Week in Irrationality

by India Ennenga, Sebastian Clark & Elias Bresnick

published October 24, 2014


It’s 3 AM, you’ve been up all night working, and you’re hovering somewhere between vindictive frustration and utter hopelessness. Your roommate has been chatting away mindlessly for what feels like hours now, periodically asking you if you’ll refill the water or maybe make a midnight snack. And you just can’t help it anymore, you know you’re on the verge of snapping and you figure you’ve got two options: you can calmly say goodnight, go to your room, and practice deep breathing exercises, or you can jab a needle full of potassium chloride into your roommate’s arm and do a victory dance as she slowly perishes.

Let’s not pretend we haven’t thought this way before. Annoying people sometimes drive us to horrifying fantasies, a perfectly normal reaction. But carrying out those fantasies is far from ordinary. Unless, of course, you’re Daniela Poggiali, who seems to have made these murderous daydreams quotidian realities. The 42-year-old Italian nurse was arrested after one of her elderly patients, Rosa Calderoni, died under suspicious circumstances at Umberto I Hospital in Lugo. Police believe that Poggiali used potassium chloride to stop the patient’s heart, and they are investigating other strange deaths that happened on Poggiali’s watch. Poggiali’s coworkers have, it seems, been aware of her temper for some time now. They report that Poggiali would often sedate annoyingly talkative patients and occasionally give them unnecessary laxatives in a kind of strategic double-whammy maneuver that would both embarrass the patient and literally make the other nurses shovel shit.

Poggiali’s actions were prompted by spite, not some misguided attempt at alleviating suffering. The nurse apparently took selfies next to some of the corpses while giving a celebratory thumbs-up sign. These are the kind of images we associate with Abu Ghraib and torture facilities, not medical institutions. Similarly, we usually try to explain murder as an act of serious hatred or a manifestation of deep-seated pathology, not simply a response to irritating old people, especially when the murderer has voluntarily chosen to care for those old people.

Although the number of Poggiali’s victims is still unclear, in part due to the fact that potassium chloride is difficult to detect in the bloodstream, the Daily Caller quite ironically reported that the “unperturbed” nurse was suspected of killing “several” patients. “Several,” in this case, means 38. –IE



The only way I can think to describe Buddy Cianci is as a squirrel with a severe nut allergy. The sound of the crunch, the power of his jaw, is his fuel. As he cracks through the shell, satisfaction delivered, he is met with anaphylactic shock.

He has not rebuilt public trust by, unlike other miscreant politicians before him, aggrandizing the rehabilitative effects of incarceration—the supposed EpiPen of American society—but by declaring that he never lost it. Showing no remorse, he maintains his innocence. When asked by a student at a Brown University talk whether he would change anything in his life, he replied, “the verdict,” referring to the 2002 judicial case in which he was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy. For Buddy, participating in the mayoral race is, at best, an un-kickable habit, and, at worst, a death-drive, inevitably going to end in a situation no better than that of the now infamous Squirrel of South Street substation.

The one difference this time, he says, are the data analytics that allow him to micro-target his voters. Meeting with Providence residents earlier in the year, Buddy mentioned that “we hired a company that breaks down voters and their behavior—you know, people who like baseball are more likely to vote for me, that kind of thing.” Maybe because baseball fans abide by “three strikes and you’re out” as a rule to life. Last week, he told The New York Times he “would win because of all the voters who remember him coming to their Little League games.” Whoever feels allegiance to Buddy on these terms should probably note that there was also likely a pedophile at that Little League game, too, just speaking statistically.

At a time when American politics are at a partisan standstill, his rise from the ashes reflects a compromise on the part of the people of Providence, a willingness to place faith in a black-box institution that “gets shit done,” regardless of the methods. Whether you consider Cianci’s results to constitute actual progress is another affair; all that matters here is the illusion that a megalomaniac’s charisma can conjure. –SC



It’s a fact as well borne out by Greek comedy as it is by South Park—the best way to beat your enemy is to make him look ridiculous. This could be why the company GIANTmicrobes has recently seen a huge spike in sales of its cuddly “Ebola-replica” stuffed animals. As the virulent disease rages across parts of West Africa, casting mayhem and anguish in its wake, children across America tonight lay down their heads atop a brown Ebola-like fuzz-ball that, by all reports, is really cute and comfortable.

GIANTmicrobes specializes in making microscopic diseases into plush dolls. By scaling up microbes to 1,000,000 times their original size, the company succeeds in making a product that, well, vaguely resembles a disease.

Their website claims the toys are for educational purposes. “I use Ebola to talk to my kids about current events,” chirps one beaming teacher. “I used the stomachache microbe to teach my daughter about why she got sick,” adds a pragmatic mother. Of course, we can’t question the scientific value of a fuzzy doll purporting to be a replica even while it sports two eyes, a face, and a welcoming smile, but there are some people who admit the purpose of the dolls might not just be didactic.

Wrote one Amazon reviewer: “I admit it is fun when I get to tell people that my infant is chewing on Ebola or that my toddler is carrying Ebola.” She continues, “So far we haven’t gone into what Ebola is, but that will come.”

Images flood my mind of a dystopian future: children trading in their Raggedy-Anne dolls and beanie-babies for replicas of meningitis and gonorrhea, the phrase “I have Trichomoniasis” becomes fodder for social cachet in Kindergartens everywhere, our children associating the words “cute” and “fun” with West Nile virus... The list is unending.

If you’re in the market for one of these Ebola toys, you should know the company has sold out its entire selection of Ebola merchandise for the time being due to popular demand. But don’t despair just yet: you can add Ebola to your wishlist for just $9.95. –EB