Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Origins of TotalitarianismThe Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By the title, I might have gotten the impression that this might have been a full history and treatise on all Totalitarian regimes, but I'm not at all unhappy to see how the author narrowed it down to the full wealth of circumstances that gave rise to Nazi Germany and, to a lesser degree, Stalin's Russia.

More than that, Hannah Arendt proves to be an erudite master at breaking down huge subjects and many causes into easily digestible chunks.

The focus begins on the actual origins of racial targeting and the somewhat interesting disconnect between real grievances and a targeted terror movement starting early with the Rothschild banking, 19th century propaganda, and political climates including the Dreyfus account. (Very interesting stuff here.)

It leads, naturally enough, into MORE of the same charges and racially-charged Us/Them mentalities and exactly how the machinations of a few could inculcate a whole nation. The trick is to slowly, surely, make everyone guilty of the same kind of injustice, formalize it and redirect all culpability toward the Leader and wash your hands of the reality, and then hold on for dear life as everyone else you know is forced into looking over their shoulders to see if they might be next on the chopping block.

It's perfectly understandable. Totalitarianism is the utter eradication of self and self-destiny under the auspices of a single, irrepressible force. It runs on fear and distrust. Everyone under Hitler was in an untenable position and knew they could lose favor at any time.

Stalin worked the same way. The results were almost always similar as a whole. Many people died, and no one knew how to go on except by hanging on to the system that brought them there.

Ideology didn't really matter. Terror was the driving force, carried along by a fierce logical insistence that they were always right. Not even dissent mattered. The logical progression, taken to its extremes, was always used as the ultimate rationality.

This book showed us a wealth of information in every step. Starting out with imperialism and ending with totalitarianism, this book also gives us some other very important insights.

Believe it or not, they're insights that apply as equal now as they did then, and not as a pithy or ironic commentary on this or that politician we hate.

Mostly, it starts out as finding an Other to hate. It could just be any Us versus Them. Dehumanize them. Blame all your problems on them. And then make your supporters do something horrible. Turn your whole nation into people who are already guilty. Make sure they remain confused and uncertain. And then turn up the heat, making them all do worse things, progressively, until they see no way out but forward. Give them no other choice.

Easy blueprint.

Who is next? Women versus men? Another Race s**tstorm? Blue Vs Red? Rich versus the poor?

Quite sobering to see how we're pushing ourselves closer and closer to Totalitarianism all the time. All we need is one single Leader who can blackmail us all into doing his bidding, and here we go!

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young MenThe War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's always an eye-opener when a really good look at statistics shows some glaring errors in widely held assumptions. It's even more of an eye opener to realize that some of your own carefully held assumptions are wrong.

This book, published in 2001, seems kind of political and reactionary, but that is only the fault of the title. The contents are much more revealing.

Feminism is political. This should not be surprising. We see it everywhere. Some a***holes take it way too far. What we have in America's school systems (and probably quite a few other places as well) is a climate where we are told that girls are being held back by the patriarchy, that their voices are not being heard, and that all boys should be more like girls.

No joke. I was in the school system when this was really getting started. I bought into it, myself. Even thought of myself as a feminist. Yes. I'm a white male feminist. Or, at least, I thought I should have been. I kept trying to be more feeling and thoughtful and in touch with my feelings. I valued cooperation over competition. I felt bad because I was a boy. Boys are violent. Boys are rapists. Boys the embodiment of the patriarchy that has done so much to transparently ruin women.

I was indoctrinated. And I bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

So what do I learn here? I went through college and got a degree in Psychology and English Literature in the mid 90's and learned a lot about education. The big keys were inclusion and tolerance and above all, making sure that women have all the benefits that had been taken from them in the past. I thought I approved of this.

I also found myself not being heard. I, as a male, surrounded by hundreds of academic studies revolving around a certain Carol Gilligan, then a superstar of feminist studies and the leader of the movement to change all our schools into this bright feminist ideal, was quoted everywhere. I didn't bat an eyelash. I studied more feminists and wanted to see more equality between the sexes. I got upset with every revelation of rape, abuse, and wage differential.

So, after all this time, thinking that it's only individual bad apples who like to say things like "murder all men", I held to my beliefs anyway.

So what do I believe after realizing that Carol Gilligan had fudged research data, hid sources, and used a very limited several thousand student sample in her study? Remember, she was the foundation of hundreds of similar papers and books that became the forefront of a full politicized movement. A movement that transformed almost every school in the nation based on faulty data.

A later study using a hundred thousand samples show a very different picture, and yet the weight of the political movement could not be stopped.

What did it report?

Little things like girls are twice as likely to be heard in class. That boys are much more likely to give up an not take tests like the SAT or the ACT, leaving only the very confident to take the tests, whereas girls almost always take them. That girls are more confident and self-reported happy in schools than boys.

And it didn't stop there. I went to many many in-school campaigns brought up in this book. Campaigns with a clear agenda where I was told about date rape, bullying (that was always bent toward unwanted sexual advances to girls), talking about my feelings, being inclusive, and never, ever, ever violent.

Remember, this is 2001 when the book came out. We were already seeing a whole generation of boys be told to be just like girls. That we should all be ashamed of what and who we are regardless of what we may or may not have ever done. I knew a lot of them that took it to heart like I did. Who bought the indoctrination.

Of course, after about 12 years of this, we get a complete eroding of value systems and a complete blindfolding of the educational system as to what BOYS ARE. They respond very differently to teaching techniques as compared to girls. It's NOT all learned. They're rambunctious. They do need strict limits and precise indoctrination into values. They respond to active play much stronger than girls, learn from scuffles and a lot of competition AND form very strong and beneficial ties with other boys through it. This is real. And yet the system is devoted to wiping out all the things that most boys are, naturally.

I'm speaking in general terms and ignoring outliers.

And it's getting worse. It's an ideology that ignores basic reality.

You know what opened my eyes back in the day? Fight Club. For how amazingly F***ed-up it was, it absolutely spoke to me on many other levels. It was the repudiation of all the indoctrination I had gone through.

I still don't want to hurt anyone. I still believe in equality. But by the actual numbers and the harmful teaching practices and the direction all this is taking us, I now fully agree with the conclusion.

Boys (and of course, men) are well on the way to becoming the "second sex". Just look at some of the stats in this book already and you'll see. College grads make more money, but 38% of men go in while 51% of women do. That margin has probably increased in the near 20 years since this book was published.

I'd love to see how many men are severely depressed or have gone through long periods of depression, listlessness, and despair after going through the school system. I know I did. I also improved a TON after getting into college. I was surrounded by a much healthier atmosphere.

I bought into the lies. I didn't realize I was being downgraded just because I was male. I wonder if a lot of this is the direct cause of some men's backlash. Anger, turned to violence, after having so many of their natural play and learning impulses quashed, being told that they were all rapists in training, that most of our natural desires were not to be channeled into appropriate directions, but told that they were simply and baldly BAD.

Of course, I'm not saying that we're all unaccountable to our own actions. Of course we are. But I'll admit that I am rather angry that I have not had any positive male role models.

I was brought up to be a girl. I love women. I thought that was okay.

It's just a shame... this dog was taught to use the kitty-litter box and meow for affection.

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Monstrous Regiment (Discworld, #31; Industrial Revolution, #3)Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 12/10/19:

A delightful Discworld read that dives head first into a little country's war problem. Well, it's not really a problem, per se... in fact, it's almost done. As in fini. Kaput. With them the ultimate losers.

So you'd think, with all the men being dead and all, they'd be more welcoming of a bit of some added support. And I'm not talking bras... or AM I?

A very funny book. There are a few coffee drinking beasties here, a troll, and even an Igor(ina). It turns into a kinda Hogan's Heroes. Or rather, Heroines. And ooooh the abominations! Cross-Dressing Everywhere!



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Monday, December 9, 2019

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read 12/9/19:

What a book to get me in the mood for Christmas! Again. :)

Okay, so maybe re-reading about the man who made Christmastown all that it is might not be EXACTLY everyone's cup of tea when it comes to getting in the mood for Christmas, but I'm a bit odd.

Fortunately, Hill writes a great horror and horror is good any time of the year. Still filled with great characters, great development, and great sick horror. :) Charley obviously never hurts children.


Original Review:

The novel really shines with characterizations. The depth and easy flow was excellent. How the peculiar abilities/ideas affected them was also quite memorable.
I was kinda surprised that we didn't actually get to go to Christmastown until much, much later in the novel, but the buildup and anticipation was well worth it. The creepy ending was also very very satisfying.

I don't like to compare styles between authors unless I was doing a serious paper, but for those who like SK, you'll like Joe Hill's work, too. :) There's plenty of obvious reasons, but fortunately, all of them made a good novel that isn't reliant on the relationship in the slightest.

I'll definitely read more of Mr. Hill's work. This was my first, and I was very pleased.

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Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical RightDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am utterly astounded.

Not surprised, mind you. But I am utterly astounded. It feels like there are no books written any more that rely on real investigative journalism.

But this is one, and it has meticulous, astounding scope.

It's one thing to point out the flaws in your opposition. Those kinds of books are commonplace and are always designed to sway you persuasively. And then there are books that give you a very, very big picture that shows you something so scary, so pervasive, that it boggles the imagination and is worse than any horror novel ever written.

This is about the Koch brothers. Two men in the 6th and 7th richest place in the world, who built an empire on oil money with the very worst record for ecological disasters, where ends always justify the means, turned all their money toward politics. How did they do this? Philanthropy. As in, pouring all their money into foundations and trusts that then poured all their money into other foundations and trusts in such a horribly convoluted shell-game that it takes full-time researchers to uncover where the money originated.

Why did they do this? To bypass political financing regulations.

Where did these foundations and trusts lead to?

Educational institutions in order to promote radical right wing agendas in all the biggest schools, tempting all students with ongoing stipends and opportunities as long as they tow the line.

Astroturfing. Creating hundreds of seemingly grass-roots organizations like the Tea Party and many like it, like the Heritage Foundation, etc., to provide ideological foot-troops against any target they pleased.

Fundraising campaigns that stagger the imagination, still using the shell-game premise, that led to nearly 300 billion dollars just to capture all the seats in congress and the senate. And the presidency. They used every trick in the book. Smear campaigns in advertising was only a small part of it. They bought and paid for several networks, tons of writers, and spread their right-wing agenda across so many fronts that it APPEARED to be THE only game in town. They even eventually strong-armed the Republican Campaign into giving over the reigns.

It started with the Koch brothers and their ideological obsession. Now it's a full network of the richest banding together to create what, in the parlance, can only be an Oligarchy. Rule by the rich.

What is the bottom line? The rich get richer. No one else matters.

Definitely not the middle class or the poor. If you're not in the upper 1%, you're nothing. They have bought the political system.

If you think this is a propaganda piece by the left, then try reading it and prove me wrong. Check https://www.politifact.com/

It is so much worse than you might imagine. They have lied through their teeth on practically anything and everything. They have done everything they can do to dismantle the EPA, health care systems, anti-trust laws, inheritance laws (That ONLY affect the upper 1%), brainwashing the intellectual elite (or at least giving them all monetary incentive to tow the line even if they don't BELIEVE), fund every group that nay-says global warming, blames every victim for the housing crisis, and, of course, the Obamacare act.

None of this is about the reality any of us regular people believe in. They say whatever they want in order to accomplish only ONE thing: their bottom line. If that means dismantling all government, all checks and balances, and the possibility of ever having an egalitarian society ever again, then it JUST DOESN'T MATTER.

Almost everyone in the government has a major financial hand in the Koch pie. Local, State, Nationwide. The regulators have either worked for or still work with the worst abusers.

If it sounds like some mob-run scheme, then you're right.

The fact that normal people can't untangle the web, or if they've gotten far enough in the tangle, they throw up their hands and cry for mercy, is exactly the point.

People ARE untangling the web and this book is a fantastic example of it.


Am I scared of what I've learned?
Oh hell yes. I was so scared back in the 2000's that I swore off political reading or watching tv ever again. If I couldn't trust anything I heard, then I would spend my time better by reading fiction.

I stopped being depressed and feeling helpless. And now that I feel a bit better, I decided to step back into the knowledge playground. I have strength I didn't have back then. This book doesn't make me spiral into desperation.

Rather, it makes me proud that there are still people willing to report the truth.

Maybe someday, this book will be required reading after we get over this crisis. Or perhaps it will be an underground book suppressed by the Oligarchy. Either way, we will have seen how we got here.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and IdentityThe Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please use Google to look up White Couples. Look up White Inventors. Check out the pictures.

If the results doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what will.

I mean, this is real. Not a joke. It’s not even a search that is remotely racist or homophobic, and yet, look at this pendulum swing into madness.


I admit that reading this book made me laugh. Genuine laughter, mixed with incredulity and a reaffirmed firm conviction that people of any orientation, race, or political bent can be a jerk.

I love this book, and yet I do not identify as a Neo Conservative. And yet, this is a Neo Conservative book written by a gay man lambasting the more egregious insanities of radicals of any bent.

I was particularly touched by just how much absurdity was highlighted. Of course, all the highlights are entirely on the liberal left, gays, lesbians, trans, and blacks, but don’t let that dissuade you. This isn’t the normal hate-filled drivel that I usually see coming out of the Conservative Right.

Rather, it’s a very interesting wake-up call that points out the major systemic inconsistencies of these Political movements. Yes, that’s right. It’s not about whether someone is LGBT or Black or Asian. It’s just a big finger being pointed at the a**holes in each group.

For this, I’m both heartily amused and I’m also right on board. I love it when a**holes of any stripe get shown up for their absurdities.

Everyone needs a reality check.

How did you like Google now?

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Friday, December 6, 2019

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2)The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Something strange just happened.

After having just read La Belle Sauvage and also having just read the original His Dark Materials trilogy (for the second time, but again, recently), I have come to the conclusion that this might be my favorite of all five books.

Weird, right?

I mean, I liked the original trilogy well enough but I never went gaga over it. Maybe it was about the problem of agency. Or perhaps it was a few other issues. But I never disliked all the wonderful pan-religiosity, the many subversions, references, and the overall worldbuilding.

And then the first Book of Dust came along and while I thought the whole quest was somewhat interesting, it never lived up to the whole promise of the rest. I mean, if you can sum up the entire damn book in a single sentence and the sentence bores you, you know you have a problem.

So what happened here? All of a sudden we have a Lyra 7 years after the events of HDM and she's a young woman with a problem. A meme problem. A mental health problem. She's having issues with Pan and Pan is having (I rather think,) more issues with her. I'm on Pan's side here. Lyra's behaving abominably.

That being said, Pullman has pulled off a much more complicated tale than the first book, adding a real good reason FOR the first book, giving us many new reasons why Lyra's world is falling apart while also making a huge commentary on Europe's current issues in general. The worldbuilding is obviously commentary. But it's GOOD commentary.

Add all the spycraft, the mystery, the book-long chase and the quest that seems to revolve around separated Daemons, and all of a sudden, the Big Picture finally got interesting again. I missed that in the first book. A lot. In fact, if it wasn't for the need for the investment in a few certain characters in THIS book, I might say... skip the first book. Just skip it. The Lyra baby survives the flood and gets Sanctuary. Move on.

But seen in this next book's light, I have to admit it all comes together rather nicely. Even if there is a 20 year gap. At least Pullman is able to pull off some rip-roaring good tales full of episodic action, great timing, and a million interesting characters. I never got bored with this one at all.

Just a warning, tho:

CLIFFHANGER.

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