Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sell-Out or Just Desserts?

Vox Day reported in his blog today that W. has taken the easy way out after criticism for his response to Katrina, and capitulated to the madding crowd, promising he’ll get the cavalry to respond more quickly to the next disaster.  Vox, rightly, sees this as a recipe for another kind of disaster:  Tragedie a là Feudalisme, no doubt. We get the protection from the lord, the lord expects a tenth, or some fraction, of what we have, as well as the right to walk in on us whenever he damn well pleases (it all belongs to him anyway right?)

Rush Limbaugh, on his show today, calls things differently, in his ever jovial way.  You want us to take over, great, we’ll send in the military, we’ll do it our way.

I’d like to think (to coin a phrase) Rush is right.  I fear Vox is.

Monday, September 26, 2005

To whom does ANSWER answer?

Joining, and supporting,  Ms. Shill-han and her band of anti-war protesters over the weekend was a group called ANSWER.  You’ve heard of them before.  They’ve staged protests in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, New York, just about everywhere in the country since the invasion of Iraq was put on the table.  

A grass-roots group of American citizens expressing their creator-endowed rights to free speech?  A lobbyist group?  A society of community organizers interested in helping the disenfranchised express their views?

Not quite.

According to FactsOfIsrael.com,
International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is a front group for the communist Workers World Party. The Workers World Party is, literally, a Stalinist organization. It rose out of a split within the old Socialist Workers Party over the Soviet Union's 1956 invasion of Hungary - the breakaway Workers World Party was all for the invasion.

Not that the WWP stopped being active after the invasion of Hungary.  Today they rally for their hero, Kim Jung Il, and for Saddam Hussein, who they insist has done “nothing wrong”.  In all their releases and publications protesting entry into the war they insisted on stating “Sanctions ARE war” instead of “Sanctions not war” as, of course, most sensible anti-war Americans were urging.

Giving the media-attention seeking Ms. Shill-han the benefit of the doubt (which takes much restraint on my part, I must tell you, and yes I do think her arrest was staged, or at least self-provoked), perhaps she is not fully aware of the parentage of her benefactors.  But surely she is aware of the website some of the signs advertise:  nowarforisrael.com.  This site, according to National Review Online (I’m too sickened to look it up myself, frankly), tells us

Meet just a few of your Jewish Supremacist Warmongers," above photos of William Kristol, Richard Perle, Ari Fleischer, Ariel Sharon, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, and Douglas Feith. It offered to explain how the Iraqi war was "conceived in Israel."

Even more reason not to feel sorry for this “grieving mother!”Perhaps she should ask Richard Perle’s family why they and other “Jewish Supremists” are forcing our hand in Iraq and other areas of the world.  I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Little Protection Racket That Couldn't

The Little Protection Racket That Couldn’tThis little card arrived in my mailbox over the weekend. Note the date on it: 2004-2005. Note the number of weeks left in the period, 2004-2005.

Note further that I have been a member of this particular union local since September of 2000. This is the first membership card I have received from them.

Mind you, if unions provided what they said they provide, we could use them where I work. At my worksite, county employees all work 8 ½ hours without a break or lunch. It’s argued that in an emergency room environment---especially one in which we’re allowed to surf the Internet at leisure when things are slow—lunches and breaks are impossible to stagger. Further, we have a boss who fears criticism from his superiors, and thus can’t support us for beans. So yeah, a union steward who could do the job like the UAW guys who advocated for my dad when he sustained a terrible brain injury, somebody who could sit next to us and say, “Sorry, J. Jonah Jameson Look-alike Guy, your employees will have to get paid for that extra half hour if they don’t take a lunch,” or, “Sorry, it’s not OK for the psychiatry residents to call the social workers the n-word and make them wash their feet,” would be great.

Unfortunately, our AFSCME local is not like that. I’m not sure what they do. I’ve been to several meetings, where the board argues over various minutiae; but they cancel many of the meetings at the last minute. They charge us dues (protection money, I call it). Now, you don’t have to pay “dues” if you don’t want to. That’s right. You still have to have the same amount taken out of your paycheck. And it still goes to AFSCME. It’s just not called “Dues” and you can’t use the union for anything (only fair, no?) Of course, the money also goes to whatever AFSCME supports, in a totally non-partisan way. (Now, about that oceanfront property in Arizona…..)

I complained about this once and was assured that I didn’t have to vote for the people AFSCME endorsed.

So we are also represented by people with IQs under 70, as you can see. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ADA and all that, you know.

I couldn't have said it better

Pat Buchanan ponders the tragic result of the belief that government should care for us womb to tomb:

Even if government dithered for days – what else is new – this does not explain the failure of the people themselves.

Stranded for days in a pool of fetid water, almost everyone waited for the government to come save them. They screamed into the cameras for help, and the reporters screamed into the cameras for help, and the "civil rights leaders" screamed into the cameras that Bush was responsible and Bush was a racist.

Americans were once famous for taking the initiative, for having young leaders rise up to take command in a crisis. See any of that at the Superdome? Sri Lankans and Indonesians, far poorer than we, did not behave like this in a tsunami that took 400 times as many lives as Katrina has thus far.. . .

FDR was right. A "spiritual disintegration" has overtaken us. Government-as-first provider, the big idea of the Great Society, has proven to be "a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit."

Either we get off this narcotic, or it kills us.

Of course, these words will be shrugged off as "racist" and unempathic.

What a shame, for the victims of the next disaster.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What the...

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A Russian airline delivered more than it bargained for on a flight from Moscow to Los Angeles.
A woman traveling on the Aeroflot flight gave birth on the plane. The airline says the woman started having contractions seven hours into the 12-hour flight. And the pilot requested a landing at the nearest military airport in Canada. But he was told the runway was too short for the Boeing 767 and continued on to Los Angeles. An Aeroflot spokesman says the delivery was accomplished with the help of several flight attendants after two doctors aboard refused to help for unspecified reasons. The delivery went well and the woman was able to leave the plane on her own carrying the baby boy.  

Why wouldn’t doctors help?

Are Russian doctors as besieged by malpractice suits as American doctors, is that why?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Saving Those Who Save?

A friend got this at work. It's from a letter from one of her colleagues at another hospital: Charity, in New Orleans, badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina:

Before we lost communication with
the outside world FEMA instructed us to prepare for evacuation later on
that day (Tues) and much to our surprise the Governor's office was
news agencies that we had already been evacuated. Needless to say, no
outside help came until Friday.

It began to become clear that if we were going to get out, we would have
to get ourselves out. Our HAZMAT Team had acquired 4 small diesel
generators for field use but did not have diesel fuel on site to power
them. Our ICU RT used his "Mississippi Credit Card" (a hammer and a
screwdriver) and some oxygen tubing to siphon diesel from on ambulance
flooded on the ER ramp. We were able to power up the ICU to run about 6
vents. For the others we used gas driven portable vents or continued to
hand bag. The roof of Charity Hospital was the only cool place to get a
few hours of restorative sleep each night so we broke away form our
12-on12-off usual staffing plan to allow each shift to enjoy a few hours with
the rats seeking higher ground.

When Tues rolled into Wed without any FEMA presence a morale crisis
erupted. Although many staff were incapacitated with fear, grief, and
despair, others dug deep and rose to the challenge. We could not
communicate with police, National Guard, or FEMA but our ICU residents
were able to text message and get live connection on air transmissions
CNN. [We then] got a
call from private air ambulance services wanting to send in his own
helicopters to start the evacuation. ...The commercial guys were able to
communicate with military helicopters and by 11PM Wednesday the
thunder of a Black Hawk was heard overhead....

... Amazingly there were thousands of people
waiting, ready to help but no one had known of our plight. We dumped our patients
with brief medical records taped to their forearms into waiting
ambulances for dispersion all over the region.

We continued the air evacuation all day Thursday, Thursday night, and
Friday AM. Nurses cat-napped on the concrete roof by putting their heads
on the legs of colleagues who bagged and comforted those waiting for the
next helicopter. Not knowing the structural integrity of the roof top,
the Black Hawk pilots stayed powered up while we loaded our patients,
docs, & O2 cylinders. After 48 hours of screaming commands over the
deafening sound of the Black Hawks our entire ICU staff was both deaf &
mute. By Friday afternoon we had completed our mission and walked the
three blocks back to Charity in chest deep sewage just in time to
discoverthat FEMA had arrived to begin evacuating our hospital.

If you ever hear anyone say "send in the feds"...

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Physics of Psychotherapy

The Physics of Psychotherapy

I sucked at physics, both in high school and college, and what I remember about the science of physics is vague. The fact that Copernicus’s elegant explanation of the earth and other planets and their movement in the sky challenged my then-atheist brain …how could something so ordered exist without a supreme intelligence?  The laws of thermodynamics.  Words like “vector”, “fusion”,  “quark”.  

Ergo Kelly the psychotherapist, not Kelly the rocket scientist or engineer.  Today I found myself thinking about some of the principles in therapy that I have learned while being a psychotherapist, while doing crisis intervention , while interacting with the residents and medical students who work with us, giving them tips and helping my department function as a training environment.  And  I was reminded that I use a lot of physics dicti in my mental health work.

     Every Action Has an Equal and Opposite Reaction

There are so many therapeutic hours wasted because either the therapist, the client, or a parent doesn’t expect people to act the way they act when something is said or done.  I have literally heard parents say (more than once):  “But he doesn’t like it when I punish him,” or even worse, “He won’t let me punish him.”  Despite media suggestions to the contrary,  you don’t need your child’s permission to do what’s best for him.  And a child  whom a parent simply watches tear the limbs off the cat or purposely break a Mingh vase,  saying simply, “Oh, Johnny, please don’t do that.  Mommy doesn’t want you to do that” will not only keep on doing it, they will do it harder.   I know, this sounds simplistic, but there are otherwise bright and talented people who can’t understand why they cannot reason with a three year old, or thirteen year old.  

The teenage years provide a great laboratory for testing the above maxim.  When I was doing family therapy,  I joked  that I was going to write a book about parenting adolescents.  It would be very short.  It would read, “All parents should sit down their thirteen year old children in the living room and tell them solemnly, ‘Alright, things are going to be a little different around here.  I want you to go out there right now and do every drug on the street, drink as much alcohol as you can, and have sex with everyone in your class.  And I don’t want to see you back in the house on weeknights until 3:30 a.m.  Is that clear?’”  Because then the teenager, insistent that he or she was being completely independent in thinking, would strive every day to do the opposite.

Tongue in cheek, obviously; and not all children do exactly the opposite of what their parents say.  Some are bright enough to realize that such a tactic puts them firmly under their parents’ control,  obliging them to wait until they know what their parents think to decide what to do.  And some are the kind of kids that don’t tend to end up in therapy, who catch on quickly what’s good for them and what’s not.  

     The Universe Tends Toward Disorder

That reassuring notion that reminds us that we’re all headed for hell in a handbasket, barring a miracle . 

From the tiniest organism to the largest galaxy, everything is pretty much falling apart.  Our bodies begin falling apart shortly after they’ve grown to their full potential….around age 25, decay sets in. 

For families, the above maxim has obvious implications.  Once again, you cannot expect children to parent themselves.  Just as it takes work to reverse disorder in any system, it takes work to discipline.  It is going to be hard for you.  This is another thing young parents sometimes have a hard time accepting.  

One of the saddest scenes to happen in a family (and I’ve seen it happen more than once) is to see an adoptive family reject, or to be kinder, give up on the child they’ve adopted.  “We bit off more than we could chew,” “He’s not happy here, so he must not belong”, “We’ve done everything for her and she hates us anyway,” are things I’ve actually heard (keep in mind that, by virtue of working in crisis settings, I would not see the majority of adoptive families who do very well).   All of these notions stem from a total lack of knowledge about the Law of Entropy, or at least its application on human beings.  

You bit off more than you could chew, did you?  This gem, said right in front of the adoptee, came from someone who specifically chose a handicapped child to adopt.  Not only were they frustrated with the amount of time and attention he needed, they were also naïve enough to believe that he  would immediately bond with them, although he’d lived in an institution for seven years.  They were incensed that he missed his lifelong friends.  They were incensed when he misbehaved—not out of righteous desire for him to do better, but because they considered it a personal attack.  “He’s not grateful.”  Newsflash: in the words of Rosalie Sorrells, author of The Hostile Baby Rocking Song, “[Children] don’t care what you say.  They don’t listen to you.  They will not listen to you until they are 35.”   (Which is why reasoning with kids instead of doing parenting ---loving them, disciplining them,  reinforcing the behavior you want and extinguishing the behavior you don’t want—doesn’t work).

“He’s not happy”.  Give him a chance!  You’ve only had him two weeks.  He’s just gone through a pretty big change.  Another news flash:  kids from troubled environments aren’t happy all the time.

“She hates us.”  See Rosalie Sorrells quote above.  So what???  Were your parents your favorite people when you were fifteen?  Is it possible the word “hate” may have cropped across your mind, if not your lips, if  your mom insisted on going shopping with you and your friends?  Told you you could not date the neighborhood hoodlum?  Actually, for once, followed through on her threat to get rid of the TV if your grade fell?  

The universe tends toward disorder.  Babies do not come into this world the innocent beings Rousseau painted; they have their own personalities, traits and will.  And without loving behavioral shaping….as well as parents who don’t expect them to be saints right out of the box…..they too tend toward disorder. No doubt this is hard work for the parent.  But it’s not the kid’s job to make it easy.

     You can’t create something out of nothing, and you cannot turn something into a different thing.

Matter is matter.  You can rearrange it, you can melt it or freeze it, you can shoot it up into space. You can mix it with other things to make a third thing. But you, with your limited human abilities, cannot create more of it or less of it, or give it a different composition.  If you have a certain number of molecules of gorp, that number of molecules will always be the same, even if they are mixed with something else or in five different places after you’ve worked your magic on it. You simply cannot make more gorp.  

This has a lot of implications for therapy.  If you phrase it, “You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect different results”, it applies to professionals who are sabotaging their own career through bad habits; to substance abusers who insist they can “handle” their drug of choice; or to codependents who are sure that if they yell loud enough or plead sweetly enough a substance abuser will stop using.  Sometimes when I’m sitting with someone who is truly in anguish in one of our interview rooms at the ER, I’ll get a picture in my mind of him or her as a little kid with a big top hat, bow tie, and wand, frantically waving the latter to get something to change into something else.  As a clinician, my job is to get them to put the wand away and figure out how the “trick” is actually done.  In other words, they’re going to have to work, and they’re going to have to learn something different.  

A lot of depression results from frustration at trying to thwart this physical maxim.  Seligman’s “Learned Helplessness Theory” postulates that we begin to feel helpless when we receive “punishment”, or painful results, over and over again as a result of a repeated behavior.  Since helplessness and a feeling of hopelessness are classic symptoms of clinical depression, there are theories that postulate depression sometimes comes from learned helplessness.  

There are probably many other things in physics that parallel human behavior.  But it’s late, and I get up early.

Friday, September 09, 2005

This Time, We Did the Right Thing

After five years of hearing everyone bad mouth the US, after being disillusioned myself due to the police state we seem to be heading toward, and especially after the bickering about whose fault what was down South, it was a pleasure to get my hands on the July 1978 Issue of TIME.

I don't read TIME these days; gave up around the same time as I learned that you can't really solve problems by throwing money at them and that "do-gooders" do more harm then good with their social welfare policies. But I was cruising around one of my favorite Russian propaganda sites when I found a cache of what must be every TIME to have a Russian on the cover, from Vladimir Lenin to Vladimir Putin. Smack dab in the middle was this one of Natan Sharansky (then Anatoli Shcharansky). You can read for yourself a bit of Sharansky's story a few entries below; basically, he was a "refusenik" in Russia--a Jew not permitted to emigrate--who brought international attention to his cause and others through his activism. He was tried and sentenced as a CIA spy; and sent to 13 years in the Gulag. After an early release, where he was exchanged for a real spy, Sharansky moved to Israel and became an influential member of the Prime Minister's cabinet. He quit his job with the government this spring in protest of the Gaza Strip removal of settlers.

But back to 1978. I Googled the magazine issue, and found someone selling it at a pretty fair rate. I got it in my hands today.

What a time that was...everyone was talking about "de'tente" and should we say this or that for fear the Russians would take it the wrong way. Andy Young was shooting his mouth off about "hundreds of thousands" of mythical political prisoners here when interviewed about Sharansky's case.

But the good news was...people got angry about those things! Even TIME criticized Young's remarks. And printed Soviet citizens' views, such as that of Sharansky's mother, that the more pressure we placed on the Kremlin, the better it was for her son, for her family, and for all those whose freedoms were curtailed.

In particular, Jimmy Carter referred to Anatoli Sharanski by name in several public speeches, calling him a political prisoner and demanding his release. Jimmy Carter! Yeah, the malaise guy! Communists apparently got under his feathers enough that he actually said something strong, if not actually doing something.

Luckily, in this case, "saying things" helped. Sharansky notes throughout his book definite differences in the way he was treated that corresponded with news he got from fellow zeks just entering the prisons or even, at at times, with Pravda, about Western speeches. He couldn't have his wife's picture; then suddenly he had his wife's picture. He would be moved from hard labor to stuff less likely to break his back. Finally, of course, he was released 2 years early, although the Soviets called it "banishment" and made sure to announce to him that he was being punished by being kicked out of the USSR. Thus, Sharansky even had a good, hearty laugh as he stepped through the Iron Curtain.

Of course, this was also after Reagan had been making references to him in his Presidential conferences and speeches. Which was most certainly more effective.

But it's nice to remember that, once upon a time, Carter and the people like him were on our side.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

and another other thing

But let's not get silly about it. Today I saw a Nextel flag at half mast. Just a Nextel flag. No US or even state flag remotely close by. I guess they figured they should have some flag flying at half mast.

Which reminds me of long ago, when we lost President Nixon. President Clinton had of course called for the 1 month or whatever of observance with the flag. I was working in Lincoln Park (home of the band), just on the edge of Detroit, at the time. Up the main drag, Fort Street, was a McDonalds. I didn't notice anything unusual the first day that all the other businesses flew lowered Stars & Stripes. But the next day when I stopped for lunch, to my amazement, McDonald's had their own flag, yellow with a smiling face of their famous mascot, flown at half mast.

Which just goes to show, I figured, that even Ronald McDonald was feeling sad, and thinking perhaps we were all too hard on ol' Tricky Dicky.

"Nobody laughs or the clown gets it."

....and another thing!! vol. 2

Why aren't the flags at half mast? I mean, for the victims of Katrina?

After 9/11, weren't they down for a month or so?

Actually, the flags here are down right now, but only for Judge Rehnquist (not that there's anything wrong with that) and for Michigan servicemen we've lost in Iraq.

But I haven't heard any anouncement about that kind of gesture for those we lost in the hurricane. It would be nice, I think.

NWA, please buy back my ticket!

I am a simple soul. (Read, "my credit bites the big one"). I have a simple apartment roof over my head, a piano, a guitar, and a computer, and enough to go out for one big night on the town when I turn 59 1/2 in IRAs. So when I find something extra...at least this month...the thought occurs, "What do I need this for? There's at least 10,000 homeless people down south who need this more than me." But much of that stuff is of the variety victims of Katrina can't use yet, like cooking utensils, clothes, or books on doing therapy with black gay Jewish dwarves from broken homes (and the women who love them).

But I have something else...a virtual ticket. I planned a trip to France last year that never happened, partly because I didn't have the money to travel while there, partly because I'm sick of France. As a result, I've cancelled my ticket twice. Apparently though, cancelled tickets of the "special sale!" variety don't go away immediately; the money, in effect, remains in a "bank" you can use to buy another Northwest ticket within a year, provided it costs as least as much as the original. I've also had to pay 2 cancellation fees for this "non-refundable, non-transferrable" ticket, so my virtual ticket bank is worth at least a round trip ticket for a Louisiannier/e, or for a volunteer flying from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge.

I figured NW could give me a yes/no answer on this pretty quick if I called: Yeah, I know it's supposed to be non-transferrable, but in this case, if I want to give you *back* the money, isn't there some way we could turn this into a win-win situation? My boss (who, strangely enough, is Peter "Spiderman" Parker's boss too, although we are in totally different lines of work), Animated "Lemon" Buchanan, is traveling along with a bunch of other professionals from the hospital (Animated "Lemon" is a professional airhead, but he also trains dogs and works on a S.W.A.T. team in his spare time). At any rate, excited both at the prospect of knowing a seasoned crisis clinician would accompany the stellar group of doctors, nurses and others we're sending down, AND at the prospect of someone else(anyone, please, as long as they don't micromanage me!!!) being at the helm at our agency besides ol' Animated Lemon, I thought, I'll donate my ticket to him. If they wouldn't let me designate a recipient, I figure I could just stipulate it be used by Salvation Army, Red Cross, or another Christian ministry.

Now, either NWA is waaaaay to big for its britches, or they have their operators filling in for their striking mechanics, because I could not get a single live voice when I called their service line. Everything sent me back around the voice jail cellblock. The reservations operator thought my idea was great, but she couldn't figure out whom to direct me too to find out if I could do it. Just to find out if I could!

Finally, I sent an e-mail.

That was on Monday. Monday morning. 9/5/05. No answer as of Thursday night.