Friday, December 10, 2010

Better for All the World by Harry Bruinius

Better for All the World: The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity, by Harry Bruinius. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.

Bruinius is on the religion faculty at Hunter College, contributing writer to The Christian Science Monitor, and the founder of The Villiage Quill.

Better for All the World is a heart breaking narrative history of the persons involved in sucessfully promoting the eugenics movement in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While the notion of racial purity and eugenics is horrifying in itself, B’s superb research, presentation, writing and narrative leading allow the reader to know these people as people who sincerely cared about the nation and her people. In some ways reading this volume is like having to slow down next to a brutal and bloody crime scene, one desires to look away but the visceral shock of the scene locks the passer by into gaping horror.

There is a perennial question about the German citizens leading up to WWII, “How could they let this come to pass?”

They thought they were doing something good, making the state and its people better. The pattern had been set, right here, in the United States.

The horror remains today, though the terminology has changed, the ideology remains.

B’s title “Better for all the World” is taken from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in the court’s decision in Buck vs. Bell to allow the sterilization of Carrie Buck by Dr. John H. Bell of the Virginia Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-minded on October 19, 1927. Justice Holmes’ words in context are:

“We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” (p. 21) [emphasis mine]

B’s organized his work into four “books.” The first book is the Introduction, containing two chapters. B takes us into the office of Dr. John H. Bell as he is noting the clinical procedure he performed between 9:30 and 10:30 am on October 19th, 1927. The underlying question in B’s presentation of Carrie Buck’s history is the same as that for pre-WWII Germany, “How could they let this come to pass?”

From chapter 3 to 14 B introduces us to the main individuals who shaped the eugenics movement. For each of these people B gives the reader very good insight into who these individuals were based on their own letters, diaries, and scientific records.

While the eugenics movement is mostly unknown today, it was considered the height of scientific and national progress in the U.S. in the early 20th century. Advocates included U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wildon, Franklin D. Roosevelt; leading court figures; presidential advisers; the women's suffrage movement,  Margaret Sanger--anyone who was anyone important and most of the country supported eugenics. County fairs across the nation in this so-called “positive eugenics movement” held “Fitter Family Contests” where the measure was their genealogical background.

And those who were judged “unfit” were institutionalized and, where possible, sterilized; in order to keep their “germ plasm” from infecting the wholesome heritage of America.

After introducing the reader to the the high moral ground which formed the basis for Dr. Bell’s sterilization of Carrie Buck, B takes us to the pioneers of the field.

The reader gets to know Sir Francis Galton,  Charles B. Davenport, Henry H. Goddard,  Harry Laughlin and many other well known and surprising individuals involved in the Progressive Movement in the United States and its related movement English Fabianism. B does an excellent job of showing the reader that these people were loving, caring, normal people with their own foibles and problems. Their progressive view of how the state should take charge of the details of human life (of others) binds them together.

Hitler and the National Socialists in Germany were so impressed with the American laws that they borrowed the eugenics law adopted in California its rationale and language for the Racial Hygene Law of Germany in 1933.

During the period of the eugenics movement in the United States over 65,000 people were forcibly sterilized. Germany in the same period also sterilized over 150,000 people by force.

In the aftermath of the Nuremberg Trials eugenics became an unpopular term, the very idea left a bad taste in the mouth of most of Europe and America. The very foundations and organizations organized for eugenics in America changed their names, and the name of their focus. Margaret Sanger’s The American Birth Control League, two goals of which were to track the genealogies of people and prevent “dysgenic” births. The American Birth Control League changed its name in 1942 to Planned Parenthood. According to 2005 CDC Data in the states reporting black babies were aborted in 35% of all abortions despite blacks being only 12% of the population of the US.

This bears emphasizing, data from the Census Bureau show that there are 288,400,000 people in the U.S, in 2005. 76% were white. That is 219,184,000 whites, and 304,602 abortions by whites. That’s 1 abortion for every 720 adult whites that year.

Data from the same year shows that 12% of the population was black. That is 34,608,000 blacks, and 209,991 abortions by blacks. That’s 1 abortion for every 165 black adults that year.

Blacks are being killed by abortion clinics, particularly Planned Parenthood, at a rate 300% higher than whites.

In 1973 The American Eugenics Society became the Society for the Study of Social Biology, “social biology” the new term for eugenics. The periodical Eugenics Quarterly became Social Biology in 1969. Many eugenics groups reorganized as studying the problem of “population control” under the philosopy of Malthus. Someone has to select who gets to die.

B’s volume is well worth the read so that all can know what Progressivism does at its most basic drives. Progressivism aims to make people better by the force of government.

In the words of Malcom Reynolds:
So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.” Serenity (2005)

Photographs courtesy of

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

Two thumbs way up.
Full title is
Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation by The Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

A collection of personal recipes and traditional food preservation methods. The book is not only a collection of methods and techniques, but a book of traditional food lore.

The introductory pages discuss the need and utility of preserving the lore of food preservation; a distinction between traditional and modern methods; and the story of how this book came to be written.

Following an introduction on preservation, the cautions, and general ideas behind the methods; each chapter begins with a short description of the general method under consideration-along with cautions. The rest of each chapter consists of recipes and lore about specific foods preserved in the method under discussion.

The chapters cover: types of and uses of root cellars; drying foods; lactic fermentation; preservation in oil; salt (and salt brining); sugar; preserves; sweet-and-sour preserves; and the use of ethanol for food preservation.

The closing chapter is a chart about how to choose the best method for a particular food.

The book has nice illustrations and great layout. It is well supplemented with a thorough index to make any recipe immediately available.
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Home Book of Smoke Cooking: Meat, Fish & Game, Jack Sleight and Raymond Hull

I read 16th (1981) printing of the 1972 edition. Sleight and Hull break up their topic into manageable sections.

A general introduction to smoking, assembling the equipment, building smoke ovens, brining containers, making good brines and seasons, etc.

Chapters 4-7 focus on particular kinds of meats, poultry, wild game, fish and shellfish. Chapter 8 is an introduction to sausage making. Chapter 9 covers cheese, nuts, seeds, eggs, frog's legs, blueberries, and garlic bread. Chapter 10 discusses canning smoked foods. Chapter 11 discusses "Big-Scale Production" of smoked foods.

Filled with helpful diagrams and explanations, easy reading, and good instructions on where to get special ingredients or tools.

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Field Guide to Meat, Aliza Green

One thumb up.

Aliza Green's "Field Guide to Meat" has a subtitle. The subtitle is a very comprehensive claim.

The book is broken into general headings covering specific meats: beef, veal, pork lamb, poultry and game birds, game and other domesticated meats, sausage and cured meats.

Each of the sections starts with a description of the species of animal, the variety of the animal in the world, where the animal is grown for food in the world, and how it is generally cut.

Green includes a diagram for each animal with the various cuts labeled. Names of cuts and varieties are given in English, Spanish, Italian, and French.

After a general summary of the cuts of meat, Green devotes a small section to each cut, identification, buying, quality, preservation, and preparation.

There are 200 + color photos of meat cuts in the central part of the book. Most of these photos are referred to throughout the rest of the book.

The sections on beef, veal, pork and lamb are fairly comprehensive. The sections on poultry and game birds as well as game and other domesticated meats are much briefer in content on each animal. However, they cover many many more types of meat and foul.

This volume does not cover the topic of meat cutting, butchering, or seasoning/drying. It is a meat purchaser's guide, not a meat preparer's guide.

The final section on sausages is merely descriptive and historic. This volume does not teach how to prepare and cure meat or sausages.

All in all I believe the book tries to live up to the claim in the subtitle. Perhaps the word "prepare" should be replaced with "cook," since "preparation" also includes butchering and cutting--both topics which the book does not cover.

In general the recipes are helpful suggestions. But there are a great proportion of minimalist "roll it in flour and cook it" recipes.

I bought the book based on the description at Amazon. From that description I mistakenly thought the book could help me learn to butcher and make my own cuts of meat from various animals. I am not the target audience for this book.

This book is aimed at the supermarket/meat-market shopper who doesn't care about the butchering and just wants a nice cut to cook. It fits that purpose fairly well. The way the photos are arranged will make the book wear out fairly quickly. The book is well indexed and can instruct a novice in cooking meats he or she may have never experienced before.

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Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game, John Mettler

Two thumbs way up.

Mettler's guide is well organized, well written, and very helpfully illustrated. He begins with a chapter on "Tools, Equipment, and Methods" which lists and pictures various knives, saws, lifting equipment, and other kinds of equipment that the home butcher needs to make the work smooth. He outlines some general guidelines on best temperatures hanging/aging and meat preparation as well as advice on keeping the meat clean.

Then follow chapters on various kinds of meat: Ch. 2 Beef; 3 Hogs; 4 Veal; 5 Lamb; 6 Venison; 7 Poultry; 8 Rabbits and Small Game; 9 Less Popular Meats (like goats, horses, and bison).

Each of these chapters is very well illustrated both with respect to planning the cuts and making the cuts. Elayne Sears drew the illustrations, and the book is worth looking through just for her drawings alone.

Chapter 10 focuses on Meat Inspection. Ch. 11 covers Processing and Preserving; the causes and prevention of spoilage; how to freeze meat; dry cures and pickling; smoking meat; corned beef and tongue; sausage; and other preserved meats.

Chapter 12 consists of 37 recipes for items from short ribs to Pheasant Piccata.

There is a good glossary, a chart of weights and measures, and a very good index (by Eileen M. Clawson).

This book was edited by Dianne Cutillo. The art was directed by Cynthia N. McFarland, and the book design is by Jennifer Jepson Smith.

The book was revised and updated in 2003 by Martin Marchello.

The author, John J Mettler passed away in 2001. He was a veterinarian in upstate New York for more that 30 years.

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Deerskins Into Buckskins by Matt Richards

Two thumbs up.

Matt Richards makes it possible for everyone who has the gumption to make beautiful buckskins with time, effort, and no money spent.

The key is the subtitle: "How to Tan with Natural Materials." "Natural" means that they can be found in nature.

After three introductory sections [ "What exactly is buckskin?"; "A bit of history;" and "Why buckskin?"] Richards leads the reader gently through understanding skin, tanning, skinning, obtaining hides, storage and tools.

The gem of this book is called "The Basic Method" which is about 50 pages of well illustrated and well ordered methodical instruction. This section doesn't go into options, but presents the reader with what Richards says is an almost foolproof way to get a decent buckskin every time with natural [free] materials.

After this section Richards goes into other options of methods, resources, and techniques.

The work includes a reference section, a section on making primitive natural tools, hide glue, rawhide and sewing patterns.

Richards closes with a listing of resources cited in the book and where the reader can find them.
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