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In space travel, we have seen how aerospace engineers use a gravitational “slingshot”—the “swing-by” or gravity assist maneuver—to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft.

flyby 2The relative movement and gravity of a planet or other astronomical object is substituted for fuel, time, and expense to propel a spacecraft on its path, increasing or decreasing its speed. This “assist” is achieved by the motion of the gravitating body as it pulls on the spacecraft.Cassini_interplanet_trajectory

It was used by interplanetary probes from Mariner 10 onwards, including two Venus flybys and the two Voyager probes’ notable flybys of Jupiter and Saturn.

To me, this provides a useful analogy to the process of transitioning from one lifetime to the next. Most people are concerned with leaving their accumulated assets and wealth to those they leave behind, but many times this leads to a dissipation of one’s purpose and intent.

I prefer to maintain focus on “investing” this accumulation in some outcome that is not likely to be realized in my own lifetime—specifically, to giving parricides a second chance at life. Maybe what I leave behind won’t be much more than what is here now; but at least it is a nearly-blank canvas or foothold with which motivated parricides can begin to rebuild their lives—which is more than they have now. Anyway, that small foothold is good enough for me as I enter my final years.

As I have mentioned to you before, I am fascinated with the idea of the continuity of existence: from past lives to the present, and from the present to a future life. I am obsessed with the possibility of leaving behind a clue that will lead some future self to a discovery of what I have learned and done in this life. It may be a pipe dream, but I don’t care; leaving behind a positive legacy is preferable to living an inconsequential life that no one remembers or cares about.

It seems to me that one of the best things a person can do is to live out one’s life with grace, dignity, positivism, wisdom, conviction… and yes, courage. This is denied to many people, but fortunately not all. I am thankful I will likely die a happy man, but hopefully no time soon.

Research shows that feeling grateful doesn’t just make you feel good. It also literally helps the heart. Gratefulness is good for your heart. It fends off depression, stress, and anxiety, which can increase the risk of heart disease. Researchers even did blood tests to measure inflammation, the body’s natural response to injury or plaque buildup in the arteries, and they found lower levels among those who were grateful—an indication of a healthier heart.

So Happy Thanksgiving and Long Life!



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“lost cause”

Far from being a “neo-Nazi” as Turley describes her, Ms. Haverbeck appears to be a very nice and sensible woman who asks where the death of six million people took place, and no one in authority who should know can answer her.

This illustrates a consequence described in a July 7th post, that the principle of legal certainty that a crime was committed has never been established in any legal proceeding, nor is it observed. 

It seems to me that Ms. Haverbeck is a courageous woman who has simply said that she is too old to accept the continued vilification of all Germans without the most basic evidence that would be established by a court of law in the death of a single victim, let alone millions.



“She Is A Lost Cause”: 87-Year-Old German Grandmother Jailed For Denying Auschwitz Was A Death Camp

by Jonathan Turley,

November 16, 2015

We have been following the rapid decline of free speech rights in Europe and Canada. Germany has long been the subject of criticism from the free speech movement. The country has long criminalized speech dealing with World War II and the Nazis. While the real benefit of those laws has been questioned given the long existence of a neo-Nazi groups in the country, prosecutors continue to bring troubling charges against those who voice unpopular or obnoxious beliefs in prohibited areas. The latest is Ursula Haverbeck, an 87-year-old German Neo-Nazi grandmother who has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after being found guilty of denying the Holocaust. She does not believe that the Holocaust was real but, rather than leaving the matter to open debate, the Germans are imprisoning her for either not changing her mind or not staying silent about her views.

220px-auschwitz_entranceHaverbeck was charged earlier this year after giving an interview outside the trial of former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening claiming Auschwitz wasn’t a death camp. She challenged the presiding judge in Hamburg to prove that Auschwitz was a death camp. However, the judge responded that he said he wouldn’t debate someone who “can’t accept any facts.”

Magistrate Bjoern Joensson added” “Neither do I have to prove to you the world is round.” That would seem a fine response and the matter should have been closed.

However, the government then proceeded to arrest her. I have little sympathy for Haverbeck who appears and ardent Nazi. However, free speech often requires us to fight for the rights of people who we dislike or even despise.

While I am certainly sympathetic to the Germans in seeking to end the scourge of fascism, I have long been a critic of the German laws prohibiting certain symbols and phrases, I view it as not just a violation of free speech but a futile effort to stamp but extremism by barring certain symbols. Instead, extremists have rallied around an underground culture and embraced symbols that closely resemble those banned by the government. I fail to see how arresting a man for a Hitler ringtone or forcing companies to remove the number “88” from products is achieving a meaningful level of deterrence, even if you ignore the free speech implications. What it does do is given people like Haverbeck the status of victims. It allows Holocaust deniers to argue that the government will not allow people to utter what they claim is the “truth.” History can take care of itself as can free speech. The criminalization of unpopular views only fuels the ignorance and claims of persecution by this small minority.

Judge Joensson said in the most recent case “It is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense . . . She is a lost cause.” It is nonsense but the government has made it a serious matter by criminalizing views deemed nonsensical. That is more than nonsense it is dangerous. It is free speech that seems the lost cause in Germany.


Professor Jonathan Turley is a nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law. He has written over three dozen academic articles that have appeared in a variety of leading law journals at Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and other schools.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Weezer performing “Say It Ain’t So”


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schlitz wolfsangel

schlitz wolfsangle.

One of the favorite hiking pennants in my collection is an approximately 15″ x 30″ BDM pennant from the town of Schlitz, is a small town (pop. 9,548) in the Vogelsbergkreis in eastern Hesse, Bavaria.

Still retaining the ambiance for which Old Germany is famed, Schlitz is known throughout Hesse for the town’s five castles and is also called the Romantische Burgenstadt Schlitz (the Romantic Castle Town of Schlitz).

Bw4-eTMIAAAmYAdAs this pennant suggests, it was also a place where a fierce brand of fortitude and bravery were expected to be practiced in times of trial. The reason I say this is because of the design of the Wolfsangel on the pennant, which is a variant of the usual design, seen at right.

The Schlitz pennant Wolfsangel is actually two runes, as shown here. As such, this variant on the Wolfsangel rune qualifies as a “bindrune,” which is the combination of two or more runes for a special purpose. Usually, a bindrune includes in a single design two or more different runes, so as towerwolf seig small enable a controlled release of those runic energies attributable to each of the respective runes. But in this particular variant, the Sigil rune appears twice, presumably to intensify its power. Although a bindrune is a blending of runic characters, each rune included in the design is expected to retain its own individuality; it must be visible as a complete entity within the whole.

The Wolfangel is a German heraldic charge inspired by an actual historic wolf trap consisting of two metal parts and a connecting chain. The top part of the trap, which resembled a crescent moon with a ring inside, used to be fastened between branches of a tree in the forest while the bottom part, on which meat scraps used to be hung, was a hook meant to be swallowed by a wolf. The simplified design based on the iron “wolf-hook” was often heavily stylized to no longer resemble a baited wolf trap or hook.

In prewar Germany, the Wolfsangel rune’s popularity in the 1930s was partly inspired by Hermann Löns’s 1910 novel Der Wehrwolf, in which the protagonist, a resistance fighter during the Thirty Years’ War, adopted this magic symbol as his personal badge. In early times, the Wolfsangel was believed to possess magical powers, and became a symbol of liberty and independence after its adoption as an emblem of the 15th century peasants’ revolt against the oppression of the German princes and their mercenaries.

The Wolfsangel was also intended to be the symbol of Werwolf, which was the name given to a plan, begun in 1944, to create a resistance force—staffed mainly by elite SS and Hitler Youth—which would operate behind enemy lines as the Allies advanced through Germany. The organization originally had about 5,000 members. In 1944, Joseph Goebbels said: “The enemy will be taken in the rear by the fanatical population, which will ceaselessly worry him, tie down strong forces and allow him no rest or exploitation of any possible success.” On March 23, 1945, he gave another speech known as the “Werwolf speech,” in which he urged every German to fight to the death. But experience proved that the German people would not be defeated by death, that they would survive.

It is therefore appropriate that Schlitz was the model for the fictional town of Schewenborn, where the 1983 novel The Last Children of Schewenborn (Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn) takes place. The novel was written by Gudrun Pausewang, herself an inhabitant of Schlitz. The story depicts life in Germany in the aftermath of a nuclear war.

The story is told in the first person by a 12-year-old male protagonist whose family takes refuge in the Schewenborn home of his grandparents, who at the time of the nuclear blast were away from home and probably killed. The later parts of the plot describe the weeks, months and years after this attack, and take place mostly at Schewenborn. The oppressive story does not have a happy ending: most of the protagonist’s family gradually die of radiation sickness and other illnesses and face extreme hardships. At the conclusion, only the boy, his father, and a small group of children—the “last children” of the title—remain alive.

In America, Schlitz is best-known as the name of “the beer that made Milwaukee famous.” While the link between the two towns is not particularly strong (Joseph Schlitz arrived in the US from Mainz), beer played a prominent role in both towns’ development. The family Schlitz—who ruled the town of Schlitz—lost its brewing rights in the town when the family chose the wrong side in a local uprising and wound up with the losers. But in 1725 Friedrich Wilhelm von Schlitz founded a new brewery outside the town. Schlitz beer was originally brewed in Milwaukee WI by one German and got its name from another. Joseph Schlitz worked as a bookkeeper for the brewery’s founder. When the founder died, Schlitz took over the company, married the founder’s widow, and gave the brewery his name.

He found opportunity in a potential setback.

Was the same tenacity evidenced in the postwar experiences of the young women from the town of Schlitz? A German visitor who is active in the scouting movement told me that similar hiking pennants are said to be the “soul” of the group that marched beneath them. Before they forever pass into the past, I am going to try and contact women in Schlitz who were likely members of the BDM. If I am successful, it should be illuminating to hear their stories and, perhaps, to gain some insight to their spirit.



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blind spots

blind spots 1.

One of the most fortunate misfortunes I have experienced in my life is that many years ago I temporarily experienced a blind spot in my vision. A capillary on my retina had ruptured, and it took a long while before it healed. In the meantime, it caused a blind spot which has been instructive in many aspects of my life and understanding other people.

how it doesnt workHere is the weird thing about blind spots: you can’t see them. I know, that sounds like a great big “Duh.” But blind spots don’t have perceivable edges like a black spot would as the photo to the right illustrates. It’s almost like they’re not even there. They are simply devoid of information, and you have to infer what is missing. But inferring what you don’t know is supposed to be there is really hard.

I remember seeing a person on the street, and every part of him was visible except his face. It was almost as if I had prosopagnosia, or face blindness, an incurable cognitive/neurological disorder that impairs the ability to recognize faces—even those that should be familiar. His face wasn’t invisible—it just wasn’t there. If I had not been habituated to seeing faces on people, I wouldn’t know it was missing.

A corporate training company I used to work for had a couple terms: “unconscious competent” and “unconscious incompetent.” The experience of having had a blind spot brought new meaning to the latter term. It has made me more appreciative of the plight of kids who have never experienced what most of us learn. A friend who was a market research director used to say: “You can’t imagine a flavor you’ve never tasted.” You don’t know what you’re missing in the most profound and complete way of not knowing.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have not broken the “code” for how I can be most helpful to grown kids who have grown up in homes without love, where the only form of attention was abuse. But that is not to say that one should stop trying. One must be tolerant of the lengthy process of trial-and-error required on both sides, and that someone is us.



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older juveniles


Why Connecticut may try 21-year-olds as juveniles

by Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor
November 18, 2015

When the Connecticut legislature voted to raise the age of those eligible to be tried in its juvenile justice system from 16 to 18 in 2007, there was widespread skepticism.

Police chiefs and judicial officials in the state expressed concerns that the measures would overburden the juvenile justice system and cost the state $40 million a year. In the eight years since the age was raised, Connecticut has seen its juvenile crime rate and juvenile incarceration rate decrease significantly—and at a much lower cost than projected.

The state now wants to go even further, as Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) urges raising the age of the juvenile justice system’s jurisdiction from 18 to 21. He has also proposed reforms aimed at young adults—up to age 25—that would give some juvenile system protections, such as confidentiality and

In an address at a University of Connecticut School of Law symposium in early November, Governor Malloy said he wants to “begin a statewide conversation” around the issue, and experts say the conversation could go nationwide.

“Age, within our laws and within the criminal justice system, is largely arbitrary,” he added. “You can commit a nonviolent offense at 17 without a criminal record, but if you’re 18 and you commit the same crime, it lasts a lifetime.”

This “Raise the Age” movement has been gaining momentum around the country, fueled by new scientific research suggesting that current juvenile and adult justice systems don’t properly reflect the modern path from adolescence to adulthood.

The first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Ill., in 1899. It was based on the idea that children were less developed than adults and more in need of rehabilitation than punishment. Similar courts flourished around the country in the first half of the 20th century.

This approach has been validated by modern science, with disciplines from social psychology to neurobiology finding adolescents generally more prone to risky behavior, vulnerable to peer pressure, and likely to be volatile in emotionally charged settings.

There is now growing social and scientific evidence that adolescence is elongated compared with previous generations, which juvenile justice experts say bolsters the argument that the juvenile justice system should, as Malloy is proposing, be expanded to include young adults.

Vincent Schiraldi, a senior research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School program in criminal justice and a former juvenile correctional administrator in Washington DC says this prolonged modern adolescence can impact criminal behavior.

Young people finish college, find jobs, get married, and leave home much later than previous generations—all milestones associated with a reduced likelihood of criminal activity that are occurring later in life. And recent scientific research shows that the human mind doesn’t reach full maturity until at least the mid-20s.

In this sense, says Mr. Schiraldi—who co-wrote an op-ed in support of Malloy’s proposal for the Hartford Courant—Connecticut is seeking to have its legal system mirror the social and psychological development of its citizens.

“It’s a gradual entrance into full adulthood in the legal system, the way sociologists, psychologists, and neural biologists believe people mature” in real life, he adds. “They [could] enter a court that’s more individualized, more rehabilitative, and less likely to stain their entire life from mistakes they made when they’re not fully mature.”

By extending some aspects of the juvenile system to low-level offenders as old as 25 – such as confidentiality and expunging records—more of them could be diverted from an adult criminal justice system that may only make them more likely to re-offend.

A US Department of Justice study, for example, found that 78% of under 25-year-olds released from prison are rearrested within three years.

“Mixing young people with adults gives them role models, but not the role models we want them to have, so separating them is not just good for the system, but it could be helpful to the young people as well,” says Schiraldi.

But challenges remain. Malloy’s proposal would divert thousands of additional cases to the juvenile system—11,000 people in that age bracket were arrested in Connecticut last year, the Connecticut Mirror reported—so an incremental approach to phasing in the program might be needed.

“There’s an implementation concern,” says Josh Gupta-Kagan, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. “The system has to have the resources to do it, you can’t keep the budget line flat and say, ‘You have to handle 1,000 or 2,000 more cases.’ ”

When Connecticut first raised the age for its juvenile justice system, it took a staggered approach, raising the age from 16 to 18 over two years. It is an approach Schiraldi thinks should be repeated this time around.

“There are implementation issues at every stage of this,” he says. “I don’t consider them reasons not to do it, rather a reason to do it carefully.”

If Malloy’s proposal is adopted, and is successful, experts believe it could convince other states to follow suit.

Eight states allow 17-year-olds to be tried as adults, and in New York and North Carolina 16-year-olds can be tried as adults, according to the Juvenile Justice Initiative (JJI). An estimated 250,000 teens are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year in the US, mostly for nonviolent offenses, the Campaign for Youth Justice reported.

Some states are already following Connecticut’s lead, including Illinois. A series of bills passed by the state legislature from 2009 through 2013 raised the age limit of the juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18. Next year, the state is going to consider raising it higher, says Elizabeth Clarke, founder and president of the JJI.

In a September panel discussion, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the new research indicates that “we may have a significant opportunity, even after the teenage years, to exert a positive influence and reduce future criminality through appropriate interventions.”

Connecticut, as a national leader in juvenile justice reform, could soon be in a position to test these theories.

“I think this is an area that’s going to get looked at going forward,” says Professor Gupta-Kagan. “Hopefully Connecticut can be a nice model and pull other states up with them.”


Henry Gass is a reporting intern at The Christian Science Monitor, working on the National News desk in Boston. Prior to joining the Monitor he reported on energy and climate change for ClimateWire in Washington DC, and has worked as a freelancer in New York and Montreal. He has a masters degree from Columbia Journalism School, and his reporting and photography have been published by The Globe and Mail, AlJazeera English, and Scientific American.



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facebook wisdom

Alejandro Jodorowsky.

One of the most unfortunate things I repeatedly do is accept Facebook friend requests from people who are personally known to me, though not really close. I inevitably regret the decision and consider closing my account every time I go out to Facebook to see what this gaggle of “friends” is thinking.

I am tired of seeing selfies from narcissists. I’m tired of seeing food illustrations from fatties. I am tired of reading the political opinions of rabid right-wingers and spineless liberals alike. I am tired of reading mindless platitudes from all manner of people who “like” the thoughts of others but who don’t back their facile opinions with action. I’m tired of seeing countless pictures of cute dogs and cats. I’m sick of people who justify their lack of compassion with, as long as there’s “just one homeless child in America,” or vet, or what-have-you.

With that precondition, they’ll never step up. Why should I care what such hypocrites think?

But sometimes—and it’s the only reason I haven’t closed my Facebook account—there is something posted that I really, really like or agree with.

Such is the case with the above illustration. It originally included the name of the man who said it—Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky—but I had to take that out because it was misspelled, and Facebook is erroneous enough. I hadn’t heard of Mr. Jodorowsky before, so I tried watching one of his films, but lost interest. No less than John Lennon apparently thought Jodorowsky was hot stuff… but I guess I’m not up to his intellectual snuff or tastes.

Nevertheless, I do love the quote and have put off the decision to tank Facebook for another month.



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61° Windy and Clear

A cold snap is expected tonight, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s already begun.




In thinking about upcoming posts, last week I asked myself: “What is most important to me that I can write about?”

Because I spend two-thirds of my life sleeping, the answer to this question unsurprisingly was “Dreams.” But unfortunately, this is a subject that is harder-than-hell to make interesting to anybody but the dreamer.

Everybody dreams, and your dreams are interesting to no one but yourself (or maybe the rare dream researcher). Dreams are a weird conflation of reality and fantasy, and therefore difficult to take seriously (except for the rare interpreter who’s fascinated by the symbolism of dreams).

Joseph used to use dreams to foretell the future, but this application has pretty much gone out of fashion. They say that Lincoln had a strange dream about his impending death before he attended the theatre, but where did that get him?


dreaming 7.

My most memorable dreams transport me to fantastic places that are primarily a mix of vision and emotion that’s impossible to describe in a way that can be conveyed to others. And anyway, who would care?

A lot has been made of the subject of “lucid dreaming”—the state of knowing that you’re dreaming and trying to control what happens next in your dream-life. But this doesn’t interest me at all. I enjoy the experience of free-falling through my imagination, and examining the elements of synthesis that my brain puts together.

I rarely, if ever, have nightmares… so I am not motivated by this particular “pathology” of dreaming. I have had maybe three or four days of depression in the last 14 years. So my dream-life is one of pure pleasure, unknowable adventure, and escape from a pretty satisfying existence (despite its trials).

I am fascinated by the speculation by some that the dream-state offers glimpses into alternative realities that are just as real as our waking state, but this is a mind-game that cannot be resolved to my satisfaction. The recurring dreams that I do experience take me to places that are familiar, but not in a way that convinces me they are as real as places I have actually seen in my waking life.

I did have one experience, however, that gave me pause. Years ago I visited a childhood friend who I had not seen for over thirty years. He gave me a tour of a house his family had bought in the intervening years, and I had the impression I had visited the home once before in one of my dreams. I was knocked out by the experience.

But when I related this strange fact to my friend, he didn’t seem to care. Maybe he’d had a similar thing happen in his own dreams. Ho-hum.




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