Category Archives: American Character

America is more than Trump & Media Tweetstorms

Senator Ben Sasse posted this inspiring video on social media today.  It’s a much-needed blast of American spirit, to cleanse the air of the latest Twitter SPIN battle.

While the American media and President Trump fall into another SPIN “shithole”, today’s blog post is not going to be about politics.  Some Democrats, after a meeting with Trump, decided to attempt another #Resist Trump takedown spin effort.  The mainstream liberal media went into full hysteria mode last night… again… about “Trump is a racist”.

I had been working on a junk journal last night and didn’t look at Twitter until close to midnight.  It took me about 30 seconds of scrolling through journalists’ tweets to assess a full-blown #Resist SPIN attack underway.  By this morning, a great deal of the liberal Twitter shitstorm over “shitholes” was so over-the-top, that it’s clear they may, once again, end up bolstering Trump rather than taking him down.

Many of the #Resisters, who pretend to be objective journalists, sound  like hysterical lunatics.

The altered book junk journal I am working on is for my youngest daughter.  I found this lovely scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago, when they had this brand of paper on sale for 50% off.  The background is actually a skirt my youngest daughter sewed in her early teens.  She loved this dark navy fabric with the lobster print, even though I was trying to steer her toward pretty pastel colored fabric.  We found an easy skirt pattern and she sewed several pretty floral print skirts and this lobster print skirt, needing very little assistance, once she did a little bit of practice sewing on scrap fabric to get the hang of machine sewing.  I came across this skirt in the spare bedroom closet recently and my mind flew to thinking it would be great to repurpose it as a junk journal cover and possibly use more of it to make a tote bag for her too.

The picture above is one of my favorite childhood books, that I came across looking through old books for junk journaling.  It’s pretty beat-up and has pen scribbles on it, that I know I didn’t put there.  I know this, because I wrote my name inside the front cover of my books and did not scribble or write in them.  When I got to college and first observed the habit of using highlighter markers in your textbooks, well, I was appalled that people would deface their books like that.  I never got into the habit of “highlighting” or writing in my books and I tried to take good care of my books.   And of course, bending down page corners to mark your place in a book should be punishable with a good smack upside the head.

Book collecting (hoarding) is a lifelong habit, that I will never quit, although I’ve tried to read more kindle books and buy less actual books in recent years.  Sadly, my same book hoarding habits easily transferred to digital hoarding too.  My bookmarks always are out of control, same with the other crap I download and my Pinterest has over 200 boards and over 12,000 pins…   I have pinned way more recipes and craft projects than I can ever use, but I still keep pinning more.

Anyone else have this  “hoarding” problem with digital information?

One of my happiest memories of my early years of school was receiving my Scholastic Book Club flyer from my teacher, pouring over every book listing, then compiling my “wish list”.  Usually my list contained almost every book in the flyer.  My mother would give me money for books and then I had to sit there and decide which books I wanted the most, to fit my small book allowance.  I bought Codes & Secret Writing when I was around 10 years old and it fueled my interest in cryptography. Learning about its use in warfare led to my interest in military strategy.  I also liked reading mystery genre stories, as a kid, which often involved strange happenings or odd people rather than the more common adult crime detective mysteries.

Truth be told, I was never very good at codes and ciphers and I found military strategy much more my cup of tea.

Another of my favorite childhood book genres was biographies of great or famous people.  I still like reading about important people in history, but I prefer a narrower selection now, opting to read biographies about people whose lives and/or ideas impacted history in some profound way.   I also moved toward trying to read the person’s own writings and letters whenever possible, rather than relying on a biographer or historian’s assessment.  This habit grew out of observing that too often historians seem to work from having already decided on the character of the historical figure they are writing about and using their research to cherry pick historical documentation to bolster their preconceived character assessment.

In comments on my last blog post, JK provided links to several very interesting John Batchelor interviews with historians, H.W. Brands, Ron Chernow and Robert L.O’Connell on two fascinating and controversial historical figures, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman.   It’s interesting that two of the most important generals in the Union winning the U.S. Civil War ended up with their characters frequently extremely maligned, yet Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate forces, trying to tear the United States apart, has consistently been recast as a saintly man of conviction and the “better” general, even though he lost…

I honestly believe that at the core of the perceptions of Grant and Lee lies a class bias, where Lee obviously had the pedigree of a Southern aristocrat and Grant came from a hardscrabble working class background.  It’s much easier to place Lee, with his impeccable personal appearance and stately bearing, as a majestic war hero on a statue than it is Grant, with his rumpled clothes and lack of a commanding presence.

On a day when America’s politicos continue to furiously tweet on about Trump’s shithole comment, it’s important to remember that America’s greatness lies in our commitment to the belief in the power of freedom to transform the lives of individuals.   It’s not where you came from, the color of your skin, your religion, or sex; it’s about believing that in America you are free, to borrow Emerson’s line, “Hitch your wagon to a star.”

Here’s a 2016 Marco Rubio quote that I came across in an Ian Tuttle piece at National Review, which sums up America eloquently:

“We are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful. For we in this nation are the descendants of go-getters. In our veins runs the blood of people who gave it all up so we would have the chances they never did. We are all the descendants of someone who made our future the purpose of their lives. We are the descendants of pilgrims. We are the descendants of settlers. We are the descendants of men and women that headed westward in the Great Plains not knowing what awaited them. We are the descendants of slaves who overcame that horrible institution to stake their claim in the American Dream. We are the descendants of immigrants and exiles who knew and believed that they were destined for more, and that there was only one place on earth where that was possible.”

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/432928/americas-pioneer-spirit-dead-gone

I wish Trump and his enemies waging these Tweetstorm battles would call a truce to this destructive information war, but each side believes they’re “saving” America, even though their SPIN battles deepen the partisan divides in America, incite rage, and fray the bonds of civil society.  You don’t need to understand any secret codes or ciphers to see how damaging SPIN is to America, all you need to do is listen to the Trump vs. the Media news a few minutes a day.

It’s depressing to think that this is what the world believes America is all about…

9 Comments

Filed under American Character, General Interest, Information War, Inspirations, Politics

“A few leaves of grass” for remembrance

20171125_132102-1.jpg

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving and only one of our kids could come home.  I cooked the complete turkey meal and baked a couple of pumpkin pies that morning too.  By early evening our son had gone home.  All of the dishes were cleaned up and the leftovers put away.  I spent a few hours working in my sewing/craft room, then picked up a book that I like to read bits and pieces from often.

I keep War Letters:  Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll, on a small table by my recliner.  A few years ago, I mentioned General Pershing’s famous WWI letter to his young son, Warren, which I came across in this book.   General Pershing’s letter to his son was a father explaining the important values Americans fights to protect and preserve.  It’s probably my favorite letter in the book, but a close second is a letter written in 1918,  by Maude B. Fisher, an American Red Cross nurse.  She penned one of the most touching letters to Mrs. Hogan, the mother of a young soldier, Richard Hogan, who died of influenza in their hospital.  This wonderful nurse took the time to pen a very personal letter, so that a grieving mother would know how her son died.  The letter includes details of how brave and cheerful the dying soldier was, the care he received, and even more than that this nurse wrote the details of the soldier’s burial:

“He was laid to rest in the little cemetery of Commercy, and sleeps under a simple wooden cross among his comrades who, like him, have died for their country.  His grave number is 22, plot 1.  His aluminum identification tag is on the cross , and a similar one around his neck, both bearing his serial number, 2793346.

The plot of the grave in the cemetery where your son is buried was given to the Army for our boys and the people of Commercy will alway tend it with loving hands and keep it fresh and clean.  I enclose here a few leaves of grass that grows near in a pretty meadow.

A big hill overshadows that place and the sun was setting behind it just as the Chaplain said the last prayer over your boy.”

page 171, War Letters: Extraordinary Correspondence from American Wars, edited by Andrew Carroll

No one required this nurse to write to this grieving mother, because the Army notified fallen soldiers’ families, but she cared enough to want this mother to have more details.  The book offers a few details about each letter.  Mrs. Hogan lost two of her other children back home in Woburn, Massachusetts, during the 1918 influenza epidemic.  It must have been a great comfort for her to know her son far away was dutifully cared for as he lay dying and that he was given a proper burial.  And imagine her relief knowing exactly where her son was buried.

Thoughtful good deeds, like Maude Fisher’s, used to be very common when most people were reared to put other people before themselves and when quietly doing the right thing was drilled into children and served as the cultural norm.

Almost every good deed now is posted on social media, hyped as some fake gimmicky publicity stunt for attention, or used to sell oneself as more caring than someone else.

Maude Fisher reminds me of the same kind of nurse my mother was.  My mother sent me a little book of Psalms and prayers in 1980, when I was far away from home and going through a hard time in my life.  My mother explained how she came to have this little book:

“… died in 1964 and this booklet was unclaimed by her relatives.  She was a lovely old lady and it was a rewarding experience caring for her.  I am giving this to you Susie, as over the years I found pleasure in reading psalms and prayers.

As you know I’m not a person to force religion on anyone.  I do have faith in God and you will find comfort in reading psalms in times when you’re distressed and unhappy.”

In 1980, I was young and considered myself more agnostic than faithful, but my mother was right.  Over the years, I have picked up this little book or my Bible and turned to the Psalms when I feel  “distressed and unhappy”.

In 2001, my mother was hospitalized for several weeks and I began to worry a great deal, even though she and my sisters assured me that she was improving.  My mother kept telling me there was no need to come to PA, because she would be out of the hospital soon.  Still, I worried and I mailed this booklet to PA and asked my sister to take it to my mother in the hospital.  My mother was happy to see it again and to read it.

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on the day she was supposed to be discharged to a local rehabilitation facility for some follow-on care.

My mother quietly helped as many people as she could.  She never talked about it, she just did it, because it was the right thing to do.  People like Maude Fisher and my mother used to be the rule, not the exception.

I don’t have the religious education to argue Christian theology and truthfully if something doesn’t make sense to me, like so much in most religions, I refuse to say, “I believe.”   However, I think having rules or guidelines to serve as guard rails in life, to keep you on track, and sign posts to keep from getting lost, are very helpful.  I reread the Sermon on the Mount often.  I can understand that.  Matthew 6:1-4 has served as the guide for how I try to live my life and it assuredly was how my mother and Maude Fisher lived theirs:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%205-7

Watching America’s endless game of partisan one upmanship has caused me to reevaluate my own strident partisan views.   Truly, so much of the extreme emotional investment in these “political hills to die on” won’t matter at all if the country is filled with raging partisans, who hate each other.  The hate bodes poorly, with many Americans who refuse to even talk to anyone with opposing political views, some want those with opposing views silenced, and there are even some wishing those with opposing partisan views were dead.

We could all take a page from Maude Fisher’s and my mother’s book.  Caring about other people is about more than clicking “like” on social media feeds or posting about every shallow thought that pops into your head.   I wonder how many people attending a funeral today would take the time away from their smartphone to even notice that the sun was setting when a young soldier was buried or the pretty meadow.   Assuredly, I doubt hardly anyone would take the time to pick “a few leaves of grass” for remembrance and pen a letter like this to a grieving mother.

2 Comments

Filed under American Character, Civility, Food for Thought, General Interest, Uncategorized

The Reckoning is upon us

Feminists are on the warpath… again.  They are demanding a “reckoning”, to guarantee  women’s safety and equality in the workplace.  What they want are more “protections” that meet with the stamp of approval from feminist mouthpieces and the social engineers, many of whom were architects of the current “no sexual rules/no judgment” ethos that led to the present state.

Listening to the feminist punditry, where the total historical illiteracy about how we arrived in the current cultural cesspool, amazes me.  The shrieking about “equality” completely misses the point.  They are angry that so many men, even those who spout feminist dogma and support feminist political policies,  treat women disrespectfully and like sex toys.  Many of these feminist mouthpieces spent decades preaching against chivalrous male behavior, against sexual constraints and most especially against judging any sexual behavior as wrong.  Now, they want men to behave like gentlemen and to treat them as “equals”.

Men and women aren’t “equal”, they are very different, especially when it comes to impulse control and sex.  That is reality.  Many social engineers on the Left have been intent on defying  human nature and creating imaginary human beings that don’t exist.  Their social experiments leave many hurt and confused people in their wake, but just like all utopians, they march ever onward, believing their ideology just hasn’t been tried right yet.

The reality is people are sinful – that is our nature.  People function best with clear rules and guidelines.  Take away all the rules, especially on sexual conduct, debauchery,  and sexual deviancy, and the debasement of society is guaranteed.  It isn’t enlightening or liberating to promote a “do whatever you feel like doing” culture, it’s a recipe for societal suicide.

In the late 90s, I purchased a book, Simple Social Graces: The Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living, written by Linda S. Lichter.  I expected a book about things like proper table settings and formal etiquette, but this book was a sociological study of  the gradual decline of Victorian culture and a rise of  our “let it all hang out” culture.  In the introduction Lichter wrote:

“Our century has slammed this code as elitist and divisive.  Wrong on both counts.  I will show why common courtesy, like common currency, was vital to establishing a strong sense of community and preventing chaos in the ethnically diverse Victorian world.  Ironically, our politically correct prescription not only fragments the nation, it is elitist — the alleged Victorian sin.  PC practices and politics are the exclusive province of certain victimized groups, whereas the commonness of courtesy makes it all-inclusive.  Civility was once considered everyone’s civil right.”

Page 2, Simple Social Graces: The Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living, by Linda S. Lichter.

Lichter covered a lot of ground in this book explaining Victorian health practices, manners, romance, dating, male/female relationships, child rearing, and the pervasive belief in showing respect for others in all aspects of life.  She delved into the underlying cultural beliefs that permeated Victorian society, which often is misunderstood as repressive prudery, but really in the chapter, The Benevolence of Manners, Lichter points out the shift in priorities, noting that etiquette books were widely popular in the nineteenth century and pornography was sold under the counter, while now even the children’s book section has plenty of books about sex and barely any teaching manners.  Lichter suggested:

“Because good manners was the main Victorian route to self-improvement, the manners in these books had the force of law –and more.  “For instance the law cannot punish a man for habitually staring at people in an insolent and annoying manner,” said one self-proclaimed Guide to True Politeness published in 1866, “but etiquette can banish such an offender from the circles of good society, and fix upon him the brand of vulgarity.”  The recovery of civility depends upon reviving the stigma once attached to vulgarity and ranking it as high as “sexist” or “racist” in the scale of social and professional taboos.”

page 75,  Simple Social Graces: The Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living, by Linda S. Lichter.

The cultural shifts away from Victorian values,  where building character and civic responsibility reigned supreme, evolved into the modern cult of devotion to self-indulgence in the early 1900s, long before the 1960s sexual revolution.  The 60s cultural revolution supplanted all cultural restraints with an ethos of mindless self-gratification, as the highest aspiration in life.

Teaching moral values became controversial since the 1960s and judging certain behaviors, especially sexual behavior, came under attack from the new social arbiters, modern feminists.   The decades since the 1960s have been fraught with clashes between conservative Christians, those retrograde clingers to more traditional moral values,  and the popular liberal culture dominated by feminists, Hollywood, and leftist American academia.

Leaders on the Left have been forever organizing to protest, march, sit-in and screech about change, always focused on more legislation to propel their social engineering, so don’t expect any guidance from them on morality.

Numerous  small insurgencies against the pervasive American popular society, dominated by the 60s social architects, gained sizable followings.  Most of those cultural insurgencies centered on charlatans in the political Right, preaching “family values” or Tea Party champions like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck.  These movements centered on the personalities of these leaders and were geared toward these leaders shamelessly hawking merchandise, books and using endless gimmicks to make a lot of money.  Even the Evangelical movement in America is dominated by a cult of personality, with their mega-churches, political groups, and television stardom being more important than preaching about moral values or leading by example.

In 2016, America elected a leader who has made vulgarity his “winning” brand.  Droves of these moralizers from America’s morality movement gleefully boarded the Trump train without reservation, tossing their morals out the window in favor of politically expedient binary-thinking.  The Trump Make America Great Again cult  believes that supporting Trump is more important than morals or principles.  They believe that Trump is America’s last best hope and are fully committed to “In Trump We Trust”, no matter what.

When you think the American cultural morass can’t get any worse, this latest “national conversation” on  sexual harassment and sexual assault has moved the bar even lower.  The extreme partisanship, thriving on morally corrosive binary-thinking, has pushed partisans to a point of complete abdication of ethical standards.  In recent days, there are evangelical pastors willing to champion a man in his thirties accused of molesting a 14 year-old girl.  Some of these pastors have not only stated they don’t believe the accusations against Moore, but have expressed the belief that even if Moore had molested a young girl, it doesn’t matter.  One pastor stated that some 14 year olds look 20, so if Moore had molested her, it was her own fault.  The governor of Alabama, a woman, has come out and said she believes the women’s allegations against Moore, but she will still vote for him, because of getting judges confirmed in the Senate.  On the Left, there are feminists already crafting updated “one free grope” talking points, to rationalize keeping Democrats accused of sexual assault in office, because although their behavior is bad, these politicians “support” feminist issues.

So, basically, on both sides, who cares about character or morality, it’s the partisan political issues that supersede all other considerations.

Sadly, the problems of racism and sexism appear to be growing and millions of  Americans, on the left and right, celebrate the most vulgar, sexually provocative behavior and gleefully react like rabid sports fans over every media sensationalized political controversy.  In this media-driven reality TV political environment everything in America is now a scorched earth partisan political sideshow.

We have no common values or shared beliefs anymore.  Only more scorched earth attacks trying to expose and destroy as many of the opposing partisans as possible and always more Tweet storms.

Millions of partisans on both  sides believed the 2016 election was a binary choice for America.  They believed that America’s very survival depended on either Hillary or Trump, because, God forbid, the one they opposed  would assuredly lead America to ruin.

America is about much larger ideals and beliefs than any one person.

Here’s the truth, if America’s future ever depends on one person to save it; we are doomed!

America depends on “we the people” committed to supporting  and defending The Constitution.  One person can’t save America or destroy it, but all of us can work to find some common ground, some common ideals, some common aspirations.

In the end, America’s future depends on what we believe.  Hopefully, we can find our way beyond cults of personality and rabid partisan politics to retrace our steps and find our way toward believing in values and principles larger than Republican or Democrat partisan politics.

Perhaps we can find our way toward believing in being good citizens again.  Here again, Lichter’s book on “simple social graces” explained:

“What were the nuts and bolts of the remarkable code that sustained the lawfulness and civility we associate with the Victorian era?  It had a broad and inclusive religious foundation that was a far cry from Bible-thumping moralism.  It stressed hard work, frugality, sobriety, honesty, civic responsibility, sexual decency, good deeds, self-restraint and self-sacrifice.”

page 8, Simple Social Graces: The Lost Art of Gracious Victorian Living, by Linda S. Lichter.

Even a few sips of that Victorian tea would be truly refreshing…

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under American Character, Civility, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics

Tall order there

Until this 2016 Russian collusion hysteria, I believe our government was not as attuned to the Russian information warfare tactics, as they should have been.    Over the past couple decades, I believe the Russians have been actively involved in regaining their active measures level as before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The West has now taken notice of the Russian information warfare threat, but in typical American partisan fashion, the mainstream media and Left only want to hype the activities, by framing in terms of “Russian collusion stole the election from Hillary”.  Trump and FOX are attempting to discount almost all of the information about the Russian active measures, except to try to cast it as Hillary was colluding with the Russians with the Trump dossier.

Both sides are missing the point.  The Russians have been actively fomenting partisan rancor, fueling fears and conspiracy theories within many American political groups and especially trying to incite extreme fringe political factions for many years – not just during the 2016 presidential election.

A story in the Texas Tribune yesterday reported:

“Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.”

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/11/01/russian-facebook-page-organized-protest-texas-different-russian-page-l/?utm_campaign=trib-social&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_content=9091521508

The Russians, using facebook pages, incited two opposing groups of partisans to protest in front of a mosque in Texas.  Since the American government is just now realizing the scope of the Russians online information warfare activities, it will be interesting to see how large the Russians operations are and how long they have been running some of these operations.

Here’s a 65 page preliminary list the House intel released on Russian bot handles on Twitter: https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/exhibit_b.pdf

The Democrats are gleefully talking about the Russian- funded facebook ads meant to disparage Hillary, as ammunition against Trump, but I suspect the Congressional investigations into the Russians info war against America are just scratching the surface.  I suspect the Russians ran active measures to agitate BLM, the Tea Party activism, the Jade Helm hysteria, the Sandy Hook conspiracies, the President Obama birther crap and many more.   Much of the messaging is recycled.  I remember in the past year seeing a map meant to incite a different conspiracy theory being retweeted and it was the same Jade Helm map that had circulated during the Jade Helm hysteria in 2015.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

“The ads released Wednesday cover only a small part of how the Russians targeted Americans on Facebook and other American-owned social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The biggest impact, several independent researchers have said, was through ordinary free posts by Russian-backed Facebook groups. Those posts reached up to 126 million Americans, Facebook said, far more than the 11.4 million who saw the ads.

These Facebook ads, like several others that had emerged in news reports over the past several weeks, had the apparent goal of needling Americans’ cultural sore spots.

“The strategy is to take a crack in our society and turn it into a chasm,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said during the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/technology/ct-russian-facebook-ads-20171102-story.html

The mainstream media is hyping the Russians social media footprint and alluding to the FOX News bizarre Trumpathon propaganda being connected to the Russians, but they are blind to the fact that the Russians infiltrated the American “mainstream” media, Hollywood and American academia over the past 100 years.  They don’t have to work hard to spread their messaging in the mainstream media, with so many dupes and fellow travelers at the ready.

The American government is just now getting “woke” to the scope of the Russian information war being clandestinely waged against all of America’s valued institutions and the American people. Even the US military and veterans are being targeted by the Russians using social media:

“Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/09/russian-operatives-used-twitter-and-facebook-to-target-veterans-and-military-personnel-study-says/?utm_term=.07785202b04chttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/09/russian-operatives-used-twitter-and-facebook-to-target-veterans-and-military-personnel-study-says/?utm_term=.07785202b04c

Kind of hard to play offense in an information war, when you are years behind in even realizing you’ve been under attack and the enemy has successfully set-up shop spreading disinformation using media front operations that millions of Americans trust.

The grease that keeps the Russian active measures churning is corruption.  They feed and exploit the corruption in the countries they target.  The Clinton and Trump wholesale public corruption enabled the Russians  to exploit our political system.   It’s a sure bet the Russians have enough dirt on the Clintons and Trump to play both of them or strategically leak to keep the partisan rancor in America churning.  Dealing with the widespread corruption in both political parties is a national security imperative.

Trying to shut down Russian messaging is like trying to patch a dam that has already collapsed.  Educating Americans about the Russian disinformation will serve better than hysterically trying to stop all their disinformation.  Sure, it’s important to identify the Russian bots and troll farms and shut them down, but “influence operations” work because they are finding messages that Americans are buying into.

Winning the hearts and minds of as many Americans as possible, to becoming good citizens committed to protecting and defending The Constitution, is the offensive strategy we need to defeat the Russian information war.  The only way for America to win is to find a way to unite more Americans around American values, American institutions and most of all around The Constitution.  Tall order there.

2 Comments

Filed under American Character, Corrupt Media Collusion, General Interest, Information War, Military, Politics

Enough is enough

My husband served in the U.S. Army, always an infantryman, from 1975 to 1999.  He is a Grenada and Desert Storm veteran.  When he decided to retire in 1999, his decision surprised me, because I believed he would serve 30 years, which was the limit for his rank.

When he talked to me about his decision to retire, his reasons were a combination of two factors.  The first factor was some of our kids were in high school and didn’t want to move again.  However, the larger factor was my husband had become very disillusioned with how political the Army had become among Army leadership.  A frequent complaint he voiced was that too many officers are politicians more than soldiers these days.

That was 1999.  Last summer, as America’s political parties were holding their presidential conventions,  the politicization of America’s generals moved on-stage at both the Republican and Democrat conventions, with generals literally on-stage spouting partisan rhetoric.

It alarmed me.

Everything in America now can become a political football, a cause for protest, a “national conversation”.

Words mean things.

Definition of conversation

1obsolete :conductbehavior

2(1) :oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas

  • … we had talk enough but no conversation; there was nothing discussed.
  •  —Samuel Johnson

(2) :an instance of such exchange :talk 

  • a quiet conversation

b :an informal discussion of an issue by representatives of governments, institutions, or groups 

  • conversations among the senators

c :an exchange similar to conversation 

  • We had a conversation by e-mail.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conversation

A conversation requires, not only talking, it requires listening, a willingness to open our hearts and minds to other people’s ideas, viewpoints, experiences and feelings.   It requires a degree of mutual respect between people.

In America, where scorched earth information warfare rages, like I wrote in my last blog post, even the most trivial issue can become a national political battle.  There are only skirmishes, thrusts and hit and run attacks, where each side attacks, tries to draw as much blood as possible, then retreats to reload for the next ambush.

There assuredly are few real “national conversations” about anything.

I’ve been guilty of putting on partisan blinders too, but I am working to remove them and refocus on looking at people as individuals, rather than pigeonhole them into an us or them tribe.   President George W. Bush gave a very powerful speech on that topic this past week:

“We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.”

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/19/full-text-george-w-bush-speech-trump-243947

General John Kelly gave a powerful speech too and one comment struck me:

“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred. You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.

Gold Star families, I think that left in the convention over the summer. But I just thought — the selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on the battlefield, I just thought that that might be sacred.”

A few things need to be clarified about this past week’s scorched earth information skirmish.  Some on the Left are using SGT La David Johnson’s death to create a narrative for “Trump’s Benghazi” and to attack General Kelly.  On the right, vile Trump mouthpieces, like Sheriff David Clarke, have used this skirmish to sink to the level of attacking  Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s looks:

. calling Frederica Wilson “whacky” is putting it mildly. The woman is a buffoon. Look at her.

The Trump spin masters are trying to divert attention away from the Gold Star family controversy and onto a Clinton/Uranium One storyline.

This morning Kurt Schlichter, one of the most dedicated Trump Twitter troopers, tweeted:

Put aside all the gold star stuff and George Bush’s catiness and understand that the Hillary uranium story is the only story.

Schlichter is a retired Army officer.  SGT La David Johnson hadn’t even been buried yet.  His funeral was this afternoon.

So many, on both sides of this scorched earth information war, are so entrenched at scoring cheap political points and “winning”, that all sense of decency has been lost.

Frederica Wilson might be a rabid partisan hack or she might be a friend of SGT Johnson’s family or she could be both, but her comments don’t have grave national consequences.

President Trump is the Commander-In-Chief.  He has a sacred DUTY to all serving in the United States Armed Forces.

How he handles this situation can have lasting impact on the morale and welfare of all of America’s brave men and women serving in uniform.

Trump mouthpieces and friendly pundits are working to do damage control, writing stories about how much President Trump cares about the military and penning pieces quoting other Gold Star families who received calls from President Trump and feel his words were comforting.  All that misses the point.

Military families need to have trust in our military chain of command and that starts with the President setting the right example.

President Trump has a duty to reassure the family of SGT La David Johnson that he did not mean to disrespect them and that he honors SGT Johnson’s sacrifice.

That is the right thing to do.

11 Comments

Filed under American Character, General Interest, Military, Politics, Things That Matter

Mutually Assured Destruction

“In the nuclear age, the revised maxim might well be amplified — but not, as might be expected, by inserting the word ‘nuclear’. For if the nuclear power now available were unleashed and not merely maintained as a deterrent, its use would mean ‘chaos’ not ‘war’, since war is organised action, which could not be continued in a state of chaos. The nuclear deterrent, however, does not apply and cannot be applied to the deterrence of subtler forms of aggression. Through its unsuitability for the purpose it tends to stimulate and encourage them. The necessary maxim is now ‘If you wish for peace, understand war — particularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war.”

page 361, Chapter on Guerrilla Warfare of Strategy, written by B.H. Liddell Hart, Copyright Faber & Faber, Ltd. London, England 1954, 1967

President Trump loves the military…

He wants his followers to know he is a fighter.

His political operatives touted him as the GOP Insurgent.

He won the 2016 scorched earth information war and defeated not only Hillary Clinton, but many in the mainstream media, who were colluding with her to try to destroy Trump with damaging stories. The Russians actively participated in America’s 2016 information war too.

This week is a typical “squirmish” in America’s endless scorched earth  information war.  These skirmishes consist of the media and Trump engaged in short-lived, emotionally intense battles for control of the 24/7 news cycle.  Both sides go “nuclear”, without any concerns about collateral damage or fallout, because after all, this is a war of words and no one is literally dying, right?

This week’s Trump sideshow is a typical Trump diversion.  He wasn’t man enough to just admit he hadn’t called the families of these recently fallen soldiers, so he turned the question into an attack on President Obama and other recent presidents.  He is the ultimate Mr. Whataboutism.  He will never admit to any weakness or mistake.

President Trump lies, as often and as outrageously as necessary, until he provokes his opponents to overreact.  His lies are “attacks” – they are his weapons and he uses them ruthlessly.  Once his opponents overreact, he will pick apart their statements looking for untruths or bits and pieces he can manipulate to discredit them.  He will lob his “alternative facts”, wrap himself in the American flag and borrow the honor of  “the generals” to sway his followers to remain loyal.

This week’s “squirmish” is just a slight plot change from Trump’s 2016 vet fundraiser.

Trump’s vet fundraiser, January 28. 2016 was a Trumper tantrum retaliation against FOX News and Megyn Kelly.  Trump claimed his fundraiser raised over 6 million dollars and he personally pledged a million dollar donation.

In February 2016, a Weekly Standard reporter contacted the Trump Foundation for information on the fundraiser:

“On Thursday, I contacted the Donald J. Trump Foundation by email with a few questions about how the $6 million had been or was being disbursed. Five minutes later, I received a phone call from Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s presidential campaign manager. Lewandowski said a list of the recipients had been made public and that more recipients were being added all the time. How much had those recipients received? Lewandowski couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say. As a non-profit organization, he said, the Trump Foundation would release all the required details of its disbursements at the end of the fiscal year. To find out before then, he said, I’d have to contact the recipients themselves.

“The list is publicly available,” he said. “You can do your homework and ask the veterans’ organizations.”

Why wouldn’t the Trump Foundation want to publicize how much it had donated? (Especially given the fact that in recent years, Trump’s charity organization had given more money to the Clinton Foundation than to veterans.) And why, when asking about the Foundation’s disbursements, had a representative of the campaign called? With no other options, however, I took Lewandowki’s advice.”

http://www.weeklystandard.com/some-vet-groups-still-waiting-for-trump-foundation-checks/article/2001154

Months later reporters began asking more questions about which vet charities received that money and if Trump had made good on his million dollar pledge.  On May 28, 2016,Trump staged a big show where he attacked the media and had his million dollar check for a vet charity:

  “As recently as last week, Trump’s campaign manager had insisted that the mogul had already given that money away. But that was false: Trump had not.

In recent days, The Washington Post and other media outlets had pressed Trump and his campaign for details about how much the fundraiser had actually raised and whether Trump had given his portion.

The candidate refused to provide details. On Monday, a Post reporter used Twitter — Trump’s preferred social-media platform — to search publicly for any veterans groups that had received Trump’s money.”

Later Monday evening, Trump called the home of James K. Kallstrom, a former FBI official who is chairman of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation. The charity aids families of fallen Marines and federal law enforcement officers.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/05/24/four-months-later-donald-trump-says-he-gave-1-million-to-veterans-group/?utm_term=.471cc9ad77be

Trump was the one who politicized his vet fundraiser, in fact, the entire fundraiser was a political stunt.  Just like in previous “skirmishes” Trump goes nuclear with his war of words, but the media and Left go nuclear too.

On Monday, a reporter asked President Trump why he hadn’t commented on the recent deaths of American soldiers in Niger.

President Trump hadn’t called the families of those fallen soldiers, but instead of saying that, he attacked President Obama and other presidents:

“If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls — a lot of them didn’t make calls — I like to make calls when it’s appropriate,” Trump said at a news conference in the Rose Garden when asked about why he had not addressed the recent deaths of American troops in Niger.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/trump-s-false-claim-about-obama-fallen-soldiers-n811206

The media and former Obama officials immediately countered Trump’s assertion and General Dempsey, who has tried to remain apolitical, also countered Trump’s assertion.

President Trump then inserted General Kelly and “generals” into the controversy, telling reporters to ask them if President Obama had called the families of fallen soldiers.  General Kelly’s son was killed in action.

At this point, the “facts” seem to indicate that President Obama did not call General Kelly when his son was killed in action.  However, at an event honoring Gold Star families, the Kellys sat at the table with First Lady, Michelle Obama, six months after the death of Kelly’s son.

President Trump then called the families of the recently fallen soldiers.  A Democratic congresswoman, who is a Trump hater heard the call.  She claims President Trump disrespected the grieving family.  There are also reports of a previous Gold Star family, whom Trump had called in June and promised them that he would personally send a check of $25,000 to them.  He never sent the check, until yesterday, after the media started asking about it.

This week’s squirmish follows the same script as his million dollar vet fundraiser boast.

The battle lines are now drawn and it is President Trump who politicized the deaths of fallen soldiers.  He is the one who refused to answer a simple question honestly on Monday.  He had not called the families of those 4 fallen soldiers, who died on October 4th, but rather than admit that, he lashed out about President Obama and other presidents not calling grieving Gold Star families.  He is also the one who interjected General Kelly into this issue and now he and the White House are borrowing on General Kelly’s honor to try and do damage control.

That is the truth.

The media and Left, smelling blood, went nuclear, digging up “facts” to not only counter Trump, but to try and turn this issue into an “impeachable offense” and destroy him.

The truth is President Trump uses the military as stage props, beginning with his “squirmish” with FOX News over Megyn Kelly’s “unfair” debate question in August of 2015, which he whined about for 8 long months.  That question was not “unfair”.  It was a question about how Trump treats women.  Trump and his media friends waged an all out attack on Megyn Kelly and Trump called Roger Ailes, trying to get Kelly removed as debate moderator.

He was trying to use his influence to damage the career of a news analyst.

Ailes refused to remove Megyn Kelly, so Trump boycotted that debate and orchestrated a “vet fundraiser”  to try and draw viewers away from watching that GOP primary debate.  He was USING the U.S. military as stage props to make himself look patriotic.

It looks like President Trump used information, that General Kelly confided in him, as a nuclear blast against President Obama, to score some cheap points in this latest squirmish. He betrayed the trust of one of his generals. It appears that President Obama had not called General Kelly when Kelly’s son died and I hope that President Obama can be a bigger man than President Trump and call General Kelly .  Apologize for the oversight, because it does appear that General Kelly was hurt by not receiving a call from his commander-in-chief.

In a few days this latest controversy will be eclipsed by another info war “skirmish”.  In fact, the Trump operatives are already launching another nuclear info war attack to discredit Robert Mueller.  President Trump was tweeting this morning, lashing out at the FBI, accusing them of colluding with the Russians.  Another diversionary tactic, but he is always “winning” the 24/7 news cycle with these nuclear blasts.  He totally eclipses everything, even the sun…

The collateral damage from scorched earth information warfare isn’t dead bodies, it’s America’s heart and soul.  The very fibers of our national character get stretched and torn a little more with each, almost daily, “squirmish” and the indiscriminate flame-throwing leaves America a toxic nuclear wasteland of angry, seething people, who hate and distrust each other.

President Trump possesses a unique gift for dividing people and playing people against each other. He is now using “the generals” in his vicious scorched earth information war.

Scorched earth information warfare’s only outcome can be the destruction of America’s national character.

And Chaos.

There are no winners.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Character, Culture Wars, General Interest, Information War, Military, Politics, The Media

Our Thoth,  God of 140-characters

My first two altered book junk journals.  The one on the left is for my oldest daughter, who loves primitive country type stuff.  For her book, Ann Coulter’s Godless, was transformed into a lovely autumn journal.  The book on the right was an “alterable book” I purchased at a craft store long ago.  The covers are very simple – more old calendar pictures cut-up and glued on with Mod Podge.  The spines are covered with old Walmart clearance ribbon.  The little metal word pieces have been in my scrapbooking supplies for many years.

The sampler image, on the left, is from The Lang Country Sampler 2009 calendar, artwork by Ellen  Stouffer.  The image on right is from my 2006 Holly Hobbie calendar.

In the early 2000s, I purchased several books on how to make altered books, but the altered book projects looked more like art journals, way beyond my very basic crafting skill  level, and although well-written, with clear step-by-step instructions, I didn’t have the confidence to attempt making one.

In 2017, after watching many hours of YouTube “junk journal” videos, I decided to try making some myself. Thinking about “altered books” as making “junk journals” from old “junk” removed a mental block for me.

The words we use can completely change how we, not only perceive the world, but they can also “alter” reality.  In many previous posts, I’ve written about America’s raging war of words (here, here, here, here).

Politicians have always used words to influence people.  Andrew Robinson, in the introduction of his 1995 book, The Story of Writing, wrote:

Writing and literacy are generally seen as forces for good.  It hardly needs saying that a person who can read and write has greater opportunities for fulfillment than one who is illiterate.  But there is also a dark side to the spread of writing that is present throughout its history, if somewhat less obvious.  Writing has been used to tell lies as well as truth, to bamboozle and exploit as well as to educate, to make minds lazy as well as to stretch them.

Socrates pinpointed our ambivalence towards writing in his story of the Egyptian god Thoth, the inventor of writing, who came to see the king seeking royal blessing on his enlightening invention.  The king told Thoth: ‘You, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess… You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant.’  In a late 20th century world drenched with written information and surrounded by information technologies of astonishing speed, convenience and power, these words spoken in antiquity have a distinctly contemporary ring”

page 8, The Story of Writing, by Andrew Robinson, Copyright  1995 Thomas & Hudson Ltd, London

Back in 1992, when he ran for president, Bill Clinton became a household name, as did his nickname, Slick Willie, which he had acquired back in Arkansas, due to his remarkable way of using words to deceive people.  Pulitzer prize winning journalist, Paul Greenberg, coined the Slick Willie nickname in 1980 and it stuck with Bill Clinton ever since:

“Greenberg saw Slick Willie as a waffler, a zigzagger, a master of obfuscation — the unworthy alter-ego of Clinton, the compassionate idealist. Greenberg concluded that, like Faubus, Clinton had presented a facade of making great progress during his first term when he had retreated on his basic promises. He talked about preserving the environment, for instance, but appeased the chicken industry. Slick Willie became a recurring character for Greenberg. All other Clinton monikers — “Kid Clinton,” “Boy Governor,” “Young Smoothie” — were retired.

In Slick Willie, Greenberg felt, he had found the perfect coinage. “It doesn’t mean liar. It means dissembler,” he explains now. “This is a particular subspecies of lying. It’s a very lawyerly, sophisticated, elastic lie. In my opinion, the old-fashioned lie would be a step up.””

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/clinton/stories/slick122098.htm

Bill Clinton is a brilliant politician, who masterfully uses words and has a rare gift for sophisticated obfuscation.

Donald J. Trump is the king of conflating issues  His use of words is the polar opposite of Bill Clinton’s brand of “slick”.  Trump uses simplistic “branding” phrases, often divorced from the rest of the sentences he utters.  The sentences don’t matter in Trump’s dumbed-down, branding type of information warfare.

Trump transformed the Clinton spin information warfare, that relied on carefully worded, focus-group tested talking points, repeated by a vast army of colluding journalists and political operatives, into rapid-fire, Army of One, Trump-driven 140-character, daily information warfare guerilla attacks.

He’s using guerilla warfare tactics in an information war.

Trump word salad attacks break all the rules.  He strikes with bold-faced lies and never looks back. Trump doesn’t even bother to obfuscate.  He boldly lies, then insists all those around him repeat and back his lies, no matter how outrageous the lie.

He has perfected the art of conflating issues into being all about “Make America Great Again”. Trump seized on the issue of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest over racial injustice and conflated it into disrespecting the U.S. military.  He creates endless reality TV conflicts, casting himself as the champion of American patriotism, who is the constantly maligned victim of the dastardly “fake news”. He wants to keep his supporters agitated and angry, while he wraps himself in the American flag and MAGA sound bites.

Yesterday, in his effort to deflect from a reporter questioning why he hasn’t called the families of recently fallen soldiers, Trump bold-faced lied about President Obama and other presidents, claiming they didn’t call fallen soldiers’ families.

General Dempsey, who has tried to stay out of the 2016 information war, took to Twitter last night to counter Trump’s LIE.

Our Thoth, God of 140-characters, manages to manipulate millions, mostly poor white people, by playing to their insecurities, their prejudices and most of all their anger.

The smarter Trump followers aren’t blind to his many flaws, but they’ve bought into a Faustian bargain, all prefaced on the belief that America is at the Flight 93 crisis point:

“2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.”

http://www.claremont.org/crb/basicpage/the-flight-93-election/

At every Trump outrage they cringe, but then they fortify themselves by talking amongst themselves about how the Left is worse, but Gorsuch, and turn up the volume of FOX News blaring about how Trump is “making America great again”.  And of course, the Left leads only to American demise… Trump is the last best hope in their view.

Trump is a “fighter”…

Flight 93 had some real heroes on board; the Trump propaganda train jumped the tracks into tin pot dictator level, Dear Leader, bowing and scraping.

Over the weekend, I walked into the room where my husband was watching FOX News, like always.  Jerry Falwell, Jr. was blathering on about how President Trump will likely go down in history as a great president, as great as President Lincoln.  The FOX  sycophantic hosts are as dutiful as the Pink Lady in North Korea.

They smiled, heads nodding, and agreed with Falwell.

Make America Great Again…

Leave a comment

Filed under American Character, Corrupt Media Collusion, Culture Wars, General Interest, Information War, Military, Politics, The Media, Uncategorized