Collateral Tragedies?

As I listened to the latest news on the national and local government response to the coronavirus invasion, old times came to mind. Unless you have been totally off the grid with no access to media of any kind, you know what is happening.

What caught my attention and started my flashbacks was the discussion of family quarantines. By that, I mean the powers that be are demanding anyone living in a household with someone testing positive for COVID-19 self-quarantine, along with the victim.  That would mean everyone, father, mother, kids, and anyone else living in that residence, stay in quarantine until everyone is cleared. That could become a scary situation for all involved, including the community.

The directive took me back to early in my law enforcement career. As I learned very quickly in my street cop days, some families spending more or less forced “quality” time together do not do well.  That is why holidays are not always the happiest time of the year.

Yes, most people get together on holidays by choice. They are not forced or coerced to spend time together by the government.  Yet, even when holidays start out well, they can end in tragedy.  For instance, there was a horrible Christmas tragedy in Grapevine, Texas. A family of six came together as usual. They all ended up dead.

Admittedly, the Grapevine incident was, in some ways, the exception, not the rule.  Mass killings on holidays are not a periodic occurrence in Texas or anywhere else, as far as I know. Still, holidays often bring about the conditions leading to family violence.

As a street cop in a smaller Texas town in the 70s, you saw a bit of everything. Thankfully, small-town crime and serious incidents do not come as quickly as in larger communities.  Still, they come, and the results are not pretty. The exceptions, in some ways, are holidays. Either that or our little town was exceptional. All I know is no one looked forward to working holidays, and not because we were separated from our families.

One holiday particularly worried cops in our little bit of the North Texas plains. Christmas!  Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of the year. As the Grapevine case attests, that is not always true.  In our experience, some crimes and harmful behaviors do not recognize holidays.  In fact, some such activity seems to show up at a higher rate.

For instance, those of us working Christmas day dreaded 1400, or 2:00 pm.  That was the witching hour, so to speak.  Gifts opened, some toys broken, and, depending on the weather, kids were coming down with a bad case of cabin fever.  Worse, some of the adults were beginning to reach their maximum quotient of “family time.” From the early afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning, cops knew a family violence call was always hanging over their heads.

Yes, even the closest family can have trouble with extended family time. Add in a little eggnog or a few other adult beverages, and the number of people earning coal in their stockings for next Christmas begins to climb. Most of the time, such calls could be handled relatively easily. Still, domestics are some of the most dangerous reponses an officer can make.

A domestic or family violence complainant can demand the “No good SOB” be hauled off to jail one minute. The next, that same complainant is on your back, screaming, “Get your hands off of him (or her)!” Then the officers have two people to deal with unless the rest of the family joins in the fun.

As this is being written, Christmas is 280 days away.  Yet the Christmas like cabin fever may be staring police officers in the face much sooner.  The nature of the current pandemic means businesses are closed, people cannot gather together in many social settings, and a night out with the guys, or girls, is verboten.

In the homes with confirmed coronavirus patients, residents are to self-quarantine. This means, everyone occupying the home, is stuck there until it is certain no one in the house has or is carrying the virus. The self-quarantine could last for weeks!

Mandated self-quarantining may be necessary to defeat this virus.  Sadly, it is also a recipe for disaster in some households.  Throw in lost income, a few drinks, a bad mood, someone saying the wrong thing, and you have a 9-1-1 call in the making. The call may be for an ambulance, a fire truck, the police, or all three. For this and other reasons, I am asking that if you haven’t started praying, do so!

Pray for those with the virus. Pray for the health care workers, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and others dealing directly with people who may or do carry the virus. Pray for those losing money because of closures, quarantines, and social distancing.   Pray for your family’s sanity, including yourself.  Pray for our nation.

Finally, pray for the police patrolling our streets!  They will be risking exposure to the virus, as well as the threat of violence against them daily, possibly multiple times a day. Whenever they make contact with someone, walk into a house to investigate a complaint, work an accident, or stop to check on a stranded motorist, they are placing themselves at risk.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, Holidays, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Medicine, National Defense, Police, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligent Stupidity?

If you think about it, human intelligence is a fascinating topic. For example, depending on the source consulted, there are eight to ten different ways of classifying one’s intelligence quotient. That is why some people can solve complex formulas in their heads but have difficulty making small talk at social events. There is no mathematical formula to help them answer the question, “Do you like my new hair color?”

Yes, a high IQ does not always translate into a highly functional individual. Which brings me to the point of this piece, and the image on the left.

The graphic is a screenshot from my Facebook page. My post was, as I hope you can see, a tongue in cheek comment on the panic buying of toilet paper taking place around the United States. If you did not immediately pick up on the satire in the post, your IQ might be too high for your own good, but don’t abandon this piece yet. There is another point I want to make.

Again, if you have not already taken a good look at it, read the comment below the package of Angel Soft. That was Facebook’s response to my post.

Facebook, at least the version of artificial intelligence Facebook is using, was unable to recognize the sarcastic, hopefully humorous, message I intended. Instead, Facebook offered to help me engage in price gouging, which would likely be a crime in the middle of a pandemic.

The scary aspect of this situation is the reality we face in the not too distant future. Self-driving vehicles operating under the control of an AI have killed at least eight humans according to one source. Developers believe this issue can be overcome with time. Still, one must wonder how much damage will be done by automobiles and other devices operated by artificial intelligence before the systems are perfected.

Also, consider the comments made earlier about the highly intelligent. Sometimes, they can be as dumb as a stump outside their field of expertise. How will programmers with questionable interpersonal or social skills develop algorithms to recognize sarcasm, humor, idle threats, exaggeration, and other human idiosyncrasies?

Today, unless one disconnects all eavesdropping capable apps, limited forms of artificial intelligence monitor much of our communications. That is why mentioning a product in a social media post results in a deluge of advertising concerning products of that nature.  Even having a casual conversation within the vicinity of a voice-activated device may result in a similar situation.

Given the increasing prevalence of devices equipped with some form of artificial intelligence, our dependence on them will increase. As that happens, given the problems already encountered, more and more opportunities will arise for an algorithm to miscalculate the appropriate response to something it encounters.

One can easily envision the day, if it has not already happened, when someone’s home or business is the focus of an embarrassing or troubling incident due to an intelligent app misunderstanding what it sensed. As the big brother aspect of government increases, imagine what would happen if an intelligent app misunderstood a dramatic outburst during a quarrel. Could the app, based on its programming, notify the authorities? If it does, will the 9-1-1 operator receiving the call realize it is a real-world version of Samantha in the movie “Her,” instead of a human?

Even more likely, is the expansion of incidents, with unacceptable consequences, such as the ones inspiring this piece. One event, of course, was the post mentioned above. Another was the unexplained blocking of a friend’s daily Bible blog. After sharing his blog for years, Facebook’s algorithms decided his blog was spam. Luckily, his complaints and inquiries reached a human being, and the matter was resolved.

The question now is, how long will it be before the computers get so smart they won’t listen to their human programmers?1  Maybe “The Terminator” was not so far fetched after all.

1Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole or sarcasm. Still, the idea that we can always control the devices we build is a bit of arrogance that might cause a lot of trouble in years to come. As anyone who has been the victim of a hacker, directly or indirectly knows, there are people out there trying to find ways to take over systems, or unleash havoc within them. Theoretically, at least, it should be possible to alter an artificial intelligence system to do whatever it calculates as appropriate.

© – 2020


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Worthless: Free Advice and COVID-19

Okay! I know! I am writing a piece warning against free advice, and some will say the information I am about to give you is not worth what you paid for it. With that said, please stop reading and spreading medical advice on Facebook. It is not only worth less than nothing, but it may also be harmful, regardless of the source.

As with the run on toilet paper, there is now a run on medical advice from various sources. The one first catching my attention came from France’s Health Minister. Another came from a personal post by someone claiming to be a nurse. Another was from a second doctor in Europe building on the Health Minister’s warning.

Here is the problem! For every piece of medical advice I’ve seen on the internet there have been conflicting opinions. Take the Health Minister’s premise that NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin, similar drugs) could make coronavirus worse because some tend to impair the body’s immune system. A number of online publications have posted his comments, or the comments of others supporting his position.

Almost no one is posting comments of those who think the warnings against using ibuprofen or similar drugs may be exaggerated or mistaken. Even Snopes classifies the Health Minister’s claims as unproven. You will likely not see that anywhere, but here.

I could go on, and on probably, with my critique of this debate. Instead, I will close with the following few bits of information. The French Health Minister, and some others, say choose acetaminophen to control fever related to the coronavirus. I believe the piece from the nurse said essentially the same thing to some degree. I know she suggested using low dose acetaminophen, which I applaud to some degree.

On the other hand, I wish I could take ibuprofen if I contract COVID-19. However, on the advice of my primary care physician, I avoid NSAIDs because most of them have side effects that make them risky for me. The most concerning side effect is the damage they can do to one’s kidneys. My kidneys are marginal for some reason, so he told me to stick with acetaminophen, which I do for the most part. Also, some of the NSAIDs can damage the stomach lining, another concern based on my family history.

The problem is ibuprofen is much more effective in dealing with my pain, any fever I might have, and inflammation that can accompany them. Acetaminophen works, but not as well. Also, there is one other thing people forget about acetaminophen, it can be deadly. Okay, they all can be deadly if misused, but good old acetaminophen accounts for almost 500 acute liver failure deaths annually.

So, here’s my free advice concerning what over the counter meds someone should take if they are sick. Ask your doctor, a doc in the box, or the pharmacist if he or she will make a recommendation! Oh yeah, if you don’t have a doctor, can’t pay for a doc in the box, and don’t trust the pharmacist, you can now consult real doctors online and by telephone, at a relatively low fee.

© – 2020

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Of Donkeys, Padres and Politics

A friend shared the meme to the left on Facebook recently. It was apparently written to be a humorous, if slightly crude, allegory about not sweating the small stuff. However, it is an excellent example of one problem facing the United States and other more parts of the world where some sort of democracy still exists.

Several posts in “An Old Cop’s Place” address or touch on the issue this meme highlights. In one case, a post included two true stories about public figures who were trying to deal with falsehoods or misrepresentations in the news. In both cases, the parties involved survived the encounter, unlike the poor bishop. That is, they survived physically, but their careers and reputations were destroyed.

In the donkey story, the media did nothing wrong. Unless, of course, you feel the headlines quoted were themselves misleading or maliciously motivated. Be that as it may, malicious or skewed headlines are only part of the problem, in the meme and in the United States. The real problem, as I have stated before, is the abuse of the First Amendment allowed by a 1964 Supreme Court ruling that did not have a clue what the “news” would look like in a few decades.

Here, the bishop mostly brought the problem on himself. If he had not overreacted, he might have been able to live the matter down. Instead, his knee jerk response to the first headline led to the second. Instead of allowing the situation to die of natural causes, he kept reacting in a manner that allowed the questionable or tongue in cheek headlines to continue.

In the real world, the full range of publications included in the term media allows misrepresentation, misinformation, and outright slander to take on a life of their own. As noted in other posts, and illustrated by the satirical meme, fighting back is often a case of winning the battle and losing the war.

Again, it is only a losing battle because of a Supreme Court ruling that should probably be overruled or amended in some fashion. Famously, or infamously if you’re not a fan, President Trump fights back with the same media used to attack him. True, in other cases, he may use media to pick a fight as well.  Whether one feels his actions are unpresidential or a legitimate way of taking the fight to his critics, he has changed the game.

Free speech is an important right. It is one for which we should all fight daily. Yet, it should not be a get out of jail free card for people who use it nefariously. It is possible modifying the court decision making it open season on public figures would change the way things are done. The president might act more presidential. Members of Congress and the media might be less likely to say or publish rubbish just because they can. Society itself might become more civil.

The “moral of the story” in the meme was, “Being concerned about public opinion can bring you much grief and misery and even shorten your life. So be yourself and enjoy life. You’ll be a lot happier and live longer!”

The advice offered in the quote above may indeed be useful in some circumstances. It is not good advice in all cases, and our society is clearly shifting in a direction that makes it even less appropriate. Failing to respond to inappropriate and false accusations may lead to continued attacks and bullying.

Whether one is speaking of a country’s leader or a kid on the playground, there are times when something other than turning the other cheek is appropriate. Likewise, there are times when attempting to change the behavior of online and media bullies is necessary, as well, perhaps with a tweet.

© oneoldcop-2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, social media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Of Hearsay and Public Figures

This meme popped up in social media recently. As one can easily imagine, the creator was likely poking fun at Democrats and many media outlets. Admittedly, the “Cheryl’s She Shed” meme is a one-sided attempt to satirize a serious issue. Yet, the meme points out a problem that needs to be addressed in some manner.  

The political and legal systems in the United States have never been perfect. Yet, they have been better than other models throughout history, and the envy of many. Of course, not everyone would agree with that statement. There are, and have been, those who believe the freedoms and processes inherent in the U. S. systems are impediments to orderly governance. 

In case the last sentence has you scratching your head, here are few names that might fall into that category. For instance, Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, and Fidel Castro were never in favor of freedom of the press, due process, and innocent until proven guilty. They, as well as many current leaders around the world,  might argue that we pay way too much attention to individual rights in this country. After all, if we must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is guilty, we may not take every bad guy, or person we dislike, off the street.

So, you ask, what does this cumbersomely and grammatically challenged meme have to do with totalitarian governments or the reality of the situation in the United States today? The answer to that is simple. A well-meaning and totally legal decision made in decades past concerning some aspects of personal liberty, due process, assumption of guilt, and related issues are being subverted and used to establish a system of prosecution based on innuendo, false statements and total disregard for the rights of the accused.

That last statement is not the beginning of some hackneyed defense of Donald R. Trump. Rather, it is a simple statement of fact the Democrat war on Trump highlights. Using the power of their positions and exploiting one of the most egregious exemptions in U. S. civil laws, the mainstream media and many politicians and their supporters on both sides of the aisle have mounted a campaign to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency.

For the record, the president made himself an easy target for this attack. Whether that was due to his political ignorance, his ego, or a belief he needed to stand up for something bigger than himself is unknown. Still, his political rivals have declared war on him, and unlike others in a position such as this, he met the attack head-on. Only time will tell who, if anyone, wins this battle. Regardless, of that outcome, the way the battle has been waged needs to be examined.

Stay tuned.


© – 2020


Posted in Civility, Ethics, Leadership, Manners, Morality, Political Extremes, Politics, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seriously Doc?!

The practice of medicine today is probably one of the most important, frustrating, and confusing professions in the world.  For example, through a series of events recently, I ended up in the cardiac unit at my local hospital. It wasn’t my first time in that hospital or unit, for that matter.  Still, no matter how many times someone deals with a medical group or issue, some aspects of the current experience can bring out the “Seriously doc?” reaction.

In this case, I held my tongue as it was a well-meaning RN named Matthew, who poked the nerve.  He was going through the ever-growing list of questions, diagnostic and just plain nosy, asked of patients today.  To be fair, my interaction with the medical community over the previous two days had me primed and ready.

First, I spent a very uncomfortable night on the last Sunday in January to avoid going to the Emergency Room.  After two similar instances in years past, I was certain this was not an ER situation.  Accordingly, I waited until Monday morning and went to my primary care doctor.  After checking me from top to bottom, he sent me to, you guessed it, the ER.

For the next twenty-six uncomfortable hours, I was confined to the ER.  During that period, my condition was “monitored,” I underwent a couple of scans, multiple blood draws, tests, and spent a lot of time twiddling my thumbs while waiting for a room. So, I was not in a great mood when I was finally rolled into a room with a real bed, a bathroom, and a window.

Matthew started down his list of questions, and I managed to answer him in a relatively cordial and coherent manner.  Then he reached the question that just about drives me up the wall every time it is asked, “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever experienced, what is your pain level at this time?”

Every time I am asked that question, I want to scream, “Seriously, doc!?” Of course, Matthew was a nurse, and he had to ask the question. Still, what were the medical powers-that-be thinking when they came up with it?

All of us experience pain in different ways. I’ve known folks who would say their pain was a 10 while someone else would say a similar injury was a 2 or 3.  For example, I once experienced an injury during a rugby match that rendered me almost immediately unconscious. It was, at the time, the worst pain I’d ever experienced, and that is saying something. It was my 10 from then on, until it wasn’t.

Twenty years later, to the month, I had the pleasure of suffering pain that almost made the fact I passed out two decades earlier embarrassing. This pain occurred during a medical procedure, instead of an athletic contest.  That is why it was a med-tech who noticed my distress. Shutting everything down in the middle of the procedure, he came out of his lead-lined control area to check on me.

When he asked how I was doing, I replied through clenched teeth, “On a scale of 1-10, this is a 15, how much longer.” He replied thirteen minutes, and I managed to tell him to finish it without resorting to profanity. That may sound braggadocious and hyperbolic, but it is true. Only the slow onset of the agony and the importance of the procedure kept me from calling it quits. He finished the exam, and I had a new level 10. In case you are thinking I’m bragging or a masochistic, hold your horses.

As a former police officer, amateur athlete, life skills coach, and student of the human condition, I’ve known people who worked through pain that would have incapacitated others.

I’ve also seen people suffer through and survive injuries or pain levels that could have easily led to unconsciousness or something more severe. Likewise, I’ve seen some of those same people seemingly come to their knees with an injury many people would tape up and move on.

Within limits, pain is subjective. My 5 might be your 10. My 10 might leave you writhing on the ground, and in both cases, our emotional states might dictate our response to some degree.  That may be one reason we have the prescription of painkiller problems we have today.  We no longer expect people to “tough it out.” Instead, people expect their pain to be eliminated immediately, if not sooner. Doctor’s played into that for years, and we are reaping the rewards of that behavior today.

Is it any wonder I sometimes want to shout, “Seriously, doc!” when they start, “On a scale of one to ten…………?”

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Dates With Destiny?

Destiny has always sounded so final to me. I mean, one definition of destiny is “a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency.” If not final, it certainly sounds foreboding, and something beyond the individual’s control. Well, perhaps it is not always as final as I imagined.

In Date With Destiny, I attempted to humorously discuss a serious matter that seemed to fit my thoughts on destiny. I traveled a path that was mostly out of my control and ended up undergoing a medical procedure I had no intention of accepting when first proposed. As it turns out, that may have been the first stop on my journey to a date with destiny.

Sunday, January 26, 2020, was not your typical Sunday. I’d been dealing with an upper respiratory situation of some sort for more than a week. On Friday, my condition improved a good deal, and by Saturday, I felt almost normal. Sunday morning, I felt great. I went to church with my lady, sang in the choir, went to lunch with friends, and we spent the afternoon watching golf.

As the day started fading, I began to feel my condition slipping toward something not entirely healthy. By bedtime, I had the beginnings of a headache and felt fatigued. Just before midnight, I awoke with a horrible headache and tightness or pain in my chest.

As a heart patient, I have the essential tools necessary to check vital signs at home. So, I slipped out of bed and checked them. All the routine indicators of heart function were in the normal range, and I went back to bed.

Understandably, that last sentence may raise an eyebrow or two. Why would a septuagenarian with a heart condition try to ignore or sleep through something that might be a heart attack of some sort? Well, the answer to that is simple.

This was my third episode of this type since 2007. The 2007 event started in the middle of the afternoon, and by 4:00 pm I was in a great deal of pain that met all the criteria for heart attack symptoms. After double-checking with my primary care doc’s office, I went to the Emergency Room. That is when I discovered that a sixty-year-old guy walking into an ER with chest pains goes directly to the head of the line. The thirty or so other patients and family members in the waiting area looked more than surprised when I was immediately taken to the examination area.

After multiple tests and an interrogation by the doctor to see if something else could have caused my pain, I was admitted for observation. I was released the next day with a diagnosis of “We couldn’t find anything.” Basically, they had no idea what caused the pain but were reasonably sure it was not my heart. I say reasonably certain because medicine is not a science, and even the doctors will admit they cannot be confident in some cases.

Fast forward to September 2011. It is 2:00 am, and I awake with excruciating chest pains. After almost two hours of hoping, they would subside, it was ER time again, same hospital group as above but a closer location. Again, I went straight to the head of the line. The waiting area was full of people with minor injuries, or one malady or another. As with the previous visit four years earlier, there were no signs of any cardiac event that would have caused the problem.

Before going on, I must share the rather humorous side of the 2011 event. We were scheduled to leave for an Alaskan cruise later that morning. With my previous experience, I was very concerned we would not be making that trip. I am thrilled to report we did make it. The ER staff was great, and they fast-tracked everything they could, having us out of there by 8:00 am. Even then, their efforts did not cease.

Of course, we took a bit of ribbing from the nurses and techs over the possibility I would not be able to go. There were several offers from folks who said they would accompany my wife, and even the ER doc got into the mix.  After I was released, he chased us down on the way to the car to be certain we had copies all my records. He wanted me to have them in case the problem manifested itself again came on the cruise. He wanted me to have them for the ship’s doctor or other medical personnel. Talk about service and customer satisfaction!

Okay, back to my latest experience. I suspected this event was going to turn out the way the 2007 and 2011 event did if I went into the ER, so I waited. In some ways, I was correct. After a week of testing, the doctors could not explain why I had the chest pains, and the tests all indicated whatever I experienced was not a cardiac event. On the other hand, my doctors had something new to worry about.

The highly irregular rhythm of my strangely developed heart had changed suddenly. No, the change could not have caused the pain, nor could the pain cause the change. On the other hand, the pain forced me to visit my doctor, where the new rhythm could be detected. So, once again, some force appears to be driving me toward whatever my ultimate destiny might be. I might have been in big trouble if this third episode had not occurred. Something in my heart had changed, and the medication I was currently taking was making the problem worse. With today’s insurance guidelines and government regulations, I might not have seen either doctor before this new issue with my heartbeat caused a problem more severe than chest pain.

All of us have a final destiny, at least as far as our earthly body is concerned. Apparently, it is not time for me to meet my ultimate fate, but this might have been a wake-up call. I have been dragging my feet on a few critical matters. Perhaps, it is time for me to get my backside in gear.

© – 2020

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