Category Archives: Military

Beyond Little Women

On November 1st Brad Thor tweeted, “Happy #NationalAuthorsDay everyone.”  He also attached a quote:

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.

– Richard Bach

Brad Thor is another author on my “need to read some of his novels” list, since the spy novel genre is one I do enjoy.  Don’t have any explanation for why I haven’t read any of his novels yet, but I’m moving him up on my reading list.

I admire successful writers.  For decades my writing dream has centered on writing historical romance novels, not the usual lofty aspiration of penning the next great American novel.  Of course, since I have yet to apply myself to actually writing any historical romance, my dream assuredly won’t ever come true, lol.  I hesitantly and with great trepidation began writing this blog in 2012 and thus far, that’s the extent of my writing effort.

I also admire great storytellers and I’ve met many entertaining storytellers in my life.  My great-grandmother, with her third grade education and very heavy PA Dutch accent was a gifted storyteller.  As a child I loved to sit and listen to her oft-told stories of  “when I was a young girl” or “life on the farm”.  She had a knack for using her voice to create sound effects to invoke the setting of her story, using her hands as an extension of her voice and a great sense of pacing her stories to hold your interest.  I wish I had jotted down some of her stories.

Sometimes I’ve met wonderful storytellers in doctor’s waiting rooms or even at informal gatherings.  My husband had one group of  friends when he was in the 82nd Airborne, who would often hang out at our house on weekends in the early 1980s.  These three guys would tell stories and jokes, that were more entertaining than whatever movie or show they had  playing on TV in the background.  The more they drank, the more hilarious their stories became, to the point that, me, the only one not drinking, was laughing hysterically like I was the one who was three sheets to the wind.

Last week, while browsing through my hundreds of unread and, um, mostly unopened free classics saved on my kindle, I decided to try Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott.   Alcott based the sketches on her short experience as a Civil War nurse in a makeshift hospital in Washington.  Considering the setting and subject matter, I began reading with a bit of foreboding.  Alcott did relate plenty of heart wrenching scenes, horrific injuries, primitive medical procedures, and the ever-increasing number of deaths, but along with that she added inspirational vignettes, witty observations and hilarious anecdotes.  I didn’t expect to laugh out loud reading about a Civil War hospital.

At only 60 pages, Hospital Sketches is a very quick read, but it’s enough to give you a taste of Alcott’s wicked sense of humor.   Around the Army, I found food was always a hot topic for dissection and ridicule, even though in all honesty I drew the winning ticket in the Army food lottery, during my short time in the Army.  I was sent to Fort Dix, NJ in 1979 for basic training,  My mother understandably, considering she had no familiarity with Army life, beyond TV and movies, worried that I would wither away having to eat horrible food, so she started sending care packages with homemade cookies and such.  I told her to desist, since we weren’t allowed to have that – just our mess hall food.

Actually, my Fort Dix mess hall food, being part of my winning ticket in the Army food lottery, was excellent for institution food.  I kept reassuring my mother in letters and calls that the food is very good and being one who really likes to eat, I had to worry about putting on weight, even in basic training.  When my parents came to Fort Dix for my basic training graduation, there was a food spread in the mess hall for graduates and their families.  My mother’s eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw a table with desserts and fruit choices replete with a fancy ice sculpture in the middle.  It was really quite impressive.  Fort Dix was where the Army trained Army cooks.  My first duty station in Germany, again, a very good mess hall and luckily for all of us, we even got some hot chow, that was tasty and plentiful,  when we went on field training exercises.

Here’s poor Louisa May Alcott’s recounting of the food during her Civil War nursing experience:

“For a day or two I managed to appear at meals; for the human grub must eat till the butterfly is ready to break loose, and no one had time to come up two flights while it was possible for me to come down. Far be it from me to add another affliction or reproach to that enduring man, the steward; for, compared with his predecessor, he was a horn of plenty; but—I put it to any candid mind—is not the following bill of fare susceptible of improvement, without plunging the nation madly into debt? The three meals were “pretty much of a muchness,” and consisted of beef, evidently put down for the men of ’76; pork, just in from the street; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus; butter, salt as if churned by Lot’s wife; stewed blackberries, so much like preserved cockroaches, that only those devoid of imagination could partake thereof with relish; coffee, mild and muddy; tea, three dried huckleberry leaves to a quart of water—flavored with lime—also animated and unconscious of any approach to clearness. Variety being the spice of life, a small pinch of the article would have been appreciated by the hungry, hard-working sisterhood, one of whom, though accustomed to plain fare, soon found herself reduced to bread and water; having an inborn repugnance to the fat of the land, and the salt of the earth.

Another peculiarity of these hospital meals was the rapidity with which the edibles vanished, and the impossibility of getting a drop or crumb after the usual time. At the first ring of the bell, a general stampede took place; some twenty hungry souls rushed to the dining-room, swept over the table like a swarm of locusts, and left no fragment for any tardy creature who arrived fifteen minutes late. Thinking it of more importance that the patients should be well and comfortably fed, I took my time about my own meals for the first day or two after I came, but was speedily enlightened by Isaac, the black waiter, who bore with me a few times, and then informed me, looking as stern as fate:

“I say, mam, ef you comes so late you can’t have no vittles,—’cause I’m ‘bleeged fer ter git things ready fer de doctors ‘mazin’ spry arter you nusses and folks is done. De gen’lemen don’t kere fer ter wait, no more does I; so you jes’ please ter come at de time, and dere won’t be no frettin’ nowheres.”

It was a new sensation to stand looking at a full table, painfully conscious of one of the vacuums which Nature abhors, and receive orders to right about face, without partaking of the nourishment which your inner woman clamorously demanded. The doctors always fared better than we; and for a moment a desperate impulse prompted me to give them a hint, by walking off with the mutton, or confiscating the pie. But Ike’s eye was on me, and, to my shame be it spoken, I walked meekly away; went dinnerless that day, and that evening went to market, laying in a small stock of crackers, cheese and apples, that my boys might not be neglected, nor myself obliged to bolt solid and liquid dyspepsias, or starve. This plan would have succeeded admirably had not the evil star under which I was born, been in the ascendant during that month, and cast its malign influences even into my “‘umble” larder; for the rats had their dessert off my cheese, the bugs set up housekeeping in my cracker bag, and the apples like all worldly riches, took to themselves wings and flew away; whither no man could tell, though certain black imps might have thrown light upon the matter, had not the plaintiff in the case been loth to add another to the many trials of long-suffering Africa. After this failure I resigned myself to fate, and, remembering that bread was called the staff of life, leaned pretty exclusively upon it; but it proved a broken reed, and I came to the ground after a few weeks of prison fare, varied by an occasional potato or surreptitious sip of milk.”

Alcott, Louisa May. Hospital Sketches (pp. 38-39). . Kindle Edition.

As I was reading this book, it dawned on me that I should be well-versed on Alcott’s writing, considering I bought a 6-volume Louisa May Alcott set, somewhere in the late 70s or early 80s, I think.  Yes, of course I still have the set, but it shames me to admit that I have never read a single one of the books in this set (pictured at the top).

Of course, I googled her bio too, to refresh my memory and see what else I didn’t know about her life and work.  Like many writers and intellectuals of her time, Louisa May Alcott became an ardent abolitionist and early feminist.  Considering necessity compelled Alcott and her sisters to find employment to help the family survive, due to their father’s financial failures, she came by her convictions about fairness in education and work opportunities from a very tough school of hard knocks.  She approached her writing as a means to put food on the table.  Her other jobs included teaching, domestic work, and working as a seamstress.  Her sisters also had to work to help supplement the family income.

Alcott’s rung on the economic ladder sounds very similar to Harriet Beecher Stowe, another of those 19th century female social justice warriors, who seem cut from a more serious mold than so many of our modern version hysterical activists fixated on ridiculous pink pussy hats, online hyperventilating,  and taking to the streets to “raise awareness”  Slavery and women not even able to vote or have much legal footing in any aspect of their lives, including financial matters, education and career opportunities, ring much clearer  as causes for justice than most of our current muddled messages carried by far-left radicals.

Even with her “feminism” Alcott strikes me as a person, who was rebellious by nature and being one of those types myself, I can relate completely to her chagrin at being talked down to or treated like she was a helpless and hapless idiot.  However, here again Alcott describes herself as a pragmatist way more than a committed ideologue. He hilarious description of her fruitless quest to acquire the “free ticket”, required for transport to Washington, to report for her volunteer nursing stint reminded me of many of my own dealings with a situation where it was easier to toss the problem to a man, who cheerfully handled the situation without any fuss.

My situations weren’t difficulties acquiring a “free ticket”, but instead were always car problems that vex me, cause me a lot of anxiety and quite frankly, I don’t want to have to deal with changing tires or oil or doing diagnostics on why the engine is making that bizarre loud sound or God-forbid there’s smoke coming out from under the hood. I prefer to toss all car emergencies to the nice man at the car repair shop or the nice man who stops to take charge of changing my flat tire.  That’s just me.  Here’s Alcott’s feminism meets reality moment, after a day spent running all over the city trying to find the government man who handled doling out “free tickets” for military service transport:

“All in vain: and I mournfully turned my face toward the General’s, feeling that I should be forced to enrich the railroad company after all; when, suddenly, I beheld that admirable young man, brother-in-law Darby Coobiddy, Esq. I arrested him with a burst of news, and wants, and woes, which caused his manly countenance to lose its usual repose. “Oh, my dear boy, I’m going to Washington at five, and I can’t find the free ticket man, and there won’t be time to see Joan, and I’m so tired and cross I don’t know what to do; and will you help me, like a cherub as you are?” “Oh, yes, of course. I know a fellow who will set us right,” responded Darby, mildly excited, and darting into some kind of an office, held counsel with an invisible angel, who sent him out radiant. “All serene. I’ve got him. I’ll see you through the business, and then get Joan from the Dove Cote in time to see you off.”

I’m a woman’s rights woman, and if any man had offered help in the morning, I should have condescendingly refused it, sure that I could do everything as well, if not better, myself. My strong-mindedness had rather abated since then, and I was now quite ready to be a “timid trembler,” if necessary.

Dear me! how easily Darby did it all: he just asked one question, received an answer, tucked me under his arm, and in ten minutes I stood in the presence of Mc K., the Desired.”

Alcott, Louisa May. Hospital Sketches (pp. 8-9). . Kindle Edition.

This post has run on way longer than I intended, so by all means try some of Louisa May Alcott’s writing, beyond Little Women. 

Have a nice day!

 

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Quest for common American values

“In the military, and in a military family, you learn to do something very hard and not of your own choosing, for a cause bigger than yourself. You’re working for a cause determined by the mechanisms of democracy, standing side by side with others who are fully committed. Current U.S. civilian life has a striking absence of “common causes”—tasks that remind us that there is more that unites us than divide us.”

– Kathy Roth-Douquet

America’s Elite Needs to Get Back in Uniform

I’ve had this link saved for over a week, intending to use it in a blog post, but really there’s not much I can add to this excellent piece written by Kathy Roth-Douquet.

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Filed under American Character, Food for Thought, General Interest, Military

A few Cyber & Defense Links

Here are a few links I found interesting:

DEFENDING FORWARD: THE 2018 CYBER STRATEGY IS HERE   – An article at War On The Rocks

National Will to Fight: Why Some States Keep Fighting and Others Don’t  – This is a Rand Study

Why Understanding Is Key to Thwarting Social Media Threats – An article at Stratfor

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Jack Ryan enters the digital age

President Trump’s biggest advantages in the ongoing scorched earth  SPIN information war rest on his willingness to devote most of the energy of his presidency to waging scorched earth character assassinations and his use of his personal Twitter account to lob attacks that not only disrupt the Left/mainstream media SPIN attack, but to actually successfully win control of the SPIN cycles.  Although, everything in this information war takes on names and terminology that make it sound benign, even the shorthand name itself “spinning”,  our SPIN information war provides 24/7 media disinformation and confusion about basic facts on most news stories, foments extreme polarization and disunity, erodes America’s reputation abroad and fuels distrust of the news media and our political institutions.

Yesterday, I spent most of my day watching Amazon Prime’s new Jack Ryan series, after my youngest daughter sent me a message telling me it’s very good and she insisted I would like it.  She knew I was a Tom Clancy fan back when the Cold War provided the setting of his stories.  The writers of this series took the Jack Ryan character and wrote him into a modern-day, fighting Islamic terrorists scenario rather than the Cold War.  I was hooked on this series quickly and watched 6 episodes yesterday.

I’ve often wondered if Tom Clancy was a Sidney Sheldon fan, because the Clancy plotting, using alarming, seemingly unconnected incidents around the globe, then gradually pulling all those incidents together in a dramatic, cataclysmic clash between the good and bad guys, reminded me a great deal of Sidney Sheldon’s high-octane, recipe for plot drama.  Clancy also added an unmatched ability to parlay highly technical military info into terms laymen could easily understand.

I bring this up, because binge-watching Jack Ryan, several things stuck in my mind about how the terrorists operate compared to the doddering hierarchy in our intel agencies.  The terrorists were using a rapid-fire digital means to transfer large sums of money in $10,000 increments, that the fictional new head of  ISIS, developed while studying international banking, living in France as a refugee since the 1980s.

Another interesting operational aspect was one that has been reported in the news in recent years as a means for how terrorists can communicate via some online computer games messaging applications.  The scene in the show, where the tech savvy intel peeps explain the use of a computer game messaging by the terrorists to older government officials, realistically depicts the generational gap when it comes to modern technology.  This gap runs much deeper in real life, I believe, and has caused a grave institutional blindspot to recognizing the threats posed by social media and even recognizing our SPIN information war as actual information warfare rather than benign political public relations work.

Many people working in law enforcement, national security, top military leadership and top government positions don’t use any social media.  In recent years, advice galore permeates warning people in government and law enforcement positions of responsibility to eschew or be very cautious in their social media use.  Too many of them are totally clueless of social media’s reach, so when young people in a foreign country are waging large protests or mobilize sophisticated terrorist recruitment video campaigns, with global reach, on shoestring budgets, often our elected officials and top executive branch officials seem amazed and alarmed, while still not bothering to study online social media and messaging platforms as a serious national security concern.

This awareness gap is, in and of itself, a gaping national security vulnerability. 

Back in 1990s our modern SPIN information war in America began as a one-sided, left-wing operation run by the Clinton’s political operatives.  These people introduced SPIN info war to America, although they masked it as just modern political PR efforts.

At the same time SPIN info war gained prominence among the Left, the political Right began to gain a foothold on using talk radio to galvanize conservatives.  By the late 90s, the SPIN-dominated mainstream media (Leftists) began to hype right-wing talk radio as a national security threat and after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 , a massive SPIN effort by the Left worked to create, what I believe is more urban myth than reality, a huge national security threat from right-wing militias… who communicated using online forums.  In 2016, the Left reinvigorated this old 90s scare-mongering with a vast, new national security threat – the “alt-right”… who, um, da-ding, were organizing and communicating… online.  All that is old is new again, especially in the world of the Left’s SPIN messaging campaigns.  They are relentlessly repetitive, in thought and deed, rerunning the same tired old themes trying to cast their political enemies as Nazis or gun-toting extremists.

The main media battlefield for SPIN information warfare in the 1990s was the 24/7  cable news networks, which spawned whole armies of partisan spinmeisters to wage non-stop spin war.  In 1996, Fox News opened a potent, new front, giving right-wing  partisans a foot on the national cable news SPIN information war battlefield.

President Trump, reportedly, does not use the internet or use email, but he does tweet from his private cell phone.  His information appears to be gleaned from extensive TV viewing of the cable TV news spin battles.  He also uses Twitter, but follows very few people  (47 follows today).  Although, Twitter does not explain exactly what “algorithms” they use to generate each user’s Twitter feed, it is safe to assume that it is based on your followers list, which informs what your interests are.  Trump’s Twitter feed should be of keen interest to America’s national security people, because he is so prone to exploitation and manipulation, with his Twitter supposedly being his only online information source.  Trump’s media follows include: The Drudge Report, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Eric Bolling, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, Jesse Waters, Geraldo Rivera, Diamond and Silk, Greta Van Susteren

Trump was burned retweeting an Ann Coulter tweet by a far-right extremist in the UK, as I’ve mentioned before.  He also got burned earlier than the Coulter retweet over a of a Mussolini quote retweet.  Trump retweets stuff he sees in his Twitter feed.  Now, let that sink in as to the importance of knowing what on earth shows up in Trump’s Twitter feed and who determines what goes into his feed.  I feel sure Trump’s Twitter feed is not left to some benign algorithms to determine what he sees.

Social media political formats come and go.  The Excite message boards disappeared shortly after impeachment.  Much later I used the Yahoo politics chat rooms, always looking for a way to find an online medium to expose what happened to me in 1998.  The yahoo politics chat room crowd migrated to another chat room messaging site, same as how the National Review Disqus comment section ended and supposedly a couple of  NRO Disqus moderators migrated to Qwiket to set up a NR refugee comment section.  Very quickly that Qwiket NRO refugee site morphed into a more modern version of The Drudge Report… The America First News.

Another interesting 2016 site conversion was the site, The Conservative Treehouse, which sports Andrew Breitbart images on the main page wallpaper background.  This site was heavily invested in selling “crowdsourcing” investigations into the black grievance industry pre-Trump.  They do come up with a lot of interesting information, that “crowdsourcing” from commenters does not explain.  They also run the image of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier weekly and post Bible verses to present the image of a conservative right-wing site.  That site morphed into Trump Polling Central during 2016, with detailed, up-to-the-minute Trump rally and polling information.  I suspect both might be foreign front operations.  That the popular Disqus comment section at National Review would be dismantled in 2016, months before the election, then refugees directed to this Qwiket site (there was a piece in The Corner at National Review announcing this Qwiket location) and then that Qwiket location become a another DrudgeReport type news aggregate site with a comments section seems more than a tad odd.  It looked to me like a deliberate effort to sabotage and demolish National Review’s NeverTrump hold-outs.

I’m writing all this, because the “Fake News” hysteria was spin from the Left to use as cover to prod facebook to censor Trump-supporters on facebook and gin up the “Trump/Russian Collusion” spin hysterics.  Trump hijacked that “fake news” spin and turned it right around on the Left.  In recent months allegations of  “shadow-banning” and muting conservatives on facebook and Twitter began rumbling.  A couple weeks ago, several online social media platforms acted in unison to ban Alex Jones from their sites.

This seems to me like a precursor to setting the stage to disband Twitter politics.  The only problem is American journalists rely on the SPIN messaging advantage Twitter provides them to within minutes, using the power of rapid-fire, mass retweets of Dump on Trump “news” stories, to generate SPIN cycles to attack Trump.

Until the Left and mainstream media, who collude constantly to spread Trump dirt, find another online platform, for now Twitter looks to be their default online battlefield.  If they work to dismantle Twitter to take down Trump, they are left with an online vacuum and Trump still controls the POTUS bully pulpit.  All these media hysterics about whether to cover WH briefings, let Kellyanne speak, not cover POTUS are all part of the SPIN information war, not about seriously reporting the news.  That so many “journalists” engage in these debates publicly speaks to the total corruption of American news reporting,  They are as much invested in SPIN information warfare as President Trump.

And back to my original line of thought (until I veered off a bit).  There’s a serious problem when top national security policymakers have no real concept of the power of social media platforms, no realization of the serious threat our scorched earth SPIN information war really is, and remain totally unaware of the importance of becoming well-versed in social media operations as another potent means for information warfare to be waged both in and against America.

We have top generals who don’t have any idea about the power of social media, messaging apps or the grave threat that a SPIN war run amok can create an information void, caused by an overload of SPIN messaging being disseminated and no calm, serious means to sift through the SPIN pile-on to get quick, accurate, reliable information to the American people.  In this SPIN hysteria mode, with the media vs. Trump often running through several spin cycles a day now, it’s becoming obvious that at some point social media and/or SPIN-generated hysteria will incite mass hysteria incidents, flash mobs, or worse.

Are America’s top national security leaders aware and ready for this looming threat?

 

 

 

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

Interesting list of strategic assumptions

Here’s a War On The Rocks article worth reading:

THE U.S. MILITARY’S DANGEROUS EMBEDDED ASSUMPTIONS

by David Barno and Nora Bensahel

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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military, Uncategorized

My favorite Army cookbook

 

This is a really fun Army cookbook, if you ever want to attempt cooking Army recipes from America’s front line troops, throughout American military history.  There’s even a recipe for Colonel George Washington’s small beer.  The recipes come with ingredient lists for feeding 10 or feeding 100.  I really liked that.  And as an added bonus, this book is brimming with tidbits of military history and lore.

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Filed under American History, General Interest, Military

A few links on Ulysses S. Grant

After mentioning Ulysses S. Grant in my latest blog posts, I decided I should read his autobiography, The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant.   His autobiography is easily available free online.  Amazon has several formats, and in digital format they have a  6-part free version:

Part 1 

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

The Gutenberg Library has a free online version here.

Bartleby has free version online too – here.

Often many interesting facets to the character and lives of important political figures get buried under the smears used by their political rivals and detractors.  Grant is probably more widely known for his reputation as a drunk than as the general who led the Union to victory.

Just a bit of casual googling in the past few days and I learned that besides being a former U.S president and general, Grant was also an accomplished watercolor artist.

Recently, I learned that Karen Pence, wife of vice president, Mike Pence, is also an accomplished watercolor artist and has made promoting art therapy programs to help trauma victims a cause she’ll use her position as second lady to promote.  The liberal media has painted her as a far-right, Christian zealot so often that I found it interesting to find out she’s an artist, but even more interesting, she’s a trained pilot:

“Karen comes from a family of pilots. “I was born on an Air Force base,” Karen said on Afternoons With Amos, a radio show. “My dad worked for United Airlines. I kind of grew up around planes. My godfather had his own plane, and when I was a teenager, I got to fly with him and it just kind of got in my blood.”

Although her license is not current, her son Michael has the flying gene. “My son, though, has taken me out because he’s a pilot now, he’s actually an instructor,” she said in the interview.”

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/news/a62233/karen-pence-facts/

The more facets we take the time to see in people, especially people who have been tarred by the media, the easier it is to see them more as sparkling diamonds than as cheap paste jewelry.  Most people defy cookie-cutter descriptions.  Most are complex, with many experiences and interesting tidbits to share.  You can enrich your own life greatly by taking the time to get to know them.

Hope everyone has a nice day and let’s be thankful that yesterday’s missile alarm warning in Hawaii was a false alarm.

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Filed under General Interest, History, Military