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Book Review on Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 13, 2021

Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of AmericaPatriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Brown. The John Brown Gun Clubs. He was controversial, hated by many, admired by some, likely a hero to many victims. A political/historical lightning rod. Some would agree he was a humanitarian and race patriot while possibly disagreeing with some of his methods and actions. Others will hate him and his legacy for eternity. I found his upbringing, strong convictions and willingness to do virtually anything and risk everything in order to do what he felt was not only right, but likely ethically and morally necessary. Yet while I agree with his views on the issues he faced and attacked, I remain bothered by one thing. He grew up in a very historically traditional Euro-American puritanical household, much like me in a stringent Calvinist family, much like many Americans historically. For these people, there is nothing but black/white, hot/cold, “right/wrong,” heaven/hell. In other words, no gray areas, no moderation, no compromise, and a total refusal to consider anyone else’s interpretation of their Christian religious beliefs (historically Calvinist or Calvin/Knox-influenced) could possibly be right when THEY are the only ones right. We’re talking many millions of Americans over the past 400 years up to today’s evangelicals/fundies. So while I think racism/slavery and his moral objections were right, the fact remains that Southern “Christians” used the very same holy book, the Christian Bible, to justify slavery and even argue Jesus/God demanded it — and like it or not (and I do not), Jesus (I think) and certainly Paul essentially condoned if not encouraged slavery in the letters, sermons, teachings, etc., attributed to them. So if John Brown was using the Bible as his moral compass for what ultimately started/resulted in the Civil War, he actually technically would likely have been very wrong! Which begs the question, if he (or anyone like him) were that fervent in America (like many other monotheists in other countries and cultures) to take one or more issues from their holy books and make it their lives’ obsession to the point of murders and even war, would anti-racists and progressives still support and praise him? Because then what would be the difference between them and “radical” Islamist jihadists? They’re referred to as extremists, but aren’t they possibly (because I’m not entirely sure) acting the most accurately of that faith in following through on their holy book’s teachings? Despite their methods and actions, which the rest of the world does not condone and for which they are termed terrorists? Wouldn’t US evangelicals, who took extreme views (and too many do) possibly using their holy book (too many of them don’t since virtually ALL of them cherry pick the hell out of anything and EVERYTHING they assert is required or banned by God while they conveniently ignore their god’s words and commands on many things they don’t like or agree with, proving them to be the worst of hypocrites) as justification to become a type of American Taliban? I mean, what’s the damn difference? So my concern with John Brown — and I’m EXTREMELY anti-racist/antifascist and I support the John Brown Gun Clubs — is that if he had chosen to focus on a different issue to the extremes that he did using the Christian bible as his justification, what if for example he had theoretically decided it was NECESSARY to practice a form of genocide on ALL known or suspected gay/lesbians in America, as well as any other issue he felt personally strongly about, strong enough to become a mass murderer while hero to many?

And just to drive that example in harder to make my point while also being 100% accurate in my descriptions of most influential US Christians today, what if he felt so strongly about “The [Jewish] Law” — because Jesus is quoted as stating he came to [earth] to abide by and follow The Law, a fact that is conveniently glossed over by nearly every Christian alive as they tell everyone that while the assertions that homosexuality is an “abominable sin” as seen in the Sodom story — in the Old Testament (“the JEWISH Bible”) — and some are willing to kill over that [as well as abortion], a) neither of which Jesus ever mentioned while instructing his followers to care for the old, sick and poor over 160 times in the Gospels and b) I’ll probably get shot for writing this, but the majority of practicing Jews are pro-choice and they are because they are largely convinced that the Judeo-Christian god is NOT opposed to it and hence is (essentially) pro–choice himself (sorry for the male pronoun). Before you firebomb my house, I know you Christians violently disagree, and for over 50 years one major reason I’ve heard my whole life is that it’s “Murder” (and millions of babies have been murdered because of it) … why? Because naturally life begins at conception, and of course God certainly made it that way, so we need to harass women who may be seeking one and kill doctors who perform them. Right? Uh, no. And you don’t know why because Christians not only don’t read their holy book, the Bible (they read convenient little devotionals with a couple of verses instead), but they sure as hell don’t read the Old Testament because it’s obsolete and doesn’t count cause it’s the “Jewish Bible” and the “angry” god of the OT changed to the Jesus/God of love and peace in the New Testament (which is an entirely different topic, but they’re wrong about that too, per his own words, but since they don’t read their bibles, they don’t know that).

Well, let’s address several things so I can return to John Brown. 1) If the Old Testament no longer counts (and I’ve heard that from hundreds to thousands of conservative Christians around the world — it is not a minority belief), then why fight to the death over OT homosexuality and perceived OT abortion issues? Why not fight to the death about shrimp if you’re going to be consistent? Or facial hair? It’s the epitome of cherry picking and it’s so hypocritical it’s almost beyond comprehension of any reasonably intelligent person. 2) The second point is Christians are wrong about the OT’s current lack of relevance besides anything but a history text. It’s THEIR bible and their god and you know why? Jews do. YOUR god states pretty damn strongly that he is the LORD God and HE DOES NOT CHANGE! Not then, not in the first century (CE), not today. So morons, just because you think Jesus is a better, different version of God, you’re wrong on two counts because your god states unequivocally he does NOT change and Jesus (God) was NOT about peace and love, but he stated he came [to earth] bringing a sword as he intended to destroy the family unit and turn family member against family member while also instructing his disciples to go out and buy swords. That wasn’t for catching fish. 3) Your god does NOT say life begins at conception and using that entity and the holy book you don’t read as justification for that assertion and the evil acts you do is dead wrong. I don’t have time to look the OT passage up (it may be in Isiah, but it’s been months since I read it — on my 18th reading of the entire bible from front to back), but you can look it up yourselves. Many/most traditional/orthodox Jews are pro-choice because there is a passage in “their” OT bible where God is attributed with instructing the chosen people that Life Begins At Birth — NOT conception! Doubt me? Upon birth, God breathes the Breath of Life into a newborn. Not in the womb, not in some magical holding place where spirits wait to get little bodies one day. You don’t like what you just read? Not my problem, not my fault. It’s YOUR god, your religion, your holy book — not mine. Many believe the Bible is the “inherent word of God” (and seeing their theologian apologists twist hard to explain the millions of contradictions to meet that standard is hilarious; one quick example is asking which creation story/myth do you believe and why? What, I’m the fool who thinks there’s more than one? Um, read the first two chapters of Genesis and you’ll find two different creation myths, so WHICH IS IT if the bible is the “inherent word of God?”).

Okay, almost back to the book except I still haven’t made my extreme theoretical point I mentioned long ago to drive that example in harder about Brown’s reliance on the Christian Bible for his moral code to justify his belief and actions regarding slavery. What if he were as devout as is claimed but instead of slavery (or the homosexual example I provided), he felt just as strongly about the Old Testament commandment that children are to obey and honor their parents so that if they somehow fail, all families (Abrahemic monotheists — such as Christians) are instructed to take them out and stone them to death? What, crazy? Don’t believe me? Read the damn Bible, the OT, cause that’s in there! And yes, it’s a crazy example, but that was my intent.

So if John Brown, relying on his Puritanical religious background and belief system did not decide to take on slavery but instead felt just as strongly about the previous example commandment, we wouldn’t have clubs and erect statues in his honor then if he had gone around stoning kids to death for back talking their parents! Thus while I essentially admire and support his conviction and legacy, if not his actions, it’s because I believe them to be morally correct. But I fear that if he had chosen a different controversial issue to engage in the same type of actions and outcomes using his religion to justify everything, I would seriously hate his guts and any legacy he left, because he could have become a Christian Hitler — basically what most current American evangelicals want out of Donald Trump and his fascist, white christian nationalist ilk as they proudly scream publicly that they intend to “exterminate” all minorities, immigrants (despite ALL of them coming from immigrants themselves), people of color, non-“Christians” (as if they know a damn thing about their religion, as I’ve repeatedly proven within a minute of talking to any of them), and most especially Democrats, progressives, liberals, etc., or simply everyone not like them. Do you see my point? He did the right thing, but he justified it with the wrong source, because that same source was used to justify the very reason he basically went to war, as well as millions of other historic atrocities in general, so he could simply have used that same source and “moral code” allegedly arising from it to justify any violent actions to and against anyone for any reason. And that has always bothered me about any such person and a legacy I otherwise admire as I, too, call him a true patriot. Thank goodness he actually acted more as a humanist — dare I say secular humanist? — than a stereotypical monotheistic religionist, because then he might have become a historical monster just as Hitler did as he (and Mussolini) made deals with the Pope to protect the Pope’s constituents provided the Pope supported, or at least remained silent, about what they were freaking doing. Oh, and I think I recall that Hitler grew up Catholic while many of the soldiers in the German Wehrmacht were devout Lutherans. Under the belief they were acting on behalf of Christianity and the Christian god while becoming devils (metaphorically) in the process.

I feel John Brown did the right thing and I admire him, and I admire his absolute commitment and the moral code he had in order to do what I and many others view as “the right thing” in fighting against slavery and freeing slaves. Yet I worry a part of me will always be bothered that his Calvinistic religious beliefs could instead have been twisted, much like many claim Islamic jihadists have, while showing the same level of commitment to other religious commandments as he chose to interpret them… Anyway, this book? It’s one of the better books on Brown that I’ve read. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of “Utopia for Realists”

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2021

Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal WorldUtopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World by Rutger Bregman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Yeah. Utopia for anything, any reason or topic always sounds good. Do you know how many descriptions like the one this book has here I’ve read over many decades from authors dating back centuries? Do you know how many were right or proven right? Yeah, I do. The answer would be NONE! Why? Cause no matter how brilliant they may seem or even be, these concepts and theories are little but pipe dreams. Fantasy. Let’s give the kids of the world some hope, some premise and promise, something to dedicate their lives too … and then not deliver. Again and again. Over and over.

what-is-a-utopia-n-EDIT1

An obvious example or two. One of the most obvious: Marx and Engels’ semi-brilliant (in theory) deconstruction of economic and political systems to even the playing field for the common man via communism (Marxism). It would be Utopia for the workers. Naturally most western capitalists will gleefully say it was BS, didn’t work out and died the ugly death it deserved. And despite their misguided arrogance, on the whole they’re technically right — in terms of the original and most influential communist system, with the collapse of the Soviet Union (and with China then sliding into a more Sinese type capitalist-centric system while retaining the power elements found throughout the history of typical communist countries), it might seem like communism was inferior to anything else, most notably capitalism. It didn’t work.

Marxism-Fail

But before the Reagan worshippers get too frenzied, while hundreds of books have been written on this so I don’t need to, let’s look at two big, fairly related points. One, did Marxist communism fail to be Utopian, if even fair or safe, because it was a horrible theory, terrible idea, total BS? No. Here’s the truth about nearly every Utopian theory or premise ever thought up and advocated on nearly any subject at all throughout human history. They’re virtually all mere pipe dreams. Cannot and will likely never fulfill their promise, no matter how promising. Because they’re crackpot theories and promises? No, not necessarily and not in the case of communism. The problem is few people ever really take into account the one consistent variable nearly always at the root of any Utopian failure: human nature. Yeah, it’s so simple that it should easily be obvious every time but mankind has this bad habit of rarely learning from past mistakes.

HumanNature-War-EDIT1

Marx actually had some really good ideas. Like the author of this book. Yet Marx’s theories, when implemented – just as surely would seem to be the case with the author – were doomed to fail because not only are people different, but what seems reasonable, rational, logical, FAIR to huge numbers of people will ultimately typically die from within because despite any original good intentions, the fact is it’s impossible to stop power-hungry tyrants, autocrats, dictators, murderers, greedy, fascist EVIL people from being involved or becoming involved, or from falling victim to the lure or power and riches, that despite the original terms used in many such efforts and movements, they’re just semantics and largely meaningless. The Marxist Bolsheviks rebelled against the czar for the people, yet Stalin would become the most famous of the genocidal madmen there to destroy the Utopian dream Marx had described — because he could (with the aid of men like Yezhov and Beria). And he wanted to and took advantage of opportunities and lied and murdered and the term communism was always used but did it fail cause Marx was an idiot? No. Because at heart, much of human nature is evil and those people who “go to the dark side” (Did I get the Star Wars reference right?) abuse that as well as the huge number of people trying to make an honest, sustainable life of it, only to be crushed under the boot of tyranny. (Additionally, the Stalinist interpretation of Marx’s communism was rather warped — thus the war against Trotsky and the edging Lenin out so he could take over…)

However if you think capitalism is the obvious “winner” in this competition, think again. Those who have pushed the fantasy that it can be Utopian if you only pull yourself up by your bootstraps, work your damn ass off (and vote for the “right” political party) and then the American Dream will be possible for all is an even bigger pile of shit because while Marx and his colleagues were naively Ernest, those pushing this capitalist equation to obtain the American Dream, dating further back than “trickle down economics” – a theory so transparent in its lies, non-logic, hypocrisy and true goals, that the fact that so many chump Americans are still spouting bullshit like “America: Love It or Leave It” shows how pathetically stupid, naïve and easily manipulated we are — and sadly that’s not limited just to Americans.

isutopiareallypossible

(And Reagan isn’t to blame. It’s hard to pinpoint an actual individual or group of individuals responsible for foisting this dramady onto the American worker, thus forever using the stick and carrot routine which never fails to work brilliantly. Many attribute this “conspiracy” to powerful men such as JP Morgan, the Rockefellers, some of the major financial leaders (often theorists love to throw in the Rothschild family, which hasn’t been proven but can’t be discounted), but led by a mysterious visitor from Europe who, it was alleged, was. a Rothschild representative. When the Jekyll Island retreat resulted in the invention of a central bank, later to be called the Federal Reserve, or the Fed (and there are a dozen of them around the country, not just one…) — (an interesting aspect to this is the Fed never was and is not still a government agency or government anything, yet many people don’t know that. Why does a largely private bank control the country’s currency, interest rates, print the money, etc., on behalf of the government and the people when it is not at all related to that very government? Who then is benefitting from this little scenario? And when researching history combined with some reflection, it’s interesting to ponder about how a few mysterious but very rich and powerful men controlling the Fed have ultimate power over the country, if not the world, because with the simple unanticipated move by them, such as a serious loan rate change, a devaluation of the dollar, etc., the Fed can create recessions at will, can end them equally, conceivably start wars and more — and yet they’re not a part of the government despite being potentially more powerful.) that venture has and does beg the question or perhaps confirms the suspicions some people have of a “conspiracy” of rabid capitalists controlling various countries with the future goal of that dreaded phrase we hate so much and which I won’t bother writing here, but just think of the Euro as the first major step in that direction. And since I’m off topic with popular theories about the advent of a capitalist plot to create sheeple who lack critical thinking abilities and will do what they’re told by the authorities — something Orwell wrote about with horror, something that our educational systems have embrace, and something that has succeeded brilliantly and that’s not me — I’ve read interviews with top CEOs in journals like Forbes where they complain they can’t hire college graduates worth a damn anymore because everyone is a specialist, no longer generalists, and virtually all lack critical thinking skills, thus limiting them in the workplace. And to get through this aside, the other main popular conspiracy theory with any credibility is the ole Skull and Bones one, which many people laugh off without bothering to research the details of the Russel Trust or the Bavarian intellectuals who influenced those early Yale men, their colleagues who returned from Germany to found the University of Chicago, Princeton Theological Seminary (I think) and Johns Hopkins University and take on the role of the first presidents, who then installed said German immigrant academic intellectuals at their institutions and elsewhere, all allegedly influenced heavily by a bizarre Bavarian psychologist and it gets really crazy sounding, but when you do the research and find that Prescott Bush was a major player (who financed the Nazis throughout WW2, following Henry Ford), as well as a Dulles or two, both Bundy brothers, possibly two of the most powerful, devious and evil Americans of the twentieth century as McGeorge Bundy worked his magic on Kennedy and Johnson to get and keep the US in a southeast Asian unwinnable war while William rode shotgun at the CIA, and it gets crazier sounding when you dig deeper, but allegedly a S&B elite has run for president every cycle since Carter with possibly one exception, and certain Yale devotees were delighted to note that when W ran against Kerry, both candidates were Skull and Bones men, so they couldn’t lose no matter who won…

So after admittedly getting way off track on those potential initial starts at creating a capitalist system to ultimately do what it’s done, when I have the audacity to make a critical remark about US corporations being equal to people to enable the rich and powerful to buy elections, at best I get verbally attacked. Yet typically the atmosphere changes when I ask a simple question, which might be followed up with a couple more — “So, how’s capitalism working out for ya? You personally and your family? Are there any businesses or jobs left in your community and do the jobs even pay enough for you to have enough money in the bank if you have an unanticipated car emergency, like a wreck, requiring, say, $500 to get it fixed?

To answer that question, just in case you think it’s theoretical, the answer to people having jobs paying well enough to have $500 for an unanticipated emergency the next month is NO. Look it up if you don’t believe me. The average American (and this isn’t even “average” as it’s actually the vast majority) doesn’t have enough money to pay rent, buy a new set of tires, etc., for just one simple future month and the middle class that is now a distant memory has (had) to learn some hard lessons…and I would keep writing for hours, but I’ve already been doing this for several hours on a mobile device (takes me longer now that I’m old and feeble) and I’m tired and my arthritis is killing me (LOL!), so I’m just going to have to end prematurely. Capitalism, like Marxism, sounds good in theory, but like communism, in practice the Utopia of the American Dream is a lie and a pipe dream for over 90% of the people. Because of human nature, again. The sharks want power and money and see millions of suckers out there (who sadly and pathetically buy into their little game) and lie and manipulate to STILL ensure people are forever getting fucked by US capitalism will be willing to fight to the death against a critic despite their being victims of the very oppressive system they defend! So does capitalism work? Sure, if you have obscene wealth and power and are cutthroat and heartless enough to be hypocritical to your (typically American) religion and to betray and screw your fellow man just to keep edging toward the top, while the rest of us are now in such bad situations that the literal majority of US bankruptcies are for excessive medical bills but yet the powerful know we’re so stupid we’ll vote against our own interests in refusing to do what every other first world nation on earth does — act ethically enough to provide at least basic health coverage to their citizens for free. Even the tiny Republic of North Macedonia, which didn’t even exist as recently as 1990, provides free healthcare to its citizens. Jesus allegedly talked about aiding and caring for the sick and the poor more than any other topic in the Gospels. Yet today’s power brokers, often white well off evangelical “Christians,” are adamantly opposed to anything their messiah ever said, especially when it comes to helping or aiding the sick and poor. They want the sick and poor to basically die as they annually try to kill off the few pathetic “entitlements” Americans have while instead they focus on two topics — abortion and homosexuality — to the point of violence and murder (WWJD), despite the fact that Jesus cared so very much about these two most important issues that he NEVER felt compelled to even ever mention them at all, while aiding the sick and poor are mentioned over 160 times. Obviously his priorities were out of place for current American so-called “Christians.” Or maybe since they’re representatives and witnesses of their god and their religion, this whole Jesus peace and love bullshit is just that — hypocritical bullshit. Because the vermin have come out of hiding, already despised for their judgmental persecution of everyone else in the world while always claiming to be the only victims in America (I grew up in a hardcore fundie home and heard that brainwashing crap every day). They no longer feel the need to hide the fact that not only have they not read their “holy” book, but they don’t give a shit about it anyway, or like the Jews and Muslims, they might actually consider following it, rather than attacking and in some cases killing anyone who won’t convert — just like the Taliban. Funny how life works sometimes.

problems-of-capitalism

A point in that last huge chunk on capitalism was merely to give an example of people buying into Utopian bullshit and just displaying the rampant hypocrisy of it all. One could go on to mention many of the naïve Utopian ideals of the 1960s and ‘70s — flower power, free love, the thousands of communes, protesting the war, etc. — but just to end this with one last thought, American students protested the Vietnam war by the hundreds of thousands, claiming it was an immoral war and shouting about standing together with their South Vietnamese brothers in solidarity, which had an idealistic, somewhat Utopian narrative. Until it didn’t. Once “our boys” came home (to be ignored, abandoned, abused, criticized, thrown to the wolves), our great “solidarity” kinda disappeared since the Americans were gone and it was just poor little yellow/brown men against other poor little yellow/brown men and I guess the protestors shifted showing their solidarity by disappearing, shutting up, moving on to other things like the fight for the rights of oppressed American minorities (valid) while South Vietnam got crushed and essentially disappeared two years later. Did the solidarity protesters even care? One of the implicit points of this last example is that those hypocritical protesters were Boomers who took For Granted the American Dream OWED them (there’s a great book on that and I think I reviewed it here) as they went on to switch from Ginsberg and free drugs and sex to ‘80s Reagan Republicans, with many joining the Moral Majority and many more buying into the decade of greed — these, the hippies who rejected a traditional oppressive capitalist society guilty of colonial imperialism and genocide, living off the land in communes, many replacing currency with barter. A decade later, they were rich Wall Street tycoons before breaking into politics to work on destroying the country from the inside out, year by year regardless of party.

This book’s author wants to talk about good, generous wages, 15-hour work weeks, a new dynamic, a type of Utopia. I applaud that. While trying to decide whether to laugh my ass off or roll my eyes as another potentially great idea will be left to crash and burn once again, if it even approaches getting off the ground to begin with. What was that term? Oh yeah, “pipe dream.”

beautiful-woman-smokes-pipe-260nw-130563416

3.5 for decent, enthusiastic book/comments. A 1 for naïveté due to apparent lack of study and analysis of (recent) history, among other crucial topics. Ultimately a 1 because despite being an intriguing fantasy, it’s unfortunately little more than that and there are far too many fantasies better than this one. Yes, I’m sadly that jaded. Not recommended.

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[All photos in this piece have been obtained via Google Images and credit is given when required and/or possible.]

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A Review of “The Emperor’s Assassin”

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2021

The Emperor's AssassinThe Emperor’s Assassin by Autumn Bardot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an admittedly subjective and biased comment, but while I know people who like this book and historical fiction in general, I can’t do it. It’s not just I don’t like historical fiction. That is true, but not the problem. The problem is simply that I’ve always been a serious student of history, am a member of two professional history orgs (like AHA), feel it’s essential to study the past for a zillion reasons, most of which should be obvious except to Americans who are generally too lazy, stupid and apathetic to read any history. If I had a dollar for every time I actually heard someone say something like they didn’t know anything about WW I and didn’t care, didn’t know anything about WW II because “it didn’t matter or have any impact on their life or work,” which I once found stunning but now sadly expect and this side from what should be obvious to most (read Philip Dick or P Roth to get an idea of other potential realities we could be living in if tens of millions of people hadn’t sacrificed everything). In fact a few times I’ve gotten so ticked that the old professor in me kicked in so I gave a few bored 4.0 GPA accounting, economics, etc., students an hour lecture off the top of my head going decade by decade outlining basics that have transpired so that, yes, it did and DOES impact you and your job, you apathetic dumbass! The worst though are the few who told me they didn’t even know who was in the damn Vietnam War. I didn’t bother, there’s no hope. All I could say was “Well, they spot you one of the countries just in the name of the war!”

So is there a point? Yes. Historical fiction is not history, it’s not accurate nor is it intended to be. It is nothing but fantasy out of the author’s head who is using elements of some historical events as a backdrop for their story. In a sense then it’s genre fiction like sci fi, horror, fantasy, thriller, etc., all of which have their legitimate place, but the backdrop-purported historical environment may be nice, realistic or cool, but since the author is making a story up and simply surrounding it with the façade of a semblance of historical reality, they could just as easily put unicorns, spaceships, monsters and the like in and with a “legit” historical backdrop, there would likely be little difference between such absurdities and dragons, rumored by many to have once existed. The author is writing a fantasy but if I want to read fiction, I’ll read fiction. If I want history, I don’t want some fairytale – I want serious nonfiction! So yes I know I’m probably in the minority and probably sound grumpy as well, but I think I have a case and I’m sticking to it. Otherwise I recommend it for those who like the genre.

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A Review of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook”

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 21, 2020

Antifa: The Anti-Fascist HandbookAntifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These days? An absolutely essential book. Necessary, especially in 2020 America. Because most Americans haven’t been exposed to historical fascism the way Europeans have, most don’t have an accurate, complete or in some cases any understanding at all about this very dangerous movement, let alone its textbook (or playbook) tactics and techniques that are nearly always virtually identical, starting with a Goebbels-styled propaganda blitz, complete with massive amounts of lies, disinformation, fear-mongering (always of some evil, fearsome “other” — immigrants are usually good targets, as are Jews, minorities, the disabled and mentally ill), the point being to creative divisiveness, mistrust — especially in the “mainstream” (or any) media — but even in one’s neighbors, co-workers, others who are different in culture, religion, politics, convincing the people they are victims who have been wronged by others, initially outside the state, later inside the state, thus creating a need for a strong, centralized leadership led by a strong(man) autocrat, typically excellent at “hiding” their fascist tactics, plans, goals etc., until it’s too damn late. ALL of which we’ve experienced under Trump. Fascists always also promote violence — again, check — and pick out their perceived most dangerous “foe,” nearly always antifascists who have been around as long as fascism officially has (since 1919), NOT because they are “fascists” or terrorists themselves as fascists ALWAYS claim in labeling their enemies exactly what they are to turn the public, especially liberals against them. In this case Antifa, which is NOT an organization like the KKK, many Neo-Nazis or Spencer’s official Alt Right organization, but an IDEOLOGY, a commitment on the part of those who care about the dangers posed to freedom and peoples being targeted by racists, white supremacists, white nationalists, etc., and I’ll wager the majority of Americans have never heard that word or term five years ago, but now because the fascists led by Trump, and spurred on by the mainstream media AND liberals who should be grateful there are people willing to lay their lives on the line to protect THEM from future concentration camps and gas chambers. I’ve seen nothing but bullshit claims by hypocritical liars like the “Proud Boys” (what idiot came up with that name?), other similar group AND various Dems, progressives, liberals screaming about the evil “fringe left” and Antifa itself — as though there’s an official organization with an office, mailing address, hierarchy, officers, etc. — like the liberals and the Alt Right have — and especially how violent Antifa “terrorists” are because they go around stabbing poor defenseless patriotic white separatists. It’s infuriating! The thing is, not only do the Trump sheeple believe them, but the naïve witless liberals — who are being targeted for “extermination” as several Proud Boys proclaimed at their recent Washington DC gathering — yet I challenge anyone to do their due diligence and find how people organizing temporarily under the antifascist “Antifa” termed umbrella work vs how white christian nationalists work. Just go back four years and research. The Nazis always claimed “Antifa” terrorists try to and/or succeed in “stabbing” them, which I guess legitimizes in their view going all over the communities more heavily armed than the US military.

Let me explain a few things, and these examples don’t necessarily come from this book, but would be historically supported. Antifascists typically gather together historically to DEFEND themselves, their communities, and legitimate protestors from harm, sometimes lethal, on the part of fascists, historically very well documented, so much so that I feel I needn’t say anymore more than Mussolini’s Black Shirts, Hitler’s Brown Shirts, Mosely’s Black Shirts, the atrocities in the Balkans during the 1990s — which will always be the end result of unchecked fascism unless their movements are crushed — and when our president literally says on national tv that his rabid Proud Boy followers should not Stand DOWN, but instead Stand Back and Stand BY, he is telling his own type of Black Shirts to be ready to kill his and their opponents, just like they’ve been dying to, just like their predecessors have, and while people on television worry about a potential “civil war” and will violence happen while crucifying this mysterious evil “Antifa,” the facts are that antifascists deemed “militant,” because they are only a small portion of such movements since the majority try to provide educational materials, look up info on known white nationalists and “Doxx” them to embarrass them into quitting their movements, and peacefully protesting on the whole. While there are armed leftists, they can’t remotely compete with the firepower and the willingness of the right (no longer fringe right), and most do not carry arms to protests, OR even knives — UNLIKE the fascists. Traditionally, they have carried non-lethal defensive weapons such as shields, some body army, and historically batons for protection. So let me ask you, how many confirmed stabbings or murders have been committed by proven antifascists under the Antifa label in the US over the past four years (if ever)? I haven’t recently looked this up, but last I recall it was possibly one, if that. Meanwhile, to use a famous example that our president refused to condemn, at Charlottesville, the infamous act was when a white supremacist drove into a crowd of protestors (this tactic has been tried and/or used elsewhere by them), killing a young woman? Any remorse? No. Any publicity about the SEVEN antifascists who were stabbed at this same rally by Alt Right white christian nationalists — as opposed to zero of them by “Antifa” terrorists? Hell no! Wonder why? I don’t. What about the claims over the past year or so by these violent racists that Antifa terrorists are gathering by the hundreds of thousands to attack their marches, scared to death because there are only thousands of well armed, assault gun carrying white supremacists, so naturally they need police protection. And how many more antifascists have been stabbed at these events? What about confirmed stabbings of these Alt Right fascists?

Here’s a handy fact checking article about this very topic. One section states,

“Overall, however, data show that Antifa activists have been involved in relatively few violent incidents compared to white supremacists, who have conducted at least 40 lethal attacks since 2018 according to the Department of Homeland Security.”

Yeah, do your homework. In an area not far from me, a small community had a small number of peaceful, mostly older, anti-Trump citizens who scheduled a protest at their county courthouse which would have entailed maybe 40 people, most of them retired, none armed or dangerous, and it was national news when over 1,000 white supremacists came from all over the region, including other states, armed to the hilt, to make sure these people remained peaceful and legal and to keep others safe — from white haired people with canes facing thousands of guns. Police protection. Fuck no! Standard, no matter where fascists are. In this same little county, this little group tried to schedule some three more tiny little protests, and had to cancel each — and their constitutional rights fascists and racists are always screaming leftist “fascists” are denying them re free speech, gathering publicly, etc — because they actually received numerous public threats made as promises that hundreds more would come, armed, to “keep the peace” (there would have been noting but peace if those asshats hadn’t shown up!), and for the final one, they received public messages made available to everyone that if these few dozen people gathered with their signs, there WOULD be shooting and they would be the targets.

I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I’ll just say this — I’ll be damned if my family, uncles, cousins fought, bled, sacrificed all on foreign beaches to free millions of people being tortured and killed by insane genocidal fascists AS WELL AS trying to keep the rest of the world safe from these evil monsters, only to find some decades later, flags bearing Swastikas being planted in American soil, if not eventually American political buildings and agencies! I’d rather die first, and anyone wishing to follow a Hitler lover, giving up their freedoms and slaughtering their countrymen over political differences in AMERICA, are simply traitors guilty of the worst of treasons, deserving of the punishment traitors once got in this country. This is not necessarily the best book I’ve read on this topic — there’s another couple I think are a bit better, one of which is Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works — but this book IS a great starting point and I urge anyone who still cares about democracy, freedom, the future of America and Americans — not just of one certain color — to read this, ingest the info, ponder it and act according to one’s own beliefs because this is likely the most dangerous time in our country’s history, and it’s antifascists who are currently the only line of defense between what Trump allegedly plans to unleash — even if he could hold the “Trumpites” back — and I’m not sure that would be possible — and/or until others unite to defend themselves, their neighbors, this country from insane lunatics living in a different, warped toxic and lethal universe. Could not be more recommended!

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Book Review: Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 20, 2020

Well, unfortunately I’m rather livid at the moment because even though I had written I do not have the time or energy for a proper review due to severely bad health and a late time of night, I had just spent 1.5 hours working on the BEGINNING of a review, presumably saving as I went along as I always do. However, I don’t know what happened, but the page refreshed and everything was lost — all of my time and work and I don’t have the time or energy to try to recreate that, so I’m very unhappy. As a result, I’m just going to leave a few minor paragraphs or so with apologies… I did want to do it justice.

Normally I’m a fan of Bart Ehrman’s, although I don’t always agree with him. Unfortunately, I think this is his worst book and I’m shocked he put his name to it. Frankly for the scholar people view him as and he frankly promotes himself to be, he embarrasses himself in his sad efforts to first, trash the credentials of those he opposes in the initial stages of the book, especially as compared to his own “fantastic” academic credentials, which should be beneath him for multiple reasons: 1) it’s unnecessary and unprofessional, 2) other people DO have legitimate credentials despite what he thinks, and worse, he misrepresents at least one or more in terms of their specialties proving a lack of validity in facing a scholar of his character and 3) while I don’t have time to go into all of his academic background, I doubt he’d love it if people knew the initial fundamentalist “academic” institution where he obtained a three year (?) degree acknowledges on its own website currently that this degree was NOT accredited. Moreover, as someone who over the course of my entire life, have known countless friends, colleagues and family members who attended and graduated from Moody Bible Institute, I can attest to the fact that not one of them were able to find professional employment post-graduation, largely due to their spurious academic “qualifications.” This, the vaunted academic “scholar” Bart Ehrman!

As to the book, his arguments are weak and generally beneath his usual standards — by far — and do little to convince anyone that he has outdone his “opponents.” Indeed, he actually relies on hearsay and speculation, which are hardly convincing in the academic world. (The fact that no New Testament author ever MET Jesus, let alone possibly even met someone who knew him, is a non-issue for Ehrman as his relates that PAUL, of all of them, CLAIMED to have met Peter and James, yet there is not one shred of either independent evidence nor Jewish evidence to confirm that, so all we have to go on is Paul swearing he did, so must have. Good enough, eh? And I jumped off my roof today and flew around town because despite no one seeing and documenting it, I swear I did and thus it’s true. Not too different from American fantasies in 2020, where whatever one wishes to believe is apparently true. (Until science proves them wrong. Like every time.) Another little hint is the long acknowledged fact that while no one in the Bible, including the authors of the Gospels, can possibly provide evidence (nor is there independent evidence anywhere) of any sayings of this Jesus, let alone the accuracy of claimed sayings, Paul may have “known” of a couple — through his debatable vision. Again, we have to take him at his word, and then one must wonder why Paul virtually NEVER refers to Jesus’ actual LIFE. If he “knew” him as he claimed, wouldn’t he have recorded … something? No, instead we get post-crucifixion spirit Jesus and the religion Jesus never set out to create while Paul himself did.Finally, the actual topic of this book — Did Jesus exist? Well, there are tons of books on the subject, from all angles. And so many areas to cover. And so many Jesus’s back then, as apparently not only was it a somewhat common name, but also somewhat common for others claiming that name while additionally claiming to be the Messiah. More importantly, there are so many clues, examples and outright facts to make one legitimately doubt he existed that it’s entirely possible to assert with authority that he did not exist — as a number of people do. A few things before referring to others. It’s virtually undisputed that the Gospels were written long after his death, that the authors are unknown (with the names attributed to them generally considered to have been so potentially hundreds of years after they were written), that the authors did not know Jesus nor knew anyone else who knew Jesus and the fact that Jesus and his followers are assumed to have been illiterate and thus Jesus never left one shred of any alleged teachings of his, as well as the fact that each gospel was written in educated Greek while this Jesus would have spoken Aramaic (with some Hebrew translation thrown into the gospels for good measure when it came to the alleged prophecies, most of which have been proven to have been taken out of context, simply wrong or even nonexistent), it’s plausible to assert that possibly everything attributed to Jesus, if not virtually all of the gospels themselves, were complete fabrications. Indeed, scholars have had to resort to a hypothetical source they refer to as “Q” (as well as a couple of other such sources) to fill in a ton of blanks, because there is no evidence to support many of the claims made in the gospels, so naturally someone HAD to know the details and we’ll just conveniently call him “Q.” There is absolutely no evidence for this Q, let alone independent evidence at that. A million other things aside, in addition to the well-known town of “Nazareth” Jesus came from not yet actually even existing, thus forcing theologians to stretch hard to make other Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Semitic, Arab and eventually Latin translations of words that appeared to be close to “Nazareth” while yet none of them actually meant or were “Nazareth” somehow fit, which REALLY ticks them off due to its inconvenience, ultimately there is literally no independent evidence or mention from the first century (nor virtually any Jewish mention as well, literally) to confirm or even allude to the validity of ANY claims of this Jesus the Jewish Messiah ever existing — and this in a century famous for its record keeping, particularly by the Romans, if not other peoples and races. Thus there are records on nearly everything and everyone of note throughout the empire, and certainly Judea as well, and among untold numbers of records, there are none of any crucifixion of a Jesus of Nazareth (it wasn’t until after 300 CE that Jewish Christian writers and historians began referring in print to a place even called something similar to “Nazareth,” while a Greek variant was found sometime after 220 CE. Indeed, no secular reference to such a town was ever found until a 1962 archaeological dig, which traced the inscription found back to around 300 AD — in Hebrew), none of any mammoth earthquake (let alone any earthquake) on the day of the crucifixion, nor of the temple’s curtain being ripped in half (which Jewish historians would surely have documented), NOR any resurrected zombies wandering the streets of Jerusalem, nor any huge crowds gathering around any teachers in that general area and by that name, nor of any travels, arrivals and departures of any Oriental “wise men” come to worship the babe — who was either there within Herod’s grasp or in Egypt depending on which gospel one chooses to believe — nor of any famous miracles, healings and exorcisms by a Jesus in Galilee (a backwater at the time), and certainly no dead people coming back to life. Etc., etc. There is NO independent evidence to back up a shred of this fancy nor any evidence outside of the Bible itself, and the gospels disagree with each other in so many ways that those who believe the book to be the inerrant word of God (how does one combine four different resurrection stories?) must be driven crazy by this and those who find alternate ways of interpretation then are forced to cherry pick!

It’s late and I can’t continue, so I’ll close with some reference material I’m recommending for dear deluded Mr Ehrman, as well as any other readers who may be interested. These are by no means the only resources — simply ones that come to mind at the moment (although the first is pretty good).

1) Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All by David Fitzgerald.

2) Jesus: Mything in Action, Vol. I (The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion Book 2) by David Fitzgerald. If I recall — and it’s been awhile — I think this is the first of a three-book series and this book covers the gospels…

3) Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed by R.G. Price.

and an interesting additional book not specifically about Jesus, but really more about the Bible and specifically the Old Testament. It’s an archaeological account by two Jewish academics and scientists who seemingly prove the bulk of what we know as the Old Testament — if true at all — was never ever written until Israel and Judah had been split as separate kingdoms and Israel had been conquered and taken away and while I don’t want to give away all of the spoilers, the gist is these stories appear to be scientifically proven to have not been written until possibly around 700 BCE, thus potentially calling into question basically all we’ve been taught and all we’ve been taught to believe and pretty much everything else associated with it and that follows it. Even if you disagree, it’s intellectually interesting and a good exercise in (internal) debate.

4) The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman.

Ultimately, I would only recommend this book to show people additional confirmation of any scientific or literal evidence of the lack of the Biblical Jesus. If you’re a theocratic religionist who lacks an open mind, this book won’t be for you — it might serve only to irritate you. If you are interested in this debate, or series of debates, you may find this book intriguing, although I would have it pretty low on my reading list. Ultimately Ehrman’s worst book and definitely not recommended.

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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On Aristotle’s “Politics”

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 30, 2020

PoliticsPolitics by Aristotle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doesn’t live up to his reputation. But then, some feel he himself didn’t live up to his reputation. Or more realistically, that there were others possibly more deserving of his reputation and legacy. I believe many scholars have determined Democritus (with his mentor Leucippus) were actually more influential, accurate, knowledgeable and diverse, among other things. Noted virtually universally as the “father of modern science,” through Leucippus’s influence, he is often thought to be the first physicist, as he is typically credited for his formulation of an (detailed) atomic theory for the universe. In fact, his atomic hypothesis was developed to such a degree, and unlike anything else at the time, bore a resemblance to modern science and one could essentially argue that what we know, or learned, about atomics in the twentieth century was directly influenced by Democritus’ atomic theory, which in many ways remains the basis for current atomic physics. Moreover, he dabbled and proved influential in a number of other areas, ranging from geometry specifically and math in general to geography and anthropology to the importance and essence of epistemology to scientific aesthetics to politics and natural philosophy (of course), where he seemed especially concerned with the subject of ethics, to military tactics as well as cosmology, poetry, biology and many, many more subjects — really the first true Renaissance man. Really kind of puts some better known philosophers to shame (not that some weren’t also geniuses — it’s just that many people can’t find many in history, and virtually none before Democritus to explore and master such a wide variety of subjects. Indeed, his “void” thesis lived on to influence Newton and continued to hold that influence basically until Einstein).

However, regarding this book by Aristotle, while this was a subject he was well versed in and despite this book being a bit dated, it was still fairly well done for the times, had some good ideas, thoughts, points, etc. Unfortunately, there’s always been some controversy surrounding it due to some textual irregularities and discrepancies in some of the eight “books” making up this book, or rather what remains of them. (Some of the major topics among these different books include ideas about community, citizenship, regimes, education, constitutions and political theory, among others.) However, this to the point that some have argued the book represents seemingly two different versions, or perhaps stages, in Aristotle’s thoughts, beliefs, positions, etc., and the two opposing sides seem so varied, almost oppositional, that IF Aristotle even wrote the entire thing himself, it’s likely he would have done so over a long period of time, so that a significant period of time elapsed between the first and later sections, thus explaining its inconsistencies and, one might say, possibly two different belief systems. Thus, I’m only giving it two stars because even though it might otherwise merit three at least, the problems noted make it difficult to have confidence regarding sufficient authenticity, consistency and more, and frankly results in a poor book in its known form and hence one of his lesser works. As a result, not recommended.

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