Category Archives: Ethics and Morality

Why I Stopped Blogging

I’m sorry to all you subscribers for disappearing so quickly. Something happened that took up a great deal of my attention. My dear wife was diagnosed with dementia, and I instinctively chose to immediately withdraw from most leisure activities to concentrate on her care. For those of you who may believe in divine providence (as I do), I was able to spot the symptoms because of my previous experience as a dementia caregiver.

Over the past couple of years, I had noticed a decline in Mary’s cognitive abilities. They all seemed to be related to short-term memory and/or subtle conceptualization. I might have missed the signs, but we’re talking about an exceptionally smart and accomplished woman. To have her turn into a “regular” sweet old lady isn’t something most would even notice. Her level of normal conversation isn’t affected much yet. She can drive and dress herself. She brushes her teeth and bathes by herself.

However, she was also in charge of paying monthly bills, because I was still working. Things began to go unpaid. We started getting calls and mail from creditors. She would apologize profusely, but it kept happening with increasing frequency, and it was completely out of character. She’s super-responsible by both nature and habit. She just plain forgot what had been paid, and what had not.

Unopened junk mail began accumulating, covering every available space on counters, tables and desks. I saw this exact symptom with her aunt, who is now in skilled nursing care for Alzheimer’s. Sometimes dementia runs in families. She was unable to sort out what was important from what could/should be thrown away. This is an indication of a loss in logic capabilities.

Then she began having a hard time finding the words she wished to say. Not the complex terms most of us might need a minute to recall (calibration, recidivism, impingement) but simple words like “remote” and “leash”.

There was an increased tendency to misplace her keys, purse or wallet. Until we were able to establish enough behavior modification (you always put “this thing” in the same spot upon entering the house, or getting in the car – NO EXCEPTIONS) these disappearances zoomed up to about 20 times per day.

By this time, I gave notice at the Urgent Care where I worked. We had appointments with neurologists, and she performed a complete battery of clinical tests which indicated a loss of approximately 30 IQ points. Her original doctor was impressed. Most dementia patients do not get spotted at an early stage. The earlier a diagnosis is established, the more effective the drugs are at slowing the process of decline. She was prescribed Aricept. She didn’t experience uncomfortable side effects adjusting to it, and it has cleared up some of the “fog”, though I know the drug is usually only effective for a few years. There are other drugs used at later stages.

Mary has had occasional depression while coming to terms with her condition, but it’s important to keep the patient engaged in the tasks that help manage their own care. So we do that. I have a history of emotional dissociation (a PTSD legacy) that helped me become a good medical assistant and tech, so I’m not as sad about this as some of our friends think I should be. I’m used to re-framing things in favor of the positives, and I am always, always fascinated to study disease processes. It’s a coping mechanism, but also a way of seeing things others can’t appreciate.

Unlike cancer, heart disease, and other things people die from, dementia doesn’t physically hurt. It’s more of an existential loss, an irreversible simplification of the adult personality. It returns the patient to their own childhood and infant self, until it causes death when the brain stops managing body functions. Mary has unrelated spinal pain issues, and that’s her focus most mornings. She’s cranky and distracted until her maintenance painkillers kick in. The rest of the time she’s pleasant and compassionate, though we do have many of the same conversations several times a day.

Because we caught this so early, Mary may take a decade or more to get to the point of 24-hour care. She’s 70 now, so other issues of decline or disease might overtake this. Or researchers might develop more effective treatments. I’m a good scientist. I’m not assuming much of anything. We work on this one day at a time, and observe what goes on, making smart choices as needed.

I waited for about a year to reveal this publicly, until she was comfortable with my doing it. One thing about me that is unusual is the fact that I definitely do NOT consider this a great tragedy, as most people seem to. We all have to die of something. All machines eventually wear out beyond repair. All that is material must pass. It could be a lot worse. I’ve SEEN a lot worse.

We still live in a community surrounded by great natural beauty, with neighbors and friends we love and have fun with. We’ve got a terrific, super-smart dog (who flunked out of the service training because he doesn’t like to share his toys). I’ve got arthritis in my hands, but it’s still manageable. We’ve got enough money to cover our medical costs so far. Life’s still well worth the effort. I’m enjoying whatever can be enjoyed.

I do apologize for having to keep my online readers in the dark though. Patient confidentiality is an old habit I was trained for.



Filed under Emotions, Ethics and Morality

It Wasn’t Always So Easy


Filed under Ethics and Morality

Be the Change


We participated in a polite act of revolution this morning. Mary and I attended the “illegal” ordination of a woman as a Catholic priest. She’s our neighbor so we would be disposed to be nice about it, but more importantly, we wholeheartedly believe in the rightness of the act. God blessed it and approves, even if the church can’t get there yet. Continue reading



Filed under Ethics and Morality

The Power of Apology

Whether or not you are a Christian, this author’s view makes ethical sense to me. I’ve become upset many times by the views of people parroting the old propaganda about how killing those in Hiroshima and Nagasaki “saved more American lives”, “shortened the war” etc. We don’t know that. We can’t know that. Some believe it to be true. Some don’t.

Killing innocent people is not justified, and can’t be (in my view) by unprovable hypotheses about the positive effect the killers ASSUME the killings will have (or did have) upon future events. There were tens of thousands of children under age five killed in the two atomic bombings. There were hospitals in both cities that were obliterated. Even if you subscribe to the idea that Japan had ordered “every man, woman and child to fight to the death”, it seems insane to assume infants, toddlers and hospital patients could ever have been a threat.

Historians are on both sides of this issue. Some say the documentary evidence makes it crystal clear that once Russia declared war on Japan between the two bombings, Japanese high command sued for peace, believing they would get better terms from the Americans – thus making the bombing of Nagasaki completely unnecessary (i.e. mass murder). Other historians downplay the influence of Russia’s military actions on the outcome of the war with Japan.

I’m not a historical expert. I’m examining the question from a philosophical position of pacifism, one that rejects the theory of “just wars”.

The Workshop

I have admit, I haven’t followed American news much at all since being here.  It’s pretty much what shows up on my MSN homepage and Facebook feed.  But something, other than the horror that is the presidential campaigns for both parties, caught my eye the last few days.  Not from a lot of people, not the headline by far, but just enough to sadden me once again at the state of the American Church.

obama apologyA few of my friends have posted at how appalled they are that President Obama dared to apologize to the people of Japan for dropping the atomic bomb on them in WWII.  They point to how it saved hundreds if not thousands of lives which would have been lost in battle.  They argue that Japan deserved it after attacking Pearl Harbor.  They shout that in war, you do what you have to do and make no…

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Filed under Ethics and Morality, forgiveness, politics

Protests, Incitement, and You: A Primer

Since I’m not an attorney, my opinion about Trump not suffering a loss of “free speech” even when protested, is unqualified. Here’s a more qualified explanation of what is and isn’t covered by the First Amendment, for the enlightenment of general readers.

The Hipcrime Vocab

First, a disclaimer. Although your Mulligan is an attorney licensed to practice in the district courts of the United States, nothing in here should be taken as legal advise, and is presented for educational purposes only.

Second, we need to talk about candidate speeches and protests. Candidates from all sides of the aisle have seen their political rallies interrupted this election season. Some of these candidates have reacted better than others.

So what are the legalities of this situation? Have a primer.


Very few people actually understand what the First Amendment and “free speech” or “free expression” mean. The first, and most important, lesson here is that the First Amendment only applies to government action. That is, no private entity, be it corporation or person, can violate your free speech rights. If your neighbor kicks you out of his backyard barbecue because your speech offends him…

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Filed under politics, Uncategorized

Viewing Primaries as a Sale

It’s an interesting primary season in the USA. There’s nothing unique about it if you have a decent education in our history, or world history. But people want their own lives to be momentous and unique, and they will cling to that illusion in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. That’s the problem with logic. It doesn’t provide as much adrenaline as emotion does. Trade, the process of buying and selling, is what emotionally engages most people.

I’m an odd duck, by my nature, training, and experience. When I complete an exam and end up with superior diagnostic views of a difficult patient, the doctor and I trade “high fives”. I get the same rush as if my home team won the Super Bowl. But before and during the actual exam, I’m in a logical headspace, calculating radiation dosage, distance, part thickness, tissue composition and photographic factors needed to produce the best images. Because I’m hyper-focused on the math and science, things like a wounded patient’s cries, or the wiggliness of a five year old with pneumonia don’t distract me. I do the job. It’s a kind of meditation exercise.

I tend to employ similar methods when I vote. I do research, read and watch interviews, carefully go over candidate web sites, trying to extract facts from the sales pitches. I’m not immune to appeals to my emotions, but they had better be smart, backed by facts, and honest. When candidates employ half-truths, I hold the behavior against them, like a grudge. I don’t like feeling like I got “sold” a candidate. I want it to be my unfettered choice to support or oppose them. But I think I’m atypical. I believe most people enjoy it when candidates give them attention. And it affects their vote choices.

Political campaigns are not run like scientific professions. They try to employ some science, internal polling, demographic strategies and such, but most of the money and effort go into persuasion, marketing, branding and affirmations of allegiance – all ways to appeal to emotion. In sales, this is the IQPC Model: Intro, Qualify, Pitch and Close. These are “Four Steps to a Sale” practiced by millions each day. There are other versions of this concept, but this is the one I learned working in retail sales many years ago:

1.) INTRO – You manage and control the first impression, greet the customer (voter) warmly with a word or two about yourself, establishing your desire to be helpful while inviting them to engage further.

2.) QUALIFY – Through questions, you (the seller) gain a quick understanding of the customer’s (voter’s) desires, needs and their budget. This allows the seller to separate those most likely to buy from “looky-loos” (uncommitted browsers).

3.) PITCH – The seller presents the product in a way that most closely matches the goals of the prospective buyer (determined by the qualifying questions).

4.) CLOSE – The seller asks the prospective customer to commit to the sale. Closing is the most important step, and there are different styles and methods for closes.

There are lots of ways to derail a successful sale. The seller may offer a poor INTRO, after which all efforts will be more difficult. The QUALIFY may be mismanaged by asking questions that do not provide enough information about what the customer needs, wants, and if they are willing and able to buy. The PITCH will not be persuasive if it ignores the customer’s goals, or can’t fulfill them. More sellers fail when CLOSING than at any other point in the process, because asking for the sale is harder than chatting and getting to know each other.

There are lots of ways to analyze political candidates. You can view them through the IQPC lens too, since voting is a type of transaction, a sale. Here are my short performance reviews of some recent and current presidential candidates, according to the Four Steps model:

Carly Fiorina, businessperson, former candidate for Senate

INTRO = 50/50. Good backstory that was partly deceptive.

QUALIFY = Poor. Failure to judge customer needs.

PITCH = Poor. Misjudged voters interests based on poor Q.

CLOSE = Could not close after two previous missteps


Ben Carson, retired Neurosurgeon

INTRO = 70/30 Excellent backstory marred by probable deception.

QUALIFY = Poor estimation of customer goals and desires

PITCH = Worst of entire field of candidates

CLOSE = Unable to close due to previous mistakes


Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey

I = Poor. Entered transaction with reputation as a bully/RINO

Q = 50/50 Misjudgment of customer interest in aggressive policy approach

P = 50/50 Adept in debates but off-putting behavior soured the sale

C = Passed customer off to another salesperson


Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas

I = 70/30 Good resume impacted by co-worker dislike

Q = 70/30 Good rapport, but over-focus on select clientele

P = 70/30 Good pitch for target clients, bad for general custom

C = Making the sale is possible, but not probable

Donald Trump, Real Estate tycoon, TV performer

I = 50/50 A mix of obvious virtues and obvious flaws

Q = 70/30 Good customer evaluation, mistreatment of browsers

P = 50/50 Oversimplification, only convincing to some

C = Best closer of any GOP candidate. Sale (nomination) likely.

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont

I = Good intro. Consistent

Q = Good qualifying questions

P = 70/30 Overly narrow focus on some customer needs, not all

C = Possible sale, if able to broaden appeal of product.


Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, former Senator

I = 50/50 Lots of positives and negatives (see Trump).

Q = Encyclopedic understanding of customer needs and desires

P = 80/20 Tendency to oversell, diminishing effectiveness of message

C = Probable sale, definite if able to refine pitch

These are my perceptions, but my readers are “above average”. I know you don’t see everything exactly as I do, and I celebrate those differences. Nothing would please me more than if you offer your own opinions of how these or other candidates have done, according to the Four Steps model. (That was a quick pitch and close.)




Filed under Communications, Emotions, Ethics and Morality, Television, Thinking about thinking, Uncategorized

President Obama’s Tenure Has Been More “Christian” Than His Critics Will Ever Admit

john pavlovitz

12419379_10154376315984989_5877223265055859141_o-2This week President Obama gave a passionate, vulnerable, teary eyed press conference to announce new guidelines for gun ownership. It provided some of the rawest, most authentic expressions of compassion and grief ever shared by a sitting American President.

It was also another example of a man’s religion speaking loudly without needing to be referenced at all.

You see, faith isn’t real faith until it’s walked out and most people know this. Without a life attached to it all theology is just theory. It’s so often (for both politicians and pew sitters alike) merely flowery language and religious window dressing designed for maximum curb appeal from a distance. But unless and until it shows up in the every day of a person—well it’s worth little more than zero.

Even before Barack Obama took office the attacks on his spiritual beliefs by his detractors were fierce and incessant, calling him a closeted Muslim whose religious convictions were more about the demise…

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Filed under Ethics and Morality