Book of Revelations by Fred C. Collier Part 1

Fred C. Collier’s Church of the Firstborn is a spliter group of another Church of the Firstborn, also known as the LeBaron family, which is a Mormon polygamist group. According to Wikipedia, there were only about 100 members of Collier’s sect in 2004. So why am I bothering to give a summary of Collier’s Book of Revelations when it’s obviously so obscure? Honestly, the fact that it’s obscure is part of why I’m interested in it. Also, perhaps owing to my own Mormon upbringing, I find the idea of people continuing to write new scriptures up to the present day fascinating.

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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall

A conversational tone and lots of pictures make this a quick read. Gottschall makes the case that storytelling is what makes us human. When we read, our imagination supplies most of the details, filling in the missing information. The writer is like a screenwriter and the reader is the movie director. Of course, stories appear not just in books, but also in video games, TV, jokes, urban legends, and in song lyrics.

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John Adams: A Life by John Ferling

John Adams smoked tobacco since he was eight. He received a Harvard education and after being a teacher for a short time, he became a lawyer. At one point, the wealthy John Hancock was put on trial for smuggling and John Adams represented him, succeeding in getting the charges dropped. He started courting his future wife Abigail when she was 15 and he was 25. He stopped seeing her, but they met again years later and married when he was 29 and she was 20.

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Presidents’ Body Counts by Al Carroll Part 5

Ex-Presidents

Al Carroll’s book has an appendix examining what presidents did after they were no longer president. Some presidents died in office or shortly after leaving office. Some, like Truman, lived decades after leaving office but didn’t do anything of note. Others accomplished quite a bit.

After leaving office, Carter became one of the greatest humanitarians in world history. He founded the Carter Center dedicated to peace keeping, human rights, and ending global hunger, poverty, and disease. The Carter Center has likely prevented 13 coups or civil wars. Carter himself prevented two wars. In 1994, he negotiated a treaty that led to a dictator in Haiti stepping down. In 2007, he helped prevent a war between the two Koreas. The Carter Center has one of the greatest records in fighting disease including malaria, mumps, rubella, measles, lymphatic filariasis, and has almost completely eliminated Guinea worm. The Carter Center has also helped end malnutrition by teaching 8 million farmers in Ghana better farming techniques. Carter also founded Habitat for Humanity, which has helped build homes for over 4 million people in 16 nations. He’s likely saved millions of lives.

After leaving office, Herbert Hoover dedicated his life to feeding the hungry of Europe both during and after World War II, feeding millions of children.

John Quincy Adams became a congressman for 17 years after his presidency, and became a persistent critic of slavery.

Clinton founded the Clinton Foundation which has helped treat 750,000 AIDS patients. The Clinton Global Initiative has exaggerated how many people it’s helped, but it has worked to end global warming, helped 5 million children get medical equipment, and treated over 30 million people for disease.

Teddy Roosevelt worked on progressive causes the rest of his years, founding the Bull Moose party. Many of their ideas became law such as recalls, referendums, primaries, income tax, direct election of senators, votes for women, and the eight-hour workday. The Bull Moose party was a big influence on his cousin Franklin’s New Deal.

Millard Fillmore became the only ex-president to support terrorism. He ran as candidate of the Know Nothings, a terrorist group responsible for killing at least 50 Catholics.

John Tyler is the only ex-president to commit treason. He became part of the Confederate government, although he died before taking office.

Nixon lived a comfortable life, getting $7 million for the Frost interviews. He accepted a full pardon from Ford, meaning he admitted to committing 13 criminal felonies.

George W. Bush is the first ex-president to face criminal indictments. There are 147 nations he cannot travel to without risk of being prosecuted for torture.

George H. W. Bush went back to being a businessman, taking advantage of classified information, in order to make money and aid his investments.

Towards the end, Carroll reminds us that presidents can’t control the economy, not even dictators can. The only reason to vote should be the candidate’s stance on war and what they’ll do to improve as many lives as possible. I agree that we should all set politics aside and instead focus on electing the most humanitarian candidate, regardless of their party affiliation.

Presidents’ Body Counts by Al Carroll Part 4

What If

Carroll includes a fascinating section hypothesizing what would happen if different people had become president. Any of these scenarios would make for a fascinating alternate history novel.

For example, Jackson was nearly killed in the Creek War, but a Cherokee warrior named Junaluska saved his life. Had this not happened, John Quincy Adams would have been president instead and the Trail of Tears would not have happened.

Jackson nearly won in 1824. If so, the Trail of Tears would have happened earlier with a higher body count. Without Adams as president during this time, war with both France and Mexico would have been more likely as well.

John Tyler was almost accidentally killed by an explosion on a Navy ship in 1844. Willie Mangum was next in line and would have become president. Tyler pushed for war with Mexico in order to conquer Texas (which Polk later carried out), but Mangum was opposed to this. If he became president during Tyler’s term, Polk, an unlikely candidate who came from behind, wouldn’t have been elected. California would also have remained Mexican territory and the Native Californian genocide would be prevented. (Mexico would still kill natives, but they focused more on assimilation than genocide.) Without the take over of Mexican land, Utah might have become its own country with Mormons remaining socialist. Oregon would still become part of the US. In this alternate universe, Mexico would benefit from the Gold Rush, becoming as wealthy as the US.

Lincoln’s biggest mistake was switching vice presidents in order to appeal to southern voters. Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first vice president, would have prevented most of the 50,000 racist murders that Lincoln’s second vice president Johnson allowed to happen. Hamlin wouldn’t have taken land away that was given to former slaves and the Freedman’s bureau would have been expanded. Many lynchings and other racial strife wouldn’t have happened.

If Andrew Johnson had been impeached in 1866, Benjamin Wade would have been president and also wouldn’t have sabotaged Reconstruction. Wade was even in favor of women getting the vote.

McClellan, who was opposed to freeing slaves, was nearly elected instead of Lincoln in 1864. The Confederacy never had a chance of winning the Civil War, but with McClellan as president, it would have lasted longer. In the worst case scenario, McClellan would allow the scant territory held by Confederates to be independent. If the Confederacy gained independence, slavery would have continued. However, the Confederacy wouldn’t have much territory. Half of southern white men dodged the draft, sometimes forming gangs to drive away the Confederates. Two thirds of Confederate troops deserted. One of every eight slaves escaped during the war. Most Southerners were opposed to the Confederacy which censored the news, punished abolitionists with death, and banned political parties. (There was often only a single candidate on the ballot.) There were over 4,000 political prisoners and mass executions of dissidents.

Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan was against the US-Filipino War that cost 200,000 to one million deaths. He was also opposed to conquering Hawaii.

If Custer hadn’t died at Little Bighorn, there’s a good chance he could have been president in 1880. He would have been horrible. At the massacre of Washita, he murdered women, children, and elderly after the Cheyenne had signed a peace treaty. His men even ripped open the bellies of pregnant women. The Cheyenne men were mostly away at the time, but Custer prevented the few there from attacking by using women as human shields. He also failed to protect black civil rights during Reconstruction when he was stationed in Texas. Custer’s brutal tactics would have prolonged war with the Apache. Why would they surrender if he was going to kill them either way? The US didn’t invade Latin America between 1859 to 1890. Custer the glory hound would have invaded a decade earlier. The Spanish American war may have happened sooner as well. The campaign against the Philippines would have been more brutal. He would also likely have made Cuba a US colony.

If McKinley had survived his assassination, his vice president Roosevelt wouldn’t have become president. McKinley was against unions, environmentalism, and against limiting corporate power. He wouldn’t have ended the US Philippines War, causing an additional tens of thousands of deaths. Roosevelt created the FDA, saving lives by making sure food and drugs are safe. McKinley wouldn’t have done this.

The American Liberty League plotted to overthrow Franklin Roosevelt. Some businessmen were so opposed to the New Deal, they wanted to use a private army to install a fascist government. The founder was white supremacist Irenne Du Pont. They were also in favor of eugenics. Because arresting them might hurt the stock market, they were never punished. If the plot hadn’t been exposed, it would have caused a second civil war, more destructive than the first. Possibly as many as 3.6 million would have died. If the fascists won, the US may have remained fascist until the 1970s as Spain did. Smedley Butler revealed the conspiracy, saving millions of lives.

Like Lincoln, Roosevelt made a huge mistake by replacing his vice president. Henry Wallace, Roosevelt’s first vice president, was extremely popular. He helped modernize farming and convinced 12 Latin American nations to fight the Axis. However, Roosevelt replaced him with Truman who started the Cold War responsible for 6-7 million deaths. Wallace was opposed to the Cold War and colonialism. If he had been president, millions of lives could have been saved.

Douglas MacArthur was a great military leader, although he made mistakes and suffered a few humiliating defeats. He called for using nukes during the Korean War which would have been disastrous. MacArthur was insubordinate and was fired by Truman. He actually sought permission from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to use nukes without the President’s approval, although he was against nuking civilian targets like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He ran for president three times. Truman only barely won in 1948. If MacArthur had won, he would have authorized using nukes in the Korean War resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and it could have escalated into a nuclear war with the USSR.

When Stalin died and Khrushchev took over the Soviet Union, he denounced Stalin, allowed some freedom of speech, allowed western tourists for the first time, cut troops by a third, gave up plans for a large navy, and abolished special tribunals. Eisenhower and Nixon thought all this was a trick and kept the Cold War going. However, if presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson had beat Eisenhower in the election, things would have turned out differently. Stevenson was against the Cold War and nuclear testing. He would likely have established peace with the USSR 30 years before Gorbachev accomplished it. The Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War wouldn’t have happened.

If Robert Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated, he would have beat Nixon in the election. (Hubert Humphrey only barely lost to Nixon because he pledged to continue the war and anti-war voters stayed home on election day.) Robert Kennedy would have ended the Vietnam War five years earlier and would not have committed genocide in Cambodia, saving up to 3.3 million lives.

Reagan came close to being president in 1976. If so, he wouldn’t focus on human rights as Carter did. He might have bombed Vietnam, would likely have intervened in Angola, would have supported South Africa making apartheid last longer, and would have ignored the genocides in East Timor and Cambodia. He probably would have invaded Nicaragua to stop the Sandinista revolution. He would not have returned the Panama Canal to Panama. The Cold War would have lasted longer as well.

Ross Perot had a chance of being president in 1992, but he was a conspiracy theorist who thought George H. W. Bush was covering up evidence of US POWs in Vietnam. He thought “a six man Viet Cong-Black Panther hit squad” was after him. With no party in Congress, he likely wouldn’t have accomplished much, except making the War on Drugs worse. Perot favored harsher punishments for drugs and blocking off minority neighborhoods and searching house to house for drugs. He may have even went to war with Mexico and Colombia over drugs. Perot was erratic and prone to mood swings. He’d likely refuse to intervene in Bosnia, Somalia, and Rwanda, before suddenly reversing himself.

Al Gore actually won the 2000 election, but the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush instead. Had this not happened, Gore would not have went to war with Iraq, wouldn’t have bungled the Afghanistan war, and not nearly as many would have died during Hurricane Katrina. Over a million lives would have been saved. Gore would have focused on Afghanistan, sending in more troops without the distraction of Iraq. Al Qaeda and the Taliban would have been defeated sooner. The US would have captured Osama Bin Laden in December 2001 if Bush had just sent more troops. Gore wouldn’t have invested in preventing AIDS in Africa like Bush did, though. (Carroll doesn’t mention this, but I wonder if 9/11 wouldn’t have happened at all with a President Gore. He certainly wouldn’t have ignored the intelligence reports like Bush did.)

George W. Bush was almost assassinated in 2005. If this happened, Dick Cheney would have become president. Cheney wanted to bomb Iran, but Bush was against it. A war with Iran would take two or three times as many troops as Iraq. Fighting three wars at once would have been disastrous.

Presidential candidate John McCain was very pro-war. He called for bombing Serbia, Iran (to the tune of a Beach Boys song), and called for staying in Iraq “maybe 100 years”.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was also pro-war. In favor of invading Iraq, Iran, and Libya. She presented a plan for arming Syrian rebels. She was also opposed to immediate national health care, favoring a gradual approach.

As governor, Romney was a moderate who created the model for Obamacare, balanced the budget of Massachusetts by ending corporate loop holes, was pro-choice, and favored gay rights. All that changed when he ran for president. He spoke of nuking Iran and arming Syrian rebels who were al Qaeda allies. If history has taught us anything, it’s that arming groups that hate the US always backfires. He spoke of returning troops to Iraq. He was also in favor of torture and against national health care. He wanted to turn Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security over to private companies, stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Studies show Medicare saves more lives than private insurance. Many elderly people would have died under Romney’s plan.

Presidents’ Body Counts by Al Carroll Part 3

Franklin Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt did not allow Jewish refugees to the US, condemning many to death in the Holocaust. He also could have lessened the atrocity by attacking Germany sooner than he did. (Incidentally, Henry Ford owned the best selling newspaper in the country and used it to spread anti-Semitism. Ford Auto company was also a haven for Nazis and he promoted their views on company grounds. Ford even received a special award from Hitler.)

113,200 were falsely imprisoned during the Japanese-American internment. Some died from poor healthcare. 6 were killed by guards for trying to escape. 2 were killed in a riot. Their property was often seized, lost, or sold for tiny amounts. (While many west-coast cities have Chinatowns, most no longer have Japantowns.) 57 Aleut (not Japanese, but interned because racists thought they were genetically similar) died from disease while in the camps. German and Italian Americans weren’t imprisoned and neither were Japanese Americans living in Hawaii, indicating the internment was more about racism than protecting the country.

On the plus side, Roosevelt was one of the few US presidents who didn’t invade Latin America. There were 35 invasions of Latin America in the 42 years before Roosevelt, but not a single invasion during his 12 years in office, saving thousands of lives. In 1938, Mexico took control of US oil companies in Mexico and Americans called for war. FDR instead found a diplomatic solution, getting Mexico to pay the oil companies without a costly war.

World War II is the only justified war in US history besides the Civil War. By the US joining, the Axis powers were defeated, saving tens of millions of lives. (The Soviet Union gets most of the credit for defeating the Axis, but the US helped.) Ironically, the most liberal president in US history was also the best wartime president. Roosevelt’s New Deal anti-poverty programs led to longer life expectancy for Americans.

Lyndon Johnson

The US-Vietnam War killed 1 to 3.8 million including 200,000 to 500,000 civilians. Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy sent advisors to Vietnam, funding the French attack against Vietnam. Johnson had a macho attitude, bragging about his penis size, holding meetings on the toilet, and refusing to admit defeat with regards to Vietnam. Nixon dragged the Vietnam War out an extra five years and increased the bombing campaigns just to be reelected and convince people he was anti-Communist.

Lyndon Johnson and Nixon were both responsible for the Phoenix Program which was designed to end Vietnamese support for the National Liberation Front through bribery, spying, blackmail, and torture. 20,000 to 40,000 mostly civilians were falsely accused of being communist. Torture included beating, whipping, hanging, water torture, electrocution, dog attack, gang rape, and rape using animals such as eels or snakes. Many deaths resulted.

On the plus side, Johnson’s Great Society program kept poverty from rising to 31% to only 15%. Poverty among children dropped from 20% to under 6%. The Civil Rights Act put an end to intimidation and violence at the polls. Johnson said he passed it as tribute to Kennedy, but Kennedy wasn’t actually that big on civil rights.

George H. W. Bush

The Gulf War resulted in 2,500 to 205,000 deaths. Sadam Hussein was on the CIA payroll since the 1950s. In 1989 he met with US Ambassador April Glass and asked permission to invade Kuwait. She didn’t say no and he took this as a yes. Everyone, including Bush’s own cabinet and advisors, were surprised when he invaded Kuwait. The US public was opposed to the war. Bush spent 20 million on PR to try to convince the public. A member of the Kuwaiti royal family posing as a nurse lied on the floor of congress, claiming babies were ripped out of incubators and left to die.

However, after the Gulf War, Bush aided Kurds fleeing Iraq, saving perhaps 200,000 lives. Clinton and George W. Bush continued the rescue efforts. George H. W. Bush saved the lives due to outside pressure, so he did the right thing for the wrong reason, but he still gets credit. Also, in 1991, George H. W. Bush pulled US nukes out of South Korea, defusing tension between the Koreas.

Barack Obama

Continuing a George W. Bush program, Obama ordered drone assassinations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Obama assassinated suspects without trial in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. 11-98% killed were innocent civilians. 1,800 to 3,521 died.

On the other hand, his New START treaty reduced nuclear weapons. The end of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saved tens of thousands of lives a year. (The war in Afghanistan didn’t officially end until 2021, after this book was written, but I think Carroll’s referring to the end of combat operations in Afghanistan.)

Obama avoided war in Iran, saving thousands if not tens of thousands of lives. The Arab Spring and preventing another Great Depression also saved lives. And, of course, Obamacare saves 30,000 lives a year.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor wanted California to be a free state and threatened slavery advocates with hanging when they called for secession, getting them to back down.

Abraham Lincoln

Carroll considers Lincoln to be the best president in US History. He freed 4 million people from slavery and saved between 120,000 to millions of lives. Slaves had double the infant mortality rate of free blacks. Ending slavery saved thousands of lives a year. The Confederacy would have brought international slavery back. 10-50% of slaves died during the Midwest Passage. The Confederacy also planned wars against Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and planned to take Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain which could have resulted in over 124,000 deaths.

The Civil War is one of only two righteous wars in US history (the other is World War II) that had to be fought for the good of humanity. Emancipation also ended the genocide of California natives. Unlike the treasonous Confederates, 300,000 southern Unionists stayed loyal to the United States and fought as part of the Union army. Lincoln also spared 263 Dakota sentenced to death for taking part in a battle.

Martin Van Buren

Van Buren avoided war with Britain, saving perhaps 20,000 and delayed war with Mexico saving perhaps 19,000. He also delayed the genocide of California natives, saving 120,000 to 300,000 lives. Van Buren was the first US-born president and the only US president to speak English as his second language.

Independence fighters in Canada recruited Americans to their side, provoking a possible war with Britain. Van Buren passed a law to make it illegal for Americans to invade another country. A year later, a conflict broke out over a territory dispute in Maine. Rather than go to war, Van Buren signed a treaty which also helped stop illegal slave trade, saving thousands of Africans.

Americans in Mexican territory, despite living there less than a year, declared the land theirs and declared Texas a new slave state. They were so incompetent, insurgents at the Alamo and Goliad were completely wiped out. Santa Ana, the president of Mexico, forgot to post sentries at San Jacinto, and the insurgents captured him and forced him to sign over Texas. Van Buren didn’t recognize Texas, delaying a war with Mexico. At the time, the US had conflicts with Britain and was losing the Second Seminole War. Most of the US Army was involved in removing Cherokees. A war with Mexico at this time would have been even bloodier than the later war.

Jimmy Carter

Carter put pressure on dictatorships and withheld military aid to fix human rights abuses. He made 25 countries more democratic, saving as many as 150,000 lives. He saved 1,000 lives in Argentina and 1,200 in Chile. In Cuba, Castro released 3,600 political prisoners due to pressure from Carter. Carter prevented a military coup in the Dominican Republic by threatening a boycott. He negotiated a peace between Israel and Egypt, perhaps saving 80,000 to 100,000 lives and earning him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Carter pressured the dictatorship in Honduras to have elections and pressured Haiti to release political prisoners. Indonesia released 30,000 political prisoners who likely would have been executed. The Shah of Iran, responsible for 80,000 deaths, was overthrown partly thanks to Carter. Political violence dropped off in Jamaica after First Lady Rosalyn Carter promised Carter wouldn’t try to overthrow the government as Nixon and Ford had.

Pakistan released 11,000 political prisoners. Carter returned the Panama Canal, preventing future riots and improving US relations with all of Latin America. The Soviet Union released political prisoners and allowed 160,000 Jews to immigrate to the US. Carter was partly responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union, although most of the credit goes to Gorbachev and other dissidents. Carter also signed a treaty to limit nuclear weapons. The white racist minority in Zimbabwe was pressured into holding fair elections. Carter was the only truly anti-war president. He was one of the few presidents to not invade Latin America. Not a single US soldier died overseas on his watch.

Ulysses S. Grant

Battles between the US army and native tribes dropped from 101 in 1869 to just 15 in 1875. Lives were also saved due to improved conditions in reservations and KKK terrorism declined in states where Grant sent troops.

This book is a good conversation starter, although it’s possible for different people to come up with different rankings since lives lost or saved are often estimates. Carroll ranks deaths caused by malice as worse than deaths caused by neglect, which in turn are worse than deaths caused by ideological blindness or incompetence. Someone else could easily count all deaths the same regardless of the motivation behind them. After all, Carroll counts all lives saved the same regardless of whether the president in question saved lives for the right reason or not.