Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oft Evil Will Doth Evil Mar

The latest poll of self-identified evangelicals looks like bad news for the Administration and its more extreme religious allies. There are more general polls disapproving of government intervention in the tragic Schiavo case by huge margins, leaving the spin doctors nauseous with the exertion of explaining away the obvious fact that both government and religion have pissed off most of the country.

More, this pathetic display of corrupt political power has evidently helped drive Bush's approval ratings lower than the Edsel's sales figures. The failing Social Security sales pitch had already done a good deal of damage. Might be time for another Orange Alert, Dubya.

Light dawned over the White House first, I suspect. No sooner had Bush flown back from Crawford to join the grandstanding and sign the legislation than the administration fell strangely silent on the issue. Brother Jeb evidently hasn't gotten the message that the issue has passed from non-starter to active liability, since he's still trying to wring political advantage from the misery of this family. Tom Delay, who is so desperate to avoid his own corruption scandal that he'll hide behind the bed of a brain-dead woman seems also to have missed this train. Rush Limbaugh hasn't gotten it, either. He still thinks it's a liberal vs. conservative issue, but then, to his drug-addled mind, having fries with that is probably a liberal vs. conservative issue

There are two sides to this question, but they're not the expected ones. On the one hand we have the compulsive sentimentalists for whom "sanctity of life" is a pure and abstract concept. On the other side are those of us for whom end-of-life decisions have been a painful reality. It begins to seem that people who have had to concur in that last decision, or who have the foresight to know they may have to, far outnumber the vile opportunists and superficial romantics. We have one thing in common: we don't want other people deciding this for us, whether they be doctors, clergy, talking heads or Congressvolken.

Rush reportedly has asked liberals "why do you want Terri to die?" Now of course, he asked this in the safety of his own talk show, and apparently as a parting shot, so no one could respond.

Even though I'm more radical than liberal, here's an answer. I don't want anyone to die pointlessly. Anyone who is not blinded by ideology can at least listen and learn the effects of 15 years of progressive cerebral atrophy, and thus see that this woman won't recover. In the cognitive sense, she is already long dead. Don't talk to me about smiles: corpses can smile. What I want, very much, is for this woman not to die being an ideological pull toy. I want someone to have the courage to sit down with her parents and begin the process of dismantling their denial, help move them through their grief instead of encouraging them to stay where they are. And I really, really want news media and clergy to stop using her first name, as if she were someone who had deliberately sought this macabre celebrity.

If I were a pure ideologue, I'd like some judge to put that tube back in. I'd like Congress to subpoena her. I'd like the world to be treated to the obscene spectacle of sleazy opportunists putting questions to a woman who is past having any idea of self. As an ideologue, I'd love it if everyone could see some unexpurgated footage of the daily life of the brain-dead: oh yes, and of Ms. Schiavo too. As an ideologue, I would want the world to see how low this one-party government can sink.

But I'm a humanist, and I hope a humane person. I do not want to advance my beliefs through the exploitation of anyone. That, more than anything, is what separates me from those who use Ms. Schiavo and her family.


Jesse Jackson has put in his appearance and his oar on the Schiavo case. He must think that his religious credentials need burnishing. Why (ones asks with sweet innocence) has he waited a week for his sound bite? I suspect that as long as this woman lingers, she will attract opportunists of every condition, much as a drop of blood attracts sharks.

It happens I have a friend, a nurse, who has done end-of-life care. Basic maintenance of eye and mouth moisture is a simple comfort measure, she says, usual in this situation. It does not violate any DNR protocols. What's up with the hospice's apparent failure to do these things? I smell an administration too paralysed with fear of the contending parties to stick to standard protocol. I hope it's not deliberate neglect from some other hospice employee with an eye on the book rights.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Unprincipled Principles

I have something to say about Wolfowitz' nomination to head the World Bank: I'm for it.

I bet I have the same reason that some European heads of state or government do: I'm eager to see him fuck up in an environment where others can slap him down and Dubya can't protect him.

If the job were solely diplomatic, he might carry it off. It isn't. It requires business acumen this man probably does not possess, and it requires a skill in herding cats that he absolutely does not possess.

In my museum manager days, my colleagues and I would sometimes wonder if we had "Peter principled." Dr. Laurence J. Peter (living at the time) would probably have cringed at being reduced to a verb, but it got to the point. It's hard to imagine Bush's mal-administration not following the Peter Principle, since its leader is the best example of the idea who ever lived. Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank can be forestalled and evaded in ways that Wolfowitz, eminence grise of Bush foreign policy, cannot. Better yet, he can become a Dilbertian pointy-haired boss, and suffer a fate worse than death for someone of his self-importance: global ridicule. Let it happen, says I. I can hardly wait.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Reality Cheques

Let's see.

Pakistan almost caught bin Laden.
Zarqawi may wish to try to attack U.S. soft targets,
and may be able to smuggle someone in to do it.
Terrorists might be training for seaborne attacks

I knew Dubya's Social Security plan was in trouble. I didn't know it was in that much trouble!

Living a Lie I Didn't Know I Was Living

More proof that Moliere was right: life is a farce.

In December, 1995, I completed my studies for a technical writing certificate. At that time, the community college where I was enrolled had only a spring commencement. By that time I was working, did not attend, had no particular communication from the college, and went on with my life.

Fast forward to November, 2004. I'm enrolled in the same community college, for Medical Coding (I follow the market). It struck me, my advisor, and the college's Centre for Alternative Studies that it was redundant to have me take a one-credit course on how to act in the workplace. If I haven't figured that out after 35-odd years, another course won't help. In a star-crossed moment, it occurred to the Alternative Studies folk to request a substitution, based on my technical writing internship all those years agone. They filled out the form, I signed, they filed. I figured that was that. Silly me.

Shift to March, 2005. By now I've ironed out some other kinks in the graduation process and I enquire about the waiver. The Registrar wallah looks at my file and mutters. First of all, no waiver. It has disappeared. In hindsight this isn't surprising: It takes no less than six signatories to confirm that a 58-year old man can find his way around an office after many years of work.
Next, no record of the course we wish to substitute.

Two days later they've found it, with a grade of F. Since the course was a requirement, it follows that I did NOT graduate, although no one bothered to tell me at the time. I had a barely satisfactory phone conversation with another functionary at the Registrar's Office about fixing the immediate problem, graduating this time. The long-term problem, restoring my missing credential, made no progress. Registrar functionaries do not admit mistakes. Therefore, the only possible explanation of the confusion was that I knew I had flunked and was lying about it.

I have a couple of D minuses on my record (chiefly from a high school algebra teacher with whom I didn't get on) but I have no Fs. The implication that F was my earned was not only there, but reinforced. I was becoming disturbed, and ended the conversation. My tech writing advisor is still on the faculty and I'm still on good terms with him. The grade was as surprising to him as it was to me. Three days later he filed a change of grade report with the A both of us recalled I had earned. I did make a point of forwarding his email to that effect to the Registrar flunky.

Is this the end? Noooo. It solves the problem of waiver credit, but in their books I am still not matriculated. Thus I have to apply to graduate from a program I completed over nine years ago, a program that is no longer on the curriculum. Do I anticipate further difficulties? You betcha dupa.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

More TN Milestones

Saw the neurologist today. He's happy with my progress and has put me on taper.

Swimmers taper when they vary the duration and intensity of their training in preparation for a competition. Apparently, TN groupies taper to get them off effective but disruptive medications like Tegretol. So, I'm to drop 100 mg a week until I'm taking nothing. If this works, I can then stay off the stuff until the nasty visitor comes back.

Why do this? Tegretol, while effective, is somewhat toxic. It's also lipid-soluble, which means that the more you take, the less you piss away. If you just stop, you will throw your neural system a curve that can make the original condition look like a walk in the park. Finally, if you go on taking it, you develop a tolerance for the medication and it loses effectiveness. By the time I end this taper, it will be late April. Even this year, the weather should be moderate enough to cooperate with my treatment.

Despite other irritations, that's good news for today. I may have TN tamed for a while. If I can get off the meds, I can go back to being fit company for man and beast. I should also be able to get it up, and care about doing so. O Frabjous joy!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More Dubious Distinctions

For nearly three years I've been wondering if I'd made it into the Homeland Security bad books. According to our local news, it seems I have.

May, 2002. We're leaving on a trip to my brother's wedding in Texas from Manchester Airport. First, I rang the chimes...twice. About midway through the frisking by a young, increasingly frustrated screener, I realised that I was dressed for the destination, in jeans (rivets are deadly weapons) and a belt with a fairly hefty buckle. One look at the
scowling dimwit in front of me made me decide I wouldn't volunteer that insight. At length, his consort triumphantly pulled a three-inch pair of nail scissors from an inner pocket of my briefcase. Case closed, apparently, even though the briefcase hadn't gone through the gate with me. With something to show for their struggles the dynamic duo relaxed, and told me that they could either confiscate my scissors or I could go back downstairs and check them as baggage.
I hope my surprise was sincere when I said "For a cheap pair of scissors? Keep them."

I can't know for sure that I'm on that database...nor can anyone, but the presumptive case seems strong. If I have issues flying out of LA later this spring, I'll have a better idea. You know, it makes me kind of proud to be under suspicion for carrying nail scissors. I wonder if there's a t-shirt out there that says "and my grandparents voted Socialist." As well hung for a sheep as for a lamb.

Meantime, I hope everyone feels safer because my suspect nail scissors were confiscated, even though bin Laden is uncaught and apparently uncatchable: at least by a reality-challenged administration.