Sunday, February 25, 2007

Low-Functioning and High-Functioning

"The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means that your deficits are ignored and low-functioning means your assets are ignored... Either way, you get ignored."

This sentence, said by a high-functioning autistic woman named Laura interviewed by a low-functioning autistic woman named Amanda Baggs, rings absolutely true. The less autistic my nephew seems the less help the social services and education departments want to give him. Luckily, my sister knows how to get the most out of them, but it isn't easy.

Here's the post in Amanda's blog that introduced me to these video interviews (titled Interview with Laura about Autism Recovery), and here are the videos: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

The interview is a response to two interviews with "recovered" autistic kids, which is an odd way to describe them. There's a six year-old with what I call "autistic eyes", that don't seem to be focused. He's a cute kid who underwent chelation therapy, but he reminds me of my nephew who is like that with just ABA. The 14-year old is even more clearly still autistic. He speaks in monotone and still has trouble with abstractions. So why call them recovered? Call them what they are - high-functioning autistics.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Autistic Brother's Keeper

The New York Time Magazine has an interesting article about a 14 year-old girl with two 16-year old autistic twin brothers. Although my nephew seems to be in much better shape than the boys in this article, I can't help but think about my niece's future. It's hard to think of a toddler who can barely speak as being responsible for another person - and she isn't, not yet. As long as she's a child and her parents are still alive she's not responsible for him, but one day she will be.

But even thinking of the nearer future, I wonder what problems having an autistic brother may produce. I'd like to think that since he's very high-functioning, most of the problems mentioned in the Times article won't come up. For one thing, she probably won't even know he's autistic for most of her childhood, and she won't have to cope with what being autistic means for her brother. Neither is he ever violent towards her or anyone else. Right now she adores him and he treats her well. But something will probably pop up that we can't predict.

Thinking of their adulthood, it seems my niece will be my nephew's only sibling, since my sister isn't planning any more children. The responsibility will be hers alone. Sure, I'd like to think my children, her cousins, would help her, but cousins are not as close as brothers and sisters, nor do they feel the same kind of responsibility. Besides, they don't even exist yet and who knows where they'll live (not to mention the fact that they'll be much younger than my nephew and niece). Hopefully, my nephew will be an independent adult in need of minimal assistance. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Layout

I've made a few changes to the blog, thanks to upgrades in Blogger's blogging tools. The background is still the same but the sidebar has changed. I like the new expandable and collapsible archive menu and the post labels.

How do you like the new look?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Stop! Police!

Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has made a very odd decision. After the findings of a special investigative commission regarding police misconduct and possible corruption led to the resignation of Israel's chief of police, Dicther announced the nomination of Yaakov Ganot, the current head of the prison service and a former defendant in a corruption trial. 13 years ago Ganot, then the head of the northern police district, was acquitted of criminal charges such as bribery, but the supreme court found he acted unethically, in a way unbecoming of a senior police officer. He was suspended for 3 years and later returned to the police.

This is a bad appointment. The public committee in charge of evaluating such nominations (which is not a parliamentary committee, but rather one headed by former supreme court justice Yaakov Tirkel) should reject Ganot. If it doesn't, the government should reject him. After Police Chief Karadi resigned for much less than what Ganot did, and when the police is in need of deep reforms, including ethical ones, a clean figure needs to be appointed.

Sure, Ganot is said to be excellent at getting things done. But if he's so good why was he Dichter's fifth or sixth choice? Isn't there anyone who is both highly qualified and corruption-free?

The Supreme Court has been asked to bar this nomination. I hope it does not do so. Since he was acquitted, his disqualification is moral and ethical, not legal. For that reason, it is the Tirkel Commission and the government which should not allow Ganot's appointment, not the court.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Berlinale's Crystal Bear

The Israeli film "Sweet Mud" (originally, "Adama Meshugaat", meaning "Crazy Earth") by director Dror Shaul has been awarded the Crystal Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival. This is the top prize in the contest for films aimed at children and teenagers. I'd say that's an odd, even amusing, category for this film. I haven't seen it yet, but I heard it starts with a dairy farmer at a kibbutz getting a blow-job from a calf (apparently this is an in-joke for kibbutzniks: there's a legend in these collective communities that the farmers get gratified by the udder suckling calves).

Sweet Mud tells the tale of a boy in a Kibbutz whose mother is mentally ill. The supposedly supportive community shuns her.

Two other Israeli films screened at the festival were "Beaufort", about the last days of an Israeli military outpost in Southern Lebanon before the 2000 pullout, and "The Bubble", about a homosexual affair between a Palestinian and an Israeli in Tel-Aviv. Later today we'll know if one of these got another prize.

Friday, February 16, 2007

All Wrong in Jerusalem

The whole fiasco over the construction of a bridge near the Mughrabim gate in the Old City of Jerusalem is one of those rare cases where everybody is wrong and nobody is right. The government should have never started the project, because it should have predicted it would be used by extremist Muslims as an excuse for anti-Israel protests. They could have put a different kind of bridge, which can be constructed quickly and without need for any digging in sensitive places.

The extremist Muslims, and others who have played along, are now saying Israel is digging beneath Al-Aqsa with the intention to topple it and construct the third Jewish temple. That's bullshit and they probably know it. Now Sheikh Raad Salakh, an Israeli citizen who is the head of the Northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has called for an Intifada against Israel. The man should be put in jail for the rest of his life for treason and incitement of violence against the state.

Now Jewish religious leaders, including the ultra-Orthodox mayor of Jerusalem, are trying to stop the construction of the bridge. Their main concern isn't safety or Muslim sensitivities. Their problem with the bridge is the fact that it will be used by Jews to enter the Temple Mount, an area where Jews are not allowed to enter according to Halacha (Jewish religious law).

I think the construction should never have started, but now it is too late. We should not give in to religious extremists. The only acceptable way out would be to declare that we accept the requests of Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, and therefore have decided to stop all construction at the Mughrabim Gate. But I don't see Olmert doing that any time soon.

A Religion of the Non-Religious?

From Haaretz:

On Sunday, Haaretz reported on Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin's initiative for the establishment of a secular Judaism lobby, to be comprised of MKs and representatives of secular Jewish organizations. Among the objectives Beilin set forth were civil marriage, secular conversion, separation of religion and state, funding for secular Jewish education and, in the long run, the establishment of a secular Judaism movement alongside the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Movements.

Beilin told Tuesday's conference that the secular should also be able to determine who is a Jew  for instance, deciding that someone with a Jewish father should be considered Jewish. But he admitted that the chances of passing such legislation are minimal.

Therefore, perhaps "what is needed is an institution, a building with pillars in which someone will sit and say that the candidate has learned enough Judaism and give him a [conversion] certificate."

But others said that the lobby should focus on secular Jewish education.
Read the complete article.

I think a secular lobby is a good idea, but it should focus on separation of church (or synagogue) and state and protecting the rights of the secular majority in Israel. But the idea of turning secularism into another Jewish religious movement is absurd. If you want liberal conversion, accept reform and reconstructionist conversions, and not just the Orthodox type. If you want to teach Jewish texts in a non-religious context you don't need to call it a movement.

The greatest thing about secular Judaism is that it isn't institutionalized. There's no hierarchy. We don't need ordained "secular rabbis". We choose who we listen to and respect by their personal merit, not because someone declared them to be luminaries.

So Beilin, lead a political lobby to protect our rights, but don't anoint yourself the Chief Rabbi of the Religion of the Non-Religious.