Drug Post

We belong to Kaiser Permanente, the big California-based HMO that’s an outgrowth, I believe, of the private health-care system set up to take care of Kaiser shipyard workers during World War II. It’s got a wildly mixed reputation, though our experience has been better than OK. I called the advice line last night because of what I’ll term persistent gastrointestinal distress. Once they could tell I wasn’t hemorrhaging or making the call while balled up in the fetal position on the floor, they said they’d have my personal doctor call back today.

At 6:58 a.m., the doctor called. He’s a young guy and so confident and so seemingly happy to be doing what he’s doing that you can’t help but like him. Even at 6:58 a.m. He went over my symptoms and said just in case I had picked up an E. coli infection, he wanted me to take an antibiotic called Cipro for the next five days. I’ve heard of Cipro (ciprofloxacin); t’s strong stuff, and among other things is used to combat anthrax.

I went to the Kaiser pharmacy, picked up the stuff, and brought it home. Then I started to read the cautions. It can cause sun sensitivity, and you need to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. It can make you drowsy, especially if you have a beer while you’re on it. It can jack you up if you’re drinking caffeine or on theophylline (an ingredient in some asthma drugs and a component of some strains of green tea). Pretty average stuff, though more potential effects than I would have expected for an antiobiotic.

Then I read the Kaiser “Patient Information Leaflet” on Ciprofloxacin (sip-row-FLOX-ah-sin, the leaflet instructs). Under side effects, it lists the usual portmanteau of symptoms (including many of the things you might be taking Cipro for in the first place). It runs through “serious” but “unlikely” effects — just one, the sun sensitivity. Then it continues:

“Tell your doctor immediately if any of these highly unlikely but very serious side effects occur: seizures, mental/mood changes (including rare thoughts of suicide), numbness/tingling of the hands/feet, hearing loss, easy bruising or bleeding, persistent sore throat or fever, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, stomach pain, yellowing eyes and skin, dark urine, unusual change in the amount of urine, unusual fatigue.”

Also, Cipro can cause tendon damage. All of that was enough, honestly, to make me ask myself how bad I really felt. Did I want to have to deal with the effects of a very heavy-duty drug when I wasn’t incapacitated? I sort of dithered until Kate came home. I talked to her about it, and her take was, “Listen to what the doctor said.” So — I took the first of the 10 tablets prescribed.

No seizures or suicidal thoughts. Yet. I’ll keep you posted.

‘Anything I Need to Tweak?’

My brother John points out the latest chapter in the saga of former FEMA chief Michael “Superdome” Brown. A Louisiana congressman has released some of Brown’s emails (obtained from the Department of Homeland Security) written during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. Brown’s Bartlett’s-worthy response to a dispatch from a deputy in New Orleans who reported the situation was “past critical”:

“Anything specific I need to do or tweak?”

That could be the motto for the entire Bush administration, from 9/11 to Iraq to this thing. I remember talking to Dad before all this Katrina stuff happened about the pure incompetence of these people. They are simply bad at what they do. They are bumblers. Their behavior isn’t grounded in actions-consequences reality (think back to Ron Susskind’s New York Times Magazine piece from last fall and the unnamed administration guy who dismissed “the reality-based community”). They mistake the competence to accomplish discrete tasks — “the CIA can generate intelligence reports” or “the Marines can kick Saddam’s ass” — for a magic wand that will allow them to accomplish whatever they’ve dreamed up. All they need to do is think up a project — “Let’s build a new house!” — invoke some high-sounding principles — “I want it to look like the Taj Mahal!” — then sketch the thing on a napkin and tell the guys with the shovels, cement mixers and hammers to make it happen. What a big surprise that they wind up with a swampy hole in the ground and a half-built foundation with rebar sticking out at crazy angles.

But these folks are optimists: Everyone’s invited to the house warming. And they’re hard working. Just like the emails say: “Even the president has his sleeves rolled up, to just below the elbow.”

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Keywords Without a Post

California special election next week. No.

Alito, or Scalito, or whatever his name is, nominated to the court. Let’s go back to our understanding of the courts and the Constitution c. 1789.

Democrats demand answers on Iraq (yo — where were you three years ago?).

Iraq. Every day.

Libby, Rove, Cheney, special prosecutor. McClellan. Bush — a year ago today.

Bush, bird flu.

For whatever reason: All on my mind. All feel too big right now to get my arms around.

Whatever It Is

Just because I was thinking about this song in reference to how I feel about our Austrian governor. More on that crucial topic … later.

Whatever It Is, I’m Against It

By Harry Ruby (music) and Bert Kalmar (lyrics)

Performed by Groucho Marx in “Horse Feathers” (1932)

(Sound file here.)

I don’t know what they have to say,

It makes no difference anyway —

Whatever it is, I’m against it!

No matter what it is or who commenced it,

I’m against it.

Your proposition may be good

But let’s have one thing understood —

Whatever it is, I’m against it!

And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it,

I’m against it.

I’m opposed to it —

On general principles I’m opposed to it!

Chorus: He’s opposed to it!

In fact, in word, in deed,

He’s opposed to it!

For months before my son was born,

I used to yell from night till morn,

Whatever it is, I’m against it!

And I’ve kept yelling since I commenced it,

I’m against it!