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Post Churchill and the "End of the Beginning" of WWII
Created by John Eipper on 02/09/18 7:22 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


Churchill and the "End of the Beginning" of WWII (David Pike, France, 02/09/18 7:22 am)

Churchill's "end of the beginning" was about El Alamein, not the Battle of Britain. (See JE's response to Luciano Dondero, 7 February.)

What Churchill said was: "It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, I think, the end of the beginning."

It would have been a very different story if El Alamein had gone the other way. There was no further British defense line in Egypt, or even in Palestine. If Axis forces had ignored Stalingrad and continued south beyond Krasnodar (their southern tip), the route to India would have been open. Several Near East and Middle East countries would have reassessed their political positions.

JE comments:  Merci, David!  An important correction.  I really confused my beginnings and ends.

Regarding Stalingrad, is there truth to its psychological importance for Hitler, the desire to humiliate Stalin in his namesake city?  Any logical strategy, as David Pike argues, would have taken the Germans south.

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  • Germany's Thrust on Baku: Operation Fall Blau (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 02/10/18 4:17 AM)

    In response to David Pike (9 February), the Germans did go South.

    Has no one heard of Fall Blau? A much more significant operation than German operations in North Africa, Fall Blau was the main German strategic initiative following the failure of Barbarossa, involving 1.4 million German, Italian, and Romanian troops, including some of the best German forces in existence at the time--von Kleist's First Panzer Army, Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army, the Wehrmacht 17th Army, and others.

    The operation was launched in July 1942, and advanced rapidly against Soviet troops poorly led by the last remaining Revolutionary dinosaur, Marshal Budenny. By January, 1943, the Germans had captured the Maikop oil fields, but stalled in front of Grozny, and never got to Baku, birthplace of the modern oil industry and the biggest producing oil field in the world at the time. In 1941, the Baku field alone was producing 25 million tonnes a year, more than triple the entire production of the entire country of Iran, which was the only big oil producer in the Middle East at the time (Saudi Arabia was still producing less than a million tonnes a year).

    Fall Blau and Operation Edelweiss was the real war over oil in WWII.

    As to whether or not Stalingrad was attacked merely out of Hitler's vanity--there is no consensus about this among historians. It is true that the capture of Stalingrad was not part of the original Fall Blau plan, but some historians believe that the capture of Stalingrad--which was the main transport hub of the region--was considered to be necessary in order to put together functional supply lines and to transport out captured oil and other resources. The Soviets shipped most Baku oil by tanker across the Caspian Sea and up the Volga to Stalingrad, where it was transferred to rail cars. But on the other hand, there was a rail line from Baku to Rostov, and Rostov was the very first objective of Fall Blau. I'm guessing that vanity might have played some role, but not the only one and probably not the main one, and I'm sure there's an excellent doctoral dissertation in there somewhere.

    In the event, Edelweiss, like Barbarossa, failed--the German forces were divided between the Caucasus and Stalingrad, and essential forces were drawn off from Edelweiss to support the effort in Stalingrad but failed to prevent the rout which eventually ensued.

    So another sense in which Stalingrad may be considered a turning point is that Stalingrad ensured the failure of the Germans to take the Grozny and Baku oil fields, which was probably the only realistic chance they had of solving their oil problem, one of the key bottlenecks of materiel for the Germans (but not the only one).

    I say "only" because the idea that the Germans were trying to solve their oil problem with the campaign in North Africa is entirely fanciful. Iran was the only large producer of oil in the Middle East during WWII, and Iran had been invaded and occupied by the British and the Soviets already in August, 1941, and was heavily defended as a key supply route to the Soviets (the "Persian Corridor"). So the Germans had no access to oil in the Middle East, and even if they had somehow gotten it, they had no means to defend transport of large quantities of oil by tanker through thousands of miles of hostile waters, and had no plans to do so.  As far as I have been able to determine, this option was not even studied by the Germans. Churchill just made this up, trying to spin a good story out of the complex and muddled situation in North Africa. The story has been picked up and perpetuated in the popular mind to some extent, and now the phrase is "Middle East Oil," but in 1942 there wasn't even any such thing as "Middle East Oil."  Oil had only just been discovered in Saudi Arabia, with the first productive well having been drilled only in 1939, and the real extent of Saudi oil reserves was known only after the war.

    JE comments:  So "Middle East Oil" and WWII are an anachronistic pairing.  Doesn't this revelation make Rommel's North Africa campaign even less relevant?  Was there any justification beyond Mussolini's desire to turn the Mediterranean into an "Axis Lake," or more precisely, an Italian one?  I'm sure Eugenio Battaglia can comment.

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  • Churchill's "End of the Beginning" Speech (John Heelan, UK 02/11/18 3:53 AM)
    Churchill's "End of the Beginning" speech was made at the The Lord Mayor's Luncheon, Mansion House on November 10, 1942. What he said was as follows:

    "General Alexander, with his brilliant comrade and lieutenant, General Montgomery, has gained a glorious and decisive victory in what I think should be called the battle of Egypt. Rommel's army has been defeated. It has been routed. It has been very largely destroyed as a fighting force.

    "This battle was not fought for the sake of gaining positions or so many square miles of desert territory. General Alexander and General Montgomery fought it with one single idea. they meant to destroy the armed force of the enemy and to destroy it at the place where the disaster would be most far-reaching and irrecoverable....

    "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler's Nazis will meet equally well-armed, and perhaps better-armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against other, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless...."


    JE comments:  Even the casual student of WWII knows her Montgomery, but what about General (Harold) Alexander?  He was the British officer in charge of North Africa.  Montgomery's Eighth Army was part of Alexander's command.  Alexander occupies the same place in historical memory as Henry Halleck, General-in-Chief of the US forces in the Civil War--until he was kicked upstairs and replaced by Grant in 1864.  

    Halleck Who?  Once again, memory plays tricks on history.

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    • Some Praise for Churchill (Istvan Simon, USA 02/14/18 3:22 AM)
      I am a great admirer of Sir Winston Churchill, and re-reading his "End of the Beginning" speech (John Heelan, 11 February) is a confirmation of the greatness of this extraordinary statesman, who had the gift to put in words eloquently, yet so intelligently, the most profound political truths.

      Both Mussolini and Hitler electrified Italians and Germans respectively with their oratory. But the contrast of their oratory to Churchill's is itself striking. For while both Mussolini and Hitler appealed to the worst in their compatriots' natures, obscuring truth with bombast and appeals to hatred and blind emotion, Churchill's delivery was the exact opposite. Churchill hardly ever even raised his voice, never shouted, never appealed to blind emotion, but always to reason. Yet Churchill's words are profoundly moving, moving by their persuasive power, by their wonderful poetic nature, by the cadence of his prose, and the strength of his ideas.

      This admiration for Churchill I arrived at independently, but I share with my father. My dad thought Churchill was the greatest statesman of the 20th century. I agree.

      JE comments:  Yes, Churchill had a cadence and a calm that was exactly what was needed to motivate a people in crisis.  But in his way, didn't he also appeal to emotion, with fighting them on the beaches, finest hours, blood, toil, tears, and sweat?

      I hope WAISers will take up Istvan's challenge:  who was the greatest statesman of the 20th century?  Does Churchill have a rival?  MLK and Einstein were not "statesmen" per se.  I just wish WSC had more respect for "colonized" (non-white) peoples, and had never thought up the fiasco at Gallipoli.

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      • Churchill as Greatest Statesman? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/17/18 4:42 AM)
        In response to Istvan Simon (February 14th), Churchill has a rival for "greatest statesman": FDR.

        In WWII they both precluded any possibility of looking for peace. I know this may be considered blasphemy, but if you refuse to consider any possibility of peace, you are responsible for all the deaths that follow.

        JE comments: In your view, Eugenio, at what point in the war should the Allies have accepted peace? This is a hypothetical we've never before explored on WAIS: could any armistice in WWII short of unconditional surrender have worked?  Would Stalin have played along?  And I shudder to ask this question, but what about the concentration camps?

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        • Could Churchill and FDR Have Accepted Peace? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/19/18 3:58 PM)
          In response to my post of February 16th, John E asked me: "At what point in the war should the Allies have accepted peace?"

          The answer is easy. In the spring of 1939, instead of pushing Poland to war, the Western Allies should have pushed it to peace. The behaviour of UK toward Poland is the most shameful example of cheating a smaller nation to destroy another. Most probably if Pilsudski had still been alive, Poland would have reached a compromise with Germany and would have recognized that the promises of France and UK were just plain BS.

          Please consult the publications of the period and see what was written at that time. Stop accepting as Gospel what was written afterward.

          In 1940 FDR should have stuck to his promise not to send American boys to die in Europe instead of preparing casus belli every other day to enter the war.

          On 19 July 1940 immediately after the "present" of Dunkirk, it was still a good time to make peace.

          From 17 May 1933 Hitler made several peace offers, in 1934, 1935, and 1938, but the general idea was to keep Germany as down as possible without any hope of equal conditions.  Each time this reinforced the spirit of vengeance of Hitler and of the German people.

          The critics of Hitler are often extremely contradictory.  On the one hand, they state that whatever was written in Mein Kampf would have been implemented by Hitler. But on the other they do not accept the idea that Hitler really wanted an alliance with the UK and not a state of war.

          An early peace would have meant no concentration camps, of course the democracies instead of crying now on the Day of Memory of the Shoah should have helped the Jews who wanted to emigrate instead of sending them back at gunpoint. In 1937 the Jews within the Third Reich numbered only 204,000. This is more or less the number of immigrants who arrived in Italy in 2016.

          Stalin would have played along because there was nothing he could do, or better he would have continued to sponsor the various Communist parties in the world but there would be no chances for them to win.

          JE comments:  I'll have to stick with the traditional "gospel":  Germany--not Britain--pushed Poland to war.  But this post from Eugenio Battaglia will stir passionate responses.  Does Eugenio really believe the world would be better off if the Western democracies had continued to appease Hitler?  More "peace for our time"--with Germany overrunning Poland and the former Habsburg states, as well as France, and with Italy and Spain as its satellites?

          When I first posed this hypothetical question, I had more in mind the idea of a negotiated armistice in, say, 1943 or '44.  What might that have looked like?

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          • Could Churchill and FDR Have Accepted Peace? Does History Have Algorithms? (Angel Vinas, Belgium 02/22/18 4:38 AM)
            I'm down in bed with the flu, but I wouldn't want to pass over the turn this discussion is taking.

            In response to Eugenio Battaglia (February 19th), history doesn't play like a computer war game, where algorithms predetermine movements following certain actions by the gamer. Counterfactual history may be a nice parlor game, even intellectually stimulating, but no more than that.

            It's a fact that Hitler wanted to overrun Poland. Spanish and Italian diplomats were well aware of this at the beginning of 1939. Hitler´s moves in the previous years (Anschluss, Sudeten) pointed to his wish to consolidate a power position in central and eastern Europe. He despised British and French politicians, and thought he could get away with it. When he occupied Prague he didn't pay any attention to the new signs on the wall. The British and French guarantees he dismissed as pure gesticulations of impotence. As soon as France fell he accelerated his "program." His aim was after all the Soviet Union.

            All this is factual. There is nothing speculative about it.

            Hitler's actions alone were directly responsible for WWII. That he counted on the complicity or fear of Western governments is another matter. Appeasement turned out to be the worst of all possible options for the West.

            I suggest a thorough reading of the Maiski´s diaries in the edition by Gabriel Gorodetsky. They make for sobering reflections.

            JE comments: A speedy recovery to you, Ángel. This flu season has been particularly brutal.

            Ángel Viñas asserts that history obeys no algorithms.  Of course he is correct, as every historical truism can be contradicted by myriad exceptions.  But are there any near-algorithms?  For example, that when two neighboring peoples (bands, clans, tribes, nations, blocs, what have you) face a shortage of resources, there will be conflict? 

            Another example:  I've always been a fan of Davies's "J-Curve" theory of revolution, which states that revolutions occur when a prolonged period of material progress is interrupted by a sharp reversal, such as war or depression.  This would seem to hold true in Russia 1917, China 1949, Cuba 1959, and the Trump "revolution" of 2016.  Here's a more detailed explanation:


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            • A Historical Algorithm? Thucydides (Alan Levine, USA 02/22/18 5:10 PM)
              There are always exceptions, but here's my offering for the closest thing to a historical truism. It comes from Thucydides in the Melian dialogue:

              "The strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must."

              JE comments:  Works for me.  The old Soviet joke provides a modern corollary:  In Capitalism, Man exploits Man.  In Communism, it's the other way around.

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          • "Limits of Empathy" in the Holocaust (Istvan Simon, USA 02/24/18 4:41 AM)
            As someone whose grandparents were brutally removed from their home by armed men without a conscience, forced into cattle cars with thousands of other unfortunates who would suffer the same fate, deported to, and then immediately murdered upon arrival at Auschwitz, I think I may be entitled to respond to Eugenio Battaglia's post of February 19th, perhaps in a deeper sense than someone who does not have this background. So I shall endeavor to do my best.

            There is plenty of blame to go around for the murder of 6 million Jews, Roma, Communists, and just ordinary political opponents of Hitler, by this monstrous little mustachioed madman, whose hatred of people that did him no harm led a cultured and high-achieving Germany to the abyss of extremes of cruelty and mass murder. That the world did not care enough about such an unprecedented atrocity, the horror of the industrialization of depraved cruelty and the murder of millions of babies, small children, women, and other unfortunates that fell into the hands of the Nazis is forever a stain on humanity, as a whole, not just the Nazis who perpetrated this unspeakable crime.

            Worse, It has happened again and again since, so we can't even say Never Again. It is happening this very moment in Syria. It happened in Rwanda, in China, where the victims added to the unimaginable number of 70 million human beings, and in Stalin's gulags, or the horror of Cambodia. All this happened and we did nothing to stop such unspeakable horrors, or at least not enough for those of us who even tried.

            I often have reflected in my life on my inability to fully comprehend what my parents went through, no matter how hard I tried. I realize the horrors they went through, and it horrifies me, and literally tears at my heart and pains me to do so. But still, I did not live through it, so for all the empathy that I may feel for my mother, or my murdered grandparents, I can never feel it the way my mother or father felt it, because they lived through it and I did not. So, if I cannot fully comprehend it with my background, how can I expect that Eugenio Battaglia would even come close to what I feel, much less what my mother feels. I would call this phenomenon the limits of empathy, and it may explain at least in part the moral indictment that I started this post with. So perhaps I should just pencil Eugenio's post up to this unfortunate limit of empathy, for otherwise I think that he would never had sent such a post as his to WAIS.

            I watched many documentaries on the Holocaust, and with one single exception I came away always thinking that the producers failed miserably in their task. Because by relating in a matter-of-fact objective way the details of the horrors of the Holocaust, they all miserably failed in what would be most important goal of such an effort--to bring their audience to tears by the enormity of what the documentary is all about. For what other reaction would be appropriate to such a crime? One can reflect on the Holocaust, analyze it, draw conclusions, but surely the first step to do any such reflection requires that it must be felt first. What could be any other acceptable purpose be to even make such a documentary? Schindler's List in this sense does a much better service to documenting the Holocaust than watching all the 6 hours of Shoah.

            So what is the one exception? It is a documentary called Messenger From Poland, in which an extraordinary man of great integrity and even greater humanity recounted his untiring efforts to relay what was happening in Poland, and in particular, what was happening in the concentration camps, and what those that were being cruelly murdered, tortured and starved in those camps would have liked for the Allies to do about it. The man was named Jan Karski and he and his magnificent example of humanity will be honored forever by Jews. May he rest in peace.


            The terrible outcome of the story recounted by The Messenger from Poland is that Karski failed. But if he failed, it was not his fault, he honorably tried his best, and that is why he will be forever honored by Jews, and president Roosevelt, Eden, Felix Frankfurter, and all the other Western leaders he spoke to, come out looking so bad without exception, for their unpardonable omission and lack of meaningful action to alleviate the plight and suffering of the occupants of those camps is a terrible moral indictment of co-responsibility for the atrocities.

            What I just wrote, would seem at first sight to support Eugenio's points about Western complicity, but it does not. The moral of the Messenger from Poland is a deep sense of tragedy, of moral indignation for opportunities lost by his interlocutors. But ultimately, even if some of the blame for what happened rubs off on Western leaders, clearly 95% of the blame for murder is on the murderer, not on those that failed to do this or that to prevent the murders, or mitigate the extent of the atrocities. So yes, we could say that 5% of the blame rubs off on Western leaders who could have done something, and did not.

            Yet I cannot interpret Eugenio's post as anything other than an attempt to deflect blame, from his so inappropriately admired Mussolini, or even more inappropriate ally of Mussolini, Hitler, and that blame cannot and should not ever be deflected. So, no my paragraph on Karski does not in any way diminish the enormous guilt of Mussolini , and the even more super-enormous guilt of Hitler and his Nazi henchmen. Perhaps one could apportion the blame like this, 80% Hitler, 15% Mussolini, and 5% divided amongst the Allies.

            JE comments:  Karski's heroism proves that the Western Allies were not ignorant of the death camps.  One might argue that by making war on Hitler, the Allies did everything they could to stop the murder.  But what about the repeated failure to accept refugees?  This alone counts for 5% of the blame.

            And then, as Istvan Simon stresses, there's our poor track record with "Never Again."  We stood by and did nothing during Cambodia and Rwanda.  And presently, what about Syria?  Myanmar?  Central America?

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            • "Limits of Empathy" (Henry Levin, USA 02/25/18 4:09 AM)
              Istvan Simon (24 February) wrote about the "limits of empathy" in the Holocaust. Yes, empathy is at the heart of this dilemma.

              We must remember that the lack of empathy is one of the main personality characteristics of a psychopath.

              JE comments:  Shall we subject empathy to a full WAISly discussion?  I hope WAISworld's psychologist extraordinaire, Leo Goldberger, will join in.

              Empathy is perhaps the first abstract emotion that children are supposed to learn.  Some never do.  I say "abstract" because empathy has no immediate benefit or usefulness to the individual.  The benefits come later, when others reciprocate with empathic behavior and actions.  Although some, alas, never do...

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              • Empathy and Its Neuroscience (Leo Goldberger, USA 02/26/18 4:06 AM)

                After my long absence from these pages, I am most grateful to be called back by our always very empathic moderator for some observations on the current psychological research stance on empathy.

                It is a topic that has always been of great interest to me and it's a literature I have keenly followed over the years, especially as it touches so directly on my own personal Holocaust-related experience.

                Quoting the wonderful actress Meryl Streep: "The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy"...and she is so right on target, as this is the capacity that makes us social human beings. While empathy has its limits--as Istvan Simon so well points out in his moving, personal account--but more unfortunate is the fact that some people simply never developed the capacity for empathy at all. They are the folks we generally call egocentric or narcissistic--or the more extreme character flaw we call psychopathy, defined as the absence of a conscience as well.

                In the most recent years--with the advancement in neuroscience, most notably at the Max Plank Institute in Leipzig--research has begun to identify the specific brain region that is the seat of the capacity for empathy. (The technical terminology has it located in the cerebral cortex at the juncture of the parietal, temporal and frontal lobe and it's termed the "right supramarginal gyrus.") What is of salient interest is the observation that at birth we are all inherently ego-centric (i.e. narcissistic), but with the stimulus provided by good parenting, a portion of this neuronal structure will develop the function for empathy. So in effect, empathy is a learned phenomenon with neurobiological roots--and it can be further nurtured and fortified over the years by good role models, be it parents, teachers or others who are not complacent about their fight against oppression and injustice.

                All the best!

                PS:  There's a very readable book by a former colleague of mine at NYU, Philip Zimbardo (before he moved on to Stanford). His book is entitled The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.  While not addressing the role of empathy, it does specifically address the Holocaust phenomenon.

                JE comments:  So grateful you've weighed in, Leo!  I am especially intrigued by the identification of the brain center responsible for empathy.  One can imagine a scenario by which the overly narcissistic can be rewired to feel empathy.  (Please, no Trump jokes.)  Or consider the terrifying opposite, armies of super-killers created by suppressing the right supramarginal gyrus.

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                • Were Earlier Societies More--or Less--Egocentric? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 02/27/18 3:49 AM)
                  I found this statement from Leo Goldberger (26 February) to be extremely timely and meaningful:

                  "What is of salient interest is the observation that at birth we are all inherently ego-centric (i.e. narcissistic), but with the stimulus provided by good parenting, a portion of this neuronal structure will develop the function for empathy. So in effect, empathy is a learned phenomenon with neurobiological roots--and it can be further nurtured and fortified over the years by good role models, be it parents, teachers or others who are not complacent about their fight against oppression and injustice."

                  A few days ago I was reflecting on the history of mankind. One of the shocking realizations was the incredibly violent life that earlier societies had to endure. Tribes had to attack tribes for fear of being attacked first, which was a common event. I am sure in such environments (i.e. Sparta) there was not enough time devoted for parenting and other mechanisms available for developing empathy. The emphasis was in developing military prowess.

                  Thus, I wonder if there was a higher degree of egocentric, narcissistic behavior in those days than in today's "civilized" world. Or perhaps people in modern societies don't worry as much about being attacked violently in their huts but are egocentric/narcissistic for other reasons.

                  Can someone comment on this?

                  JE comments:  Fascinating question.  I'm going to go with the opposite:  traditional societies cared little for the individual, so the egocentric had slim chances for survival.  Only by interacting empathically with your band/tribe/nation was life possible--even though it was nasty, brutish, and short.

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                • Empathy and Religious Faith (Richard Hancock, USA 03/02/18 4:16 AM)
                  I am surprised that no one in WAIS has offered religious faith as a help to people with emotional problems.

                  Being a strong Christian can certainly help increase personal empathy. As Christ said in Luke 10.27, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." I have a friend who was paranoid-schizophrenic who found relief in active church membership. He became a strong Catholic and an admirer of Mother Teresa. His Christian intensity irritates some of his friends, but it seems to help in keeping him from becoming irrational. I have not heard any commentary on religious faith as a part of the solution to the mass shooting and other problems the world is experiencing today.

                  Christianity is also a strong help to addicts, for example in Alcoholics Anonymous. Religious participation gives us all an ongoing reminder of living according to the words of Jesus, which have an answer for all of the world's problems. As a person who in WWII "walked through the valley of the shadow of death," I am a strong believer in the value of prayer in helping each of us to make temperate and sensible decisions.

                  JE comments:  There are no atheists in foxholes, to be sure.  The 12-step culture stresses reliance on a "higher power," without specifying Christianity per se.

                  (Great to hear from you, Richard!  Any trips or conferences planned in the coming months?)

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                  • Confessions of an Addict (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/02/18 3:59 PM)
                    John Eipper commented on Richard Hancock's post of March 2nd: "There are no atheists in foxholes, to be sure. The 12-step culture stresses reliance on a 'higher power,' without specifying Christianity per se."

                    Regarding not having atheists in foxholes, I wonder which God the devout Communists pray to while in their foxholes?

                    I can speak from personal experience that the AA/NA meetings do speak of a "higher power" rather than any specific religion. Some of my friends are dedicated members of AA/NA and they conspired to get me involved. At first I dismissed their verbal attempts since I have never taken drugs and seldom drink alcoholic beverages.

                    After a few months of relentless tag-team smooth talking, I finally agreed to attend an AA meeting of a select group at a friend's office building. As the AA members start sharing their extremely intimate stories, I increasingly felt I did not belong there because I was never an addict. I felt like a fraud and was afraid that I had no comparable horror story to tell when my turn to share came up. The alternative was to pass and continue the fraud of being there with no cause. I decided bolting was the only honorable thing to do and started planning the timing for it between speakers.

                    Suddenly just before my exit, something hit me and I realized that I was an addict, that my drug was terribly insidious and extremely well-camouflaged. If you are a raging alcoholic or addicted to other nasty drugs, sooner or later your life will turn to hell: you will kill one or more innocent people, lose your job, family and friends, etc. My drug was worse, my employers and friends were proud of the results from my addiction, they encouraged me and applauded as I sunk deeper into workaholism. Then I decided to stay and became a regular AA/NA member. Before sharing I just say I am an addict and everyone accepts that.

                    JE comments:  Any other workaholics in WAISworld?  Your editor is not one of them--I'm always up for goofing off.  (WAIS for me is pleasure, not work.)

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                  • No Atheists in Foxholes: Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (David Duggan, USA 03/03/18 3:51 AM)

                    Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, who taught philosophy at Dartmouth, wrote of his conversion experience during an artillery bombardment in WWI.

                    Although he had retired by the time I arrived at the College, he still lived in the area, and I am told exercised considerable influence over the Dartmouth philosophy department and is today regarded as one of the founders of the field of "metanomics" which doesn't translate well but can be loosely described as the grammatical approach to philosophical inquiry, that language and speech are the drivers of human thought and behavior.

                    After his wife died, his companion was Freya von Moltke, widow of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, who was executed by the Nazis for being an enemy of the state.

                    JE comments:  Rosenstock-Huessy spent 18 months on the Verdun front.  There must have been many a conversion experience at that hellish place.  Freya died very recently, in 2010, at the age of 98.

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                  • Summer Travel Plans (Richard Hancock, USA 03/05/18 8:40 AM)
                    Responding to John E's questions about our travel plans, Nancy and I plan to travel to Wilcox, Arizona this spring to scatter the ashes of her brother, who died in October of last year, on the Dos Cabezas mountains in the area where Nancy's father owned and operated a copper mine.

                    The family spent much time at their home in these mountains. We will be traveling to San Angelo, TX in April, where I will be giving a paper on the Luis Terrazas of Chihuahua, "The World's Greatest Rancher." We will also make our annual trip to Beaver's Bend in in far southeast Oklahoma to view the animals, birds, and alligators, which inhabit that region.

                    Finally we will attend a Hancock family reunion which will be held in the Rocky Mountain National Park at the world's largest WMCA camp in July of this year. We will keep on traveling as long as we can. I am now 92 and still able to enjoy these trips.

                    JE comments: You are an inspiration to us all, Richard.  I don't recall ever reading a post from you that didn't teach me something.  Today's example:  Alligators in...Oklahoma?  I would never have imagined it.

                    Safe travels, Richard, and keep us in the loop.  Click below, WAISers, for Richard's 2017 post on Luis Terrazas, the titan of ranchers:


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                  • "No Atheists in Foxholes" and Biblical Contradictions (Massoud Malek, USA 03/08/18 5:43 AM)
                    John Eipper commented on Richard Hancock's post of March 2nd: "There are no atheists in foxholes."

                    But people of the Judeo-Christian faith who were in foxholes in the twentieth century were encouraged by their faith to kill, even to kill children.

                    The rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud held that God wrote the Torah in heaven in letters of black fire on parchment of white fire before the world was created, and that Moses received it by Divine dictation.

                    Are atheists damned if they don't believe in a supreme entity described by the Babylonian rabbis?

                    The Christian Bible that impacted human history throughout the centuries is a collection of tales that Christians consider to be a product of Divine inspiration. The Bible has two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the latter written by Greek imposters.

                    Reading both Testaments, one could find countless inconsistencies and contradictions.

                    The Sixth Commandment says: "You shall not kill," but in the Bible, words having to do with killing significantly outnumber words having to do with love.

                    Numbers 31:17:  "Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that had known man by lying with him."

                    Exodus 32:27:  "Thus said the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man, his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor."

                    I believe that Jesus never read Exodus. In Matthew 5:38, he told us: "Turn the other cheek and love your enemies." Here is why:

                    Exodus 21:23-24 "23: If any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. 24: Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot."

                    Here are other contradictions:

                    Honor your father and your mother is one of the Ten Commandments, but in Matthew 10:34-37, Jesus ignores God's command and says: "34: Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. but a sword. 35: For I have come to turn a man against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36: And a man's enemies will be the members of his own household. 37: He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

                    In Matthew 23:9 Jesus says: "And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' you have one Father, and he is in Heaven."

                    In the Seventh Commandment, God prohibits adultery; but in order to punish the house of Jehu and put an end to the kingdom of Israel, he needed Hosea to marry a woman from the land of whoredom.

                    Hosea 1:2 "The Lord said to Hosea, Go, marry a promiscuous woman of whoredoms and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord."

                    Is two equal to seven?

                    Genesis 6:19: "Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female."

                    Genesis 7:2: "Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female."

                    Source: King James Version of the Bible.

                    JE comments: It's no challenge to find contradictions in the Bible. Might we go further, and say that the fear of contradictions is a modern invention--say, from the dawn of the Scientific Age?  To fault the Bible for contradicting itself is like faulting it for not discussing penicillin or internal combustion.

                    Old vs New Testaments:  Wrath and fury vs turn the other cheek.  Allow me to attempt a sweeping synthesis:  the history of the Western world is the conflict between the two.

                    Good to hear from you, by the way, Massoud!

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                    • Jefferson's Bible; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 03/09/18 12:34 PM)
                      Ric Mauricio writes:

                      I have a challenge for Massoud Malek (8 March) and the rest of WAISworld. Instead of focusing on the negatives (aka contradictions) of the Bible, focus on the positives. So how do we do this? Well, there is one man who attempted to do this and he hit the nail on the head. His name was Thomas Jefferson.

                      The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth
                      , commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible, refers to was constructed in 1820 by Jefferson by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus.

                      "Probably you have heard me say I had taken the four Evangelists, had cut out from them every text they had recorded of the moral precepts of Jesus, and arranged them in a certain order; and although they appeared but as fragments, yet fragments of the most sublime edifice of morality which had ever been exhibited to man." The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb).

                      I agree with Jefferson when he called the Apostle Paul the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus." He believed that the clergy used religion as a "mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves" and that "in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty."

                      Now, I have taken Rodolfo Neirotti's (March 3) advice to be careful about predicting the future of a neighbor's child (Asperger's Syndrome) and yes, one must take great care in their encouragement to others. But in this case, said neighbor's son was a scout in my troop where I was Scoutmaster. I often delegated to other adult troop leaders the responsibility of Scoutmaster reviews for a scout's advancement in rank. Now my neighbor's son, when asked if he believed in God, said no, he was an atheist. Oh, not the right response. You see, the Scout Law says you gotta believe. Asked by my neighbor to manage this quandary, I gathered the original reviewers and proceeded to probe.

                      Here's how the conversation went: Ric: "It has come to my attention that you do not believe in a god. Are you saying that you do not believe in a so-called sentient god, one that answers prayers?" Scout: "Yes." Ric: "But is it possible that you believe in a life force, some call it God, that flows in the universe and through nature and through animals and human beings?" Scout: "Yes." Ric: "Ah, so you could believe in that kind of God?" Scout: "Yes, if you put it that way." Ric: "OK, we're done here."

                      Now you see why I can compare him to that list. This kid was thinking; he was smart. His only issue was his communication and social skills.

                      JE, in his comment on Tor Guimaraes's posting, asked how I can have a positive attitude. It is because I focus on the positives of our lives, realizing of course, in true yin and yang, that the negatives only serve to strengthen the positives. And above all, smile. It is amazing the reaction a genuine smile brings. Oh, of course, there are difficulties in life. My wife laughs that I don't call issues "problems" or "difficulties," instead I call them "challenges."  And I do savor challenges.  They make life exciting. And I always encourage others to do the same.

                      JE comments:  Page and Brin have made the Jefferson Bible available to all:


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                      • Gary Moore's Memories of the Boy Scouts (John Eipper, USA 03/11/18 4:48 AM)

                        Gary Moore writes:

                        "Okay, we're done here." Bravo, Ric! (Ric Mauricio, March 8,
                        on finessing a Boy Scout through the hurdles of religion.)

                        I went through all the Boy Scout hoops not only including Eagle
                        but the God And Country medal--at an age when I had no idea
                        what a deist, agnostic, or atheist was, or whether I was one.
                        (Slow on motor coordination, I struggled with obscure merit
                        badges like Gift-Wrapping, let alone dragging up the ten-pound
                        cement block from the bottom of an opaque muddy pond,
                        in the big merit badge called Lifesaving.)

                        JE comments:  WAISers are an accomplished bunch, so I'm sure there are several Eagle Scouts in our ranks.  Please inform.  Yours Truly wasn't much of a camper, and washed out of the BSA after a few months.

                        I just spent ten minutes perusing the colorful list of Boy Scout merit badges.  I would have excelled at coin collecting.  One of the "retired" badges is remembered as Tracking, but its original 1911 name was Stalking.  Sheesh.  (Gary, I don't want to be picky, but I couldn't find any reference to a Gift-Wrapping badge.)

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                        • Memories of a Boy Scout in San Diego (Clyde McMorrow, USA 03/13/18 4:05 AM)
                          I was a Boy Scout, Eagle, Order of the Arrow, in San Diego which, at the time, was very Republican and very anti-religious. The God & Country merit badge (I think it was required) was an eye-opener for me. I remember being fascinated by the number of religious sects and the quaint beliefs they espoused. Of course, the merit badge only covered the Protestant sects. I can remember my parents telling me that St. Rita's School was just the next step toward juvenile hall. I could see that.

                          There were a lot of merit badges that related to farm animals--I think I did rabbit and chicken raising--quite a few that involved map reading and compasses, and some that were an introduction to modern technology like radio. I made a pretty neat crystal set based on a toilet paper tube.

                          In those olden days, San Diego Republicans saw themselves as the educated elite with a strong tendency toward free-thinking. For those who felt they needed ritual, we had Madame Tingley's Theosophical Institute and its many feel-good offshoots but religion was generally seen as the opiate of the masses, at least by the Brahmins of Encanto who also didn't think much of Los Angeles.

                          JE comments:  Clyde, I never knew that San Diego had such a Brahmin culture.  Did the San Diego elites see themselves as a West Coast offshoot of their Bostonian counterparts?  The Bostonians often espoused Deist and Unitarian beliefs.  (And for that matter, what ever happened to the free-thinking, "liberal" Republican?)

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                      • Old Testament, New Testament, and Jefferson (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/12/18 4:38 PM)

                        Ric Mauricio's positive attitude about life is commendable.  In Ric's post of March 8th, he invited Massoud Malek to be more positive about the Bible.  But how can one be positive about a book (Old Testament) which condones historical violence including genocide, proposes a god that is partial to some people, and is capricious and full of hate?  Is that positive and constructive?  That is not God, but man-made nonsense.

                        Ric mentioned "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible."  Ric also praised Jefferson, for calling the Apostle Paul the "first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus." Jefferson saw the clergy as a "mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves," and that "in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty."

                        Jefferson was a good man and a great writer, but morals was not his strong suit, judging by his treatment of his slaves. Also he was less than honorable in his dealing with Alexander Hamilton.  I confess that until recently I admired Jefferson more and Hamilton less, until I had a chance to study them a little deeper.  Now I respect Hamilton more and have been forced to agree with the venerable first President George Washington.

                        JE comments:  Jefferson was always portrayed as a benevolent master, although we've advanced far enough to recognize the oxymoron of benevolence and slaveholding.  Is Hamilton's star rising and Jefferson's sinking?  A hit Broadway show does wonders for the reputation.

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                        • Ric Mauricio Reflects on Old Testament, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jackson (John Eipper, USA 03/15/18 7:21 AM)
                          Ric Mauricio writes:

                          In response to Tor Guimaraes (March 12th), my challenge to find more positives in the Bible, if one reads between the lines, was more geared towards the New Testament and even more so towards the teachings of Jesus.

                          As for the Old Testament, well, I don't know. People hearing voices (supposedly God) and acting on them? The justification of slavery based on seeing their old, wrinkly father naked? In fact, in reading the Old Testament, I found myself quite frustrated by the backsliding of the Chosen people. How many days was Moses on the top of the mountain, that in that course of time, the Chosen people turned to worshipping the Golden Calf? Couldn't God have lasered the Ten Commandments in an hour or so? Of course, Christians shake their head that to this day, many of the Chosen people still refuse to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Which of course, makes Christians right and the Chosen people wrong. Oh, I get into so much trouble with my Christian friends with this discussion.

                          Upon reading Clyde McMorrow's posting on March 13th, it is very clear that people just want to believe what they want to believe. How do you explain that if God wrote the book, why there are so many different interpretations of it, even amongst the different Protestant sects, not to mention the disparity between the Protestants and the Catholics? As an aside, I hope that Clyde remembers his Personal Fitness and Personal Management merit badges, both Eagle required. I used to teach both. I recall parents telling me that my Personal Fitness requirements (which matched the Boy Scout handbook) were too hard. I made a deal with them. If they participate in my Personal Fitness workshops, I will "soften" my requirements. I had no takers. It was obvious that the parents needed the Personal Fitness workshop more than their sons.

                          Ah yes, the complexity of our Founding Fathers' personalities and lives. Well, yes, Thomas Jefferson did have an illicit affair with Sally Hemings and Alexander Hamilton did have an illicit affair with Maria Reynolds. Yes, both were very instrumental in laying down the foundation of our great country. Yes, Jefferson appealed to me in creating his Jefferson Bible. But alas, Hamilton does not appeal to me in creating the Bank of the United States, the forerunner of the Federal Reserve. You know, that institution that looks quasi-government, but is ruled and owned by the banks and brokerage firms and yet purports to look out for the citizens of the United States. Yes, the same one that supposedly protects the value of the US Dollar, but has allowed it to depreciate 96% in its lifespan.

                          Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr after calling him "unworthy." Hmmm. Derision and name-calling seems to never end. Oh yes, perhaps you would put me in the same bucket as Andrew Jackson, who fought courageously against the establishment of the Federal Reserve, even after several assassination attempts. Another complicated fella, this Jackson. Quite the Indian-killer.

                          JE comments:  Ric Mauricio cannot possibly identify with Andrew Jackson.  One of history's countless ironies, given AJ's hatred of central banks, is putting him on the $20 bill.  He did have really good hair, though.

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                          • Thoughts on Hamilton, The Fed (Tor Guimaraes, USA 03/18/18 4:31 AM)
                            I know that Ric Mauricio's (15 March) and my positions on many issues would not be too far apart.

                            To continue our exchange, what impresses me the most about Alexander Hamilton is that George Washington (who was his boss for some time) had complete confidence in the man and stuck his neck out for him on numerous occasions. I also have little respect for the Fed's overall performance over the years, but Hamilton's original idea was a good one. The problem is who is in charge ranges from great performers like Paul Volcker to idiots and/or crooks like Paulson and Alan Greenspan.

                            The only group I respect less than the Fed is the US Congress as a whole. I see them as the two biggest houses of prostitution in America. Here is an example why: A bill (2155) designed to destroy what little control the American nation has over the protecting consumers and the ability to monitor big banks to prevent another financial crisis we barely just survived has passes the Senate 67 to 31, with all Republicans and 16 Democrats voting in favor. While still traveling to the House of Representatives where it is sure to pass, the Financial Service Committee Chair Jeb Hensarling has already repeatedly stated he wants even more financial industry deregulation before accepting the bill.

                            God please protect America from another financial crisis.

                            JE comments:  Returning to the banking deregulations of yore sounds like the recovering alcoholic insisting that "one little drink" won't hurt.  Who in WAISworld can write up a primer on what's set to change, and why?

                            Paul Volcker gave us 20% interest rates and double-digit unemployment.  Tor:  why do you see him as a good performer--because his shock therapy reined in inflation?

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                      • David, Solomon, Sodom and Gomorrah (Massoud Malek, USA 04/12/18 4:28 AM)
                        On March 9, Ric Mauricio wrote:

                        "I have a challenge for Massoud Malek and the rest of WAISworld. Instead of focusing on the negatives (aka contradictions) of the Bible, focus on the positives."

                        I would like to challenge Ric:  Could he find positive aspects of the following two stories in the Bible?

                        King David:

                        The Hebrews believed that the fertility of the soil and the general prosperity of the people were bound up with the fertility of the king. David by this time was old and decrepit and his sexual vigor was called into question.

                        Kings 1:1-4

                        1 Now king David was 70 and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm.

                        2 His servants said unto him, "Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat and regain his virility.

                        3 So they sought for a fair virgin throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found a 12-year-old Abishag, and brought her to the king.

                        4 And Abishag was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not.

                        After David's death, his son Solomon became king. Shortly afterward, another of David's sons, Adonijah, who had at one time tried to take over the kingdom, hatched another plot to wrest control from King Solomon. Adonijah's first step was to ask Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, to secure Solomon's permission to give him Abishag as a wife.

                        In those days of royal harems, taking possession of a king's concubines was a declaration of one's right to the throne. So King Solomon killed his own brother for asking Abishag's hand in marriage.

                        Sodom and Gomorrah:

                        God said to Abraham, "I will bless Sarah and give her a son, and you will be the father. She will be the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will come from her."

                        Abraham bowed face down on the ground and laughed. He said to himself, "Can a man have a child when he is a hundred years old? Can Sarah give birth to a child when she is ninety?"

                        Later, the Lord again appeared to Abraham in the form of three men. The three men walked toward the eastern cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destroy the cities, because of their flagrant wickedness and corruption. Abraham pleads on the cities' behalf, convincing the Lord not to destroy the cities if only a handful of good men (10) can be found there.

                        The men enter the city of Sodom, and Lot welcomes them into his home. Before bedtime, men both young and old and from every part of Sodom surrounded Lot's house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sexual relations with them."

                        The sun had already come up when Lot entered Zoar. The Lord sent a rain of burning sulfur and fire down from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed those cities. He also destroyed the whole Jordan Valley, everyone living in the cities, and even all the plants. At that point Lot's wife looked back. When she did, she became a pillar of salt.

                        Why did God kill women and babies of those cities? What are the benefits of reading the Bible to our children?


                        JE comments:  There is no shortage of racy passages in the Old Testament.  Massoud Malek asks a serious question:  is this stuff appropriate for children?  (I wonder if they've published an edition of the Bible with "trigger warnings."  If not, they soon will.  One course at the University of Glasgow issues a TW before studying crucifixion:  https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/30618/ )

                        I attended Sunday school for my entire childhood, and we always managed to skip over Sodom and Gomorrah.  Onan, too, never got a fair shake.


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                        • Thoughts on Job; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 04/14/18 4:49 AM)

                          Ric Mauricio writes:

                          Massoud Malek (12 April) finds the negatives of the Old Testament and expects me to find positives in them. But I must confess, much of the Old Testament is incredibly negative, from Cain killing Abel to the shame of Noah and the reason for slavery, to Sodom and Gomorrah, and so on.

                          This is why, like Thomas Jefferson, I prefer to follow the teachings of Jesus as my positive take on the Bible. Don't even get me started on my disdain for the teachings of the apostle Paul. And Revelations was written by a mystic named John, who the Church at that time called "crazy." It is purported that the island of Patmos has a high proportion of hallucinogenic mushrooms and shrubs. So read Revelations again and see if one can see that this guy was trippin'.

                          This morning my Christian Men's Fraternity discussed Job, that luckless, down-and-out, suffering soul. Growing up as a Catholic, I was taught that when something bad happens to you, it is because you sinned. Oh, the guilt trip laid on us. I shared with the group that I was only able to free myself from that mindset when a Buddhist taught me two words that reflected his take of why God lets bad things happen. Those two words, excuse my French, were "S**t happens." That totally freed me from that mindset. The reaction from the group: oh, not very Biblical.

                          One thing that drives me crazy about Christians is they cannot take positive teachings from outside the Bible.

                          JE comments:  The Holy Land is now being shaken (once again) by Old Testament wrath--eye for an eye, vengeance is mine, etc.  Shouldn't we take more direction from Job?  He lives in the Hebrew Bible, but his serenity before a capricious God has a New Testament feel.  (Theology is way above my pay grade, but I'm trying to spark further discussion.)

                          One of my mother's favorite expressions when I was little:  "John, you try the patience of Job..."

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              • Empathy and Autism (John Heelan, UK 02/26/18 4:53 AM)
                John E wrote on February 25th: "Empathy is perhaps the first abstract emotion that children are supposed to learn. Some never do."

                This takes us into the Nature vs Nurture arguments. We have three grandchildren on the Autistic Spectrum, raging from high-functioning to low-functioning. Each reacts differently in their empathetic response, limited by their own communication skills (or lack of). Yet supported by loving and caring parents since birth, even the low-functioning ones demonstrate empathy, perhaps learning from their parents and higher-functioning siblings?

                JE comments:  I've learned a great deal about autism from John Heelan's WAIS posts over the years, and I had John's family in mind when the topic of empathy came up.  A lack of empathy is one of the bullet points to describe the Autism Spectrum ("unaware of others' emotions"), but John shows that the reality is far more complex.

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                • Empathy and Autism; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 02/27/18 3:26 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:

                  Regarding our discussion on empathy, I'm with what I think is John Heelan's position (26 February)
                  that such labels are a disservice to the complexities of human emotion.

                  As in John's
                  family, 20 years ago a friend's daughter found her infant son was autistic. She then
                  moved heaven and earth to be sure the kid was surrounded by phenomenal amounts
                  of affection, acceptance, and any expensive tutoring her research could find.
                  Today, in college, chance acquaintances might never guess he's autistic. He still
                  has the battle, but it's certainly not simplistic.

                  When Kuhn shook the historiography
                  of science with his work on new paradigms, showing how holes in human knowledge
                  will always be covered by something, even if an old paradigm is visibly tattered,
                  he didn't cite "empathy." Psychology was (is?) far too filled with tattered labels
                  for the back-benchers to stand out.

                  JE comments:  I'll never forget a chance encounter (in Guatemala, on an airport shuttle) with a 20-something American kid who told us he teaches autistic children.  In my ignorance I said something along the lines of, "Wow, that must be so hard."  His response:  "They are the ones who will save the world."  (I believe he was referring to the different paradigms Gary Moore cites above, and to the notion of the autistic as the original "out-of-the-box" thinkers.)

                  How many scientific breakthroughs came from people on the "Spectrum"?


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                  • Educating the Autistic: My Wife's Story (Brian Blodgett, USA 02/28/18 5:02 AM)

                    My wife is a special educator who for the past five years focused only on autistic students in the 6th through 8th grades here in USA. She loves her job and is a fierce advocate for her autistic students and their parents and she would agree that teaching them is not a challenge but instead very rewarding.

                    At their age, they are going through puberty and facing the awkwardness of their first glimpse of societal bias. They want to be friends with everyone and cannot comprehend how their view of friendship differs from others believe. Other students often shun them because they are autistic and see the world in black and white, accepting all information as realistic facts and unable to comprehend sarcasm for what it is. For these students, life is not easy, not even for the high-functioning ones or those who are both autistic and savant.

                    In challenges, it is not with her students, but normally with other students but even more often, and more unfortunately adults, both their teachers and their parents, plus the community at large. Other teachers simply do not understand that these children are, in many cases, just as smart as their peers and often smarter, but that they just see the world in a different way and thus need the opportunity to learn in a slightly modified format that does not allow for as much ambiguity. Their parents are often in denial, unlike when Gary Moore mentioned a friend who found out their infant son was autistic and moved heaven and earth to make his life phenomenal, many parents believe that their child is not autistic no matter their level on the spectrum and thus hinder, rather than help their child adjust to the world that they will have to live in. My wife works with her autistic children for all three years they are in the middle school and provides a Resource Class to help them learn to understand themselves and has them in her class every other day.

                    A frequent word I hear is that one of the students had a "melt-down" that day, meaning that they were simply overcome by the world surrounding them and unable to cope with the confusing stimuli bombarding them. One girl does not understand why her fellow female classmates do not want to be her friend; and recall that her concept of friends is different than others. A boy does not understand why a girl he likes will not even talk to him. The examples go on.

                    However, it is not all gloom and doom for these children, as mentioned in other postings, they can and do have "normal" adult lives if they receive the assistance needed while growing up from their teachers, parents, and others. One of the most touching moments last year was when one of her autistic boys went to the spring dance with a girl. He was able to muster up the courage to ask her and she, unlike others, did not let any biases raise their ugly heads and went with him. My wife had a talk with the girl since she wanted her to know a bit more of what to expect and she recalls fondly see them on the dance floor, he being a bit awkward and she being accepting and leading the way, while my wife watched on and then, later told both parents of just how wonderful the night was for both of the students, but also for her, and in return, for both parents who were so proud of their own two children.

                    JE comments:   Truly touching, Brian.  I'm grateful for this snapshot of your wife's extremely important work.

                    John Heelan (next) offers more on this topic.

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                    • Asperger's and History's Greats; from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 03/01/18 12:09 PM)

                      Ric Mauricio writes:

                      OK, when I hear that a child has Asperger's (one of our neighbor's kids has Asperger's), I say wow, he/she is belongs to an elite group of people:

                      The richest man in the world: Bill Gates

                      The man who brought you Apple: Steve Jobs

                      Music: Mozart and Bob Dylan

                      Science: Albert Einstein

                      Inventions: Nikola Tesla

                      Film: Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg

                      and my favorite President: Thomas Jefferson

                      That is an impressive list indeed.

                      JE comments:  It's notoriously tricky to diagnose such things from the distance of history or space, but as long as we're making a list, let's add Edison.

                      I often like to ask (rhetorically, of course), who doesn't have one "condition" or another?

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                      • Asperger's and History's Greats (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 03/03/18 4:26 AM)
                        Ric Mauricio (March 1st) produced an interesting list with the names of accomplished people with Asperger syndrome.

                        Please note that I am saying Asperger syndrome rather than Asperger's disease. Like in other syndromes, Asperger patients present in different forms. Most probably, the persons on Ric's list did not have full-blown forms and were able to be functional enough to either work on complex systems or to effectively communicate with others.

                        Do not put all of them in the same category and be careful to predict the future of your neighbor's child.

                        JE comments:  Moreover, these psychological diagnoses-from-afar are little more than parlor games.  And they run the risk of tautological argumentation:  since a "disruptive" technology can only be the product of a "special" mind, it is easy to conclude that the inventor must be somewhere on the spectrum.

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                    • Medical Cannabis for Autism? (John Heelan, UK 03/02/18 3:50 AM)

                      Brian Blodgett's wife (28 February) is one of the "truly special people" that help autistic children and their parents survive society.  I have met with several such heroes over the last few years who really care for the afflicted children in the special schools needed.

                      Autism and cannabis? (See Eugenio Battaglia (27 February.) This is just another of the
                      "magic bullet cures" for something that is incurable. After some 20 years
                      struggling to manage the neuropathological disorder that might have a
                      genetic base, my grandchildren's parents are experts (one is a professional with degrees
                      in the subject)) . Early intervention might have had some ameliorating
                      effects, but "ESN statementing" is often delayed by local authorities for
                      purely budgetary reasons, eventually requiring the Courts to step in and

                      JE comments:  Healthcare acronyms are notoriously indecipherable for foreigners, but I have European Social Network for ESN.  John--am I wrong?  In the UK, does an ESN designation require the state to provide specific services?

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                      • ESN Statementing in UK (John Heelan, UK 03/03/18 5:06 AM)
                        John E (2 March) asked me about "ESN statementing."  Since 1978 and the Warnock Report, UK children can be classified as "educationally sub normal." Local state-funded education authorities (LEAs) are then required by law "to provide the education of children with disabilities or significant educational difficulties" (owing to physical, mental, sight problems) which "must start as early as possible without any minimum age limit."

                        This means that class sizes are limited. In practice, children on the autistic spectrum are often allocated a one-on-one teaching assistant, as sometimes they are also afflicted with additional health problems like dyspraxia and/or dyslexia. The additional staffing costs puts pressure on the budgets of the local schools (some of whom we have found illegally redirect the allocated funding to other needs) as well as the overall budget of the Local Education Authority (LEA).

                        As the additional funding is a statutory requirement from the date of "statementing" to late teens, LEAs are often tempted to delay the first date for as long as possible for purely budgetary purposes, requiring such LEAs and school to be taken to the Courts to force them to fulfil their civic duties.

                        JE comments: I got that acronym totally wrong. The "sub normal" phrasing would never fly in US English. On this side of the Pond, we're "special needs."

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                  • "This Child of Mine": A Poem (John Heelan, UK 02/28/18 6:07 AM)
                    This was written by his mother Dr Sophie Billington about her son who has Aspergers. It strikes a chord with me, as one of our autistic grandchildren is very bright, has a massive grasp of technology (esp. computers and trains) and a photographic memory that allowed him to demonstrate the road route back to where he used to live over 100 miles away. He was also able to use his mother's password to order stuff on Amazon until discovered.

                    This Child of Mine (who hates being called boy or kid!)

                    He is wired differently

                    To you and me,

                    This child of mine.

                    He doesn't like loud noises

                    Or dark spaces

                    Or strangers touching his head.

                    His brain can see in an instant the pattern,

                    The layout,

                    The solution to a puzzle.

                    He can tell you every gun invented.

                    The year,

                    The range,

                    The calibre.

                    But he cannot tie his shoelaces at 11.

                    He reads the periodic table for pleasure.

                    Loves fusion

                    And nanotechnology

                    And Crispr

                    But he cannot tell the time from a clock face.

                    He is different this child of mine.

                    Has no filters,

                    Speaks his mind,

                    Has no pause button

                    But he hugs me and tells me he loves me every day.

                    He has triggers this child of mine,

                    Open-mouthed chewing,

                    Enclosed spaces,

                    Broken routines

                    But he'll rescue drowning insects every time.

                    He is different this child of mine,

                    A challenge,

                    A frustration,

                    A despair

                    But his humour makes me laugh every day.

                    He is different this child of mine,

                    He is loving,

                    He is kind,

                    He is generous

                    But the world judges,

                    Sees only the outbursts and over-reactions.

                    He is wired differently this child of mine,

                    And my role is to guide him,

                    Soothe him,

                    Give him tools

                    To negotiate this confusing world of emotion he fails to grasp.

                    He is different this child of mine,

                    His name is Tristan,

                    Not boy,

                    Not kid.

                    JE comments:  "Wired differently"--that's phrasing it perfectly.  A curiosity about people on the "spectrum"--are their numbers increasing in our modern times, or are we simply more aware of the condition?

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                • Medical Cannabis for Autism? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/27/18 4:53 AM)
                  Referring to the latest post from John Heelan (26 February), I wonder if his family has explored the possibility of "medical cannabis" for the treatment of autism.

                  Since a trip to the US two years ago, my daughter been involved in the treatment of animals with medical cannabis. Upon her return to Italy she immediately started the use of cannabis. At present the Medical Dept of the Army is preparing it, even if it is not enough and we import a lot from Holland too.

                  She is an enthusiast of this treatment and is in touch with doctors who prescribe it to humans, apparently with great results and patient satisfaction. She states that cannabis can be very useful for autism.

                  JE comments:  Autism (as I understand it) is not a "disease" to be treated, but people on the Spectrum do need to be equipped with skills to function in wider society.  Cannabis has already gained mainstream acceptance for chronic pain and glaucoma.  A recent USA Today piece discusses Israeli research on cannabis oil for children with severe autism:


                  Regarding the use of cannabis in animals, I'd like to know more about Eugenio's daughter's experiments.  I do know one thing:  the cats at WAIS HQ don't smoke weed, but they act like they do.  They already spend their days alternating between the couch and satisfying their munchies.

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            • Avoid WWII and the Shoah? A 1928 Mussolini Speech (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/25/18 8:38 AM)
              In response to Istvan Simon (24 February), I would like to reiterate my belief that there could have been no war and no Shoah. The possibility of real peace was well present all the time from 1919 until 1940; then things became more complicated.

              Please try this thought exercise: instead of looking for cause belli, look for the possibilities that existed for peace. You will see that there were many of these, if it had not been for the arrogance of men, especially the European victors who did not want to see these options.

              From the very beginning of his government, Mussolini was for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles. Please see his speech of 5 June 1928 before the Italian Senate, in which he presented Italy's foreign policy and the necessity of reviewing the clauses of Versailles: "The peace treaties are not the work of God but of humans and therefore can be perfected...In the treaties there are territorial, colonial, financial, and social clauses which can be improved in order to give a longer period of peace."

              But no victor nation, especially France, wanted to follow this path. In this speech Mussolini also remembered that in a previous speech, at the Italian Parliament one year earlier, he had predicted that in the period 1935-1940 the situation in Europe would become very delicate if the Treaties continued to be enforced.

              As you see already in the 1920s Mussolini provided a direction which if followed would have spared the world of Hitler, WWII, and the Shoah.

              JE comments:  Many will disagree with Eugenio's "should have listened to Mussolini" hypothesis, but consider this:  a benevolent re-writing of Versailles could have kept Hitler out of power.  However, Germany's reparations were already cancelled in 1932, one year before Hitler's rise.  Perhaps--just perhaps--if the French had not occupied the Ruhr, perhaps...

              Germany finally paid up for WWI in 2010.

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