyed every anti-Semitic argument step-by-step.

The psych professor listened for a minute then said, Forget it. It's crap. We were aghast.

He then explained that you can never trump an emotional argument with a logical one; that the emotional brain is eons older and more powerful than the relatively recent overlay of logic and reason and that people will always reject a logical argument in favor of an emotional one.

It was a powerful lesson, one I've never forgotten, and one the fascists have used to their advantage for the last hundred years.

7:50:11 AM MST 12/17/10

And now we have a study showing that those people who watch Fox News are, despite the strength with which they hold their opinions, the least-informed about important current issues. We have What's the Matter With Kansas, The Movie. We have two years of exhorbitant tax cuts for the richest 6,600 families in the country and 13 months of unemployemnt benefit extensions for those millions of people who are likely permanently out of their jobs.

It's like Xmas every day. For spin and propaganda.

Oh, what's that under your holiday tree? Bullshit. The gifts and toys may all have been made in China, Mexico, Pakistan, and Indonesia, but the bullshit is pure Yoo-Ess-of-Ay.

Have some more.

From ludkmr, who voted for Debs who also regularly contributes to the semi-illustrious Crack Den. Like many there, too many to catalogue deservedly, he has interesting things to say:

The press in this country started out as one person/one printing press operations. In reading the history of the colonial press I found the style and content amazingly similar to blogging.
[T]here were a few powerful papers around when the amendment was written and the revolution owed them, but by and large the right of those small operations to publish unfettered was what it was intended to protect.

7:58:26 AM MST 12/17/10

Today'a U.S. major media are just yesterday's Soviet Pravda on steroids and crystal-laced three-martini lunches. Today's bloggers are samizdat. That is, after you sort through all the redstate freerepublic little green republichick manure-piles. This is, after all, a country in which people are allowed some degree of mean-spiritedness and abject stupidity.

It's sickening.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Rat in the Kitchen

Sister McBride and Bishop Olmstead.

Quoted in the local rag:"

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said a hospital's first responsibility must be to its patients, not to a religious leader.

"Religiously affiliated hospitals are not exempt from federal laws that protect a patient's right to receive emergency care and cannot invoke their religious status to jeopardize the health and lives of pregnant women," she said. "Women should never have to be afraid that they will be denied life-saving medical care when they enter a hospital."

It's a surprisingly good article. And the reader comments that follow seem to generally and widely support the hospital in question. Another snip:

Lois Uttley of MergerWatch, a New York organization that reviews issues that arise when secular and religious hospitals merge, said that in her opinion, St. Joseph has "tried mightily to balance its religious heritage with its provision of medical care." She said Catholic Healthcare West generally handles such issues well.

"They know better than the bishop how to do this," Uttley said.

I have been working as a nurse here in The Valley for about ten years and I have at least a passing familiarity with the hospitals here. Nurses travel. Nurses switch jobs frequently. We discuss the reputations, specialties, and working conditions at various institutions here. I have developed this unverified understanding of the story:

St. Joe's has a doctor that specializes in pulmonary hypertension, a condition had by the pregnant young woman in question. This doctor has license to use certain still-experimental drugs and treatments for this disease, unlike doctors at other area hospitals. So St. Joe's could not simply transfer the patient to a non-Catholic hospital; she would not have obtained the necessary treatments there.

Ethically confronted, the hospital decided to "save the only life they could" and they aborted the fetus that surely would have killed both the unfortunate woman and itself died in so doing. I don't think they had much of a choice. Perhaps Bishop Olmstead would rather that they both died, just to satisfy the primitive demands of his own religious delusions.

I have never been much satisfied with the Kohlbergian "Obedience and Punishment Orientation" of moral development, the lowest of stages according to that theory. This is the level from which Bishop Olmstead seems to operate. Fear of punishment is the only motivation for acting morally for such people. It's low. It's less than juvenile.

I think I might be justified in questioning the presence of a "moral center" in people like the bishop. Lacking that, one need only to follow "the rules" as enforced by some indemonstrable supernatural pretender. I have difficulty placing full trust in people like that. Their ideas concerning ethical performance all-too-often just happen to coincide with their own interests.

Of course it is never so simple.

There are however laws. One of those laws protects confidentiality between hospital patients and their caregivers, whether they be doctors, nurses, therapists, chaplains, whoever. And somebody, perhaps a nurse like myself, broke that law, probably deliberately, or this story would never have gone beyond the bounds of St. Joseph's Hospital in the first place.

We should never have heard about this. It's none of the bishop's business. It is by law a private matter between the patient and her treatment team.

I imagine that the person who originally leaked the story is one of those "obedience and punishment" types. Catholic herself, I would guess. That person has broken a trust, ironically because they likely believe that women as a whole cannot be trusted to make their own reproductive choices.


Almost as an afterthought: I've been keeping up on the story both in traditional media like the internet and the gossip stream, and Sister McBride is the only member of the hospital ethics committee ever named. Who are these other people? Are they all non-Catholics? Why has the bishop singled her out with the threat of excommunication?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Teabaggers Are Not Racist.

A white separatist has caused outrage by building a 10-foot-tall Ku Klux Klan snowman in his Idaho yard.
The pointed-hood wearing, noose-holding, dark-eyed sculpture sat in front of Mark Eliseuson's Hayden home, just down the street from a local elementary school.

The Daily Mail story is here.

It features a photograph of the artist. Sigh. Once again, as a First Amendment fan, I find myself defending shit. Oh well.

Just remember, Teabaggers Aren't Racist. Tell all your friends.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Squadron of Pelicans

We were all chatting about our children. Many of us have kids who are coming-of-age, and it seems that this brings about differences in them. Newly adolescent girls, for example, we noted to have become moody and verbally aggressive at times. Terms like "total bitch on wheels" and "such a nasty little fucker" were heard among us parents.

Why would this be the case? Why would girls who are reaching reproductive age develop personality traits that might drive others away from them? This seems like a rather poor evolutionary strategy, unless it is meant to keep others away from these girls until they are older.


I was told that dogs are colorblind. Then why do dogs come in such a variety of colors? As it turns out, they are not completely colorblind at all.


Violinist Janine Jansen. Her recent recording of the Beethoven concerto is the one I consider to be the best in my collection. She also has out a recording of the Bach two-part-inventions and sinfonias played chamber-music style with other string players, and that's a lot of fun.


The Black Sea used to be a freshwater lake. It was much smaller and its surface then was probably over four hundred feet lower than it is now. Sometime over 7,000 years ago the Bosporus was breached and the Black Sea was quickly inundated with Mediterranean seawater. This is the origin of the flood myths familiar to us from Genesis and the Gilgamesh epic.


If you have a friend or relative in the hospital and you wish to call to inquire about their condition, their nurse will not be able to provide you with any information unless the patient has authorized this. Even then, since identification is practically impossible just over the phone, such authorization doesn't really extend to phone calls. The nurse cannot legally admit that the patient is even there. This is federal law.

It's also a big waste of my precious time. Time which I would rather spend on patient care, not explaining to callers that I cannot tell them anything.

I might be patiently trying to thread a small-bore intravenous catheter into a wiggly little rubbery vein in a sweet little old lady's arm when the phone rings and a caller, without identifying themselves of course, demands information on another of my patients. I hate that.

Phone rings, I answer. "Why yes Mr. MethMouth, your Aunt Zelda is here. She just got out of surgery and though doing well she's probably going to be in the hospital for several days, so feel free to burglerize her home and jack her car. She won't be home to notice."