Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 9th, 2019

Trump break: Japanese photographer makes hats for his cats from the hair they’ve shed

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Just look at these. And I wonder whether his choice of breeds was influenced by Maru.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Cats

Trump Is Grinding the System to a Halt

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Trump is making it worse for himself day by day. James Fallows’s article in the Atlantic is well worth reading. It concludes:

Give me a lever that is long enough, and I can move the world,” Archimedes is supposed to have said. We now have a Coulter corollary, descended perhaps from Iago and Lady Macbeth. It is: Give me a man who is weak enough, and I can taunt him into anything.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 5:03 pm

The persistence of culture: Harsh Nazi Parenting Guidelines May Still Affect German Children of Today

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Memes evolve over time, but they are also surprisingly enduring over generations. Anne Kratzer writes in Scientific American:

In 1934 physician Johanna Haarer published The German Mother and Her First Child. Her advice guided child-rearing in the Third Reich. It ultimately sold some 1.2 million copies, almost half of them after the end of the war.

In that book, Haarer recommended that children be raised with as few attachments as possible. If a child cried, that was not the mother’s problem. Excessive tenderness was to be avoided at all cost.

Psychotherapists fear that this kind of upbringing led many children in Germany to develop attachment difficulties and that those problems might have been passed on to subsequent generations.

***

Renate Flens, a German woman in her 60s who suffers from depression, tells her psychotherapist that she wants to love her children but just can’t. She and the therapist soon realize that both Flens’s problems may be rooted in her frustration at being unable to allow others to get close to her. After lengthy conversations, they realize something else: a contributing factor may well be the child-rearing teachings of Johanna Haarer, a physician whose books were written during the Nazi era and aimed at raising children to serve the Führer. Flens (a pseudonym) was born after World War II, but Haarer’s books were still popular during her postwar childhood, where many households had a copy of The German Mother and Her First Child (Die deutsche Mutter und ihr erstes Kind)—a book that continued to be published for decades (ultimately cleansed of the most objectionable Nazi language). When asked, Flens recalled seeing one of Haarer’s books on her parents’ bookshelf.

Flens’s story, told to me by her therapist, illustrates an issue troubling a number of mental health experts in Germany: Haarer’s ideas may still be harming the emotional health of its citizens. One aspect was particularly pernicious: she urged mothers to ignore their babies’ emotional needs. Infants are hardwired to build an attachment with a primary care giver. The Nazis wanted children who were tough, unemotional and unempathetic and who had weak attachments to others, and they understood that withholding affection would support that goal. If an entire generation is brought up to avoid creating bonds with others, the experts ask, how can members of that generation avoid replicating that tendency in their own children and grandchildren?

“This has long been a question among analysts and attachment researchers but ignored by the general public,” says Klaus Grossmann, a leading researcher in mother-child attachment, now retired from the University of Regensburg. The evidence that Haarer’s teachings are still affecting people today is not definitive. Nevertheless, it is supported by studies of mother-child interactions in Germany, by other research into attachment and by therapists’ anecdotal reports.

HAARER’S TEACHINGS

Haarer was a pulmonologist, who, despite having no pediatric training, was touted as a child-rearing expert by the Nazis (the National Socialists). The recommendations from herbook, originally published in 1934, were incorporated into a Reich mothers training program designed to inculcate in all German women the proper rules of infant care. As of April 1943, at least three million German women had gone through this program. In addition, the book was accorded nearly biblical status in nursery schools and child care centers.

Although children need sensitive physical and emotional contact to build attachments and thrive, Haarer recommended that such care be kept to a minimum, even when carrying a child. This stance is clearly illustrated in the pictures in her books: mothers hold their children so as to have as little contact as possible.

Haarer viewed children, especially babies, as nuisances whose wills needed to be broken. “The child is to be fed, bathed, and dried off; apart from that left completely alone,” she counseled. . She recommended that children be isolated for 24 hours after the birth; instead of using “insipid-distorted ‘children’s language,’” the mother should speak to her child only in “sensible German”; and if the child cries, let him cry.

Sleep time was no exception. In The German Mother and Her First Child, Haarer wrote, “It is best if the child is in his own room, where he can be left alone.” If the child starts to cry, it is best to ignore him: “Whatever you do, do not pick the child up from his bed, carry him around, cradle him, stroke him, hold him on your lap, or even nurse him.” Otherwise, “the child will quickly understand that all he needs to do is cry in order to attract a sympathetic soul and become the object of caring. Within a short time, he will demand this service as a right, leave you no peace until he is carried again, cradled, or stroked—and with that a tiny but implacable house tyrant is formed!”

Before publishing The German Mother and Her First Child, which ended up selling 1.2 million copies, Haarer had written articles about infant care. Later titles included Mother, Tell Me about Adolf Hitler!(Mutter, erzähl von Adolf Hitler), a fairy-tale-style book that propagated anti-Semitism and anti-Communism in language a child could understand, and another child-rearing manual, Our Little Children (Unsere kleinen Kinder). Haarer was imprisoned for a time after Germany’s defeat in 1945 and lost her license to practice medicine. According to two of her daughters, she nonetheless remained an enthusiastic Nazi. She died in 1988.

MODERN CONSEQUENCES

There are many reasons to think that Haarer’s influence persisted long after the war and continues to affect the emotional health of Germans today even though parents no longer rely on her books. Researchers, physicians and psychologists speculate that attachment and emotional deficits may contribute to an array of phenomena of modern life, including the low birth rate, the many people who live alone or are separated, and the widespread phenomena of burnout, depression and emotional illnesses in general. Of course, the causes of these personal and societal issues are many and varied. But the stories of people such as Renate Flens lend credence to the idea that Haarer’s lessons could play a role.

As Flens’s therapist notes, after a time patients may disclose their disgust at their own body and admit to following strict eating rules or to being unable to enter into close relationships—which are all consistent with the outcome of Haarer’s child-rearing regimen. Psychotherapist Hartmut Radebold, formerly at the University of Kassel, tells of a patient who came to him with serious relational and identity problems. One day this man found a thick book at home in which his mother had noted all kinds of information about his first year of life: weight, height, frequency of bowel movements—but not a single word about feelings.

In the laboratory, Grossman, who retired in 2003, continually observed scenes such as this: A baby cries. The mother rushes . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 3:45 pm

The Priest of Abu Ghraib

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The Smiethsonian has a long and thoughtful article that is very much worth reading. It’s by Jennifer Percy and it begins:

Joshua Casteel was 24 years old when he learned he would be sent to Iraq as an interrogator with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion. This was his first deployment. It was June 2004, and the war in Iraq had been going on for a little more than a year. Casteel packed a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and didn’t stop reading until he saw the lights of Baghdad in the desert below. From Ali Al Salem Air Base, outside Kuwait City, he took a military bus overnight to Baghdad International Airport. Out his window he saw oil fires, roadside weddings, sand that went on forever.

The next day, he suited up in body armor, strapped on his M-16, and took a heavily armored three-vehicle convoy 20 miles outside Baghdad to Abu Ghraib prison. On the way, he was thinking about Pope John Paul II, who wrote about suffering, human dignity and the nature of personhood and its relationship to the divine. Then the commander asked about newcomers: “Who has never done this before?” Casteel raised his hand. The commander explained that they didn’t fire warning shots. “If you move your selector level from ‘safe’ to ‘semi’ automatic, you shoot to kill,” he said.

Casteel stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 240 pounds. He was a blond, blue-eyed evangelical Christian from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The deployment came six weeks after the revelation of prisoner torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib shocked the world. An Army intelligence officer and a patriot who’d long dreamed of serving his country in uniform, Casteel also had doubts about the morality of the so-called war on terror. Two weeks before he got his assignment letter from the Army, he was accepted to seminary school. He chose Iraq.

His mother, Kristi Casteel, could never picture her son as an interrogator. “He just wasn’t cruel to anyone,” she told me. She worried the job would change him. Casteel tried to rationalize. “Better that they have someone like me in the interrogation room,” he told her, “than someone who doesn’t care about the Geneva Conventions, or just wants to drop bombs.”

Abu Ghraib was already a prison before the Americans arrived, where Saddam Hussein incarcerated, tortured and executed Iraqi dissidents. When Saddam’s regime collapsed, the Americans took the place over and replaced Saddam’s portrait with a banner that read “America is the friend of all Iraqi people.” There was hardly any vegetation, just expanses of dirt and mud between buildings. “At the prison’s edge is a teetering skyline—minaret, palm trees, the mosaic dome of a mosque, rooftops,” Casteel wrote home to his parents. “At sunset I can hear the calls to prayer from the south and from the east. At times it may even appear as if in a round, like choirs of a cathedral, one folded atop the other. But always a few hours after the sun has fallen there is the intermittent echo of small-arms fire, the howling of dogs.” The complex, which now also housed a U.S. military base, had a chapel, a couple of cafeterias, an entertainment shed. When Casteel got to his sleeping quarters, everything was covered in ash. Outside, he saw a plume of smoke from a giant trash pile. The pit burned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes the smoke blew right through Casteel’s sleeping quarters.

Casteel was told that the military’s top priority, above even the search for Osama bin Laden, was to hunt down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and nicknamed the “Sheik of the Slaughterers.” Casteel’s job would be to interrogate prisoners to learn more about Zarqawi’s chief lieutenant, a man named Omar Hussein Hadid, whose army of insurgents had killed 95 Americans with rocket-propelled grenades and crude bombs during the Battle of Fallujah.

For the first week Casteel sat in on interrogations. There were six booths on each side of a long hallway; down the center was a two-way mirror that didn’t always work well, and when it didn’t, the prisoners watched you watch them. The rooms held little beyond plastic chairs, cheap tables, maybe zip ties on the chair legs. Sometimes a steel hook was attached to the floor. Every now and then prisoners were led to a more comfortable room, to confuse them, make them relax. The goal was to make them slip up. Sometimes Casteel saw men kept naked. Sometimes they were handcuffed to chairs.

During lessons, Casteel’s supervisors explained how to use fabricated stories and charges of homosexuality to shame the prisoners and manipulate them. The commanders were clear about who they were dealing with, Casteel remembered.

“These men,” they said, “are the agents of Satan, gentlemen.”

* * *

I met Casteel in 2009, when we were both graduate students in the writing program at the University of Iowa. We took a class together on the art of memoir, and on the side, Casteel told me, he took courses in philosophy and theology. I was surprised when I learned he had been an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison. He wasn’t like any soldier I had ever met. He loved to sing solos from Les Misérables and gave frequent sermons at local churches. I often saw him in a corduroy blazer, books piled under one arm.

A few years later, I contacted Casteel’s mother, Kristi, because I wished I had gotten to know him better. She invited me to her home in Cedar Rapids and gave me access to a Dropbox account containing Joshua’s many writings and files. The folders had titles like “Heidegger and the Mystery of Pain,” “Flesh and Finitude,” “Heidegger and Sartre on God and Bodies,” “Technologies of Humanness” and “The Rhetoric of Pain.”

Kristi said, “Joshua had a complexity about his life.”

There were folders for academic papers, diary entries, plays—Casteel got a dual master’s degree in playwriting and nonfiction writing—and many jotted-off musings. A small publisher, Essay Press, had put out a short book by Casteel in 2008 titled Letters from Abu Ghraib, composed of selected emails he wrote to friends and family during his six-month deployment. And there were a lot of unfinished projects, including a memoir called No Graven Images.

Peeking into Casteel’s files felt a little like having a conversation with him, even if it was one-sided. But there was so much I still wished to know. Casteel often made difficult and even contradictory choices, which to many people who knew him seemed incomprehensible. He was constantly trying to make sense of how his Christianity fit with the war and his time in Iraq. For him, questioning this paradox at the heart of his life was analogous to figuring out the mystery of Christ. “If Jesus is anything,” Casteel wrote in the introduction to his unfinished memoir, “he is incomprehensible. This is my story of wrestling with that incomprehensibility.”

* * *

Casteel was born into a family of evangelists and raised in Cedar Rapids. His father was an ordained minister with River of Life Ministries, and both of his parents worked as Christian marriage therapists. Joshua was the youngest child of three, and the only boy. For years Casteel soaked up the ecstasy of Pentecostalism, spoke in tongues, attended miracles. On Sundays, he listened to sermons, Scriptures, hymns, and learned about the fight between good and evil.

He was a kid driven by questions of meaning and significance. He lived with what people now like to call “intentionality.” He told his mother he wanted to give himself up to a higher cause—either his country, or God, or both. He even told his mother that his calling might include the ultimate sacrifice. He covered his bedroom walls with cutouts from Army brochures and Marine recruiters, the American flag and the U.S. Constitution, and a large wooden cross.

He attended his first presidential caucus events at age 7, and in high school became president of the local chapter of the Young Republicans. In his parents’ garage he would hold press conferences in a White House built from cardboard, wearing a suit and clip-on tie, his hair parted like Ronald Reagan’s. He got his first gun at 11, during the Gulf War—a 22-caliber rifle with a long-range scope. Rush Limbaugh was a constant presence. So was Billy Graham and Ralph Reed, then head of the Christian Coalition. “On the one hand,” Casteel wrote in his memoir, “the political banter of our ‘fundamentalist’ Christian household hovered around familiar conservative themes: family values, small government, private enterprise (Dad was an entrepreneur). But also always present was what Thomas Friedman refers to as the invisible fist behind the invisible hand in the economy: strong national defense.”

Casteel was consumed by feelings of loyalty to America and believed in America as a “Shining City on a Hill.” His father had been a captain in the Army, and his grandfather had fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. At his grandfather’s funeral, Joshua placed an old West Point badge in his casket.

One summer, at Bible camp, when Casteel was 14 years old, a man named Steve, a self-declared prophet, had a revelation that Casteel was destined to be a powerful and historically significant man. When Steve was kicked out of the ministry for false prophecy, Casteel asked the camp pastor whether the prophecy was still worth anything. “It doesn’t mean it wasn’t true,” the pastor said. “God can speak through a false prophet.”

* * *

Kristi Casteel describes her son as a happy and affectionate child, obedient as they come. The two forged a close and trusting relationship right from the beginning. One day when Casteel was 3 years old she found him sobbing uncontrollably. He brought her outside. “It’s really bad,” he said. “A little worm is dead.” The worm had dried out in the sun. Casteel dug a tiny grave and buried it. “Jesus loves the little wormies,” he told his mother. “All the little wormies of the world.” As a teenager he made small but symbolic acts in the name of God. He torched his collection of unholy CDs. He anointed the high school doorways and baseball dugouts with oil from the Christian bookstore. He blew a shofar from centerfield.

His mother said he could sometimes get lonely, staying home on weekends rather than partying or socializing with other teenagers. He didn’t drink or do drugs. Some of his friends took to calling him “Mama’s Boy.” Other classmates thought he was gay because many of his friends were girls, because he acted in school plays and musicals, because he had a hormone imbalance called gynecomastia that gave him breasts. For years, until he had surgery, he was teased in the locker room, and refused to take off his shirt to swim or change backstage during school plays.

He and his mother talked about everything—faith, friendships, girls, dreams, disappointments, fears, philosophy, theology, art, literature, music. “We were very much alike in many ways, and just naturally connected on a deep level,” Kristi told me. Joshua was never as close to his father, Everett, who didn’t share his son’s temperament or interests. (In 2010, Everett Casteel died from complications related to a brain tumor.) With his mother, Joshua was always sweet. He gave her a tiny crystal swan, a ragged cotton bunny (she collected bunnies), a pink chiffon blouse, a large print of an angel that he thought looked like her, and a framed poem he wrote about her and the meaning of her name. Casteel was always praying to Mary, the mother of God. For Kristi, it made sense. “We identified with Mary and Jesus—it just seemed to naturally evolve,” she says. “People mentioned his likeness to Christ again and again.”

Kristi had always worried that God would take her son. She had gone into his bedroom at night when he was a few weeks old and heard God talking: Give him back to me. You need to let him go. She tried to make sense of it. She later thought of the story of Isaac, when Abraham raised a knife above his son’s head to prove his faith in God.

“Whenever that fear entered my mind,” she told me, “I reminded myself that all of our children are on loan to us, and I shouldn’t live in fear of something I couldn’t know would happen.”

* * *

Casteel never forgot Steve’s prophecy, and a month after he turned 17 he enlisted as an Army reservist in Iowa City under the delayed entry program, in part to help his chances of getting accepted to West Point. That summer, between junior and senior year of high school, . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 3:13 pm

Big corporations make false promises and people suffer

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Alexander Sammon reports in the New Republic:

It’s hard to find anyone who will admit to it now, but when the CenterPoint Intermodal freight terminal opened in 2002, people in Elwood, Illinois, were excited. The plan was simple: shipping containers, arriving by train from the country’s major ports, were offloaded onto trucks at the facility, then driven to warehouses scattered about the area, where they were emptied, their contents stored. From there, those products—merchandise for Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot—were loaded into semis, and trucked to stores all over the country. Goods in, goods out. The arrangement was supposed to produce a windfall for Elwood and its 2,200 residents, giving them access to the highly lucrative logistics and warehousing industry. “People thought it was the greatest thing,” said Delilah Legrett, an Elwood native.

In addition to bringing more containers and warehouses, the Intermodal promised to foster vital growth and development. In a town without sidewalks, grand pronouncements were made in the run-up to the Intermodal’s debut. There would soon be hotels, restaurants, a grocery store; flower shops and bars would follow. Property values would surge, schools would be flush with cash. Most importantly, there would be great, high-paying jobs, the kind that could sustain a community devastated by farm failures and the wide-scale deindustrialization of the Midwest. In Will County, of which Elwood is part, the unemployment rate soared to a high of 18 percent in the 1980s, before gradually coming closer to the national average in the 1990s. In Joliet, the nearest urban center, it hit 27 percent in 1981.

An opportunity as great as the Intermodal came with a cost. First, to help seal the deal, the town had to offer the developer, CenterPoint, a sweetener: total tax abatement for two decades, until 2022. Second, the town would have to put up with an influx of truck traffic. No matter: With large-scale manufacturing shifting to the Pacific Rim at the turn of the millennium, the warehousing and logistics industry offered a chance to get back in the good graces of a global economy that had, for decades, turned its back on rural America. Elwood yoked its hopes to warehousing, which would carry the town to the forefront of America’s new consumer economy.

In a few short years after the Intermodal opened, Elwood became the largest inland port in North America. Billions of dollars in goods flowed through the area annually. The world’s most profitable retailers flocked to this stretch of barren country, while the headline unemployment rate plunged. Wal-Mart set up three warehouses in Will County alone, including its two largest national facilities, both located in Elwood. Samsung, Target, Home Depot, IKEA, and others all moved in. Will County is now home to some 300 warehouses. A region once known for its soybeans and cornfields was boxed up with gray facilities, some as large as a million square feet, like some enormous, horizontal equivalent of a game of Tetris.

Fifteen years before Amazon’s HQ2 horserace, Elwood had won the retail lottery. “Nobody envisioned what we have out here,” said Jerry Heinrich, who sat on the board of the planning commission that first apportioned the land for development in the mid-1990s. “It was never anticipated that every major business entity would end up in the area.”

But this corporate valhalla turned out to be hell for the community, which suffered a concentrated dose of the indignities and disappointments of late capitalism in the 21st century. Instead of abundant full-time work, a regime of partial, precarious employment set in. Temp agencies flourished, but no restaurants, hotels, or grocery stores ever came, save for the recent addition of a dollar store. Tens of thousands of semis rumbled through Will County every day, wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. And as the town of Elwood scrambled to pave its potholes, its inability to collect taxes from the facilities plunged it into more than $30 million in debt.

And that was before Big Tech rolled in. Just four years ago Amazon didn’t even have one facility in the region; now, with five fulfillment centers, it’s the county’s largest employer. Growth, once arithmetic, became exponential. Plans were made to build a new facility, this one bigger than the original Intermodal, with room for some 35 million additional square feet of industrial space.

NorthPoint, a Kansas City-based developer, began quietly buying up the necessary parcels of land. In June 2017, a map of the proposed project was leaked on Facebook. Some residents, like Legrett, saw their homes up against a new industrial park. “Some of my friends’ houses had buildings on top of them,” she said. Others fared worse. Julie Baum-Coldwater spotted her family’s farm smack in the middle of the facility. “When I saw the plan I just freaked,” she told me.

The town mobilized to stop the new warehousing development. Signs reading “Just Say No to NorthPoint” and “No More Trucks” sprouted on front lawns. Doors were knocked on. By the time the Elwood planning and zoning commission convened in December 2017 to vote on whether to recommend the facility to the town’s board for approval, tensions were high. Some 400 attendees crammed in the Elwood Village hall, with more still turned away. The meeting ran long, as did a second one, then a third, which had to be scheduled at the gymnasium at Elwood School, with bleachers packed and folding chairs on the basketball court. An overflow room with a livestream was set up in the cafeteria. Altogether, 800 people turned up, in the dead of winter, more than a third of the town’s population.

Nearly 100 speakers commented publicly; only four were in favor. Amid tears and a chorus of boos, the committee voted 3-to-1 to approve the new facility. If the people of Elwood wanted to save themselves and their town, they would have to fight for it.


In Elwood, geography is destiny. For homesteaders and farmers heading west in the 19th century, the flat terrain and quality soil made the region a major draw. “This area is kind of like a fertile crescent,” said Baum-Coldwater, whose 540-acre farm has been worked by her family for 160 years and counting. The Coldwaters are one of many multi-generational farming families in the area, producing soybean seeds, primarily, as well as corn and oats. From the front porch, they can still see the original residence Julie’s husband’s great-great-grandfather built in 1858, as well as the houses his grandmother and grandfather each grew up in, before they married.

Even the most thorough tour of Elwood doesn’t last long. The town’s nucleus sits on the west side of a highway, where a small strip mall, home to Silver Dollar restaurant and the Dollar Tree, leads to a handful of municipal buildings and a few blocks of housing. That denser development quickly gives way to a broad campestral swath, with the occasional farmhouse identifiable only because the area is so flat.

But it wasn’t topsoil that caught the eye of industry—it was Elwood’s serendipitous proximity to the country’s major infrastructure. Six class-1 railroads and four interstate highways pass through the region, which is situated a day’s drive from a full 60 percent of the country. Chicago is some 40 miles northwest as the crow flies. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more, and it is a warning about the dire effects of untrammeled (and uncontrolled) capitalism.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 11:10 am

Beautiful photos from the Wikipedia Foundation

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Above,a shot of the famed columnar basalt of Cape Stolbchaty, located in Russia’s Kuril Islands.

Many more photos in the on-line gallery.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life

A big silvertip, Phoenix Artisan soap, and the Rockwell 6S

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The barrel-handled 24mm silvertip is by RazoRock and is a very nice brush, though on the large side for me. But it did a great job with Phoenix Artisan’s Organism 46-B shaving soap, and the Rockwell 6S is an extremely good razor, today used with the R3 baseplate. Three passes, perfect smoothness, a splash of aftershave, and the day begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 January 2019 at 9:06 am

Posted in Shaving

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