Thursday, December 30, 2010
Douglas M. Kelley was given an unusual assignment for any psychiatrist, one in which he had to balance his role as an employee of the US government and a doctor to the top Nazi war criminal in custody. He spent months interviewing and evaluating Goering, developing a detailed picture of his personality and what drove him in his personal and professional life. For 65 years, Kelley’s family had kept the papers pertaining to the Goering evaluation under wraps. Like the infamous man he treated and evaluated, Kelley bit down on a cyanide capsule in what many believe was a drunken suicidal gesture that went horribly awry. This horrifying moment ended Kelley’s short life in 1958. Undoubtedly it took great courage for his family to reopen a book that had been closed for over 50 years.
Scientific American published an article by Jack El Hai, based on a detailed examination of Dr. Kelley’s contact with Hermann Goering. Contrary to popular conceptions prevalent at the time, he found Goering to be clinically normal. El Hai described Kelley’s opinion as follows.
“He believed that Goering and his cohorts were commonplace people and that their personalities “could be duplicated in any country of the world today.” In the years before and during World War II, the opportunity to obtain power led them to embrace a chilling political philosophy. In other words, the Holocaust and the war’s other heinous crimes were the products of healthy minds.”
From Pol Pot in Cambodia to the Interahamwe in Rwanda, it is clear that genocidal impulses are alive and well in the human race. Whatever morbid fascination we may have with dictators, it is clear that countless normal people act as enablers when a society decides to euthanise its collective conscience.
The Goering psychiatric evaluation is a fascinating study of a man and the effect that working with him had on the psychiatrist who treated him. Anyone who is interested not only in the psychological drives of leaders and how they influence society at large should find the opening of the Goering psychiatric evaluation to be fascinating reading.
Scientific American article on Douglas Kelley and Hermann Goering (short version) Sphere: Related Content
Saturday, December 25, 2010
English stands apart among the major western languages, along with French because of its maddening departures from phonetic spelling. The silent "e" at the end of so many letters, silent "gh", "ph" that sounds like the letter "f" are among the features that make English spelling daunting to someone who is not a native speaker.
When I was a child, an educational fad swept public schools across the nation, of teaching "whole words". In this method of teaching, a student looks at a word and memorises it the same way a Chinese child would equate a character in Chinese with a word. Of course, Chinese is not a phonetic language but a pictographic language. English, despite its numerous detours from common sense, remains phonetic at its core. Exceptions to the rules can be taught.
Using millions of American children in the "whole word" experiment was a disaster. Children taught under this method lagged behind children who learned the phonics system. I was blessed with parents who saw the folly of "whole word" reading and who put me in a private school that used the phonics method.
Fortunately, the battle against this harmful educational fad is still being fought. One of my fellow bloggers, Bruce D Price on Rantrave.com is a writer, a poet and an advocate of phonics. He presents a persuasive case for phonics. Anyone who is sending children to school should familiarise themselves with this issue. I am providing some links for the benefit of my readers to educate themselves on this pressing issue, which has exacerbated the problems in our country of functional illiteracy and dysexia.
Bruce Price article on phonics and "whole word" teaching methods.
Here are some great Tom Lehrer videos that explore phonics
Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, December 19, 2010
YouTube provides a forum to millions of people from around the world for everything from opinion to instruction, from entertainment to family videos. Understandably, they need a mechanism in place to remove material that is offensive, indecent or infringes upon copyright law. A lot of people vent their anger at each other. Serbs and Croats, Greeks and Turks as well as Democrats and Republicans diss and disagree with each other regularly. Sometimes it gets over the top, and YouTube removes the offending video. Other times, the video is deemed offensive enough that one has to log in as an adult and promise to absolve YouTube of any culpability for being offended. This is a needed protective mechanism, but one that can be misused.
Sometimes, it is not violence or sexual impropriety that gets a video quarantined, but the political sensitivities of a lobbying group. I have found two videos that were stirring in their presentation of the State of Israel as a law abiding and decent nation, faced with murderous opponents. There is one user on YouTube named puttingitmildly, who abides by any reasonable code of internet conduct in refraining from incitement, bigotry or obscenity.
Despite this, his video "I Am Israel" has been quarantined with TouTube's "offensive content" designation, which has been misused with regularity by Israel's opponents on YouTube. I viewed the entire video and found no racism, profanity or graphic depictions of violence. The video defended Israel and described the actions of its opponents in a manner that was well within any reasonable person's definition of reasonably conducted political debate.
In the interests of free speech, and because I support the message of both videos, I have uploaded both "I am Israel and "I am Palestine" to my web site "RudiStettner.com I have also cross posted this article on Globe Tribune.Info.
I do not support racism, profanity or obscenity at all on my own web sites, and I find the videos well within the parameters I have established for reasonable political discourse. At some later date I may well focus on racist and bigoted videos that have yet to be flagged on YouTube. My hunch is that a lot of the censorship and moderating that is done on YouTube is done by tabulating the number of caomplaints rather than judging their actual merit. I do not believe that YouTube has an anti Israel bias. Unless Blogger gives me a hard time, I expect these videos to be up for a while. I thank blogger in advance for their accomodation.
I am Palestine
I am Israel
Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, December 16, 2010
At a Jewish wedding, the ceremony is always concluded by the breaking of a wine glass, traditionally under the foot of the groom. The most common explanation for this is to remind those assembled at the wedding that even the times of our greatest joy are diminished by the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple.
A friend of mine, Simcha Adelstein, heard a different explanation from his grandmother, Sosha bas Shimon, a woman who grew up in the Ukraine steeped in Jewish tradition.
According to Sosha bas Shimon, a critical thing to note in the breaking of a wine glass is that the break is permanent. A wine glass can not, practically speaking ever be reassembled. According to Sosha bas Shimon, breaking the wine glass is an expression of hope that the couple being married should have a marriage as irrevocably permanent as the broken state of a wine glass, that like the shattered goblet, that the marriage should likewise be permanent.
It is most natural to see the breaking of a useful object as something negative. This interpretation of a distinctive part of a Jewish wedding extracts a positive message, a message of hope. This approach to life, of seeing the good in what seems on the surface to be negative, is an approach that strengthens any relationship. It is certainly a desirable attitude with which to begin a marriage.
There is wisdom not only in books, but in the people whose lives are shaped by those books. My friend Simcha learned a valuable lesson from his grandmother, a lesson cloaked in a metaphor that lends added resonance to one of life's truths. I thank my friend reb Simcha for sharing the wisdom of his grandmother. May her memory be a blessing. Sphere: Related Content
Monday, December 13, 2010
New Yorkers are seriously concerned about a proposed "Crash Tax" that will be levied effective July 1st in New York City. Under the measure anyone involved in a crash on the city streets can be sent a bill for emergency services. The Wall Street Journal describes the measure as follows.
"A vehicle fire or any other incident with injuries will cost $490. A vehicle fire without injuries will cost $415. And incidents without fire or injuries will cost $365.
These charges apply to every vehicle involved in the incident."
The measure will be enacted not by the City Council but by decree of the fire department. The Fire Department will have discretion at the scene of whether or not to bill people at the scene of an accident. The entire measure is being pushed through by administrative decree. An additional problem is that most New Yorkers do not have insurance that will cover ambulance fees levied by the city. Even those who do not have an accident are likely to pay increased insurance premiums.
According to the Wall Street Journal, some localities have banned the practice of fining people at the scene of an accident.
An additional unintended consequence of sending bills for accidents is that some people who need medical attention might leave the scene of an accident by common agreement in order to avoid being fined. If someone is suffering from a concussion or internal bleeding, this could have fatal consequences.
There is nothing wrong with fining people after due process and forwarding the proceeds to the Fire Department. What is being proposed with the "crash tax" is a denial of the rights of the people to due process and an attempt to bypass the legislature of the City of New York. The measure should be scrapped.
WSJ article Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I have spent the last couple of days focusing on attempting to launch my new news site, Globe Tribune.Info. At the last minute, I managed to stop a launch of the site which would have been disastrously inappropriate to my needs. In the long run, it will save me money, but I did pay a cancellation fee. The technical end of running a web site is truly bewildering. Fortunately, I am getting some guidance. Once the site is up, I will be able to establish my focus, tone and priorities. Until the setup is done, I will be tied up in the end of running a news site that I least enjoy, which is the technical end of things.
Once I have my platform set up, I expect to be posting with much greater frequency, doing what I enjoy most, which is presenting news, world music and other matters of interest to me.
Although I try in my focus to be sensitive to the tastes of my readers, I still like to be at times recklessly indifferent to popular taste in my choice of topic. It is in this spirit that I offer my readers some very nice music from Berdi & B, a musical group from Turkmenia.
Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Soldat Louis, Brittany and Celtic Music [Video and Audio Link With French and English Language Advisory]
The part of France known as Brittany fascinates me. A significant number of people in Brittany speak Breton, which belongs to the Celtic family of languages, along with Irish and Scottish Gaelic. The language is continuing to be passed on, thankfully to a younger generation. A paradoxical effect of the institution of the European Union is that regional languages such as Catalan in Spain and France as well as Piedmontese in Northern Italy are making a comeback.
I heard a story about a farmer in Brittany who was proudly Breton, and wanted to give his children Celtic rather than French names. The French government had a law that required people in France to give their children French names from an approved list.
This stubborn farmer, who had 10 children refused to give his children French names. The government retaliated by refusing to give the farmer his monthly subsidy for each child. He took the French government to court.
After years, he was allowed to name his children according to Breton traditions and received every Franc of monthly subsidies for the years that the case dragged on in court. As an added bonus, he received interest on the payments that were withheld from him, his wife and family. I wish I could find this story in the news. I greatly admire those who are willing to go to impractical lengths to preserve their heritage. One of the things that the Jews in Egypt did was very similar. They named their children with Jewish rather than Egyptian names.
One of my favourite Breton singers is a group with a lead singer named Soldat Louis, which translates as "Private Louis". Some of his songs express solidarity with the Irish in Northern Ireland. Breton Flags are a common sight at his concerts. Some of his music falls under the genre of French drinking songs. A lot of the music sounds like Irish music, with bagpipes and a Celtic beat. I have not found any Soldat Louis songs in Breton. I am looking for music in Breton that would fit into the folk rock genre. I'm sure it is out there.
I found a song "Juste un gigue en do", which translates as "Just a jig in C". I ran it through Google translate, which provided a very sketchy translation which was very sketchy and incoherent. I could tell that it was laced with French profanity and expressed anger and cynicism about the government. It sounded like me when I'm blowing off steam about politics after a few shots of slivovitz and some beer chasers. There are some IRA songs that curse out the British that have a somewhat similar feel.
I grew up around Boston, where the Irish influence is strong. My thoughts often return to Ireland, Celts and Celtic heritage, especially when I read of Israel's independence struggle against the British. I hope my readers will appreciate the music I have presented today.
Sphere: Related Content
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The latest news about Gershon Kranczer, 58,is not encouraging. According to the Daily News, Kranczer and his 20 year old son have fled to Israel on the heels of allegations that Kranczer has sexually abused four of his daughters, ranging in age from 8 to 20. The minor children in the Kranczer home have been removed by child welfare authorities. Investigations are under way to determine if additional children may have been involved in the alleged abuse.
At this point, no one has been found guilty. But if Kranczer and his son have fled to Israel, they should be returned to face justice. If they are guilty, they should face real jail time, and if they are innocent, the story of their exoneration should appear as prominently in the news as that of their arrest. Israel is meant to be a place of refuge from persecution and a place of welcome to Jews returning to their homeland. It is not meant to be a place of refuge for rapists and murderers.
Are Kranczer and some of his sons guilty of awful crimes? We don't know. Sadly enough, past abuse scandals in orthodox Jewish communities render such accusations thinkable. It would be good if we could be a light unto the nations by virtue of being free from sexual abuse. But if we have not reached that lofty level, it is at least possible to set an example by isolating and resolutely punishing such behavior.
We do not have a Sanhedrin that can rule in capital cases. We as Jews do not have a Jewish court system that addresses the full range of civil and criminal law. Our rabbinical courts are decentralised and struggle to deal equitably with civil and monetary matters.This being the case, there should be no hesitation in cooperating fully with the Israeli and US governments in extraditing alleged criminals who are accused of incest, rape, murder or other grave offenses.
Once someone is convicted, two things should be borne in mind.
1) The shame belongs not to the victim but to the perpetrator.
2) If someone brings a truthful accusation against a sex offender, it is not their responsibility for having besmirched someone's name, but the responsibility of the perpetrator.
We read about the crime of being "moises u mediach" of sinning and leading others to sin. Sexual abuse and other forms of abuse lead people to abandon Judaism. An abuser is as guilty of this as anyone who attempts to get a Jew to convert to another religion or otherwise abandon Judaism.
I don't know what happened in the Kranczer home. The courts will have to sort that question out. What I do know, is that abuse has happened often enough in our community to make the charges thinkable. By dealing seriously with allegations of sexual abuse, and exiling known perpetrators from our midst, we will take the first steps needed to correct this problem.
Daily News story on sex abuse allegations Sphere: Related Content
Thursday, December 2, 2010
It is hard to look at the Chanuka lights without thinking of people. illuminated by souls, anchored to the wick of a body and yet drawn upward in a perpetual state of tension. "Nishmas adam, ner Hashem". The soul of man is the candle of G-d. Looking at the Chanuka candles draws me to such thoughts.
Part of my ancestry is Hungarian. Marriage has drawn Carpathia into one part of my familial orbit. Carpathia fascinates me. Its local language is a mix of Slavic and Hungarian. Although it currently is in the Ukraine, it has in the past been a part of Austria Hungary. Although its inhabitants are anchored in regional loyalties, it is their borders that have wandered around them.
Munkacs, known also as Munkatch and currently known as Mukachevo is in Carpathia. In Brooklyn and elsewhere are Munkatcher Chasidim. Living in Brooklyn, I had lost my feel for their connection to that town. Fortunately, there is precious video footage of Jews who lived in Munkacs before the war. The footage captures the feel of the Chasidim in the greater social context of a fairly large town in which lived secular Jews, Zionists and "Neolog" (reform) Jews. Many, if not most of the people who appeared in the videos did not survive the war. Although the people in the video come from different social and religious sections of society, I feel a connection to all of them. I have been to family gatherings that spanned the spectrum of religious affiliation and observance.
To me, all of the people in the video are like family to me. I am grateful that some footage remains of their lives on earth. Along with love, I feel an empty echo of the descendants they should have left whose chance at life ended when these people were murdered. It is this sadness, this love and yearning that is my master key to understanding other peoples who have faced genocide and mass murder in this century, from the Tutsi of Rwanda to the Africans of the Sudan who are murdered and enslaved under Arab apartheid. Not a day goes by that I don't think of the sparks of life in Munkacs and elsewhere that were extinguished and dispersed. The drive to kindle lights and lives in their memory is a powerful one.
I have left the room in which my Chanuka lights flicker to face my computer screen and kindle the flame of memory. May we all be blessed with peace and light in this season of Chanukah.
The pictures above were shot by Roman Vishniac in Poland. They show Jews who are hiding from the Endeks, a Nazi like group that was active in Poland before the German occupation of that country.
Sphere: Related Content
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Back in 1962, when the Soviet Union wanted to station nukes in Cuba, the Kennedy administration blockaded Cuba to stop the transportation of nuclear weapons to Cuba. The crisis, which started in mid October 1962, was defused by the end of October of that year. Historians generally agree that the crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Today, it is not Castro's Cuba but the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez that presents a similar threat to peace in the Western hemisphere. In a story largely overlooked in the western news media, Germany's Die Welt reported last week that Venezuela has agreed to host a military base with medium range missiles that could reach the United States. The base would be staffed by Iranian missile specialists as well as members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
The base will also be a storage facility for Iranian weapons, which will as part of the cooperation agreement between Iran and Venezuela be made available to the Hugo Chavez government in case of an emergency.
Die Welt reported that the troubling arrangement is the fruition of a meeting and resolution of Supreme Security Council of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and religious leader Ali Khamenei a few months ago. Venezuela is a major repository of uranium reserves and therefore useful in circumventing efforts to deprive Iran of material for its nuclear program. Flights between the two countries take place , in a military section of Venezueala's international airport away from international scrutiny.
The United States government, of course views the close cooperation between Venezuela and Iran with alarm and concern. Despite this,the extensive military cooperation between the two countries continues unhindered, causing intense concern not only in the United States but among Venezuela's neighbours as well.
Following is the original article in Die Welt as well as its Google translation. Sphere: Related Content