Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin


BOOK REVIEW – FIVE STARS
Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream covers a pivotal point in American history, from dreams of the Great Society to the despair of Vietnam precipitated by McCarthyism’s obsessions that derailed it all.
This is a history we all need to scrutinize, ponder, and learn from.
I lived through this era and appreciated the opportunity to get this insightful overview the book presented.


Excerpts:
The needs of blacks, would offer the civil rights bill; as panacea to the nation’s need, offer the Great Society; and, amid the final crisis of his career, use Rebekah’s lessons’”almost her words” to justify America’s involvement in Vietnam: “There is,” he told the country, “a great responsibility on the strong.“ When I thought about the kind of Congressman I wanted to be,” Johnson said much later in life, “I thought about my Populist grandfather and promised myself that I’d always be the people’s Congressman, representing all the people, not just the ones with money and power. “My grandfather taught me early in life that neither misery nor squalor is inevitable so long as the government and the people are one” so long as the government assumes the positive role of eliminating the special interests that cause most of our problems in America” particularly the moneylenders largely confined to New York, and those who had the money supply and knowledge and possessions in New York, Chicago, and Boston. They’d always been paid proportionately a far higher percentage of the total end product than they deserved. They lived off our sweat, and even before air conditioning they didn’t know what sweat was. They just clipped coupons and wrote down debentures we couldn’t spell and stole our pants out from under us.”



Johnson spoke in his peroration:”Let us put an end to the teaching and the preaching of hate and evil and violence. Let us turn away from the fanatics of the far left and the far right, from the apostles of bitterness and bigotry, from those defiant of law and those who pour venom into our nation’s bloodstream.”Defeating the Southern filibuster and opening the way for Congress to pass the most sweeping civil rights bill in history. On July 2, 1964, in the presence of the leaders of all the major civil rights groups, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.



“We have enough to do it all.” We’re the wealthiest nation in the world. And I cannot see why, if we have the will to do it, we can’t provide for our own happiness, education, health, and environment.
I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion. I want to be the President who educated young children; who helped to feed the hungry; who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.”
In speeches, legislation, and continuing proposals, Johnson took the most advanced position on racial issues of any President in American history; appearing, at times, ahead of the civil rights movement itself, until, sadly, the war in Vietnam extended its paralyzing hand to this as to his other domestic ambitions.
Every story is always slanted to win the favor of someone who sits somewhere higher up. There is no such thing as an objective news story. There is always a private story behind the public story. And if you don’t control the strings to that private story, you’ll never get good coverage no matter how many great things you do for the masses of the people.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads


BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS
Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads by Dee Brown
America and the world were eternally transformed by the steam-powered Industrial Revolution. Imperialistic expansion driven with steam power augmented an avalanche of emigrants fueled by unscrupulous robber barons who used the very best politicians that money could buy. These manipulative financial tricksters sold and resold paper certificates as flimsy as blue sky to eager investors. I loved this true story that is guaranteed to arose in you a strong emotional reaction.
Worthy of more than five stars.

Excerpts from Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow:
With all these arranged riches awaiting the taking, Durant was now ready to begin railroad construction, and his first move was to send one of his New York henchmen to Omaha to sound out Peter Dey. The chief engineer had already submitted estimates of construction costs per mile for the first hundred miles across the rolling prairie country of eastern Nebraska. Dey’s estimates averaged between $20,000 and $30,000 per mile, and Durant knew that Dey’s figures were close to the real costs. What Durant wanted was an inflated estimate, at least $50,000, which would pour $20,000 to $30,000 per mile of excess profits into the closely held Credit Mobilier.

They collected the $16,000 per mile from the government for the track laid by the workmen, the $25,000 per mile of excess profits from Credit Mobilier, the 12,800 acres of land per mile, and whatever else they were able to divert from the sales of stocks and bonds. Instead of singing, they were always spending money to generate money, and there never seemed to be enough.



Although the people of America were paying for the railroad it did not belong to them.
James Garfield did not die of a broken heart, either. His Ohio constituents returned him to Congress three more times, and then the people of America elected him President, which might be an indication that Americans would sooner vote a rogue into its highest office than an honest man.



By the 1880s, railroad building in America had become the national get-rich-quick game. Promoters by the score leaped into the competition, building railroads helter-skelter across the face of the land. Few of them were planned to meet any transportation needs. They were built mainly for purposes of financial exploitation, not for the people of the nation, who ultimately paid for them over and over again, through economic depressions and wars, thus perpetuating the most absurd railway system in the world.



The spiritual life of Plains Indians were based upon the buffalo. That animal, which numbered in the millions, supplied not only the basic food, shelter, and clothing needs of the tribes, it was also a folk hero and a religious symbol. Without the buffalo, the entire civilization of the Plains Indians would collapse. In the years following the Gold Rush of 1849, the tribes had seen the buffalo pushed both north and south of the white man’s westward trails, and in the 1860s they had seen the railroads across the Central Plains bring devastation to once-great herds.

Scandinavia: A History by Ewan Butler

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS

Scandinavia: A History by Ewan Butler

Excellence in writing, this overview of Scandinavian history delivers an enlightening look at these unique humanitarian people.
After reading countless books covering Scandinavia I found this publication the most illuminating.



Excerpts;
Norsemen, is simply an alternative name for these marauders, again applied to all three Scandinavian peoples. Normandy, settled by the Danes in 911, reminds us of the Norse origins of that duchy and to this day Norwegians refer to themselves as Nordmenn. (The Norse invaders of Russia are alternately known as Varangians, derived from an old Norse word, possibly meaning “confederate,” and Ruotsi, meaning the “rowing men” in old Finnish.)



The Vikings were democrats, in a sense. Great fleets of hundreds of longships were assembled for a large expedition without any single leader being in charge of the operation. “We are all equals,” said the Norsemen proudly to the envoy of the king of France who came to Normandy inquiring for their leader, and there was some truth in this. Women were held in highest esteem by the Vikings and enjoyed rights of property and status which their sex was not to enjoy elsewhere until many centuries later.



Frederick had abolished almost all vestiges of serfdom (the Stavnsbaand was repealed in 1788) and established a credit bank to enable the newly freed peasants to buy their land. A free trade tariff act and a banking reorganization plan were instituted as liberal spurs to the growth of Denmark’s economy. Laws were passed to provide for the welfare of paupers, and Denmark denounced both the owning and trading of slaves, the first European country to take this enlightened step.



The countries of Scandinavia are humanitarian, with laws for the protection of workers, mothers, children, and old people. Few people in Scandinavia are extremely rich and none extremely poor. Class warfare and strikes are uncommon, thanks to enlightened labor relations. A minimum of seven years of education is standardized and compulsory for all, and advanced training equivalent to high school, college, and vocational schools is also provided free.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS FOR SCOTT JUREK


Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek, Steven Friedman
Focused determination and applied resoluteness with an open mind made Scott a self made champion.
I loved this young man’s autobiographical story. Focusing his mental and physical attributes to the fullest, he excelled exceptionally.

Excerpts from Eat and Run:
On the extremely rare occasions I’ve diverged from plant-based foods, it’s always been a matter of survival, never because I craved animal products or felt incomplete without them.



Winning felt great. Kicking ass, especially the asses of so many who had said I was doomed, was a sensation that all but the most spiritually evolved or brain-fried would enjoy. I had set a goal and achieved it. I had pushed myself to what I thought were the outer limits of my capabilities and then pushed farther on a vegan diet. Being crowned a champion was good for both my mind and my soul. But it wasn’t enough.

The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tera Zahra

BOOK REVIEW - FIVE STARS


The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tera Zahra

This book delivers a timely message of our status and relationship to all inhabitants of this planet.
This book is a wake up call and eye opening message to this world that selfishly grabs everything in sight with a me and my attitude of winner take all, might is right, and where it is far better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

Worthy of more than five stars.

Excerpts from The Great Departure:
Countries that experienced mass emigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Mexico and China, also aimed to protect and support emigrants overseas rather than prohibit emigration.

In 1945, after all, Harry S. Truman and Winston Churchill had agreed to Stalin’s demands for the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens, leading to tragic scenes. In Dachau on January 19, 1946, at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp, American troops had to use tear gas to force Soviet POWs from their barracks. After being thrust outdoors, the soldiers fell to the snow and pleaded with their captors to shoot them rather than send them home. Ten POWs succeeded in killing themselves, and twenty-one were injured before the group was turned over to Soviet authorities for repatriation.

In the United States, meanwhile, it is perhaps not coincidental that Donald Trump is married to the Slovene immigrant Melania Trump. His first wife, Ivana, was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. Four of his five children have immigrant mothers. But for Trump (and his supporters), there is no contradiction in aspiring to make a Central European immigrant the first lady while promising to put a “total stop” to Muslim immigration to the United States and build a wall on the Mexican border.

The Whalemen by Edouard A. Stackpole


BOOK REVIEW
FIVE STARS
The Whalemen by Edouard A. Stackpole

Like the buffalo and passenger pigeon, the whale was unrelentingly hunted. This epic story spans the epoch beginning before the Industrial Revolution to the end of the age of sailing ships. America rode the wave of this heroic adventure story from its Revolutionary War of independence up to it’s ruinous Civil War. The end of whaling was abrupt.

Excerpts from The Whaleman:
Beginning with colonists in flimsy open boats, the industry expanded as enterprising Americans sent ships to every corner of the world, adding to their new country’s wealth and enlarging their knowledge of its geography. Born before the steam engine, the whaling business thrived for more than three centuries, dependent only upon the strength and courage of the brave souls who manned the ships.



In 1857 - New Bedford’s greatest whaling year - 10,000 men were making their living on New Bedford’s 329 sailing vessels, bringing in oil and bone worth $6,178,728 (more than $165 million today).



In the late 1800s, as the use of petroleum and natural gas accelerated, the world no longer needed whale oil for its lamps. Additionally, the need for whalebone to make women’s corsets disappeared with the invention of celluloid.

American Heritage History of Mexico by Parkes, Henry Bamford


BOOK REVIEW: FIVE STARS
American Heritage History of Mexico by Parkes, Henry Bamford
Peaceful places have no history, and Mexico has more than its share.
I loved this well-edited overview that covered the five hundred plus years from the first Spanish Conquest to the election of Cardenas that followed the first peaceful revolution in Mexican history.

Excerpts from American Heritage History of Mexico:

Bitter racial warfare still raged in Yucatan, reducing by half the population of the peninsula. And meanwhile, politicians and journalists in the United States, intoxicated by Manifest Destiny, were asking more and more vehemently why their country did not do its duty by carrying the benefits of Anglo-Saxon civilization as far as the borders of Guatemala.
There was only one Mexican who had the energy and the prestige necessary in a dictator; Santa Anna, who acquired the nimbus of a national hero whenever he disappeared across the Caribbean, was still the indispensable chieftain of any political combination. In spite of Santa Anna’s thirty-year career of trickery and corruption.
He was willing, however, to again sacrifice himself for the good of his country. On April 1, he landed at Vera Cruz, where he was welcomed by the familiar mob of generals, office-hunters, and agiotistas; and after attending banquets and bullfights and listening to his own praises from innumerable orators, he proceeded slowly to the capital, where he was formally proclaimed president on April 20. By no efforts of his own, he had been granted powers such as no Mexican had ever enjoyed before.


While there was some increase in fruits, vegetables, and commercial crops, there was actually a decline in corn and other basic foodstuffs. Under Cardenas and Avila Camacho, as under Di­az, despite the employment of two-thirds of the population in agriculture, Mexico continued to import food.

Gold Run: The Rescue of Norway’s Gold Bullion from the Nazis


BOOK REVIEW...FIVE STARS

Gold Run: The Rescue of Norway’s Gold Bullion from the Nazis, 1940 by Robert Pearson.
Neutral Norway would be the second of thirteen countries to be overrun by the Nazis in WWII.
I loved the book that revealed many of the stories of the resistance movement that my family was a part of starting with the first shot fired. The complexities were numerous, and the Germans had no problem enlisting Norwegians to do their bidding.
Excerpts for Gold Run:

April 8th 1940 that Blacher, Latzow, Emden, Albatros, and Kondor raised anchor and sailed north; with torpedo boats, joining the convoy. Their destination: neutral Norway.



Our troops can and will successfully be transported to Norway. On many occasions in the history of war those very operations have been successful which went against all the principles of warfare, provided they were carried out by surprise. The critical moment is the penetration of the harbors while passing the coastal fortifications. It is expected that this will succeed if carried out by surprise, and that the Norwegians will not make the decision to fire quickly enough, if they decide to do so at all. Report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy to the Fuhrer, 9 March 1940. Any attempt to check or hinder the advance of our forces must be repulsed. Resistance is to be broken ruthlessly in accordance with the directives in the operational orders.



“We were talking about what would happen in Norway before the war was over, and it was almost uncanny how Lars Evensen proved to be correct. He said “and named dissidents in the Labor Party who would step forward and offer their services to the Nazis.” I cannot remember names, but his forecast was accurate.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin


Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin
FIVE STARS
American history as it unfolded and intertwined with the great nation that it formulated: the good, the bad, and the merciless expansionists who exploited everything and everyone in sight. I found this historical publication a wondrous look at the often forgotten trials and tribulations that evolved on the pathway to the United States of America that we know today.
Excerpts:
By the middle of the nineteenth century, it had taken on another aspect. The eastern half of the continent was largely colonized by then; the western half was still mostly unexplored. (The prairie and the plains were known as the Great American Desert, a desert more in the sense of deserted than of arid land.) The Mississippi had come to be the natural boundary line between the two. There were no bridges anywhere along its length; a crossing to the far side had something epic about it, a venture from civilization into the unknown. A trip up or down the river, even in imagination, was as exhilarating as a voyage along the edge of the world.



Migration began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, and it became a major phenomenon after the War of 1812. The old America, one traveler wrote in 1816, seems to be breaking up and flowing westward. The scale of the movement was hard for people to comprehend. At the beginning of the century, there may have been a couple of hundred thousand people scattered along the length of the Mississippi; by the time of the Civil War, there were tens of millions.



The wild west:
Excessive propriety didn’t really become the dominant mode in the river valley until around the time of the Civil War. Before then, immorality (by the rest of America’s standards) was taken for granted. Prostitution was so common as practically to be the fundamental structural element of society. In fact, no clear line was drawn between it and marriage. In many of the logging and mining towns, the ratio of men to women was twenty to one; a woman who wanted to establish her respectability, and yet still retain her income, would arrange to marry several of her regular clients simultaneously. After the wedding ceremonies were over, she would spend nights with each of her husbands on a prearranged schedule, or else would live with them all communally. Prostitutes were considered in some army garrisons to be essential military personnel: they lived full-time in the barracks, and were listed on the payroll as seamstresses or laundresses, or sometimes were recorded as officers’ wives. The opulent brothels of St. Louis and New Orleans were famous tourist destinations; they advertised openly in newspapers, they held fundraisers with the most celebrated local politicians in attendance, and the local churches only objected to them when they scheduled fancy costume balls on the Sabbath.

FIVE STARS


Also read George Catlin, famous for his books on the Missouri Territory and the Plains Indians. (His Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians)

The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis


The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis 
FIVE STARS
The Gulf of Mexico is the second most contaminated body of water in the world. This dubious distinction was hard earned by The United States and Mexico. The number one, Baltic Sea, by contrast has ten countries to cast that nefarious blame on.
This cutting edge up-to-the-minute compendium of contamination of the Gulf should be read in order to get a grip on today's frivolous consumption of petroleum and indiscriminate over use of agricultural chemicals.
Excerpts:
Crippling pressures of European disease and aggressive encroachment drew natives into a commercial enterprise absent from aboriginal cultures before contact. They became supply-side hunters in a Faustian exchange, devastating animal populations and the wilderness ecosystem that had sustained their people for thousands of years. Hunting the woods near empty, they racked up huge debts to traders. Worse, they began starving in places once of plenty. Squeezed by British Carolinians pushing west and Gulf coasters pushing north, defaulting their land to British creditors, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Cherokee, and others moved down into the Florida peninsula in search of food and skins. The British lumped them into an undifferentiated collective they called Seminole.


America on a manifest destiny roll;
Pivotal moment in American expansion goes something like this: in the land deal of the century made with Napoleon Bonaparte and the French, Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the nation, opening the way for his countrymen to march across the continent unimpeded, a few Indian wars and snowy mountain passes notwithstanding. This is true. But settlement and trade in new western lands had greater chance of success with secure access to the sea. What made the deal especially enticing was New Orleans and the control of the Mississippi River, with the Gulf of Mexico as its vestibule.
Woodrow Wilson would ask Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The great conflict in Europe was the first war run on oil; eighty percent of that used by Allied powers came from US fields.


1953, AND THE POSTWAR ECONOMY WAS in a recession, but the slump would not last a year. Americans were feeling prosperous, and the consumer engine was revved up. They were purchasing homes and having lots of kids, booming the birth rate to an all-time high. They were buying cars, big cars with big engines, ten-to-fifteen-miles-to-the-gallon cars but that was okay. The decade’s drivers were more interested in horsepower and zero-to-sixty acceleration than fuel efficiency, and gas was cheap. For twenty cents a gallon, they were hauling all those boomer kids around, commuting to work from the suburbs (if the car owners were white), and steering blissfully toward summer vacations. Every week on prime-time television, the popular Dinah Shore sang, “See the USA in your Chevrolet.”

Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla by Marc Seifer


FIVE STARS
Wizard: The Life And Times Of Nikola Tesla by Marc Seifer
Tesla, a super intellect invented and innovated a hundred years ahead of his time but was duped and swindled by the publicity savvy unscrupulous.
This is a must read true story that seems an impossibility. Having an electronics background I loved this books revelations into the cutting edge technological innovations still employed to this day.

Excerpts:
Tesla realized that it was a finite place and that the natural resources which gave humans the fuel to produce electricity would eventually run out. What will man do when the forests disappear, when the coal deposits are exhausted? he asked his Philadelphia audience. Only one thing, according to our present knowledge, will remain; that is to transmit power at great distances. Man will go to the waterfalls, [and] to the tides, Tesla speculated, because these, unlike coal and oil reserves, are replenishable.

According to calculations performed by Professor John Tyndall, the Edison electric lightbulb had an efficiency of about 5 percent, meaning that 95 percent of the electricity produced went into the production of heat or was simply lost in transit. The gas flame, which was still by far the most common form of artificial luminescence, had an efficiency of less than one percent. As Tesla told Martin, if we were dealing with a corrupt government, such wretched waste would not be tolerated. This squander was on a par with the wanton destruction of whole forests for the sake of a few sticks of lumber.

Tesla also considered harnessing wind power, the tides, solar and geothermal energy, and also energy released during the process of electrolysis. If water was separated into oxygen and hydrogen, these explosive substances could theoretically be used to generate the heat to create steam. Working along varying lines of research, Tesla also patented ozone-production machines and devised a scheme whereby nitrogen from the air would be electrically separated out and blended with conveyor belts of soil to create a fertilizer machine.

An address on The Future of the Common Man for the Serbo-Croatian edition. The essay not only portrays a prophet who envisions a better world in the future; it also betrays the conflict and humiliation he himself suffered in his dealings with the greedy industrialists who capitalized on his inventions with little regard for his well-being, let alone the welfare of mankind as a whole: Out of this war, the greatest since the beginning of history, a new world must be born that would justify the sacrifices offered by humanity, where there will be no humiliation of the poor by the violence of the rich; where the products of intellect, science and art will serve society for the betterment and beautification of life, and not the individuals for achieving wealth. This new world shall be a world of free men and free nations, equal in dignity and respect.

FIVE STARS

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 Juan Williams


Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 Juan Williams
FIVE STARS
True American history stripped of editorialized spin doctoring, an eye opening look the civil rights years.
I found this excellently written and delivered worthy of the highest praise. Author Juan Williams was there and actively in the middle of it all. I loved the book and recommend it to all.

Excerpt:
Violent events of later years and the many new directions of the civil rights movement cannot obscure the remarkable accomplishments wrought by the men and women, black and white, who in ten short years rewove the fabric of American society. The decade spanning the Brown decision of 1954 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 saw more social change, more court decisions, and more legislation in the name of civil rights than any decade in our nation’s history. Those changes were forced by millions of Americans who, with a sense of service and justice, kept their eyes on the prize of freedom. I know one thing we did right was the day we started to fight. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.

FIVE STARS

The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers by Martin Doyle


The Source: How Rivers Made America and America Remade Its Rivers by Martin Doyle
FIVE STARS
This book shows excellence in revealing the historical impact of America's expansion and exploitation of the continent. This well-written account of the impact of industrialization coupled with a mind-set of accelerated efficiency for dominating nature and the consequences that evolved are authenticated and verified. This is the very best book I have ever found on human’s impact on the environment.
A must read book that will be well -remembered and inspirational.

Excerpts from The Source:
The first settlers on the western landscape were trappers, who took the beavers with extraordinary thoroughness. In response to the European craze for beaver-pelt hats, explorers and trappers moved through eastern Oregon and southern Idaho in search of beaver. They removed 18,000 beavers from the area during 1823-1829 and took thousands more in the 1830s. But by the 1850s, trappers were scraping to find a few hundred animals. Thanks to the transatlantic demand for beavers, they were virtually eradicated. Without benefit of constant maintenance, beaver dams throughout the American West were lost, along with all of the lush grass and trees in the valleys. As the dams decayed and were washed away, the sediment-laden meadows were eroded, leaving behind a lunar-like landscape of barren gullies.

When a stream is polluted, its ecology is greatly changed. Like a man with a serious acute or chronic illness, its activities and functions are altered, often drastically, but there is always the hope of recovery. When a stream is channelized, it is permanently disabled.

Along the Obion Forked Deer river system outside Memphis, Tennessee, the channelization of over 241 miles was estimated to have reduced aquatic habitat by 95 percent and waterfowl hunting by 86 percent.
FIVE STARS

Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo


Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
This book written in the late 1930’s is a novel that became a controversial classic. Here is a brief history of this book that continues to live on:Johnny Got His Gun was reissued by L. Stuart in 1959, with a new introduction by the author, which was updated in 1970. It was reprinted in a Citadel trade paperback edition in 1991, with an introduction by Ron Kovic. For this new edition with a foreword by Cindy Sheehan, the book has been entirely reset
.
I found the book profoundly fascinating and extremely thought provoking. It parallels this classic, And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat: His ability to capture the tragic comedy of life on earth has made him a national treasure in Canada and a beloved storyteller.

Excerpts from Johnny Got His Gun:

Everybody said America was fighting a war for the triumph of decency. But whose idea of decency? And decency for who? Speak up and tell us what decency is. Tell us how much better a decent dead man feels than an indecent live one.
It’s words you’re fighting for and you’re not making an honest deal your life for something better. You’re being noble and after you’re killed the thing you traded your life for won’t do you any good and chances are it won’t do anybody else any good either.
FIVE STARS

The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War by David Laskin


Five Stars: The Long Way Home
Emigrants from distant lands finding a new home of refuge in America are conscripted to fight in WWI.  This is their conflicted story.
David Laskin's excellent insights to the diverse ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds of the emigrants coupled with his profound story telling abilities made this book well worthy of five stars.

I loved this well researched and thoughtfully presented book.

Excerpts from The Long Way Home:
Brotherhood of Men and Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am beginning to see more and more how we are all one common herd, ruled by another class that has more power than we have. We are told to go and fight and kill and we must go, even though it is against our highest sense of right to kill another. They seem to even mock God, the Father of us all, when they make His children slaughter one another.


The Wilson administration had spent the war years hammering at Huns, alien agents, disloyal hyphenates, German speakers or sympathizers, slackers of all stripes and the public, once infected, remained feverish with hate well into the next decade.

In the hysterical xenophobia of the Red Scare period, Jews, Bolsheviks, and immigrant workers were lumped together as enemies of the American way. Medals, military honors, and loyal service counted for nothing if you spoke with an accent, held a union card, dared to advocate the brotherhood of man.

With Germany’s navy on the brink of mutiny and German workers rioting in the city streets, the Fatherland seemed headed for a Bolshevik-style revolution. But still the German army refused to surrender. The outcome of the war was now all but certain, but the killing and the dying continued.

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor


Five Stars
James Nestor's Deep reveals accounts of untold worlds deep beneath the sea. These never before reported upon adventure stories are told in a first person by the dedicated and driven explorer who relentlessly pushed the limits of human endurance.

I loved the book and would strongly recommend it to those out there that want to broaden their knowledge base of our planets unexplored frontiers.

Excerpts from Deep:
Along with tiger and white sharks, bull sharks are responsible for more attacks on people than any other shark species on Earth.


Tzeltal a Mayan directional language spoken by about 370,000 people in southern Mexico in a dark house and spun him around blindfolded. They then asked the Tzeltal speaker (who was unnamed in the study) to point north, south, east, and then west. He did this successfully, and without hesitation, twenty times in a row. The remarkable navigational abilities of these ancient cultures weren’t exceptions; they were the norm. In a world without GPS and maps, knowing your exact location in a trackless desert, forest, or ocean was a matter of survival. All the people in these cultures developed an innate sense of direction that did not rely on visual cues.


Surfers know these are dangerous situations, but they go out anyway, then they blame the sharks, he said. People need to learn that when they are in the ocean they are swimming in nature. The only solution here is education: Don’t swim in cloudy water. Don’t swim after a big rain. Don’t swim near a river. But nobody listens.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Swell: Sailing the Pacific in Search of Surf and Self by Liz Clark

Book Review: Swell: Sailing the Pacific in Search of Surf and Self by Liz Clark
A modern day sailing adventure accomplished with luck and consummated with dedicated and determined perseverance.
I loved this story that paralleled my own dream boat escape adventure forty years earlier that generated four books; Sailing Beyond Lake Superior, Sailing the Sea Islands, Sailing the Florida Keys and Sailing to St.Augustine.
Liz Clark is truly a person to be reckoned. Her unique sailing adventures opened her mind and broadened her horizons in tune with nature, the planet earth, and the universe.
Her remarkable story is laced with philosophical perceptiveness and spiced with amazing insights that can only be archived by departing from the work-a-day world now programmed into the modern mind.
This is a must read book worthy of more than five stars.
Excerpts;
I have proven, at least to myself, that with plenty of hard work, choosing love will never lead to lack. It takes courage, but once the decision is made, doors open that seemed forever shut. Walking through them feels hopeful, exhilarating, and full of purpose. I am not the best sailor or the best surfer, or the most credentialed at anything, but chasing my dream has taught me that fulfillment and self-love don’t come from being the best. They come from pursuing our passions and connecting to our own spirits, communities, and world. Being the best, or richest, or strongest, or sexiest without feeling connected doesn’t sound heavenly at all.

I stop occasionally to pick up scattered chip bags, plastic forks, and empty bottles along the shore as the sun touches down on the horizon. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t my trash; it’s my Earth. And that’s the beauty of Oneness: Love has no borders.
If we think we already know everything, we shut ourselves off to unlimited possibilities and potential. If we leave it all up to the experts, we give up our power.
It’s up to us to stay curious, keep evolving. And let go of what no longer serves us. It’s up to us to work together and use our unique callings and skills to get our planetary spaceship back on course.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Super Bugs



The super bug is with us, these mutating pathogens have had centuries of adaptation into the human environment.
A path of deadly devastating epidemics spreads worldwide with inter- continental connectivity accelerating the spread from years to hours or as fast as a jumbo jet can traverse the globe.
Antibiotics were the heaven sent savior.
Now those same antibiotics have been overtaken by the evolutionary adaptability of the new super bug.
Over-prescribed wonder drugs no longer work and the pathogens are dominating.
My wife Jane and I take every precaution. We are regularly vaccinated, avoid crowds, give a wide berth to people sniffling, coughing, and other typhoid Mary types. We persistently wash and sanitize ourselves, and this is not enough. Our regiment of precautions has kept us free of any colds or other respiratory infections for more than ten years.
Long story short: Less than a month ago I got a stiffly nose that in two days degenerated into a listless malaise. As to from where and who I got the virus, there are the usual thousand suspects.
Jane saved my life. This was not the common cold or phenomena...I had a low-grade fever, and I had five severe coughing/strangulating asthma attacks in one night. This surely would have killed me if Jane with her expertise on treating asthma had not been at my side every step of the way with just the right treatments as the asthma attacks cut off my air. The violent coughing that followed caused convulsive muscle spasms that could have caused broken ribs or abdominal hernias...that did not happen but the painful aftereffects felt like it had. Leg and abdomen strained muscles would heal in time. It was a week before recovery began.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Northwestern High School and Looking for a New Frontier

Yearning to be free, the seed was planted. Youthful exuberance and an almost impossible dream drove young Axel Pearson from Sweden to the promised land...America.

In 1906 Axel was established in Nebraska, and he sent for his wife to be Bertha, back in Sweden. Happily married, they had four children and frugally saved for their dream home. Try as they might that dream home in Nebraska was not to be. Farm and land prices were driven out of sight by profiteering speculators. Axel had come a long way and did not intend to spend the rest of his life a share-cropper.

1920: Affordable land at last.
Axel and some of his Nebraska neighbors took an exploration trip to northern Wisconsin. The virgin pine forest had been cleared, but the land was cheap. It was littered with huge stumps left behind by the lumber barons who didn’t leave a tree for a bird to sit in. Not even the Indians could survive there. Another reason for it being reasonably priced was its isolation and total lack of infrastructure.

Axel saw possibilities, bought, and began site preparation. He put up a temporary two room shanty and sent for Bertha and their four young children back in Nebraska.

The train trip north: March 28, 1920.
Cold, bleak and desolate. Axel went to Superior to meet the train from Nebraska, that brought his wife Bertha and their four young children, their belongings, included two work horses and even a new Ford car. Also on the train were several of Axel’s Nebraska friends who were emigrating to Cloverland and would be his neighbors there.

Maple train station to Cloverland: The Ford had to stay at the Maple station, the crude roads were to muddy. By the time the horses were attached to the loaded wagon and ready to depart Maple darkness was near. They were leaving the last vestiges of civilization, the train depot. This nine mile wagon ordeal to their new home left everyone exhausted, apprehensive, and motion sick. It was a jolting and seemingly endless journey up and down hills and crossing creeks while hanging on for dear life.

The end destination, their new home that awaited them would be cold and provisional. No heat, no insulation, no electric...until 1932, no indoor plumbing. A wood burning cook stove that would be their only warmth required a constant fire. All hands were needed, and rest would be a luxury.
Bertha and Axel, 1921

Bertha cried, Nebraska had been luxury living, but she was the one that would be the moral buster and see the family through the labor intensive building of the farm and community.

There were roads, bridges, and farm buildings to build, and a garden to plant. The enormous stumps required dynamite and horse power. This plague of stumps would haunt the farm for years to come. When Axel’s son Ed Pearson, who was ten when the family moved to Wisconsin, had his own farm years later, his daughter Jane, my wife, remembers in her youth walking the fields behind the plow and picking up sticks,stones, and tools left by the logging.  The detritus of the big pine stumps seemed to magically spawn from the red clay. This was before planting could begin. The affordable land would be paid for in relentless toil.

Bertha saved the day with chicken and egg production that saw the family through the meager Hoover days of the Depression when banks and businesses failed. Home foreclosures put over-spenders of the Roaring Twenties out on the street.

A seed was planted: Ed Pearson walked a mile to school and didn’t get to go to high school...there was none. A burning yearn to learn would be his goal in life.

It seems like a miracle now, but those exuberant pioneers had an unstoppable community building spirit. It would be more than thirty years before there was a paved road to town.

1921: The Town of Cloverland was created from part of the towns of Maple and Brule, and Axel Pearson was elected town supervisor. In 1932 Axel was elected to the board of Twin Ports Cooperative Creamery and soon became president. These were just the beginnings of the Pearson family involvement in community Building. Axel’s son Ed followed in his father’s footsteps.

Ed Pearson’s public-spirited career in community building plus his Northwestern High history.
 
In 1931 at the age of 21, Ed became Cloverland’s town constable and five years later he was elected Supervisor. At age 29, in 1938 he became town chairman. Ed became chairman of the Douglas County board of Supervisors in 1942 and held a seat on the county board until 1947.
At the same time Ed served as director on the Tri-Sate Fair Committee from 1938 until 1947.
1944, Ed was made head of the State Forestry Board for Douglas County.
1960, Governor Nelson named Ed to the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Standards to develop a standard of care and treatment in Wisconsin's 38 county mental hospitals.
Not mentioned in the above story are these additional community involvements:
Board of directors of the Douglas County Historical Society.
Member of the South Shore Lion’s Club.
Member of the Western Bayfield Historical Society at Iron River, Wisconsin.
Community fund raiser for the Superior Memorial Hospital,
Chairman of the Holstein Breeders association
Member of the Farmer’s Union Grain Cooperative.
Organizer with Floyd Carlson and leader of the Cloverland 4-H Club.
Active Salvation Army contributor.
Regular donor to the Douglas County Blood Bank.
Deacon of the Nazareth Lutheran Church in Cloverland and Peace Lutheran Church in Poplar.
Forty years as trustee of the Parkland and Middle River Health facilities.
Member of the Authorizing committee for the state nursing home standards.
Ed served on the Douglas County Committee for schools prior to his involvement in creating and building a new high school in Maple.

The Board of Education elected three members, Edwin R. Pearson, William Kinnunen, the Coop store manager, and Mr. Alberts to organize a high-school building plan. 

The Maple Farmers Cooperative donated the land in Maple. The district was able to bond $120,000, donations were made, and labor pledged. With enthusiastic community efforts the school was ready to open by September 1949 with 175 students enrolled. One important item remained. There was no money to operate the school. Ed Pearson and some of his school board colleagues drove directly to the office of Wisconsin governor Oscar Rennebaum to ask for the needed funds to open the school. Ed told the governor that he was not leaving without the money to open the new school and was the last one out the door that night. The governor granted the funds from the state emergency fund and the school opened on time.
 
Ed was very proud of Northwestern High School and the school fulfilled his dreams except for one thing; he thought that the school should have a swimming pool. He felt the money allotted for athletics should be used to benefit all the students not just those who had the free time to pursue team sports. At the time, many of the students lived on farms and were needed at home and unable to participate in after school hour activities.

Ed served on the first school board of Common Joint District No. 1 of Maple when Northwestern High school was built in 1949. 
 
In 1976 after Ed sold his farm in Cloverland and moved to his new home in Maple he was again elected to a three year term on the school board. During this term the new Middle School was built.

Ed was a very busy man and never passed a moment of idle time. Being an amateur anthropologist and historian, he and his wife Eunice became active in local historical groups and found many like-minded people in the Western Bayfield Historical Society in Iron River, Wisconsin. They prepared and presented programs and various tours that included the Clevedon settlement at the mouth of the Brule River on Lake Superior. Ed had his own little museum at home filled with historical curiosities. He researched everything and published newspaper articles that became a regular feature.

As a child growing up in isolated Cloverland without electric, radio, or television Ed’s love of music got him to make his own. Beginning with a mouth harmonica, he next purchased a button accordion. Self-taught, he became accomplished and was a big hit at community gatherings accompanied by his neighbor friends. Ed said, “We didn’t have any musical instruments in the house at all. So, I trapped weasels and sold the hides until I got my first one, an old accordion, and I had to go in the back forty and practice to learn to play, but then I learned to play a little bit. I played for a few dances. They would be in a home or hall or something like that.”

Ed’s wife Eunice baked Scandinavian cookies and Ed distributed them every holiday season to the community’s lonely and needy.
More than a lifetime of dedicated service to the people of Douglas County, Wisconsin, has made Edwin Pearson one of the most outstanding public servants of all time...a marvelous and exceptional achievement for anybody.

In the early 1900’s young Axel Pearson was looking for a new frontier and found it. Axel's seed of community building would bear fruit for generations to come.
In 1920 Axel’s ten year old son Ed Pearson walked to school hunting rabbits along the way for the school lunch, the teacher would cook. Ed was a studious boy, avid reader, and eager learner who didn’t get to go to high school...there was none. A burning yearn to learn would be his all-important goal in life. The seed that Ed planted, like his father's, also took root, grew, and prospered.

Ed’s six children graduated from Northwestern High School, two of his grandsons, and four of his great-grandchildren have graduated or are attending.

Over a hundred years later, in 2018, Axel’s tree is still bearing fruit. Ed’s great-granddaughter Katie Lundeen is graduating in May from Northwestern High School with high honors and a stellar athletic record.
Katie Lundeen

Written by John M. Grimsrud, husband of Jane A. Pearson Grimsrud. Jane is the author of Looking for a New Frontier and Brule River Forestand Lake Superior, plus co-author of a four volume Sailing series books and two Yucatan, Mexico, adventure travel books.