Stephen Kahn

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

In Humor, Uncategorized on August 31, 2011 at 1:22 am

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Dere Granma,

It is hard for a peep to pek out letrs on a komputer!

Granpa saw us eeting the poolets fud & put it in the hen house kloset to keep us from having some. Mean Granpa!

So we loked him the kloset. As far as we are konkerned, he can live on adult peep fud until u get home and let him out.

My beek is reely sore frum all this tiping!!

BIG MAMA

The slope is slippery with blood

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Not breaking any particular new ground in the area of moral wisdom, I conclude that violence—to the point of killing a human being—is justified in self defense. While some people make a fetish of carrying firearms, most of us choose to avoid dangerous places and situations, as David and Woo sensibly suggested. Along those lines, each of us sensibly avoided being born in locations such as Libya, Syria, or North Korea. If we are threatened by a sociopath, most of us choose to depend on the police, people we have authorized to carry and use weapons.

I live on an island where most people are kind and peaceful. Even so, we have a Sheriff’s Department, and some municipal police departments, and occasionally (though quite rarely) law officers have to use forcefulness to deal with an errant member of the citizenry such as a sociopath or a methamphetamine dealer/user. (We have a few even on our lovely island.)

I spend about 10,000 times as much time, effort and expense as an individual and as a citizen concerning myself with the dangers of an earthquake or a forest fire than I do with the dangers of a sociopath or professional criminal.

I point this out as I start to slip down a slippery slope. If we are justified in defending ourselves as individuals, then what happens when we encounter groups of sociopaths such as the Hitler gang and the Stalin gang and the North Korean gang? While the roots of World War II are complicated, it was exceedingly rude of Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and it was perhaps sensible of the United States and morally justified to go to war against Japan. And while we were in the process of defending ourselves to free the Philippines and the Chinese and the Koreans from Japanese control.

Furthermore, just about every sensible citizen of the world agrees (as far as I can tell) that the leaders of Libya, Egypt, and Syria should go somewhere else than where they are now and should stop killing citizens of their countries. Even as I write this, the news reports inform me that the rebel forces in Libya are on the outskirts of Tripoli. At one time, Qaddafi might have played some useful role in the history of Libya, but by all reports he has killed and tortured many people during his role, and he is unlikely to stop unless persuaded by violence and force. The former President of Egypt did not leave office voluntarily, and the current President of Syria shows no signs of seeing a new career without some forceful persuasion.

Learning to kill

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 1:51 pm

As the father of a lesbian, I was moved
to read about how a Norwegian lesbian married couple rowed into
gunfire several times to save a number of lives from the massacre at
the Utoya island youth camp.

As the father of a lesbian, I was
horrified to read about the rape/attack on two lesbians (one of whom
died) in Seattle.

In thinking about Norway’s passage from
a (probably) violent Viking past to a (mostly) peaceful and even
noble present, I wondered, how did Norwegian culture make this
journey?
Here are some thoughts on the matter from the Boston
Globe
(how accurate and perceptive I don’t know), that start as
follows (click to read the rest of the article).

“IT SEEMS so unfair that Norway
should become a target of terrorism. Once the scourge of Europe, when
Vikings pillaged their way across the continent, Norway is the
world’s number one exporter of peace and reconciliation. Wherever
there is a conflict you may find a Norwegian up to his elbows trying
to solve it.”

One way to regard the Norwegian
calamity is to regard it as a natural disaster, as if an earthquake
had struck the island, or a volcano had erupted.

As inhabitants of a peaceful country,
no one at the Utoya island camp in Norway had any reason to carry any
weapons or to worry about a disaster , probably less reason for fear
than people at the Indiana state fair in Indianapolis needed to worry
when the tent flaps over the grandstand began to flap in the wind..
Dreadful stuff happens. Sometimes bystanders are able to react in a
way that saves lives; sometimes they can’t. All the finger-pointing
in the world doesn’t bring back a lost life, though sometimes lessons
learned prevent future debacles.

If by chance someone had been able to
kill Anders Behring Breivik (perhaps a spiritual heir to Vidkun
Quisling) with a bullet, there would be reason to be sad, but little
reason for guilt or regret.

Most human beings are peaceful.
Military leaders know that they have to “break down” an inherent
reluctance to hurt and kill when they train soldiers and police.

As one article on the topic comments in
part:

The reality is that the brains of human beings — unless
they fall within the demographic sliver we call psychopaths — are
hardwired not to kill other humans. Like rattlesnakes that fatally
bite other species but fight fellow rattlers by wrestling them,
humans overwhelmingly recoil from homicide. That’s usually a good
thing, because it prevents society from disintegrating into
bloodthirsty anarchy.

But it poses an occupational hazard to some — particularly
soldiers, police officers, spies and victims of savage crimes. All of
them may face situations in which hesitating to kill is the surest
way to get killed.

That’s why military training camps, police academies and
even some self-defense pros are constantly searching for more
effective methods of suppressing the human revulsion to taking human
life — virtually rewiring the brain to react first in certain
situations with an automatic response to kill.

Target practice on hollowed cabbages filled with ketchup to
mimic the way a bullet rips open a human head. Marching to chants of
“kill, kill, kill.” Video game simulations that reward
points for every successful “shot.” These are among
hundreds of techniques that experts say can recondition the human
brain.”

 

Trouble in peaceful Norway

In Bad news on August 15, 2011 at 3:40 am

OK, now I am on a roll. Unlike my bright and talented relatives, who speak (or spoke) languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Wolof, I have little talent for languages. Thus, I do not speak any Norwegian.

However, I have over the years met a few people from Norway, and they seemed like quite nice and peaceful people. I have known some Americans who have lived in Norway, notably two of my college professors (a married couple) who had taught in Oslo for a few years. They spoke with great fondness of their time in Norway. So it seems like a nice place for the most part.

However, the Vikings’ historical reputation is a little shadier. The Norsemen of ancient times have a bad reputation, perhaps regarded by many as the “gang bangers” of around 800 A.D. As with history in general, digging out the truth is difficult. The following Wikipedia article may tell you more than you want to know about the puzzle .

During World War II, an event still regarded perhaps as the pinnacle of evil enterprise in modern times, Norway fell under the control of Hitler and Germany. After Hitler installed Vidkun Quisling as a puppet ruler, Qiusling’s name became a modern catch word for a certain type of evil behavior. As Wikipedia describes the reputation projected by his name:

“During World War II, the word quisling became synonymous with traitor. The term was coined by the British newspaper The Times in its leader of 15 April 1940, entitled ‘Quislings Everywhere.’ The editorial asserted,

‘To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor… they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters. Aurally it contrives to suggest something at once slippery and tortuous.’”

Quisling himself has been described as follows:

“Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung described Quisling as a mini-Hitler, with a CMT (chosenness-myth-trauma) complex, or alternatively megalo-paranoia, more often diagnosed in modern times as narcissistic personality disorder. He was ‘well installed in his personality’, but unable to gain a following among his own people as the population did not provide a mirror for Quisling’s ideology; in short, he was ‘a dictator and a clown on the wrong stage with the wrong script’ … psychiatrist Professor Gabriel Langfelt stated that Quisling’s ultimate goals ‘fitted the classic description of the paranoid megalomaniac more exactly than any other case [he had] ever encountered.’”

It’s probably unfair to describe Quisling as representing Norway in any general or useful way. After the end of after WW II Norway gradually achieved the mostly benevolent reputation that Scandinavians in general now enjoy. Thus when a gigantic and violent atrocity occurred not long ago in Norway, both the Norwegians and the world in general were shocked.

To violent or not to violent?

In Hard to tell on August 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

In my last post before I slowed down so much, I told of a woman many years ago who banged on my door to escape her brother-in-law who was beating her up. While she was getting succor in our house, the varlet slashed a Good Samaritan in the face with a knife.

Trucie and David suggested (sensibly) not to open doors to people banging on them in the night. As good as this advice is, it hardly solves the problem of the existence of sociopathic/psychopathic//behavior-disordered people among human beings. The Internet—perhaps the main source these days of all misinformation—estimates the percentage of people fitting this label at anywhere from 1 to 4 percent. Without getting more into the scientific study of the percentage of evil among us, I think it reasonable to conclude there are quite a few bad people out there. Locking the door (and not answering it) is one solution, and not a bad one, but hardly a complete solution or even a completely accurate one.

For example, perhaps by foolishly answering the door those many years ago, I saved this woman’s life, or at least saved her from some harm. I have no follow-up to the story. As I mentioned, she lived in a house of loosely connected people. By the next morning, the inhabitants were all gone. I don’t know if the sheriff’s department caught up with the scoundrel (whom they knew by name and considered a notorious bad dude). I don’t know if the victim achieved a normal and safe life after she was released from the hospital.

I will admit that if the cops had spotted the bad guy running up and down the street with his knife, I would hope that (in those pre-taser days) they would have been able to overcome and apprehend him without physical injury to themselves or to him. However, if they had felt compelled by circumstances to use violence, up to and including deadly force, I would not have felt very badly about it, would have defended their actions, and would have been glad they had the training and carried appropriate weapons for doing so.

It all gets very complicated and difficult, one of the reasons (along with a perhaps over-slow pulse), I did not post more thoughts for a while. To keep my blood sugar up I went home and ate lunch, and this evening will go to a harvest dinner with some very kindly and peaceful people who for the most part seem to feel that living on an island is more or less the equivalent of not answering the door to violent knocks in the night. I will not argue with them about it, but I will post more in this series, perhaps talking about Norway and lesbians and violence.

Pulse too slow…

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I have not posted to my blog for a while. This may have to do with an event a little over a week ago, when I fainted for a few seconds while doing some volunteer work. My neighbor, with me at the time, guessed (I think correctly) that my blood sugar (after two hours of vigorous work) was too low and that I was perhaps dehydrated.

I called to make an appointment with my doctor. My HMO told me my doctor was in Iran. This puzzled me as I doubt it is legal for American citizens to visit Iran, Cuba, or North Korea. I later learned that he is in Afghanistan. This did not exactly reassure me, especially when I learned he is in the Reserves, and had been called to active duty. I would consider it very rude of the Taliban to snipe my doctor. [His staff assured me he is on the back line and out of the line of fire and emails them every week.]

Anyway, I visited a PA. After come consultation he agreed that I probably had been low-insulated and dehydrated. However, he suggested I have a “stress test.” In a couple of weeks I will walk on a treadmill while a cardiologist with a Vietnamese name that rhymes with “woo” (hi, Trucie) tries to decide if I am going to live for a while.

The PA also indicated that my pulse is on the low side. While I exercise vigorously, and have lost 40-50 pounds by becoming addicted to going to the gym instead of eating too much, I am by no means a serous exercise-addict. [That is I do not do triathlons, or even addictionians.] I know that marathon grade exercise lowers pulse rate. My PA thought it might be one of my bp medicines, but another MD doubts it. So modern medicine does not know everything. It remains to be seen if it knows anything.

Anyway, as thousands of people (two people in David’s secret blog, one being David) have clamored for more posting on my blog), I will try to accelerate my pulse enough to comply.