‘Lawrence in Arabia’

August 20, 2014 in Books

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle EastLawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

T.E. Lawrence remains an illusive figure to most people. Most people (including myself) have first learned of him through the 1962 movie by David Lean. This book is certainly about T.E. Lawrence, but will cover far more ground and characters. It places the story of Lawrence in it’s historical context, in which the modern day Middle East was given the shape we are familiar with today.

It describes the conflict inside him in the roles he was playing, first on behalf of the British government, but later more and more on the side of the Arabs, and how in the end this conflict of interest would tear him up on the inside.

What is most interesting today (as it has been 100 years since the outbreak of WWI), is to see how the imperial powers of that time schemed and lied in order to pull of “The Great Loot” for the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Much of the turmoil and conflicts of today in that region stem from the decisions made during and immediately following WWI. About this the author writes:

“Certainly, blame for all this doesn’t rest solely with the terrible decisions that were made at the end of World War I, but it was then that one particularly toxic seed was planted. Ever since, Arab society has tended to define itself less by what it aspires to become than by what it is opposed to: colonialism, Zionism, Western imperialism in its many forms. This culture of opposition has been manipulated—indeed, feverishly nurtured—by generations of Arab dictators intent on channeling their people’s anger away from their own misrule in favor of the external threat, whether it is “the great Satan” or the “illegitimate Zionist entity” or Western music playing on the streets of Cairo.”

It remains pure speculation to ponder what would have happened had Lawrence’s vision for Arabia actually been realized. Lawrence himself was a changed man, after everything he had fought for vanished. About this the author writes:

“this was an experience that left him [Lawrence] utterly changed, unrecognizable in certain respects even to himself. Victory carries a moral burden the vanquished never know, and as an architect of momentous events, Lawrence would be uniquely haunted by what he saw and did during the Great Loot.”

The book has been an absolute pleasure to read! The narrative is gripping and it just flows. Hard to put down once you start reading it.

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Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’

July 17, 2014 in Books

Common SenseCommon Sense by Thomas Paine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There isn’t a single (good) book about the American Revolution in existence, that doesn’t mention Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ in some way or another. And rightfully so, as the effects of this pamphlet were great. Historian John Ferling, in his book ‘Almost a Miracle’ wrote the following:

“His [Thomas Paine] electrifying polemic captured what most Americans—if not most congressman—felt. He opened with a a nearly unanswerable assault on the folly of hereditary kingship, and indeed on monarchy itself, that drove the last nail in the coffin of monarchical rule for the revolutionary generation.”

It was published at a perfect time, when the Continental army was demoralized and the Continental congress was debating whether or not to send another plea for reconciliation to king George. Within days of the appearance of this pamphlet that motion was voted down and a motion for independence adopted instead.

Biographer Ron Chernov, in his book ‘Washington, a Life’ described it as follows:

“Beyond its quotable prose, Common Sense benefited from perfect timing. It appeared just as Americans digested news of the Norfolk horror as well as George III’s October speech to Parliament in which he denounced the rebels as traitors and threatened to send foreign mercenaries to vanquish them. The historian Bernard Bailyn has noted that ‘one had to be a fool or a fanatic in early January 1776 to advocate American independence,’ but Paine’s work—’slapdash as it is, rambling as it is, crude as it is’—produced that magical effect.”

Besides the great boost to moral the pamphlet provided, Thomas Paine donated the proceeds of his pamphlet to the Continental army, which was strapped for cash at the time.

Having read quite a few quotes from this pamphlet, as quoted by different historical authors, I had to read it myself in its entirety. It was a very readable text. The interesting thing about this pamphlet, is that is was written for the common man. This dragged the ‘common’ man into politics. Something that wasn’t the norm at the time. Before one was to engage himself into politics, one had to first distinguish himself as a ‘gentleman’. Benjamin Franklin for instance only deemed himself a ‘gentleman’ after he retired as a businessman. The common man, at the time, was not suppose to involve himself with politics. This custom was broken when Thomas Paine published his pamphlet.

I enjoyed reading it and it helps to better understand the revolutionary era. Thomas Paine said it best himself, when describing this most remarkable of times in history:

“…we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men, perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains, are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months.”

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Book review: ‘Becoming Eichmann’

July 10, 2014 in Books

<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55842.Becoming_Eichmann” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a “Desk Murderer”" border=”0″ src=”https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1402643054m/55842.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55842.Becoming_Eichmann”>Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a “Desk Murderer”</a> by <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/31521.David_Cesarani”>David Cesarani</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/807098225″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
Excellent book about the what moved Adolf Eichmann to act like he did. The author starts with the story of Eichmann’s life and rise within the Nazi party and SS and SD organizations, and his role therein. At the end of the war he described Eichmann on the run and his eventual flight to Argentina. The ten years he lived pretty much worry free in South America, together with his wife and children who joined him there (under their own names) when he felt it was safe enough, is well described and leads up to his capture by Mossad agents in 1960.<br><br>His trial is described well, and shows both the mistakes of the prosecutor and the defense attorney. During his trial the prosecutor tried to pin the entire Final Solution on him, and even though what Eichmann did was horrible, he did not by himself write the policy that he ended up enforcing.<br><br>An interesting bit of information was unfolded during the appeals hearings, when Eichmann’s attorney (Servatius) demanded that Hans Globke be questioned (page 315):<br><br><em>”Even more stunning , he [Servatius] demanded to question Hans Globke, who in 1936 had written a legal interpretation of the Nuremberg Laws. He was now the State Secretary to the German Chancellery and a senior official in Konrad Adenauer’s government.”</em><br><br>Hans Globke who authored and co-authored numerous laws that enabled the Nazi state and by extend made possible the persecution of the Jews and in the end the Holocaust. Hans Globke, who also served as chief legal adviser for Eichmann’s department. Konrad Adenauer, Globke’s protector, covered for him while Eichmann was executed in Israel for his part in the Nazi regime and the Final solution. And with Globke, there were many more like him who escaped judgement all together for the crimes they committed during the Nazi regime. Quite the hypocrisy, especially since it was a known fact in the governments of the US and Britain. <br><br>The book deals well with the aftermath of Eichmann’s trial and execution. It explains how it created excellent teaching opportunities for the younger generation and opened up a dialogue about what had happened during the war years. At the time most people chose to talk as little as possible about it for varied reasons. The trial of Eichmann caused an influx of studies and books about the war, it’s lead characters and of course Eichmann. The author shows the discrepancies between these studies and the context in which they were written. The most notable work to be published as a direct result of the Eichmann trial was Hannah Ahrendt’s ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’. <br><br>Cesarani writes (page 367): <em>”The capacity to do what he did was not, however, inborn. Eichmann was not ‘hard-wired’ to become an accomplice to atrocities. The key to understanding Adolf Eichmann lies not in the man, but in the ideas that possessed him, the society in which they flowed freely, the political system that purveyed them, and the circumstances that made them acceptable. What Eichmann did was made possible by the dehumanization of the Jews, the construction of the Jewish people as an abstract racial-biological threat and a political enemy, and the disabling of inhibitions against killing. Anyone subject to these processes might have behaved in the same way, be it in a totalitarian state or a democracy.”</em><br><br>He concludes with the following: <em>”Now, in the twenty-first century, in a world awash with refugees and the victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’, when racism and fanaticism continue to dominate politics, and when international tribunals are trying the foot soldiers of genocide and their commanders in the military and political echelons, Eichmann appears more and more like a man of our time.”</em><br><br>I thoroughly enjoyed this book about a chapter of history that enabled men like Eichmann to flourish…. sadly enough.
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Book review: ‘The Lincoln Hypothesis’ by Timothy Ballard

July 7, 2014 in Books

<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22241044-the-lincoln-hypothesis” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The Lincoln Hypothesis: A Modern-day Abolitionist investigates the possible Connection between Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Abraham LIncoln” border=”0″ src=”https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1402292827m/22241044.jpg” /></a><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22241044-the-lincoln-hypothesis”>The Lincoln Hypothesis: A Modern-day Abolitionist investigates the possible Connection between Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and Abraham LIncoln</a> by <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5309731.Timothy_Ballard”>Timothy Ballard</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/964104123″>2 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
The reason I read the book was out of curiosity. Being LDS myself, I was quite interested in seeing how the Book of Mormon would possibly fit within the story of Lincoln and the Civil War. It wasn’t too bad, when taking in mind this was only a thesis. The author takes us along on his journey of discovery, and while there were many interesting parts, most of the evidence was indirect and circumstantial, and thin at best. Even though Lincoln checked out a copy of the Book of Mormon, and it was in his possession for many months, this didn’t change his stance on the Mormons from what I know. He just let them be, as he certainly had bigger problems to worry about.<br><br>Another part that could have been kept out of the book (in my opinion), were the personal experiences the author shares about his work for the CIA in eradicating modern day slavery. Despite the great work he is able to accomplish by freeing modern day slaves, and bringing the perpetrators to justice, it almost came across as if he was trying to draw a direct parallel between himself and Lincoln, which, in my opinion, came across as a bit arrogant. It was a part of the book that could have been left out completely, as it didn’t add much to his thesis and was probably only added to create a(n emotional) bridge between our time and Lincoln’s, so that the reader would connect better to his (Lincoln’s) story.<br><br>Having read James M. McPherson’s ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’ earlier (which was great!), this book certainly made me want to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, as it felt like much of Lincoln’s life, character and motivations were either overlooked or weren’t explored to a satisfy-able depth.<br><br>Another thing that bothered me about this thesis, was the lack of information of the LDS community, at the time, regarding their position on slavery and servitude. From my own studies it would appear that (some of) the LDS people at the time considered certain races to be of lesser stature and that they would perhaps be better off in a capacity of servitude. Brigham Young, while addressing the Utah Territorial Legislature on January 5th, 1852, said:<br><br><em>”It has long since ceased to become a query with me, who were the most amenable to the laws of righteousness: those who through the instrumentality of human power brought into servitude human beings, who naturally were their own equals, or those acting upon the principle of nature’s law, brought into this position or situation, those who were naturally designed for that purpose, and whose capacities are more befitting that, than any other station in society. Thus, while servitude may and should exist, and that too upon those, who are naturally designed to occupy the position of “servant of servants.” Yet we should not fail into the other extreme, and make them as beasts of the field, regarding not the humanity which attaches to the colored race: nor yet elevate them, as some seem disposed, to an equality with those whom Nature and Nature’s God has indicated to be their masters, their superiors;”</em><br><br>This, in my opinion, would contradict the theory that while the Latter-Day Saints were safely tucked away in the mountains (Utah), the rest of the country (i.e. all the states, North and South) would have to wage war in order for them to humble themselves, and ‘repent’ (‘National Repentance’ is what the author calls it) of the sin of slavery, as it would appear the Latter-Day saints weren’t entirely blameless here (despite their own persecution before they headed west) when looking at their own idea’s and beliefs about slavery at the time.<br><br>This would seem like an important topic that perhaps should have been included in the narrative, as it would paint a more honest picture about the LDS Church and people in regard to the question of slavery and emancipation. <br><br>Reading about Lincoln’s change of heart was very interesting and enjoyable. When your son dies in the middle of a most horrible civil war, it would cause most men (and women) to take a long hard look at themselves, God, and the meaning of it all. Whether or not the Book of Mormon (pretty much the main selling point of the book) actually made a difference in Lincoln’s life remains unknown. The book does not provide a definitive answer to that question. All it offers are speculations based on Lincoln’t actions and writings afterwards. So who knows.
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AutoCAD keyboard shortcuts

June 5, 2014 in AutoCAD, AutoCAD for Mac

Below the most used autoCAD keyboard shortcuts. For more keyboard shortcuts, follow this link.

When is it acceptable to take a selfie?

March 29, 2014 in Fun things, Random

This is how I feel about selfies:

Selfie flow chart

For source see here.

Book review: ‘The Coming of the Third Reich’

March 1, 2014 in Books

The Coming of the Third ReichThe Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first of three books on Germany’s Third Reich. This book tells the story of the events that happened in German politics from about 1918 to 1933 when the Nazi’s came to power. Actually the books starts with the Second Reich (or the Bismarckian era). It details German sentiment and politics, making it very clear how Germany eventually entered into WWI.

The tale remains a sad one. After WWI, with treaty of Versailles, Germans felt defeated and betrayed. This sentiment continued to play prominent role in the eventual destruction of German democracy. A process that the Nazi’s didn’t start, but sure finished when Hitler became Chancellor. The Weimar Republic was never very popular with a large part of the German population. In fact, both large corporations and many political parties were frustrated by what they saw as it’s failings towards the German people. Much of the blame for the defeat in 1914 was wrongfully blamed on the Jewish people. Antisemitism was quite common back then, sadly.. This anti-Semitic sentiment was widely used by more than one right wing political party during the 1920-ies, including the Nazi’s.

Evans does a great job detailing the fall of German democracy during the Weimar years. After the Nazi’s failed Putsch in 1923, HItler vowed to come to power by legal means only. And he sort of does, even if he isn’t actually elected Chancellor, but appointed Chancellor after Papen was forced out. Papen (and his predecessor Brüning), who, coincidentally, paved the way for the Nazi’s by eradicating certain aspects of democracy.

The economic circumstances are well woven into the narrative; from the hyper inflation in the early twenties, to the stock market crash in 1929, resulting in hard economic circumstances in the early 1930-ies.

The rise of the Nazi party is explained well. Evan’s shows how their antisemetic ideology went hand in hand with violence and intimidation. The many acts of violence were committed by the paramilitary units of the Nazi’s; the SA and later on the SS as well. Many political parties at the time had such paramilitary parties; the Nationalists were connected with the Steel Helmets for instance. The communist party had it’s paramilitary wing, and so on. Interestingly enough, the communist party was quite popular up to the very end when Hitler rose to power in 1933. They received about 25% of the votes. One of the Nazi’s main goal at this time was to get rid of the Bolsheviks, which they perceived as one of the greatest threats. Or at least, this is what they told the German public. This was certainly true to a degree, but the Jewish threat (as they saw it) was greater still. The Nazi’s used whatever propaganda worked on specific demographics. For one part of the population this might have been anti Bolshevik rhetoric; for another part of the population anti-Semitic rhetoric was more effective.

Interestingly, Hitler was appointed Chancellor with the approval of the other political parties, because they expected him (and the Nazi’s) to fail miserably once in government. This did not occur, and within just a few short months Germany was transformed into a one party dictatorship. The amount of violence and intimidation towards anyone who didn’t see eye to eye with the new regime exploded in those months. Many people were arrested, and because there was a lack of capacity in the prison system for the influx of so many new political prisoners, concentration camps are introduced. Evans describes where the Nazi’s got their inspiration from, namely the English concentration camps which they had set up in it’s colonies. That was new information for me.

This book tells the first part of the story of how Germany became ruled by the Nazi’s and their ideology. It am looking forward to continue reading the next two books in the series (‘The Third Reich in Power’ and ‘The Third Reich at War’).

One thing about the book I do not like very much (albeit a minor thing) is the translation of certain very well known German terms. These include ‘Führer’ and for instance ‘Sieg Heil’. These are translated consistently as (respectively) ‘the Leader’ and ‘Hail Victory’. As these terms are widely known to most people I would think, the translation of such expressions are not required and actually detract from a very well written account of this period in time. Nonetheless, this is only a minor complaint of mine about the book. I very much enjoyed reading it, and liked the great historical context that was used to illustrate how this dark chapter in history came about.

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