Sep 07

UncleTom

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe ★★★

This book is said by many to have been one of the most influential books in all of American history. I don’t doubt that. It is actually an assembly of articles that Stowe wrote for a magazine, eventually assembled into book format. It is written like a true story, though it is a fiction supposedly assembled from examples of how slaves were treated in the antebellum south. Unfortunately, I would not call it great literature, and is definitely written with a strong political slant to it.  The book has two main stories to it, the first being a slave lady with her child that escapes to safety. Then, there is Tom, the good boy who always does what he is told, who ends up being sold to a tyrannical slavemaster, leading to his death.

The book is written in an inflammatory manner designed to show that while slaves may have kind and loving owners, the entire system of slavery was rotten to the core. Uncle Tom had some kind owners, yet the picture is always lurking that he is essentially nothing but somebody else’s property, and that only pure luck gave him sympathetic owners. Stowe uses religion heavily during the narrative, emphasizing that Tom was a very religious man. This seemed to be directed at southern theologians who vociferously contended for the religious propriety of slavery as an institution.

What do we make it this book 150 years later? We know the outcomes now, and so are somewhat prejudiced in our reading of this book. Needless to say, when Union armies came close to slave lands, at least 1/6 of the slaves would run to the union front. There are simple reasons to explain why it wasn’t 100% of slaves, as confederate lost cause writers try to impress on us that most slaves were loyal to their masters and would have stayed with them out of contentment for their situation. The fact is that the south did not take careful measures to protect abuses in slavery (if slavery itself is not itself considered a serious abuse). There is a large movement today to resurrect the thinking of the lost cause writers, and strangely, this is found most prominent among libertarians, who are the most vociferous about individual rights. Arguments in these camps abound about how the civil war wasn’t about slavery but instead state rights, taxes, or Lord only knows what. They love to make Abe Lincoln look worse than the devil himself. It would have been best if America did not have to go through the bloodiest war in its history with the civil war. Thomas Fleming in his book A Disease in the Public Mind (reviewed recently by me) identifies the real cause of the war was mass public insanity regarding the issue of slavery, both in the south and the north, that led to this war. This book about Uncle Tom flamed the insanity in the north, and southern intrenched arrogance inflamed the insanity of the south. Needless to say, I do NOT have southern sympathies, while contending with the issue of slavery without the inflammatory nature of this book would have been a better way to go about it.

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Sep 07

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This blog is a combination of two activities, the first being a visit of Betsy and I to our daughter Rachel and her husband and two daughters, who live in Sioux Center, Iowa, and the second being a bicycle trip I did with the Adventure Cycle Association in the Black Hills, starting in Rapid City, South Dakota. The bicycle trip begins at the 30AUG spot, so if you are only interested in that, please skip down everything else.

23aug We decided to head to Iowa early in the morning on Saturday, rather than late on Friday. At the very last minute, Betsy and I both decided to take a slightly longer route, which went first to Portland, and then out the Columbia River highway. The alternative would have been to go over Snoqualmie Pass through Yakima and Tri-Cities. We drove down through Pendleton, Baker, Ontario, Boise, and finally settled in for the night at Mountain Home, Idaho. I don’t take photos from the car, so no photos were obtained today.

24aug Today was a long, hard day of driving, never getting on an interstate highway at all until the last five miles. We left Mountain Home on a side road that took us through the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Betsy had never seen this, and it was not a major delay in going this way as compared to simply taking the interstate to Idaho Falls. Once we reached Idaho Falls, we continued on the road that followed the Snake River to the Grand Tetons. I’ve traveled this road before, having gone a number of times to a church associated Labor Day Weekend Youth Rally on this road, located just before the Wyoming border. Driving up through the Tetons, we then entered Yellowstone Park, and left out the east entrance towards Cody. Oddly, I felt that many areas of the Northwest were far more beautiful and spectacular than Yellowstone NP. We then headed north on route 14a through the Bighorn Mountains. I had thought that I did this route before, but apparently not, and must have done the straight route 14. 14a went through Lovell, but then is a ridiculously steep climb for over ten miles, throwing us into snow, and the tops of the mountain peaks. It was most grand, and created dreams of the ultimate challenge bicycle ride. I love the Bighorns, in my estimation one of the most beautiful spots in the Rockies. We then hit a long, steep descent which put us into Sheridan, Wyoming where we spent the night.

25aug today was mostly driving on I-90, with the exception of a bypass the see the Devil’s Tower. Betsy and I took a walk around the tower and then quickly dashed back to I-90 to get to Alex and Rachel. Only a stop in Sturgis to get lunch held us from getting to Sioux Center at about 8 pm, weary and ready for bed. But, what a delight it was to see the children (we include Alex in that) and grandchildren.

26aug Today was a lazy day, with me riding around town with Alex, doing a short bicycle ride with him, and then grilling steaks on the barbeque.

Lily

Lily

Adalyn

Adalyn

27aug Today was another lazy day, with a visit to the foreign candy company, as well another bicycle ride. We had lunch at Culvers in memory of Diane.

28aug Today we went to Lester to visit the relatives. We were invited to Wes and Esther’s for lunch. Also at lunch were Phil and Donna Mogler, Wes’s mother, Alex, Caleb, and Tessa. Uncle Phil has always been a wonderful memory to me as far back as when I was 3-4 years old. Wes and Esther have been  most special cousins to our family, and I always try to see them when I come to Iowa. After a fantastic lunch with the most delicious Iowa corn, we had heavenly apple pie. Esther then took us to see the town of Lester with some brief stops, and then to see Roy and Melissa, as well as Tim and Carissa. Tim and Carissa were homeschooling their 5 children, all of them most wonderful kids, who were living in the original home of Carl and Pauline, where dad and all the aunts and uncles on that side of the family were born. The house was quite remodeled, with walls moved and additions added, but it still felt like the old homestead. The house looked like a school, as the children were being home-schooled. What a delight it was to see old relations. My only regret is that we didn’t have either time or opportunity to see more relatives in the area. Dinner was at Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center, since Alex needed to go to a major fireman’s meeting.

Phil and Donna Mogler

Phil and Donna Mogler

Esther, Wes and Grandma Moser

Esther, Wes and Grandma Moser

Roy Feucht showing off his high heel cowboy boots

Roy Feucht showing off his high heel cowboy boots

Roy and Melissa Feucht

Roy and Melissa Feucht

Tim and Carissa Feucht and family. The house is the original homestead where my father as well as uncles & aunts were born

Tim and Carissa Feucht and family. The house is the original homestead where my father as well as uncles & aunts were born

Tim and Carissa Feucht family

Tim and Carissa Feucht family

29aug This was my last full day in Sioux Center. It was mostly a lazy day, packing and getting ready for the bicycle trip, as I tend to forget things. In the evening, we had dinner at Archies in LeMars, followed by Blue Bunny ice cream at the Blue Bunny fountain. Archies, by the way, is steak to die for, if you didn’t know that already. In the evening, we had a wonderful time with Alex’s parents, as well as with Kurt and Colleen, who came over (Kurt) for a cigar and beer. It was a wonderful way to end my time with Alex and Rachel.

30aug Today was an early rise, and long, six hour drive to Rapid City, where my cycle ride was to begin. We had the usual formalities, including the explanation of the next day’s ride, as well as dinner. I crashed early. That night had some heavy rains, high winds, and thunderstorms, which I haven’t seen in a while. The ole REI tent held up well, and I was able to wake up dry.

Patrick, the bicycle mechanic

Patrick, the bicycle mechanic

Doug, the luggage manager, always the most friendly dude.

Doug, the luggage manager, always the most friendly dude.

The daily board

The daily board

Tony Neaves, a superb leader of the pack.

Tony Neaves, a superb leader of the pack.

Fetching dinner with Tony and Lou

Fetching dinner with Tony and Lou

 

 

31aug This was our first day of riding, and supposedly the hilliest and hardest. There was moderate climbing, but it was fairly straightforward.  I arrived at the campsite just west of Deadwood at about 13:30, so had time to shower, read, and enjoy a cigar. Dinner was based on the Chinese theme, though not like anything we’ve ever had in China. It was another quiet evening, ready for tomorrow.

On the road, ever upwards

On the road, ever upwards

One of the smaller towns in South Dakota

One of the smaller towns in South Dakota

Arriving at last in Deadwood

Arriving at last in Deadwood


01 sept Labor Day! Deadwood to Hill City. Today was almost completely on a non-paved gravel road, the Mikelson Trail. Riding was made a little more complex by the presence of rain, which made the fine gravel act a bit more like mud, the tires sometimes sinking up to a half inch into the trail. There were several climbs that we were told would be no more than 2 percent grade bit were actually between 3-4 percent grade. Compounded by the muddy gravel, it was a bit of work to get over those hills. The ride was gorgeous in spite of the grey clouds and rain. The day ended with cold but beautiful ble skies, which dried out all of our equipment.

On the Mickelson Trail

On the Mickelson Trail

Kathy pausing for a photo opportunity

Kathy pausing for a photo opportunity

Somewhat wet trail in forested area

Somewhat wet trail in forested area

The trail opening up into prairie

The trail opening up into prairie

 

02sept Hill City to Hot Springs. This AM, it was so cold I was freezing. I wore normal clothes for the ride, but had to constantly blow into my hands to warm them up. First stop was Crazy Horse state park. I only went to the entrance to get some photographs. Oddly, I had seen the Crazy Horse monument 35 some years ago, and it didn’t seem to be and further along to completion as 35 years ago. I rode onward. I missed a turn onto Argyle Road, and went about 1.5 miles too far before figuring out what I did.  Argyle Road was off the Mickelson Trail, and was a normal road through the countryside, but gravel. The gravel was very loose in spots, and it was over 10 miles of this stuff. The only good thing about it was that it was mostly downhill, though there was rolling hills, with occasional 8-10 percent grade. This was granny gear country!  The temperature was easing over 90F as I rolled into camp, and there was practically no shade… One time I would have easily settled for a hotel. I finally found a cool, comfortable spot and refused to move. Cold beer never tasted so good.

One of several tunnels on the trail

One of several tunnels on the trail

The trail now following a creek. Gold mining was still happening off of this creek

The trail now following a creek. Gold mining was still happening off of this creek

Verruckter Pferd (Crazy Horse). Not much work on it since I saw it last 35 years ago.

Verruckter Pferd (Crazy Horse). Not much work on it since I saw it last 35 years ago.

Rock formations off the path, awaiting a sculptor.

Rock formations off the path, awaiting a sculptor.

 

03sept Hot Springs to Custer State Park. Today started a bit chilly but soon warmed up, since it was climbing from the get-go. The first stop was at the Wind Caves, but I decided against doing a 1.5 hour tour and rode on. Soon, a group of us riders encountered a herd of buffalo in the road, and needed to wait over forty minutes for them to move off. It was rather crazy being only about five meters from very large buffalo, but they didn’t seem to mind us. We again encountered buffalo at the water stop, where the entire stop was overrun by  buffalo, making it necessary for them to bring in the water jugs, since the buffalo were quite interested in them. Moving into Custer State Park, it was quite woody and mountainous, giving us a very long steep climb over “Heartbreak Hill”. The remainder of the ride was nearly completely downhill into camp.

Bison statues in the town of Custer

Bison statues in the town of Custer

Entering Wind Cave National Park

Entering Wind Cave National Park

Bison in the prairie

Bison in the prairie

Bison obstructing the road. We had to wait 40+ minutes for them to move off the road

Bison obstructing the road. We had to wait 40+ minutes for them to move off the road

Bison raiding the water stop

Bison raiding the water stop

Federal regulations demand you stay a minimum of 25 meters from buffalo. We were within 5-10 meters to them.

Federal regulations demand you stay a minimum of 25 meters from buffalo. We were within 5-10 meters to them.

Buffalo Ken

Buffalo Ken

Custer State Park. I didn't see any buffalo in the state park.

Custer State Park. I didn’t see any buffalo in the state park.

 

04sept. Custer State Park to Hill City  My impression from the sounds of the night was that it had rained. It was darker than usual for my 6am wakeup, and I thought I was going to have a cold drizzly day. The sound of the babbling brook only a few feet from the tent did not help. Instead, I found it to be warm outside, a cloudless sky, and the first (and only) time the tent was totally dry. After breakfast, the ride included a moderate amount of climbing, but nothing difficult, until we arrived at Keystone, the gateway to Mt. Rushmore. A few of my friends decided to bicycle to the top, several later regretting that decision, though I was thoroughly impressed with them, as it is a four mile, 4-10 percent grade, not an easy task. My bicycle and I were shuttled to the Mt. Rushmore visitor center, got the obligatory photos, and then headed down. The last ten miles to Hill City paralleled a historic steam engine that connected Keystone and Hill City, though our time was faster than the train. We then camped in the same Hill City campground as earlier in the tour. That evening, the beer was complementary, and well enjoyed. I also was able to enjoy cigars with Cyndi and Matt.

The Presidents.

The Presidents.

 

05sept Hill City to Rapid City. After a quick breakfast, we discovered everybody usually anxious to get on the trail. Thus, we found that we were among the last to leave camp, though still among the first to arrive in Rapid City. The route was on a beautiful backroad that wrapped around Lake Sheridan, and then took the Sheridan Lake Road into town. There was a moderate amount of climbing, though not enough to work up a sweat, and since it was mostly downhill, we had arrived at the water break site having not yet consumed any water or even digested breakfast. We arrived in Rapid City by 9:30am. After telling new friends goodby, I went to get Betsy. She was staying with Alex, Rachel and family in a Rapid City hotel with a connecting water park. They had also had the opportunity to see much of the Black Hills, though from a car, and not a bicycle. It was hard to tell them goodby, especially Lily and Adalyn, whom Betsy and I have fallen in love with. By evening, we were able to make it to Butte, Montana.

06sept Home…. We headed out from Butte at about 7:15 and arrived home at 3:30 in the afternoon. We quickly unpacked the car, and I then downloaded our photos, and started to write this blog.  The trip was super, but it’s always nice to be home.

How would I rate the Adventure Cycling part of the trip? In my eyes, it was superb. They give you enough freedom to let you ride according to your own personal style. They feed you very well. One always meets new friends that you enjoy riding with. The routes are never terribly challenging, though still demanding. They stick to their name of truly making every trip an adventure. I would rate this trip as highly successful, and a superb way to end up the riding season (for major trips).

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Aug 01

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Washington Parks 1 trip 7/26 – 7/31 2014 with Jonathan Feucht

Jon and I had planned this trip out for a number of months, and originally planned on a trip that went over Stevens Pass and then back over the North Cascade Highway (ACA Washington Parks II route). A week before our scheduled start date, the Methow Valley caught on fire from Twisp to Pateros and Brewster, in addition to fires along Stevens Pass, closing down both passes. Thus, this choice ended up being a good alternative for a loop week cycle ride in Washington. We planned on starting in Arlington at Jon’s house and ending in Puyallup, following (for the most part) the ACA Washington Parks I route. Jonny and I both had the Washington Parks maps, but mine was an older version. Oddly, they made some very significant changes to the route, some of which were not necessary or helpful.

Day 1- Arlington to Oak Harbor

The start was a little rough. Jonny drove down to get me in Puyallup, and then we drove back to his place in the AM, to get a 10 am start. Somehow, my helmet could not be located, but fortunately Jon had a spare. It did not have a mirror, which I depend heavily on nowadays. It was 28 miles up the Centennial trail and then route 9 to Sedro Wooley, WA, where we intersected the start on the ACA maps. The route followed mostly back roads, though the main highway past Anacortes and on to Deception Pass was brutally busy with tourists, especially Portable Life Support Units (trailers, Winnebagos, RV’s, etc.). Worse, while stopping for lunch just past Anacortes, some jerk stole my Garmin unit. Garmins are invaluable for trip planning, and many decisions are made based on distance and speed travelled, but fortunately, Jon’s unit was intact, allowing us to record our trip. Past Deception Pass I was viciously attacked by an old German Shepard. It was way out in the country, right across from a gun club. That Shepard almost got the delight of eating some lead. We finally made it to Oak Harbor, a little farther than I had planned, only to find that ALL of the hotels were full. Fortunately, the trailer park down on the beach had some bicycle (tent only) spaces, allowing us a place to lay our heads for the night.

Total miles 68.5  Time 8:15  Elevation Gain 2211 ft

Day 2- Oak Harbor to Port Angeles

We got a fairly early star in the morning, and managed to make it just in time for the ferry to Port Townsend – they actually delayed the ferry until we got our bicycles on. The ferry ride was quick, and we then started the slow climb up and down to Sequim and then Port Angeles. contrary to our maps, we noted that the Olympic Discovery Trail started in Blyn, which was a beautiful trail for bicycles, and off of the extremely busy 101. Our only difficulty was that the trail was not the best marked in a few spots, one place leading us to about a mile diversion, before we could find the trail again. It was awesome riding into Port Angeles on the beach, and as soon as we came up to the downtown where the ferry went, we saw a Red Lion Inn. They had first floor vacancies and and so we stayed there.

Total miles 66.2  Time 7:54  Elevation Gain 3008 ft

Day 3- Port Angeles to Forks

This day was our hardest, with lots of hills to climb, we were tired, and it was hot. It was also quite beautiful as the route took us away from 101 and on 112 and 113. The only disadvantage to this route were the massive numbers of logging trucks on a narrow two lane road with no shoulders. We were able to have lunch on the Straits of Juan DeFuca, eating PBJ sandwiches and admiring Mt. Baker and Canada off in the distance. We had wanted to camp, but the camping places on the route were not convenient, which left us in Forks. Even there, the hotels were almost entirely full, but we procured the last hotel room on the edge of town.  Dinner was at a pizza parlor, and we slept quite well after a grunt of a day.

 

PBJs on the beach

PBJs on the beach

Total miles 64.6 Time 8:17  Elevation Gain 3556 ft

Day 4- Forks to Amanda Park

I expected this day to be a real grunt like yesterday, but it wasn’t. The two major climbs went very smoothly, and seemed shorter than the maps suggested. We arrived in the coast section of the Olympic National Park about 10 am, when it was quite sunny. Soon, the clouds rolled in, and we were rather cold, so decided not to spend time freezing on the beach. We had arrived in Amanda Park on Lake Quinalt about 3pm and talked the nice lady that ran the RV park and Inn to let us sleep on the lawn, since there were no available rooms. Once we were about 5 miles from the beach, it became sunny again, and the temperature in Amanda Park was in the low 90s. Our tent site was under some trees, that was cool with a breeze until you left the area of the trees, where the temperature was roasting hot.

Entering the beach section of Olympic National Park

Entering the beach section of Olympic National Park

The Beach

The Beach

Camp at Amanda Park (Lake Quinalt)

Camp at Amanda Park (Lake Quinalt)

Total miles 64.6  Time 6:59  Elevation Gain 2270 ft

Day 5-Amanda Park to Elma

We weren’t sure as to how far we should go today, as Elma was a short distance, but there were no campsites or hotels for a great distance past Elma. There was a short climb out of Amanda Park along 101. After some distance, we encountered a stray dairy cow on the road. It nearly was hit by a truck. Soon afterwards, we got off of 101 and onto a road that would take us into Montesano. It was an excellent choice, though a touch hilly. After lunch in Montesano, we had to detour a bridge out by riding along route 20, which was horrid. By the time we got to Elma, the temperature was in the 80’s and we were cooking. We decided to call it a day. Dinner was at the Rusty Wagon, a rather nice restaurant.

Total miles 61.0  Time 6:08  Elevation Gain 1995 ft

Day 6- Elma to home

We were up early and headed out. Once reaching Tenino, the route was quite familiar to me, as it followed the Yelm Tenino Trail. The temperature was well in the 80’s and we were cooking by the time we reached Pacific Avenue in Parkland. There was a wonderful Dairy Queen there, and Andrew graciously picked us up to avoid 15 more miles of hot busy city riding. It was a wonderful way to spend a week, but am now looking forward to doing Washington Parks II or something else similar.

Total miles 67.02  Time 6:01  Elevation Gain 1008 ft

Gesamt Milage und Zeit

394.1 miles, 42.4 hours, 14,048 ft elevation gain

Summary

It was a delight to have time with Jon. At first, he was complaining about his back, and the bicycle seat. Several days later, I really didn’t hear much about that problem. Not wishing to push Jon too hard, I offered him an “escape” route, which he refused. Soon, he was keeping up and often pushing ahead of me, who held a fairly steady pace throughout the journey. I think he really just needs a different seat, such as the Fizik seat on his road bike.  It was nice to see Jonny making good decisions about our travel.

We followed primarily the ACA maps of the Washington Parks. They were helpful, especially in knowing where we might camp or find lodging, and the ideal routes. Although I’ve spent much time in the Olympics, I have never gone on some of the roads that this route took one through. The route around the Olympics really did not show off the mountain splendor of the Olympics, though that would include a fantastic climb up to Hurricane Ridge, not an easy feat. There were two errors with the ACA maps. The first and most bothersome was with the elevation profiles. This made rivers and towns in the valley sitting on the map profile on the top of climbs. It was about a 3 mile displacement that needs to be corrected, as it made it difficult to estimate exactly where was on a route. The other bothersome item was that grocery/convenience stores and camps were not always in existence any longer. This is not entirely the fault of the ACA map system. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be less supply areas rather than more than the maps indicated. Milage on the  ACA maps was always right on, according to our Garmin maps.

I’m ready for more touring. I’d love to do the Pacific Coast route, Sierra Cascades route, and the trans-America route. This is somewhat a dream for the future, but then, who knows?

 

 

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Jul 01

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The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany, by William Shirer ★★★

This book was read on my iPad. It is a fairly large book, taking me a while to complete it, thus, the absence of many other book reviews on my blogsite. Shirer was a journalist in Berlin, leaving Berlin approximately 1940-1941 (he doesn’t say exactly when), and then observing from the sidelines. The book is fairly well researched, and heavily referenced. After the end of the book, a 1990 afterthought is included by the author. He had noted that the book was on the best sellers list for a number of years, and purchased in many countries except for Germany itself. This Shirer felt was a sign that the German people still remained clueless as to the nature of their goose-stepping militaristic nature, and he expressed fears that the re-unification of Germany was going to lead to yet another rise to power and German world war. Perhaps the person the most clueless is Shirer himself. Throughout the book, Shirer writes not as an objective historian, but as an opinionated, biased journalist. Shirer seems to let his thinking and emotions get in the way of solid historical reporting. As an example, he shows his bitter disdain for the personality of Von Ribbentrop, rather than seeking to describe his personality and then letting the facts speak from there. He describes many episodes of secret meetings where he seems to be cognizant precisely what transpired. He makes warrantless broad assumptions about the German people that don’t serve his commentary. Here is an example, quoting the book, ” One gets the impression that … many … “Good Germans” fell too easily into the trap of blaming the outside world for their own failures, as some of them had done for Germany’s misfortunes after the first lost war…”. Excuse me, but the blame does spread around to all the European nations as well as the US. Or, of speaking of Mussolini, “…as dictator, he had made the fatal mistake of seeking to make a martial, imperial Great Power of a country which lacked the industrial resources to become one and whose people, unlike the Germans, were too civilized, too sophisticated, too down to earth to be attracted by … false ambitions. The Italian people, at heart, had never, like the Germans, embraced fascism.” Such comments leaves one feeling whether they could take anything that Shirer says seriously. He truly couldn’t be serious in implying that the mass of German people were uncivilized, unsophisticated, not down to earth?  There are many more examples throughout the book.

Shirer provides a nice flow through the book and it is very readable. There is a wealth a facts that need to be selected out in writing any historical account, and the fact that huge numbers of texts have analyzed the Nazi phenomenon attest to the fact that even 60 years after the fact, we are still grappling with the problem of made Germany do what it did. Shirer provides a completely wrong explanation, but feeds western, and especially US arrogance in the matter. To divorce himself from the reality of Germany, Shirer had to paint the Germans as a different creature, perhaps even a different species or genus. To this date, political situations are so often compared to that of Hitler and Nazi Germany. The left and right of politics continually hurtles the accusation at the other of being just like the Nazis. Why isn’t Stalin and the Communists equally brought up as a examples?Or Mao Tse Tung? Or the Japanese emporer? Or Napoleon? The list could go on at length. Germany is used as the example because sub-consciously, they are a people the most like us. They, more than any other modern country, developed the ideas of ethics that shape our world. They developed our philosophy, our music, our culture, etc. They, more than even England, gave us our work ethic, and our sense of obedience to authority. The rise of Nazi Germany seems to be a great puzzle, yet it isn’t. We see ideas in politics today reinforce that the events of the rise of the Nazi state happen on a smaller scale every year in Washington, D.C. We claim that the German people should have known and risen up, yet we don’t rise up, as our freedoms are constantly eroded, and our government increasing behaves in a dictatorial fashion that we have no control of. We claim a moral superiority to the Germans of the first half of the twentieth century, yet truthful soul-searching suggests that we aren’t much different than they.

To end it, Shirer ends with the execution at Nuremberg of the main Nazi officials. Specifically, Ribbentrop, who Shirer completely despised,  is reported as to have flippantly blurted out to the American Military pastor, “See you later” as though he was making a colossal terminal joke. Actually, the full quote is as follows… “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins. May God have mercy on my soul”. Then he turned to Gerecke (the Lutheran pastor) and said “I’ll see YOU again”. In the book “War and Grace”, Don Stevens recounts the story of Henry Gerecke, a Lutheran Pastor in the military from Missouri, who was assigned to be the chaplain to the Nazi war criminals. In the process of his encounters with Goering, Rosenberg, Ribbentrop, etc., he noted that not a few felt genuine remorse for their actions, and found faith in Christ, including Keitel, Fritzsche, von Schirach, Speer, Raeder, and after much struggle, Ribbentrop. Many Americans sent Gerecke hate mail, detesting the fact that he would minister to the Nazi war criminals. Yet, the additional story from Stevens only strengthens the impression that the Nazis are us. We might have done exactly what they did in the circumstances. The story of the Nazis is a sobering story that should make all of us weep, and not arrogantly state that “they” are a breed of another kind. For that end, a book like this is worth reading.

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Jun 10

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For All the Tea in China, by Sarah Rose ★★★

Sarah Rose provides a most interesting story of the adventures of a Mr. Robert Fortune of the British East India Company in China during the 1840’s and 1850’s, stealing prized tea plants from China and exporting them to the Himalayas, under the immediate control of Great Britain, to permit them to compete with China in the tea industry. Also taken was the technology for growing and processing the tea leaves into great tea. It is a most fascinating story that is not often told. Fortune had several very unfortunate attempts, in part from bungling up the tea plants and leaves in the process of shipping them to the Himalayas, as well as incompetence and ineptitude on the part of arrogant British horticulturists, even when told by Chinese coolies what they were doing wrong with the plants.  Sarah’s writing style attempts a mix of pure historical reporting and historical fiction, leaving one certain that the tales of Fortune’s adventures were probably just approximately recounted in this book. Sarah maintains a heavy pro-British bent in her reporting, going very light on the evils of the British empire in their dealings with China (such as with the Opium Wars), as well as the Indians. This poor historical accounting even goes to British competitors in the west. When she speaks of the development of porcelain in the west to compete with fine “china” from China, she drools over Wedgewood and British porcelain manufactors, she blindly forgets the role of the Germans (especially the town of Meissen) in re-discovering and developing the European porcelain industry). A perfect example her Western blindness can be quoted from near the end of the book…

” By the time the Chinese realized that Fortune had stolen an inestimable treasure from them [the Chinese], it was many years too late to remediate their loss. His theft helped spread tea to a wider world at lower prices. He democratized a luxury, and the world has been enjoying it ever since”

That quote sounds warm and fuzzy except for a few glaring details. Now that China is reportedly “stealing” technology from the West, I suppose that they can use the same justification, since they are simply spreading Western technology at a much lower price. It is hard for me to have a sympathetic ear toward the west when they rail on China being an aggressive competitor in the markets. We are simply getting our own medicine back on us 150 years later. Most of the world has a better memory than Amerikans.

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