Saturday, September 21, 2019

Dance Between Flames: Berlin Between the Wars by Alton Gill


Berliners were a divided lot, the idle rich were totally oblivious to the world collapsing around them and the under privileged were priced out of everything by run away inflation that would cost Germany and the world dearly under the thousand year Third Rich that only lasted twelve years.


Six weeks into 1919, Kessler noted: “I was hauled off by acquaintances to a place where you can dance until dawn. There are hundreds like it in Berlin now. The best description of this second phase of the “dancing on a volcano”
Greater Berlin had fewer than 100,000 inhabitants. The rises in population were due less to births than to migration, as people came to the industrial centre from the land to seek better work. There is an old saying that most true Berliners actually come from Silesia, but city records show that the majority then came from the province of Brandenburg. By 1925, the total population of Greater Berlin had reached four million.

Inflation run away destabilized confidence in anything government
The day of Rathena’s murder, the mark stood at 300 to the dollar. By 6 July the rate was 450. The middle classes, those who had savings, trembled. Patriotic, though misguided, investment in War Loans during the First World War had cost many families their futures. Now, what remained seemed threatened with being wiped out along with any faith in received values, ethical, material or moral. By the middle of January 1923 the mark stood at 10,000 against the dollar; by the end of the month, 50,000. At this point the State Bank intervened and forced the rate down, but it could not stem the tide for long. By May the mark was down again, to 70,000 to the dollar: by the end of June it was 150,000. By August the dollar stood at 1 million marks, and the banks were issuing 46 billion marks a day. By the end of September, the rate had risen to 160 million. The Ullstein newspaper presses were commandeered to print money. The figures on banknotes were overprinted as million mark notes became billion mark notes. Currency in circulation rose to 44 trillion marks. The government was accused of deliberately allowing inflation to skyrocket in order to avoid repaying foreign debts and reparations at par value.

Anyone who hadn’t left by 1933, he said, was de facto a Nazi.

While offering all the attractions of the earlier youth movements, these Nazi organizations also indoctrinated children and turned them against rebellious or controversial parents.

Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy by Nicolas E. Reynolds


A turning point in history marked by wars, changing political alliances with greedy go for the jugular power grabs.
One of the very best history oriented books. This is about real people radically changing the world.

Regler saw his duty as maintaining the morale of the troops and working with the civilian population. In 1938 he would boast of saving priceless paintings from destruction and transporting women and children to safety from villages where battles were raging. He was most likely sincere when he said that it was up to the commissars “to halt the cruelties . . . on both sides.” It felt good to be waging the good fight again: for him the winds of “heroic Spain” were blowing away the “stink of Moscow.” He watched “the good Russia” come onto the scene, but worried that “the diabolical Russia” might not be far behind.

Alexander Orlov, the NKVD chief who ran the secret war in Spain for Stalin and made time to entertain Hemingway. National Archives, College Park. Orlov may have gone on to facilitate Hemingway’s visit to Alfambra, the town where he spent the four days in the fall of 1937 with communist guerrillas. They in turn allowed him to witness the attack on the Nationalist train that would drive the plot of his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.
August 1949, the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb and overturned America’s monopoly on super-weapons. A few months later, mainland China fell to the communists. Mao and Chou were now in charge, and Chiang had to make do with ruling the offshore island of Taiwan. In 1950 Stalinist North Korea invaded noncommunist South Korea, starting a war that would last into 1953. At home, the Red Scare intensified when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin launched a witch hunt for communists that made HUAC’s work seem careful and professional.

Castro already knew how to charm a crowd, and spoke a “clumsy but clear” language some called “fidelenglish.” While in the United States, he literally reached out to anyone who came near him and calmly answered most questions put to him. Staying away from anti-imperialist rhetoric, he adeptly sidestepped questions about communists in his movement. During a speech from the bandstand in Central Park, Castro was eloquent but vague about his core political values: humanism and democracy. The only discordant notes came when he met with officials like Vice President Richard Nixon, who lectured him about the dangers of communism.

Hitler's Swedes: A History of the Swedish Volunteers in the Waffen-SS by Lars T.Larsson


Swedish neutrality during WWII was not 100% and changed with political ups and downs.

Revelations of little known political happenings are the theme of the book, and I found it interesting and informative.
Swedish neutrality was not accepted by all it citizens. There were, in addition to those who politically opposed the government’s policy, thousands more who decided to voluntarily participate in the war. Indeed, thousands of volunteers perpetuated the legacy of those who fought in the First World War, Finnish Civil War, Estonian War of independence and Spanish Civil War.

The war turned in the Allies’ favor in 1943. It was in August of that year that German leave trains were denied passage over Swedish territory. Swedish governmental support for the Western Allies commenced not long afterwards when secret espionage and sabotage bases were permitted to be established along the shared border with Norway.

Sweden had trade agreements with both Germany and the Western Allies during the war. Supplying, amongst other raw materials, immense quantities of ball-bearings and iron ore,
It is a common misconception of post-war literature to hold the Division up as an example of a Pre-NATO pan-European division fighting communism. The fact is that throughout its almost five-year service primarily consisted of German personnel. For example, its total complement consisted of approximately 1,500 foreign volunteers and 18,000 ethnic Germans in summer 1941.

Mikhail Gorbachev was present too, clinging to office as president of the Soviet Union and general secretary of the Communist Party. One month later, Gorbachev survived in office only because Yeltsin climbed onto a tank in Moscow and faced down an attempted army-KGB coup. By December 1991, Gorbachev was gone. The Central Committee of the Communist Party was dissolved. Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Baltic states, and other former Soviet republics had proclaimed their independence. In relative peace, seventy-four years of Communist rule in Russia had come to an end.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michel Booth


Humorous, cynical, satirical, brutally honest, and truly memorable.

Even if you aren't Scandinavian as I am, I am sure you will find this informative and revealing book one of the best entertainingly humorous and educationally informative reads you are likely to find.

How come you have no idea where Aalborg or Trondheim actually are? Why can no one you know speak Swedish or “get by” in Norwegian? Name the Danish foreign minister. Or Norway’s most popular comedian. Or a Finnish person. Any Finnish person.

If you had to be reborn anywhere in the world as a person with average talents and income, you would want to be a Viking,” proclaimed British news weekly The Economist, ever so slightly backhandedly, in a special Nordic-themed edition. But where were the discussions about Nordic totalitarianism and how uptight the Swedes are; about how the Norwegians have been corrupted by their oil wealth to the point where they can’t even be bothered to peel their own bananas (really: we’ll get to that later); how the Finns are self-medicating themselves into oblivion; how the Danes are in denial about their debt, their vanishing work ethic, and their place in the world; and how the Icelanders are, essentially, feral?

Swedes will likely cut foreigners some slack in the footwear department, but there is one golden rule that you will not be forgiven for breaking: be on time. You should not be too early, no one appreciates that, but equally you should absolutely never arrive later than five minutes after the time you were invited. In Sweden, the concept of fashionably late” is akin to “fashionably flatulent.”

Alfred Nobel made his fortune by inventing dynamite, initially for the mining industry, but later for the munitions used to slaughter thousands in the Crimean War, and countless millions thereafter. And yet, somehow, one idle day while drawing up his will in his retirement home on the Italian Riviera, Nobel felt his life’s bloodstained legacy warranted, of all things, a peace prize in his name, it is akin to King Herod sponsoring a beautiful-baby competition, or a demolition man handing out architecture prizes.

I can think of many American states in which it would probably be quite an uncomfortable experience to declare yourself an atheist, for example, or gay, or to be married yet choose not to have children, or to be unmarried and have children, or to have an abortion, or to raise your children as Muslims. Less significantly, but still limiting, I don’t imagine it would be easy being vegetarian in Texas, for instance, or a wine buff in Salt Lake City, come to that. And don’t even think of coming out as socialist anywhere! In Scandinavia you can be all of these things and no one will bat an eye (as long as you wait and cross on green).

Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile


America’s clandestine warfare and the person who hyped it.

Provocative and gripping revelations are stacked together in this monumental fast moving true story that reads like a fairy tail. A must read book worthy of more than five stars.
Government wasted money. The poverty program didn’t solve poverty; it might have made it worse. The billions spent in Vietnam had backfired. Washington Post cartoonist Herb Block loved to draw Caspar Weinberger walking around with a thousand-dollar toilet seat around his neck. And everyone knew that the CIA screwed up everything it did.

Israel’s complicated relationship with Iran how the Mossad had “had half of the mullahs on its payroll” before the revolution. But mainly he factored in why Israel would want to be building up Khomeini. The answer was simple: Israel’s most dangerous enemy was Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and right then Iraq looked as if it might be on the verge of winning its war with Iran. What better way for Israel to do in its enemy and rebuild its alliance with Iran than to get the United States to finance it? That was enough to call into question Israel’s motives, but ultimately what enraged Avrakotos was the vision that Oliver North and the others had of a group of Iranian moderates just waiting to deal honorably with the Great Satan.

The United States roused may well have inspired an entire generation of militant young Muslims to believe that the moment is theirs. To call these final pages an epilogue is probably a misnomer. Epilogues indicate that the story has been wrapped up, the chapter finished. This one, sadly, is far from over.

Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren't by Garrett Peck


A look at America’s plunge into radical, fanatical lynch mob mentality.

This must read history book opens up an eye opening visage of just how close to the surface extremism waits to strangle liberty for all. Americans can be sold anything, even a war. The book holds and reveals numerous unflattering aspects of a nation that has the attention span of a gnat.

Temperance advocates were eager to demonstrate that dry law could work nationally, and they used the national capital as a proving ground. The problem was that Washingtonians didn’t want to go dry and never would go dry. Prohibition came early to Washington. It started on November 1, 1917, more than two years before the nation officially went dry and ended on March 1, 1934.

Thanks to legions of German immigrants, beer became the nation’s most popular alcoholic beverage after the Civil War. Washington was no different. The city had a thriving brewing culture, and local breweries struggled to keep up with insatiable demand. With hot and humid summers, lager beer was just the ticket to take the edge off the season. In 1916, district residents drank 7.2 million gallons of beer and 1.6 million gallons of whiskey, wine and other spirits. Beer was so prevalent that temperance advocates took to calling Washington the “Sodom of Suds.” Their victory in prohibition meant the loss of a vibrant brewing culture.

Looking back on it all, the striking thing about prohibition was that so many people could have been so utterly wrong.” The temperance movement seriously misjudged how deeply ingrained drinking was to American culture or how paramount drinking was to Washington society. Discredited and unpopular, the temperance movement went virtually extinct, leaving only the ugly Temperance Fountain as a monument.

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth


In print for fifteen years and more pertinent than ever. 

This author has something imperative to say that MUST NOT be dismissed!

Some idea of the power greenhouse gases have to influence temperature can be gained by examining other planets. The atmosphere of Venus is 98 percent CO2, and its surface temperature is 891°F. Should CO2 ever reach even 1 percent of Earth’s atmosphere, it would “all other things being equal” bring the surface temperature of the planet to boiling point.
Were it not for plants and algae, we would soon run out of oxygen and suffocate in CO2. Through photosynthesis (the process whereby plants create sugars using sunlight and water), plants take our waste CO2 and use it to make their own energy, in the process creating a waste stream of oxygen. It’s a neat and self-sustaining cycle that forms the basis of life on Earth. The volume of carbon circulating around our planet is enormous. Around a trillion tons of carbon are tied up in living things, while the amount buried underground is far, far greater. And for every molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere, there are fifty in the oceans.
Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal producer) led a campaign, informed apparently by his personal beliefs, that the earth’s atmosphere “is deficient in carbon dioxide” and that producing more would herald an age of eternal summer. In a move rather like the CEO of an arms manufacturer arguing that a nuclear war would be good for the planet, Western Fuels wanted to lead the charge in creating a world with atmospheric CO2 of around 1,000 parts per million.
A ten-year, peer-reviewed study by the IPCC commissioned by Bush senior and studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA. September 2002 the White House released the Environment Protection Agency’s annual report with the entire section dealing with climate change deleted.
Bush administration “desperately wanted to burn more coal... . Coal is our friend,” and that to do so they would scuttle Clean Air and Clean Water Act requirements. In this the administration has been as good as its word, for, as Shea quipped, it may be some time before the industry has another president like “Bush or Attila the Hun.”
The greatest damage was done by the Global Climate Coalition, an industry lobby group founded in 1989 by fifty oil, gas, coal, auto, and chemical corporations. During the eleven years of its existence the organization gave $60 million in political donations and spent millions more on propaganda. The stated purpose of the Global Climate Coalition was to “cast doubt on the theory of global warming.”
Some industries that oppose action on climate change use tactics reminiscent of those of asbestos and tobacco companies, who by constantly challenging and clouding the outcomes of research into the link between their products and cancer, succeeded in buying themselves a few more decades of fat profits.
Asbestos and cigarettes can kill individuals, but CO2 emissions threaten our planet.

Empires of Light by Jill Jonnes


The Industrial Revolution beginning around 1800 began with steam power fueled by coal.1900 began the second century of the Industrial Revolution, electricity powering by coal, hydro, petroleum, and ultimately wind and solar.

American corporate power was quick to step into this war of the “Electric Currents.” Thomas Edison and his technology of DC (direct current) would stop at nothing to dominate the industry where Westinghouse and Tesla’s new and experimental AC (alternating current) was the only feasible solution.

American business giants battled to dominate and control a world wide technology of the Empires of Light and power distribution.

This is a real history making story, well done, fascinating and fast moving.

1888, Thomas Edison was no longer content to vent his rancor with secret attacks. Using the vehicle of the Edison Electric Light Company, he lashed out publicly, issuing what surely stands as Americ’s longest and most splenetic howl of corporate outrage. The eighty-four-page Edison diatribe, jacketed in angry scarlet and emblazoned with the title WARNING!, served as the official public salvo in one of the most unusual and caustic battles in American corporate history. Edison, with his DC system, was making his first open attack against Westinghouse and AC in the War of the Electric Currents.
Assumed that the electrical future was securely his, with all its glory and potential for riches, suddenly saw the famously tough, reckless, and industrially wealthy Westinghouse boldly swooping in from Pittsburgh to steal away his hard-earned prize. Edison would not sit back quietly and let what he saw as a dangerous system imperil not just his company, but the whole marvelous field of electricity.
Englishman H. G. Wells, science fiction writer turned social observer: These dynamos and turbines of the Niagara Falls Power Company impressed me far more profoundly than the Cave of the Winds; are indeed, to my mind, greater and more beautiful than accidental eddying of air beside a downpour. They are will made visible, thought translated into easy and commanding things. They are clean, noiseless, starkly powerful. All the clatter and tumult of the early age of machinery is past and gone here; there is no smoke, no coal grit, no dirt at all. The wheel pit into which one descends has an almost cloistered quiet about its softly humming turbines. These are altogether noble masses of machinery, huge black slumbering monsters, great sleeping tops that engineer irresistible forces in their sleep”. A man goes to and fro quietly in the long, clean hall of the dynamos. There is no clangor, no racket”. All these great things are as silent, as wonderfully made, as the heart in a living body, and stouter and stronger than that”. I fell into a daydream of the coming power of men, and how that power may be used by them.”

Tesla and his helpers turned out all the necessary components for three complete AC systems, single-phase alternating current, two-phase, and three-phase. He designed and built copper and iron models for each system, a dynamo (without the commutator!)
Decades ahead of his time

63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You to Read by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell


Jesse Ventura stood up and blew the whistle on gross governmental disregard for any ethical behavior in the land of the victim be damned where they have the very best politicians that money can buy.

The book is a classic eye opener, not to be taken lightly
2010, the Obama Justice Department cited the so-called “state secrets doctrine” in successfully getting a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit on “extraordinary rendition” (a phrase that really means we send suspected terrorists to other countries to get held and tortured

WikiLeaks is exposing our government officials for the frauds that they are. They also show us how governments work together to lie to their citizens when they are waging war.

First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”

Call something “terrorism,” the Constitution and the Bill of Rights can be made null and void? All they’ve got to do is say the word and they can put you under surveillance without a warrant. To me, this smacks of an attack on the foundations of democracy that plays right into the hands of terrorists. It also sets a precedent for the kinds of tactics we went on to see at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century by John Higgs


Profound beyond the limit and ingeniously eye opening.

This book is a scholarly trip through an electrically charged revolutionary century of innovative developments, political turmoil, war mongering psychopathy, corporate power supremacy, out of control climate calamity, and the greatest economic disparity since the three hundred years of the Russian Czar.

A journey through the twentieth century can seem like an epic quest. The gallant adventurers who embark on it first wrestle with three giants, known by the single names of Einstein, Freud and Joyce. They must pass through the forest of quantum indeterminacy and the castle of conceptual art. They avoid the gorgons of Jean-Paul Sartre and Ayn Rand whose glance can turn them to stone, emotionally if not physically, and they must solve the riddles of the Sphinxes of Carl Jung and Timothy Leary. Then things get difficult. The final challenge is to somehow make it through the swamp of postmodernism. It is not, if we are honest, an appealing journey.

The twenty-first century is not going to make any sense at all seen through nineteenth-century eyes.

A century is an arbitrary time period. Historians talk about the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) or the short twentieth century (1914-91), because these periods contain clear beginnings and endings. But for our purposes “the twentieth century” will do fine, because we’re taking a journey from when things stopped making sense to where we are now.

Ideology beat science
Even Margaret Thatcher had to amend her views after it became clear how much they offended her political allies. While her 1980 talks displayed clear scientific understanding of the situation, her 2003 book, Statecraft, fell back on the political talking points that cause climate scientists to bang their heads on their desks in despair. Curbing climate change was a front for a political viewpoint that she disagreed with, and for that reason no efforts to curb climate change should be made. Ideology beat science. Individualism beat environmentalism. So carbon continued to be emitted, topsoil continued to decrease and the ice sheets on the poles continued to melt. The debt which funded the consumer activity that caused all this continued to grow. As a result, the window when runaway climate change could have been prevented now appears to have closed.

W. C. Fields was the putative author of “I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

The Bill of Rights Primer: A Citizen's Guidebook to the American Bill of Rights by Les Adams, Akhil Amar

The Bill of Rights Primer: A Citizen's Guidebook to the American Bill of Rights by Les Adams, Akhil Amar

FIVE STARS - A historical document clearly explained with it’s impact clarified. 

This fascinating book will take you back to the ore-industrialization years and the nearly impossible War of Independence, the Civil War, women's rights, prohibition, and the political powers that continually attack to bend it.
One of the ironies of history that this thoroughly reprehensible monster played an instrumental role in the foundation of English constitutional government from which a number of the American concepts of freedom embodied in our Bill of Rights were to be drawn. You see, King John happened to be the most notable participant in an event that many historians regard as being one of the most important in the entire history of the western world.
The signing of Magna Carta by King John
(the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and its accompanying Bill of Rights) as one of the most important writings in the history of the American republic.
This is a book written not for lawyers and judges but for ordinary citizens who care about their Constitution and their rights.

As great as men like Madison and Jefferson were, they lived and died as slaveholders, and their Bill of Rights was tainted by its quiet complicity with the original sin of slavery.

Thomas Paine, (1737-1809). Anglo-American political philosopher who enjoyed active and influential political careers in England, France, and the United States. After the publication of his Rights of Man (1791-2), a powerful condemnation of Edward Burke’s Reflections Upon the French Revolution, Paine was indicted by the British government for treason. In the United States, he was an associate of major figures in the American Revolution, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson. His best known writings were: The American Crisis (1776-83), a series of pamphlets; and Common Sense (1776), in which Paine argued that common sense surely led to the conclusion that the American Colonies should become independent of Great Britain. This little pamphlet, which sold over 500,000 copies (an extraordinary figure for that time), was one of the most influential political documents in American history.