Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to L/C basics

Before we became enmeshed in these statistical concerns, which I think illustrate the near fruitlessness of population studies, Howard brought up an interesting concern. I've reexamined my principle that C-Minds make moral judgments about personal problems based upon broader impact. (Recall that Fred said that he couldn't keep bowling with Ricky, because it would encourage cheating in the general population. Ethel tried to sympathize with and forgive Rickie's yielding to temptation.) Even though Howard's torture case doesn't quite fit the situation, I'll revise my analysis.

Both L-Minds and C-Minds will examine specific applications when offered a piece of global legislation or general policy. If one proposes a policy which outlaws the use of torture (I won't bother to define this term, since Howard and Ira disagree as to its meaning.) then all kinds of minds will demand that nebulous terms be clearly defined. All kinds of minds will ask "what if?" (As I've said before, I'm not interested in what politicians say, since they are motivated by electoral and partisan considerations that obscure their L/C Mindedness.)

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I may have spoken too soon. Maybe specifics are not a universal desire. Two cases come to mind. The ERA was opposed by many C-Minds, because it was too general and would place too many issues in the hands of the courts. L-Minds argued the general principle was sufficient and that the courts could iron out the details. The same was true for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law was lacking in specifics and subject to judicial interpretation. The latter resulted in the removal of street toilet facilities in New York City, because they couldn't be made wheelchair accessible. So, I guess I'm still uncertain about the underlying principle. I believe it's there but I can't seem to find it.

I would just like to clarify something. The kind of principles I'm looking for, should allow one to design an expert system capable of doing what you and I easily do intuitively. The expert program would be able to take any problem whether public or personal and select an L-Mind or C-Mind position. If it is a rule-based system we ought to be able to set of rules that would make this possible. ( I'll let someone else worry about the parser.) I believe this thought experiment will reveal some interesting things about the thinking process. With respect -Joel

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dark Matter (aka Aether?)

Have a look at this video from Scientific American (double click the arrow):

In the video, the guy stirs coffee with floating crumbs and notes the crumbs nearer the middle rotate at a different angular rate than crumbs further out. He then spins a compact disk (CD) and notes all the marks on it rotate at the same angular rate because they are embedded in the disk itself.

He says the stars in our galaxy rotate more like the marks on the CD, which leads scientists to postulate the existence of "dark matter", an invisible, undetectable substance that fills what appears to be empty space between the stars. Dark matter/energy constitutes the vast majority of the Universe.

According to, "Albert Einstein, in an interpretation he offered for his theory of special relativity, dismissed [aether] ... though he later reinstated a logical need for an aether in a commentary on his theory of general relativity, modern astrophysical theories refer to this as Dark Energy/Matter."

I, like classical scientists, cannot fathom an "action at a distance" force field, such as gravity, without some physical matter filling the void between the masses that are attracted to each other by that force. Were classical scientists basically correct about aether and is the modern notion of dark matter/energy simply a refinement of that concept?

Ira Glickstein

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We Are Blessed

Thanksgiving is our traditional holiday to give thanks at the end of the harvest season.

We have so much to be thankful for!

We hope you and yours are celebrating together and enjoying a wonderful time. Vi and I are spending the day with friends here in The Villages, FL. We plan to visit our triplet granddaughters and their parents in Andover, MA the week after Thanksgiving.

Vi and Ira Glickstein

Monday, November 12, 2007

What is Abraham's "Seed"?

This posting is an adaptation of the sermon I gave at Temple Shalom, Oxford, FL on the 9th of November 2007

Each week we read a portion ("parashah") of the Books of Moses ("Torah"). In this week’s parashah there is a verse you’ve heard before. In Genesis 26:4, God, speaking to Isaac, reinforces the oath He swore to Isaac’s father, Abraham:

... and I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these lands; and by your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed

This promise, in somewhat varied forms, is also given in Genesis 15:5, 22:17, 22:18, Exodus 32:13, and is referenced in the New Testament, Galatians 3:8: "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."

The importance of this promise to us is reflected in the decision to include a number of stars in each window of the top row of stained glass windows in our sanctuary here in Central Florida. They represent the “stars of heaven” in God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac.

The focus of my talk this evening is the meaning of the “seed” of Abraham.

While researching, I came across a skeptic website. Having nothing better to do, they’ve taken the entire bible, verse by verse, and annotated it with skeptical comments. That they have devoted so much time and effort to their self-appointed task speaks volumes of the power of our Torah.

From "God promises to make Isaac's descendents as numerous as 'the stars of heaven', which, of course, never happened. The Jews have always been, and will always be, a small minority."

Perhaps they have a point! If we consider Abraham’s “seed” to simply be his biological genes, passed down via DNA to his descendents, God’s promise has not been fulfilled. The 14 million Jews alive today constitute 0.2% of the current world population of over six and a half billion. There are billions and billions of stars in the heavens. If Abraham’s “seed” is measured in mere millions, we are orders of magnitude from satisfying God’s promise!

Has God gone back on His promise to Abraham and Isaac?

You get your genes from your biological father and mother. But there is something else you get from your parents, ... and also from your uncle Joe and your aunt Bertha ...

No, it is not cholesterol! :^)

You can also inherit it from your children ...

No, it is not gray hair and insanity! :^)

You get it from your neighbors and friends and teachers and books and TV and the Internet. What is it that you get from all these sources?

Well, it’s the cultural equivalent of genes, which are known as “memes”. Memes include things like the language you speak, songs, customs, clothing styles, technological and scientific knowledge, basic concepts of justice and morality, and so on.

I think the “seed” of Abraham is not limited to his genes, but also includes perhaps the greatest meme ever conceived, the idea of a single, Universal God!

Before that meme was proclaimed by Abraham, people believed there were “spirits” in objects like the idols Abraham’s father sold in the marketplace. There was a separate “god” in the wind, the oceans, the planets and so on.

Abraham recognized that God was Universal. That is the core belief of Judaism and we say it twice during our service:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.

(Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our God — the Eternal alone.)

I think the Universal God meme is the true “seed” of Abraham. It has passed to all the nations of the world via Judaism and its sister Abrahamic religions, Christianity and Islam.

Does anyone know who came up with the word “meme”? It was Richard Dawkins in his popular book “The Selfish Gene” published in 1976.

Our Universal God Meme and The God Delusion

Dawkins latest book is “The God Delusion”, published last year. He thinks Abraham’s meme is a delusion, a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. In this book he is pretty harshly opposed to organized religion. You might call this book an atheist manifesto.

It includes sentiments like “When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.” He regards organized religion as not only a delusion, but also a great danger to society.

I agree to a point - some ultra-fundamentalists have misused religious organizations. But, let’s not “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I think, in general, synagogues, churches and mosques have had a positive influence on society and civilization.

Today, the three Abrahamic religions together constitute more than half the world’s population. There are billions of people alive today who have inherited the “seed” of Abraham, the meme of a Universal God!

We Jews are a tiny percentage of the world’s population but, through our memes we have made contributions all out of proportion to our numbers.

A few weeks ago I was explaining the symbolism of our stained glass windows to a visitor and, after mentioning the "stars of Abraham" in the top row, I mentioned the meaning of the small circular stones in the second row of stained glass windows. There are thirty-six of them and they represent the thirty-six Tzadikim (Righteous people) who are alive today and "for whose sake the world exists".

No one knows who they are or how a successor is chosen when one passes away. Although I’m not a “literal believer”, as I explained this symbolism I was overcome by a religious-spiritual feeling. I choked up. I feel something special when I come here. or indeed to any religious sanctuary.

Our Building Committee and our spiritual leader went to great trouble and considerable expense obtaining stone from Israel for the wall below those stained glass windows. When I touch that Jerusalem stone after nearly every service here, it recaptures the special feeling I had when I touched the western wall in Jerusalem several years ago.

When I say the Shema, when I touch my siddur (prayer book) to the Torah and then kiss it, when I chant in Hebrew, I feel something very special.

I invite you, during the Oneg (refreshments after the service), to touch the Jerusalem stone and feel a special part of something bigger than all of us.

The men should use the area to your left and the women the area to your right :^)
(Genders are strictly separated at the wall in Jerusalem,
not so in our very Reformed congregation.)

That something bigger than all of us is the ineffable something that embraces each of us and all of us together. It is the Universal God our patriarch Abraham introduced to the world. The “seed” of Abraham is the meme that has embraced billions of people and that “seed” has indeed blessed all the nations of the Earth.

And, who knows, when human life is sent to colonize space, they may read Genesis 26:4 as “… I will multiply your seed on the stars of heaven.”

L/C Presentation

Fallibility and L/C Minds

I'm going to give a talk at our local philosophy club this coming Friday. I would once again like to bounce some ideas off of you folks and see what you think.

During the first half of the talk, I'll talk about fallibility. I'll start with some quotes from Thomas Jefferson, who mistrusted his own judgment when it differed from those around him. I'll talk about the fact that on huge issues like religion the world is highly divided signaling us that a large number of brains are wrong. The high divorce rate is another demonstration that the human brain is a faulty decision maker. Many people make low level decisions concerning job selection, car choice and home selection and are later full of regret. How is this possible?

I'll then review some of the sources of error in human thinking and decision making process such as bad statement of the problem faulty data in, incorrect modeling of the world and incorrect execution. In fact there are so many opportunities for error that one is surprised that we ever get anything right. We are fortunate that most choices are binary and we have a 50/50 chance of being right despite the brain's manifold inadequacies.

We might ask why we have this strange situation. Why is it that nature has screwed up so badly? I believe that the answer is simple. We are not using our brains for the purpose they were intended by nature. That's an anthropomorphic way of saying that our brains evolved to fulfill a life or death survival function, and we use them in ways that are mere "spandrels" or unintended consequences. I'll describe the importance of the brain as a tool to predict the intention of a potential mate, friend or adversary. I'll also discuss the value of the brain in the prediction of the movement and location of game, weather and plant life. All these things have direct implications for survival of the species. Great works of art, literature and philosophy have an effect on the survival of the very few creators involved, but little effect on the propagation of the dna of the creators throughout the population. Therefore, we should not expect a great ability for complex thinking and decision-making to be a common trait in our species. I'll split the audience into small groups and have them see if they can come up with an L/C Mind trait that is non-pejorative.

I'll then move into all this stuff about L-C Minds that we have previously discussed. My objective is to get people to think a little harder about the point of view of others i.e. to show respect. My definition of "to respect" is to act as though there is a possibility that you are wrong and your intellectual adversary is right, no matter how totally farfetched that might seem on the surface.

Any suggestions would be appreciated. With respect -Joel

Saturday, November 10, 2007

War on Terrorism?

The actions we are taking to eliminate terrorism are not a war and defining them as such is inaccurate and does great harm to our efforts to contain it. The following five paragraphs define war as extracted from the Encarta Encyclopedia and Dictionary.

War a period of hostile relations between countries, states, or factions that leads to fighting between armed forces, especially in land, air, or sea battles.

War, in international law, armed conflict between two or more governments or states.

When such conflicts assume global proportions, they are known as world wars. War between different parts or factions of the same nation is called civil war.

A rebellion is not legally considered a war; to entitle the armed forces of the rebels to the rights and privileges of belligerents, the government they serve must be organized so as to be in a position to meet the duties resting on belligerents, that is, they must have the power to maintain law and order within the regions occupied by them and to carry on war on a large scale by land, sea, or air.

International hostilities sometimes continue for long periods of time without being acknowledged as wars. The Korean War was regarded by the U.S. government as a police action. Conflicts or wars in which major powers purposely refrain from employing all their armed strength are often known as limited wars. Short of peace, such limited wars are now recognized as a preferable alternative to the specter of nuclear war. International wars are generally terminated by treaty and civil wars by a peace proclamation. The usages, customs, and treaties of nations have formed a system of laws of War.

Acts of international terrorism do not fit the above definitions of war for the following reasons:

a. They cross international borders.
b. The acts are not armed conflict between nations.
c. Terrorists do not abide by “laws of war” today defined by the Geneva Convention.
d. They are neither a civil war nor a rebellion.
e. They do not respect any international law.
f. They murders civilians indiscriminately seemingly purposefully to cause freight amongst a populace.

Thus, we are not engaged in a war, instead we are engaged in an international action to suppress or eliminate terrorist actions conducted by international thugs who, to obtain their desired goals spread fear to weakening national and international resolve - in today’s parlance, Al Qaida and Muslim terrorists.

Why is this definition important? Why shouldn’t we call it a war? Because by employing the term war both our national leaders and we the people view our action is Iraq as being, and should be, fought by our military supported by other government agencies. We were at war when we defeated Saddam Hussein in Iraq and in entering Afghanistan. Since defeating Saddam we have acted more as an international police force attempting to stabilize both countries. Our military is good at engaging in war. Saddam was defeated with little lose of life on either side. Since then we have tried to use our military along with the military from other nations as an international police force, something for which they are not trained. The results have not been effective. Further we have earned the enmity of other nations.

An article in the Orlando Sentinel, “Best, brightest shrug shoulders about Iraq” discusses the indifference of the young adults toward our actions in Iraq. They know few if anyone who is military. It has no effect on their lives. They also refuse to take any responsibility for Iraq or to take part in the debate. In other words they are indifferent to our fight on terrorism. This attitude might be extended to our entire populace. A common expression is “we support our troops in Iraq”. By implication we say that we support the men and women in our military but not necessarily their deployment in foreign nations.

The police, the FBI etc. are trained to handle civil disturbance. They know how to act when trying to apprehend suspects in a civilian environ. The military, on the other hand is trained to apply overwhelming force to conquer an enemy’s military force. Loss of life and ancillary damage are acceptable, (of course with reasonable constraint). We have supplemented the rules of war, the Geneva Convention, with rules of engagement for our troops in Iraq, these rules tie the hands of the military and can cause confusion and possibly inappropriate action when engaged with suicide bombers, roadside bombs etc amongst crowded city streets.

If we find it necessary to employ forces in foreign countries with the mission of restraining terrorism we need to train those forces to operate in a civilian environment, within Bagdad for example. An environment not suited to the military. As an alternative we could create a separate department of the military trained to engage in the type of action we are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our military police may be properly trained for this type of action and could be used as the basis for forming such a department.

Today we have two separate organizations engaged in the fight against terrorism, Homeland Security here in the states and the military overseas. Homeland Security is doing an effective job, our military, on the other hand, has not proven effective – not because of the quality of our military men and women but because of the mission that they have been handed. Possibly the two could be combined by recruiting a police force trained to conduct counter terrorism duties in foreign countries under Homeland Security to replace the military’s occupational duties, the military would then be employed as it is trained for in actual war situations.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


My friend Heinz Jaffe came to central Florida with his wife Betty after Katrina did a number on their New Orleans home.

He was bar mitzvah in his native Nuremberg Germany in 1936 and fled to the US, earned his US citizenship as a soldier, and survived a combat war injury.

He is in remarkable mental and physical shape for a man his age (84), playing golf and tennis and serving as a volunteer office manager for our Jewish congregation.

Heinz wrote the following for the D-Day Museum in New Orleans in 2001. I think it is well worth reading about an immigrant who fought for his adopted country and contributed to the US in so many ways.
Ira Glickstein

Heinz A. Jaffe

Company B 12th Engineers Combat Battalion 8th Infantry Division

The Early Years

I was born in Nuremberg, Germany on February 22, 1923 into a middle-class Jewish family. I was a twin but my brother was still born. I was the second child, having a brother 15 months older.

My childhood was uneventful until Hitler came to power in 1932. I am sure I don't have to dwell on the fate of the Jews in Europe. Fortunately, my parents decided to send my brother and myself to the United States in 1936 to live with an uncle. I cannot imagine the state of mind of my parents that led them to that decision, not knowing if they would ever see their children again. However, my family was lucky. My parents and all my other relatives except my paternal grandmother made it out of Germany by 1938.

We lived in Newark, NJ and I graduated from High School in 1941. As I was financially unable to go to college, I started as an apprentice Pattern Maker while I went to engineering school at night. Since I was a child, I always wanted to be an Engineer. As a pattern maker I learned to make wooden patterns that were used to make sand molds for castings. It led to a lifelong appreciation of wood and also taught me to use my hands and to fix things.

The War Years

I was drafted into the Army in April 1943. I was inducted at Fort Dix, NJ and then shipped to Fort Belvoir, VA for basic training in the Corps of Engineers. During the summer months I contracted Scarlet Fever and was hospitalized. I felt well after a few days, but my throat culture remained positive for six weeks. During that time I was quarantined in a room the size of a bathroom in a one-story barrack that was not air-conditioned! I am sure the temperature in my room hovered around 100 degrees for weeks.

During my stay at Fort Belvoir I also became a United States citizen. Since I was still a minor, the only way I could become a citizen was by being in the Armed Forces. I appeared before a judge in Washington, DC and was sworn in. It was a proud day in my life.

After I was released from the hospital, I completed my basic training and in the fall of 1943 was shipped to Camp Reynolds near Pittsburgh, PA. This was a replacement camp from which soldiers were assigned to their permanent units either in the United States or overseas. After a few weeks of waiting to be assigned I came down with a low-grade fever which I could not shake. I was not sick enough to be hospitalized, but not well enough to be on duty. I spent weeks either loafing around the barracks or playing pool in the day room. I got to be a pretty good pool player!

In March of 1944 I was sent to Camp Kilmer, NJ to be shipped to Europe as a replacement. On March 13, 1944 we embarked on the Ile de France. She was a luxury liner and the former pride of France. She had been reworked as a troop ship and there was nothing luxurious about her! My quarters consisted of a canvas bunk with about two feet of space above and below me. We did not travel in a convoy because the ship was supposed to be fast enough to avoid the German U-Boats. At least that was what they told us! The crossing was uneventful and we arrived in England on March 21, 1944.

I had looked forward to getting to England because my family drank tea instead of coffee. This was common among German Jews, probably because of our Russian background. I looked forward to a good cup of tea, but was bitterly disappointed when I found out the British drink their tea with milk! I only like it with sugar and lemon.

We were lodged in a small English town whose name I have forgotten. About a week after I arrived I wound up in the hospital with double pneumonia. It was probably why I had that low-grade fever at Camp Reynolds earlier. I was still in the hospital on D-day and remember the excitement that swept through the hospital when everyone realized the invasion of Europe had finally begun.

About the middle of June I left the hospital and was sent to Northern Ireland to join the outfit I would spent the rest of the war with. I was assigned to Company B, 12th Engineers Combat Battalion, 8th Infantry Division. After a short training period with my new outfit, we embarked on a Liberty ship for the beaches of Normandy. The trip took about a week and the weather was beautiful. We spent most of our time sunbathing on deck. We arrived at the beach on either July 4th or 5th. We climbed down the side of the ship on nets into landing crafts that took us close to shore and we had to wade the rest of the way. This was similar to the situation on D-day, except no one was shooting at us! We relieved the 82nd Airborne which had dropped behind the German lines the night of D-day. They had taken tremendous casualties and were pretty shell-shocked. I watched them deliberately run over bodies of Germans with their Jeeps. War will do this to people.

While relieving the 82nd , I experienced my first artillery fire. I dove into the nearest hole and can still hear the laughter of the veterans as they told us it was outgoing mail, not incoming. One of our batteries had opened fire from right behind us! It didn't take us long to learn the difference!

Below are listed some of the war stories that I experienced and will never forget.

1. Gas Attack.

One night I was on guard duty about a half mile from where we were camped out for the night. In the middle of the night my partner and I heard people yelling off in the distance. The yelling got louder and nearer and we finally heard the word GAS! We had gas masks, but they were safely stored in our trucks in the camp area. We briefly discussed what to do and then decided to abandon our post and run for our masks. The run was all uphill and I ran out of breath about halfway there and decided gas or no gas, I couldn't run any further. It turned out the Germans had fired some phosgene shells which set off a gas alarm throughout the beachhead. No one ever said anything to us about leaving our post, which of course is a court martial offense.

2. Roadblock.

The Allied Armies broke out of the beachhead and most headed east toward Paris and Germany. The 8th Division however, headed west towards the Brittany Peninsula and the city of Brest. A major U- Boat base was located there and had to be neutralized to protect our ships in the Atlantic. One day at the outskirts of Brest we were called upon to remove a roadblock that was holding up the attack. It so happened that some of our troops had just liberated a wine warehouse. There was lots of wine around and we had our share of it. As we approached the roadblock, the Germans opened up with sniper and machine gun fire to keep us from removing it. Feeling pretty heroic, a few of us at a time ran to the roadblock and removed portions of it until the fire got too heavy. None of us were hit and we eventually removed the roadblock. We were rewarded with a Bronze Star for our heroism. In retrospect, I have no doubt our heroism came out of a bottle!

3. Luxembourg.

In late November of 1944 we had long since left the Brest area and driven across France to the main front. On the way we drove through Paris shortly after it was liberated and our platoon leader deliberately got us lost so we could see more of the city. The inhabitants of Paris welcomed us with flowers and wine, but we were forbidden to leave our trucks and so had no close encounters with the people.

One day we were in a village in Luxembourg when the Germans unleashed an artillery barrage on us. One of our sergeants yelled at me to jump into a jeep and move it to the back of a building for better protection. When I told him I could not drive, he could not believe that an American soldier could not drive a car! However, I had grown up in a city and my family didn't own a car and I had not learned to drive one.

4. Minefield.

Shortly after the Battle of the Bulge our platoon was called upon one evening to go to the front and try to get wounded soldiers out of a minefield they had entered during that day's attack. We got there after darkness had set in and could do nothing until daylight arrived. It was not possible to clear anti-personnel mines in the dark. All through the night we heard the soldiers calling for help and it was apparent that some didn't make it through the night. Listening to their cries for help all night and unable to do anything was a terrible experience. The next morning we went in and cleared paths to all the soldiers that survived and helped to get them out

5. The Enemy.

One night we were up front with the infantry and it was bitterly cold. I spent the night in a foxhole with nothing but my uniform and my topcoat. Waking up after a restless night, I had great difficulty straightening my legs because they seemed to be frozen. Fortunately, I managed to get the circulation going and they were all right.

Shortly after daylight we saw two German soldiers leave their fox hole and run toward their line several hundred yards away. Some of our guys opened fire upon them, but didn't hit them and they disappeared over a hill. These were the only German soldiers other then those wounded, dead, or captured that I saw during nine months of combat! I also never fired my gun during all that time.

6. Roadblock #2.

This next incident happened in January 1945 somewhere in Germany west of the Rhine River. We were called up to the front lines and asked to remove a roadblock. It consisted of one of our tanks that had been hit and was blocking a road needed for the next day's tank attack. Our plan was to use some dynamite and blast it off the road. We were told that the road was clear and there were no Germans around. The road was bordered by open fields except that a wooded area started on one side right about where the disabled tank was. We started down the road in broad daylight toward the tank. Just as we approached it a German machine gun opened up on us from the corner of the woods. Fortunately it missed all of us and we dove into the ditches on each side of the road. My first thought was I hoped the ditches weren't mined. My next concern was whether the machine gun could traverse along the ditch. We were lucky and safely made it back to our starting place. We were then told to try again after it got dark. We were also told that the machine gun nest would be eliminated. Based on what had happened earlier, I am not sure that was very reassuring to us!

After dark we started down the road again. I remember carrying a case of dynamite on my shoulder, but no rifle. I felt kind of naked! We got to the tank and my assignment together with another soldier was to go about fifty yards beyond the tank to remove some barbed wire that the Germans had stretched across the road. We carefully checked the wire for booby traps and started removing the wire when a loud explosion went off behind us. I first thought it was a mortar shell, but quickly realized I had not heard any shell coming in. We worked our way back to the tank and found that the guys placing the dynamite had set off a booby trap. Several members of our squad were wounded, including our platoon commander, Lt. Cohen. We managed to get all our wounded back to our lines and then went back down and blasted the tank off the road and removed the barbed wire. The Germans never bothered us that night, but it was a horrific experience nevertheless.

The next morning the tank attack started and almost immediately bogged down. I remember walking back to our trucks along the road lined with tanks with the rest of my squad and cursing at the men on the tanks for not going forward. I guess the experience of the night before left us less than understanding of their problems.

I, together with several others of my squad, received a Bronze Star for our efforts. This one I can say I deserved!

I never learned if our wounded comrades survived or not. In war, information is hard to come by.

7. My Last Battle.

In mid-February I found myself in the small town appropriately named Krauthausen. The town was divided by a river with all bridges across it destroyed. We were on the west bank of the river and the Germans on the east bank. The town was about 60 miles west of Aachen. The weather was cold and wet, but no snow.

An attack was planned and a night patrol was ordered to cross the river at night to learn something about the German positions. The river crossing was to be made by a small assault boat manned by three engineers and carrying a squad of infantry. This was the standard method for this type of operation.

I was not selected for this operation. The river current was very strong and the boat was swept downstream and never made it across. Fortunately, all occupants made it safely back to our side. The next night the operation was attempted again with the same result. The following night it was my turn to go.

I went with two of my buddies to the assembly area and met with a squad of infantry commanded by a 2nd Lieutenant. This time someone decided a small assault boat wouldn't do and they brought up an amphibious vehicle known as a Duck. It was operated by two African-American soldiers who had no idea that they were at the front and what they were being asked to do. One must remember the Army was not integrated in those days.

We were briefed and started toward the river in the Duck. It was pitch black and raining. As we left the main road the Duck got stuck in the mud! I remember thinking, great, we don't have to go. However, someone had the foresight to bring an assault boat along and we were going to attempt the river crossing in a way it had failed two nights in a row.

The standard way to approach the river was for the squad leader to lead the way followed by one of the Engineers carrying some of the paddles. The infantry men would carry the boat and the other two Engineers would bring up the rear with the rest of the paddles. The Lieutenant started toward the river and I followed at about twenty yards as the lead Engineer. I could not see the Lieutenant ahead of me in the dark, but caught up with him near the river. He had encountered some barbed wire and was attempting to remove it. I asked him to let me do it because I was trained to do this, specifically to watch for booby traps. However, he told me he would do it and I turned around to stop the rest of the patrol from getting too close. Just as I turned away he set off a mine!

I was hit and fell to the ground. I did not feel any great pain, but had difficulty breathing. I heard the rest of the patrol drop the boat and hit the ground. I realized that the Lieutenant must have been hit also. Everything was quiet for a while, but I knew my buddies would come looking for me. I remember taking off my helmet and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible, but I still had difficulty breathing. Eventually my buddies reached the Lieutenant and me and started carrying us back to the road. They got hold of a jeep and we went off to the nearest aid station. I remember the Lieutenant lying next to me on the jeep, but I never knew how badly he was hurt or if he survived. I never even knew his name!

Upon arriving at the field hospital, I was operated upon immediately. I had never lost consciousness. I later learned the extend of my injuries. My right lung was punctured and collapsed. Several ribs were broken. My intestines and other organs were perforated, I had a deep flesh wound in my thigh, and the fingers on my right hand were injured. I am sure if I hadn't carried the paddles on my right shoulder and turned away just before the explosion, I might have had serious head injuries.

Luck was with me that night. The surgeon on duty, I believe his name was Major Satan, was a chest specialist from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. I remember as they cut my clothes off that the nurses were kidding me because my feet were so dirty. The fact that I hadn't taken off my shoes and socks for days and slept in a coal cellar for protection from shelling probably had something to do with that!

I am pretty sure that the mine the Lieutenant set off was one of ours. First of all we were on our side of the river and the barbed wire was probably placed by us. Also, I saw an X-ray of my chest taken before any of the shrapnel had been removed and a piece in my lung looked like the corner of an American personnel mine.

8. The Road Back.

I spent about a week in the field hospital. During that time a Red Cross worker wrote a letter for me to my parents as my hand was bandaged and I was unable to write. I had never told my parents that I was in combat and always wrote as if I was still in England! The only one who knew the truth was my brother, who was serving in the Pacific Theater. That letter arrived home before the official notification from the War Department arrived! I am sure it saved my parents from the shock of receiving a telegram from the War Department. When it did arrive they already knew its content.

I was transferred by ambulance from the field hospital to a hospital in Liege, Belgium. Two weeks after that I again was transferred by ambulance to Paris. Unfortunately, I was in no condition to enjoy that great city! After one week I was flown to England to a military hospital that specialized in treating chest injuries. That was my first airplane flight! It was a C-46, the military version of the DC-3. It was outfitted to carry stretchers and had nurses aboard. I still remember that the landing was as smooth as any I experienced since. The pilot must have been specially trained to land a plane full of wounded soldiers!

I went through several more operations at the hospital and by May was an ambulatory patient. I became friends with two soldiers from the 101ST Airborne and the Rangers. For some reason we started to march through the wards and hallways of the hospital singing A duck must be somebody's friend to the tune of The Stars and Stripes Forever at the top of our voices! I think it was to wake everyone up in the morning. I also had the distinction of being the only one in the ward who did not have a drain tube in his chest.

There was great enjoyment at the hospital when the war in Europe ended in May of 1945. Shortly thereafter I left for home on the hospital ship "George Washington", arriving in Hoboken, NJ in mid-June. Walking off the ship I was handed a container of milk by the USO. I hadn't tasted fresh milk since I left the USA and it tasted terrific.

We went from the dock to a hospital in Staten Island before being sent to convalescent centers throughout the U.S. Since I lived in Newark, NJ, I was allowed to go home the next day for a reunion with my parents. I remember going to a restaurant with them that night and being the only one being served a steak because I was a wounded veteran.

The next day I was moved to Camp Upton on Long Island where I continued to recuperate until I was discharged in November 1945. While there, an announcement was made one Sunday morning that a bus was going to the Polo Grounds in NY for those of us who wanted to watch the NY Giants play football. We had special seats set up right behind the Giant's bench. This started my interest in professional football and I am still a Giants fan.

The Post War Years

The return to civilian life was not difficult. I went back to school under the G.I. Bill of Rights and graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 1949. I married my wife Betty in 1954 and we have two children, Linda and Peter. They have blessed us with four grandchildren that we love to visit. We pile up a lot of air miles as they live in Connecticut and Seattle!

I spent most of my working career in the aerospace industry. Job changes and transfers took us from West Orange, NJ to Huntington, NY to Charlotte, NC to New Orleans where I retired in 1991 at the age of 68.

Final Thoughts

When General Sherman said, War is Hell, he was understating it. Being caught in an artillery barrage or on patrol at night raises fears that cannot be described to someone who has not experienced it. The fear eats at your guts, but we all overcame it and did what we had to do. I did not volunteer to serve, even though I probably had more reason as a Jew from Germany than most of those who did. I do not feel that I have to apologize for this, as I did my job when called.

My greatest wish is that our children, grandchildren, and future generations do not have to go through what we went through. Unfortunately, I am afraid that mankind has not advanced enough to make this come true!

September 2001

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Still More L/C MInds

Stu recently wrote that he thought the tendency to be "judgmental" might be a characteristic of the C-Mind. That's an interesting assertion and worth following up on, in my opinion. First we need to review the rules of the game, at least as far as I've proposed them. The first is that we agree that there is great fallibility in the human mind. The second is that the C-mind's view of the L-Mind and vice-versa are flawed. The third is that characteristics, if they have any hope of being true, need to be non-partisan, non-pejorative and symmetrical.

Although there is something to this "judgmental" appellation, we need to find other words less confrontational and negative. My dictionary defines the word in negative terms: tending to make moral judgments. example; to avoid a judgmental approach when dealing with divorced couples. The word became popular during the 1960's when young people and pop psychologists labeled those who disliked the new morality as being "judgmental." The concept itself is much older, dating at least from the time of Jesus, who admonished "Judge not that ye be not judged."

Let's find an example of this behavior that we can all live with, and then find appropriate labels. Desi and Lucy have been married for many years. Desi starts fooling around with his secretary and decides to leave Lucy and the kids. Fred has habitually gone bowling with Desi on Thursday night. After the divorce Fred makes excuses to avoid Desi. When questioned by Ethel, his C-Mind replies that he can't associate anymore with a person who has revealed himself to be so lacking in moral character. What if everyone behaved that way? Ethel tells him he's being ridiculous. Her L-Mind says that Desi has done nothing to harm Fred and that it's none of Fred's business. He should quit being so judgmental.

If you agree that the above is an example of the thinking so often labeled "judgmental" and "non-judgmental", please see if you can provide adjectives which classify the two kinds of thinking. Make an effort not to bias the labels or use pejorative terms. I have a suspicion that this is actually a sub-set of the proximity factor we have previously discussed. L-Minds tend to value examining a situation on a personal basis, trying to understand motivation as much as possible. C-Minds place more value on examining from a distance on a global basis. Note that both are capable of thinking at either proximity, but they VALUE the approaches very differently. With respect -Joel

Friday, November 2, 2007

Religion and Politics

In a recent email concerning Denish D'Souza's article, one of our members said:

Can we afford to live by the rules and regulations of some stone-age desert people who had less knowledge and understanding of the world than a 10-year-old has today (geography, physics, biology, etc.)? And lastly, can we afford to be ruled by people who claim that god told them what to do, (invade Iraq, for example)?

Joel responds:

Although as an atheist, I'm skeptical of those who lean too heavily on communication with a god, I grant respect to their beliefs. It is true that President Carter got us into a mess in the Middle-East (and elsewhere) by virtue of his pacifist religious beliefs. However, as with George Bush, this was based upon religious values, not based upon direct communication with God. Talking to God is not the same as holding a two way conversation. One can ask for enlightenment or with help fighting personal demons, as Carter claimed he did when he fought against "sinning in his mind."

The so-called religious right has no monopoly on religious principles which may have an impact on public policy. The religious left is extremely powerful even if the media do not demonize them with those words. The Quakers whose creed is based upon their reading of the words of Jesus concerning turning the other cheek, are devoted to pacifist activities and public protest. I note that President Clinton sent his daughter to a Quaker (Society of Friends) school and that Governor Michael Dukakis was trained at a Quaker school. It is seldom that one will not find an American Society of Friends involvement in war protest, gay rights marches and death penalty vigils. Activists (and presidents) on both the right and left deserve our respect for their values even if we don't agree with them.

One may argue issues without pretending that there is no basis for discussion, because one's opponent is some kind of nut who hears the voice of God in his or her head. If our media were not so biased, we would hear more about the political activities of the Society of Friends, and we would recognize that religious pressure groups have influence on both sides of the aisle. (We were fortunate in our philosophy club to have a talk by a member who went to a Quaker school as well as a member who was active in constructing telephone trees for the purpose of activating protests at a moments notice). Is this an interference of religious belief in politics or a natural expression of people of like values in public affairs?

With respect -Joel