America desperately needs moral guidance

One of the worst aspects about “civil wars” is that the political divides often get down to tearing people’s most personal relationships apart too.  Lifelong friendships and even families can be sundered when people feel compelled to choose sides in civil wars.  Few people can maintain neutrality or as my one son says, in most family disputes, “I’m Switzerland on this!”

During the 2016 campaign, many articles reported about the election causing friction and angry disputes within many American families, as the extremely contentious choice between Trump or Hillary began to be hyped as an existential election for America’s future.

Throughout history there have been many of these stories and the American Civil War is rife with stories of the painful “brother against brother” personal tragedy.  During the American Revolution, one of the most famous American founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, and his son, William, who remained loyal to the British crown, severed their relationship over their political divides during the American Revolution:

“On his way back to Philadelphia, Franklin stopped in Rhode Island to meet his sister, Jane Mecom, and take her home with him. The carriage ride through Connecticut and New Jersey was a delight for both Jane and Franklin. The good feelings were so strong that they were able to overcome any political tensions when they made a brief stop at the governor’s mansion in Perth Amboy to call on William. It would turn out to be the last time Franklin would see his son other than a final, tense encounter in England ten years later.”

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The 2016 election divided the country between left and right, but Donald Trump divided the Republican Party and conservatives with his scorched earth “GOP Insurgency”, in ways that the ashes are still smoldering.

Trump’s divisive “GOP insurgency” tactic melded with his strong-arm rhetoric and vicious online mobs (some alleged to be Russian trolls) leading gang-up attacks on conservative sites’ comment forums left the Republican Party fractured and bleeding. Among the conservative punditry circle, many of these divides have led to the destruction of longtime friendships and have been played out in public.  Bill Kristol and Tucker Carlson are engaged in one now.

I’ve written about experiencing the troll gang-up tactics when commenting on some conservative sites, being called a slut and much worse, and I wrote about a night where I was reading the Disqus comments at National Review Online, for a Jonah Goldberg article, when the Disqus comment forum was taken over by people spewing neo-nazi and reprehensible anti-Semitic comments.  That night, the mob of neo-nazis, who were also Trump supporters, had figured out a way to hijack forum moderators’ names, so they were posting their hateful garbage using moderators’ names.  You could check the user profile and see these were new profiles with hardly any comments.  This attack went on for hours, as National Review moderators worked to delete those comments and ban that mob.

David French, a conservative pundit at National Review, and many Jewish reporters and writers experienced receiving threats, but so did some of their families.  I never considered supporting Donald Trump, because his personal behavior is antisocial, where his “he’s a fighter” ethos amounts to juvenile, vicious name-calling and insults,  but even worse he rallies, figuratively and literally, to encourage mob violence.  That is a fact.

Megyn Kelly asked him a question at a debate in August 2015.  What followed was a concerted campaign led by Donald Trump, to destroy her career and encourage his friends in the media to trash her personally.  He personally asked Roger Ailes to remove her as a debate moderator and he waged an 8 month campaign, publicly urging his followers not to watch her show.   Megyn Kelly’s family was threatened.  Donald Trump waged his 8 month campaign to destroy her, because she dared to ask him a question he thought was “unfair”.

David French, a conservative writer at National Review, wrote about what happened to his family from gung-ho Trump supporters:

“I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.”

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Donald Trump and his mouthpieces always lie and say he never encouraged violence, but he did – many times.  During several rallies he urged his followers to punch protesters.  There is plenty of video footage of him doing it.

Why I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real issue about Donald Trump’s moral character is because his performance Tuesday and the smokescreen, about preserving history and “aren’t monuments beautiful”, isn’t the issue.

The issue is the President of the United States gave cover to vile neo-nazis and deliberately mixed a few facts to bolster that lie.

In light of Trump’s some “fine people on both sides” comment on Tuesday and his insistence that the neo-nazis were in Charlottesville to peacefully protest about monuments, it’s important to not lose sight of those “fine people” Donald Trump was talking about.  Here is John Podhoretz’s tweet with their “Unite the Right” poster for the march of “fine people”:

The speakers are a Who’s Who of white supremacists.  Here’s how Robert Tracinski, at The Federalist,  explains:

“Aside from the blatant Nazi style of the imagery, it includes a roster of headliners chosen from various white nationalist groups. So this was a Nazi march from the beginning, planned by Nazis, for Nazis. As to whether any hapless moderates strolled in there thinking this was just about the statue—well, I live in this area and used to be active in the local Tea Party group. I know people who are not white nationalists who oppose the removal of the statues based on high-minded ideas about preserving history. None of them were there, and if they had been, they would have bolted the moment they saw a bunch of guys with torches chanting “Blood and soil.”

What’s truly shocking is that Trump refers twice to “the night before,” that is, to the rally Friday night, before the deadly clash on Saturday, as evidence that some of the protesters weren’t white nationalists. But Friday night was the notorious Citronellanacht, the march with all those tiki-torch-wielding marchers yelling “Blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.””

Yes, there were violent anti-fascists at Charlottesville and yes, I am concerned about preserving our history, although for me, I believe in federalism, so with most of these monuments, the decisions should be left up to the cities and states. With those on federal property, a peaceful, thoughtful debate should take place and a decision rendered.  For anyone to believe these tiki-torch wielding neo-nazis parading through Charlottesville represent preserving American history and values, we hold dear, is reprehensible. President Trump gave them legitimacy and cover.

America would be better off if everyone cared more about our moral foundation and principles as a nation than about jumping on the bandwagon of hot button causes.  The idiocy and moral vacuum are stunning.  In Berkeley, Yvette Felarca, a middle school teacher no less, is facing three charges:

“The charges stem from a June 2016 fight at the state capitol.

Felarca’s group, By Any Means Necessary, was protesting against a white nationalist group.

A video shows Felarca repeatedly punching a man.

The man had both hands up, walking to a line of police officers for help.

Felarca and others dragged the man down and kicked him.”

Here’s Felarca’s defense from the same article:

“Felarca said, “Standing up against fascism and the rise of Nazism and fascism in this country is not a crime. We have the right to defend ourselves.””

There have been protests against white supremacists, breaking out around the country, with people wearing, “Punch a Nazi” shirts.  That you don’t have a right to punch other people, because you disagree with what they believe  is a simple, fundamental moral construct for civil society.   The scarier thought is this woman is a teacher and she’s got supporters protesting on her behalf.

President Trump fails the moral leadership test, but so many on the Left do too.  President Obama always couched the BLM and attacks on police officers with comments about, “we need to understand their pain”, giving the same kind of cover and legitimacy to people who engage in violent, criminal conduct.

Civil society depends on leaders, who will stand up and speak clearly to who we are as an American people.

President Obama was an expert at framing everything as “this is not who we are”, fueling racial animus by giving cover to violence committed in the name of  civil rights. President Trump is fighting out of petty spite and vanity.  He believes:

“When somebody hurts you, just go after them as viciously and as violently as you can.  Like it says in the Bible, an eye for an eye.”

Be paranoid.  I know this observation doesn’t make any of us sound very good, but let’s face the fact that it’s possible that even your best friend wants to steal your spouse and your money.”

p. 138, Trump: How To Get Rich, by Donald J. Trump

I prefer the affirmative form of leadership, leading by clear moral example and setting the standard.  Treat everyone with respect and work to develop some core values.  I was raised with Christian values.  If you don’t want religious values, here are some excellent secular ones to set you on the path to being a good citizen:

In short, the Seven Core Army Values listed below are what being a Soldier is all about.
  • Loyalty. Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. …
  • Duty. Fulfill your obligations. …
  • Respect. …
  • Selfless Service. …
  • Honor. …
  • Integrity. …
  • Personal Courage.


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Filed under American Character, American History, Civility, Culture Wars, General Interest, Making a Difference, Politics, The Constitution

A very excellent opinion piece

Here’s a link to a very thoughtful piece by David Brooks, How To Roll Back Fanaticism, which ran in the New York Times on August 15, 2017.  I meant to post this, but the ensuing Trump commotion sidetracked me.


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Filed under General Interest, Things That Matter

Trump planned that press conference

How leaders operate is crucial to building a strong team.

Last week, President Trump went out and issued threats against North Korea and Venezuela, while his staff was left, once again, doing damage control.

One of the constant leaks from this White House staff is that President Trump went off message or “went rogue”.  Yesterday was another one of those days, with his press conference.

Immediately following that press conference, many reporters were reporting on their WH sources telling them that the President’s comments were not in the prepared speech.

However, President Trump did not go out there and just lose it.  He planned to do exactly what he did.  That is obvious.

Watching how Trump operates from the beginning of his campaign, yesterday was exactly how he plans his attacks on his enemies.  So let’s analyze the Trump modus operandi, in my typical LB timeline fashion:

Saturday, August 12, 2017:  President Trump issued a statement on the deadly violence in Charlottesville. His choice of words drew heavy condemnation.

Sunday, August 13, 2017:  The media backlash and demands that President Trump come out and condemn alt-right, neo-nazis and white supremacists grew.

Monday, August 14, 2017: President Trump issued a stronger statement on Charlottesville, sticking to prepared statements and reading from a teleprompter.  There was still a lot of criticism that the remarks weren’t strong enough and in the afternoon, the president tweeted:

Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017:  President Trump, at a press conference that was supposed to be on infrastructure, engaged in a back and forth verbal battle with the media.

Yesterday morning, before his press conference, President Trump retweeted 2 tweets.  One was from an alt-right figure, Jack Posobiec about “Meanwhile: 39 shootings in Chicago this weekend, 9 deaths. No national media outrage. Why is that?”, linking to a news story.  The other tweet was a cartoon of a Trump train running over CNN.  That cartoon tweet was quickly removed.

Watching General Kelly, the new chief of staff, during yesterday’s press conference, it was obvious he was not expecting the president to “go rogue”.

I suspect others around the president were fully aware that the president was going to come out fighting – he sent the signal to his alt-right followers on Twitter in the morning with that cartoon and Posobiec retweet.

Last night FOX News was in full Trumpathon mode.  They are part of the Trump propaganda circle.

I expect some in Trump’s circle of sleazes were in on the planning, but his own chief of staff was left out of the loop.  The WH staffers, who were caught unaware, were not in the loop.  He undercut most of his staff, who were urging him to act presidential and befitting the office.

Ann Coulter was gleeful last night on Twitter about Trump being back “fighting”.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017:  The media reported Trump will be in Arizona next week for another rally – to keep the agitation propaganda going.  The media reported the White House ordered the Republicans to get behind the President.

During the “GOP Insurgency”, Trump did not bother with details or policy,  but he came with his pockets loaded down with dirt to throw and vicious, petty name-calling.  He walked into that presser prepared to say exactly what he said and the FOX News agitation propaganda blitz, to back him up, was planned in advance too.  President Trump’s media collusion with FOX News is just as corrupt as the Left’s.

This is how he operates – classic Trump.

PS:  The American people should want to know who the president really listens to!


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Filed under Corrupt Media Collusion, General Interest, Politics, The Media

We can all be duped by demagogues

Soul-searching is something we all should do sometimes.

Long ago, I used to be an inveterate channel-flipper watching cable news and when there was some breaking news event, I would flip between the cable news networks and also ABC, NBC, and CBS.  It was a habit I developed in October of 1983.  I was almost 7 months pregnant with my second child and my husband had deployed to Grenada.  Then there was the news void during the first couple days.  I was anxiously hoping for some news.

From that channel-flipping news habit, I started watching all the TV pundits on TV, even the ones I disagreed with on almost every issue.  Back then I would listen to those with views diametrically opposed to my own and I was open to finding small points with which I agreed.

Over the years and with the advent of the internet, my news consumption changed, as I began to get more and more news online and much less from TV.  I think I did what most Americans do – when it comes to political commentary and opinion, I began to go to mostly websites where the views fit my own political viewpoints.  When I did read opinions from liberal writers, I read it looking for ways to counter their arguments, rather than seriously consider them.

President George W. Bush became akin to Hitler in the liberal punditry echo chamber. The election of President Bush followed not only a contentious election, but also the Clinton impeachment, which left American partisans deeply angry and divided.  Just as the mainstream media worked to feed the Bush Derangement Syndrome, FOX News played an outsized role in the constant stream of anti-Obama reporting.  That is the truth.

I disagreed with President Obama on most political issues and he turned me off early with his condescending comment about rural Pennsylvanians “clinging to their guns and religion” comment.  My childhood roots are in rural PA soil.  I also started watching mostly FOX News, when I turned on TV news, because the CNN and MSNBC Obama lovefest had turned me off quickly.

It didn’t take much for me to believe the worst of President Obama, because the Obama administration started talking about their “narratives”, which were concocted stories of events, often “evolving narratives” they hadn’t completely fabricated yet,  and it reminded me of the Clinton “spin”, which was talking points (lies), they colluded with their friends in the media to spread.  Often, the Obama narratives were quickly exposed as being untruthful, just like the Clinton spin.  These untruths fed the right-wing news and punditry information bubble and provided the base for a constant stream of whataboutism and paranoid distrust of President Obama.  The liberal media and punditry do the same thing and in their bubble of whataboutism and paranoia, conservatives are all haters and might be closet Timothy McVeigh wannabes.

I remember when FOX News brought on Glenn Beck and he was busily pointing out all the dangerous Obama administration connections to other dastardly doings and devious leftist demons, with his ever-widening conspiracy circles on his chalkboard.   Beck was entertaining with his presentation, but as I would try to actually connect the dots from many of his shows, I began to suspect he was a con man and something, besides his extremely bizarre emotional outbursts,  seemed very off to me.  Those circles never really connected.

Beck became too controversial and left FOX news and began his online show.  I subscribed and kept watching, trying to figure out what his real game was.  It was like watching a magician who does really amazing card tricks and trying to find out how.  He had on many guests whom I liked and he spouted enough right-wing views to keep me watching.  I still wasn’t 100% convinced he was a total con man and I still listened to him.

One day, I watched his show, where it finally clicked in my mind that his act is all fake. Long before I came to that conclusion I kept wondering about the commercials he ran on his show – the seed bank/build the bunker stuff, the guns, guns, guns, and the people in these ads seemed like total grifters.

The day it all clicked in my mind that he really is a con artist he had some man promoting a haven of American patriot bliss in Idaho on as his guest.  It was a ponzi scheme and Glenn Beck gave this man a platform to dupe people.  That Beck guest, an obvious con man, was selling an imaginary gated community, The Citadel, using American patriotism as a lure, just like Beck.  His gated community existed only as some online scam, where people could send monthly payments for the “collective” to buy land for the community.   He sold this as a place for American patriots to find like-minded people, united by their belief in patriotism, liberty, pride in American exceptionalism and preparedness.

Beck gave this con artist a platform, an audience and credibility to scam people.

I unsubscribed from his online show, but I still ask myself, why I listened to him for so long, despite the uneasiness I had with so much about him.  The answer, I think, is because he was feeding my fears and distrust of President Obama, but he was also carefully couching everything in Tea Party patriotic rhetoric.  I have always loved reading about the American Revolution, the founding fathers, and long before Beck came along with his Being George Washington, in fact since my early teens, I have been captivated by George Washington.

Many people on the right, myself included, lamented how so many on the Left fell for President Obama’s soaring oratory and we mocked Chris Matthews’ rapturous fawning that he felt a tingle up his leg, when Obama spoke.  We asked ourselves, “Why don’t these people see through his demagoguery?”  Then along came Donald Trump with his rousing rallies, flag-waving, get tough on law enforcement – “Make America Great Again”.

During the 2016 campaign, Glenn Beck was against President Trump and supporting Ted Cruz, but his bizarre, on his knees praying antics, actually hurt Ted Cruz.

I don’t have the answers to the scope of the media efforts to deceive Americans, but American news, across the board, has become a partisan wasteland, where tweeting poorly vetted news stories leads to viral stories spreading, long before anyone has even fact-checked the information.

The aftermath of both political parties choosing completely corrupt candidates, who lie constantly and engage in ruthless, scorched earth information war has left America an easy target for hostile disinformation efforts.  The 2016 campaign wasn’t just about the dangers of Russian influence.  It sure seems to me that the American cable news media and most of the other news media turned into total disinformation operations too.

We have a president who is really jazzed about waging information war against the mainstream media, FOX News spreading Trump disinformation 24/7 and most of America’s other journalists and political pundits hanging out on Twitter retweeting each other’s “hot takes”.  Most of them are liberal, most of them supported Hillary, most of them loathe Trump and most of them are click happy about retweeting any negative Trump story, without thorough fact-checking.   In February, even the Washington Post  fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, retweeted the fake racist Fred Trump campaign ad video, without fact-checking it.

Trying to ascertain facts is harder now than during the news void during Grenada.  In 1983 I trusted the U.S. Army to let me know my husband was okay.  When the news networks started getting news during Grenada – they reported the same things about the events.  Now, there are completely different realities being reported, depending what cable news channel you watch.

With so much disinformation swirling, I know I can’t trust the mainstream media, FOX News, the partisans on both sides and most especially I can’t trust President Trump to tell the truth.

My soul-searching has led me to wonder why I listened to FOX News and many of these “conservative” pundits for so long.  I cringe when I hear these Trump supporters on FOX News selling their “Deep State” conspiracies and character assassinations of honorable men, like Robert Mueller and General McMaster, men who have spent their lives dedicated to serving America.

Demagogues feed our fears and prejudices.  President Obama played to the fears of people who distrust conservatives and believe they are all closet racists.  Beck played to conservatives’ religious and patriotic beliefs, while drawing nefarious Obama conspiracy circles on a chalkboard.  I distrusted President Obama after his “clinging to their guns and religion” remark, so it was easy to feed my fears.  There were also lots of signs of corruption in the Obama administration, lots of mishandled classified information (way beyond just Hillary), lots of information requested by Congressional Oversight Committees that never was turned over.  I suspect there’s a lot of criminal leaking of classified information from former Obama officials going on now.

CNN and MSNBC have been spinning for the Left for decades and their anti-Trump slant is obvious.  I recognized the liberal spin long ago, but I did not recognize the extent of right-wing spin.  What frightens me is how many people watching FOX News completely believe the Trump spin.  They were conditioned since 2015 to alter their belief system and accept that “Trump being Trump” is good, because he’s fighting to “make America great again”.  They were sold that “Trump doesn’t play by the rules” is great too, because  Trump’s fighting to “make America great again”.   Whenever FOX News and Trump supporters have to acknowledge something negative about Trump, it’s always wrapped up in more whataboutism than even Russian propaganda.

Trump mocks the media as “Fake News”, while many in the mainstream media, along with pointing out all the Trump lies, keep churning out highly dubious or grossly misleading information, that Clinton and Obama operatives have leaked to them.

It’s becoming very hard to get to facts, as the pile on continues, because of the speed and amount of disinformation being dumped.  It’s exhausting even trying to keep up with the Trump and media information battles. My fear isn’t just about hostile foreign disinformation efforts, my fear is that this information war between Trump and the media has created a vast, domestic disinformation wasteland.  Discerning facts is harder as the mountain of disinformation (spin) grows and it’s harder to even find the facts buried in the pile of lies.

In Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, a young neo-nazi ran his car into a crowd of people. One young woman died and many others were injured.  Immediately, President Trump tried a whataboutism approach, with his “many sides” comment.  Alt-right and neo-nazis brag that President Trump supports them.  During his campaign,President Trump refused to denounce David Duke, by pretending he didn’t know who David Duke is and what Duke stands for.  His “many sides” comment was a repeat of his David Duke performance.

Whataboutism thrives on binary thinking, where people start believing in the lesser of two evils .  It’s like dealing with children and one child is caught doing something wrong, but he starts pointing out what all the other kids did wrong.  If you start buying into those excuses, you start losing focus about right and wrong.  Whataboutism destroys moral clarity by muddying the water with misdirection and misleading facts.

The 24/7 FOX News and Trump pundits have ramped up Trump damage control, another whataboutism disinformation campaign (the “many sides” evil alt-left and Leftist hate groups), will throw enough misdirection to prop up Trump.  And as a last resort, there will be Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich to remind the right, “at least Trump isn’t Hillary” or “but Gorsuch!”.

The truth is President Trump is a lying demagogue just like Hillary; he even borrowed Hillary’s spin – “it’s all a witch hunt” and the Trump version of the “vast, right-wing conspiracy”  is the omnipresent “Deep State”.

Update in light of President Trump’s press conference this afternoon, where he was using morally relativistic dodges to avoid condemning neo-nazis.   Hillary Clinton used the same lying and demagoguery techniques,  BUT he is the President of the United States and must be held accountable for what he says and does.  He is totally unfit to lead our great nation and a national disgrace.


Filed under American Character, Corrupt Media Collusion, Culture Wars, General Interest, Politics, Public Corruption, The Media

No Good Options

An army of asses led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by an ass

– Fake quote attributed to George Washington

Somehow in this era where President Trump and the media each point fingers at each other, screaming, “Fake News!”, this misattributed quote, according to,  speaks the truth.

The Mount Vernon website states:

The rough quote “an army of sheep led by a lion is vastly superior to an army of lions led by a wolf” is apocryphally attributed to Alexander the Great.  The Washington quote seems to have developed at some point among the faculty or Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at some point.

President Trump is an extremely toxic leader.  He will never be a great president and he will never be an effective leader.  That is what I believe.

He will continue to foment endless chaos.

However, he was duly elected and, unless and until, there is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors, to convince Congress to impeach him, he remains our president.  This should go without saying, but in the wake of more Trump-being-Trump threats against North Korea and now Venezuela too, some on the Left are back to their pre-inauguration hysteria, wanting the generals to stop Trump.

Once again, Trump killed his own good PR.  Last weekend was a big diplomatic win at the UN for President Trump and he has completely buried it with his incendiary threats.

There are serious foreign policy people out there still selling President Trump and urging Americans to get behind the president on North Korea, but President Trump’s North Korea policy is like all his other policies.  Whatever sound policies his administration comes up with are subject to be thrown out the window or completely undermined by President Trump and his reckless tweeting or boasting.  He makes any policy effort harder for his administration to pursue.

He is the problem, not his enemies, not fake news, not those who speak out against him.

John Bolton and others keep harping on the bad options President Trump is left with, because of the failures of the Bushes, Clinton and Obama.  Bolton keeps repeating that they all kicked the can down the road rather than dealing with North Korea.  Okay, but when you want to be a leader, LEAD!   Quit blaming other people and dig in.

President Trump is lazy about doing the job of president.  He loves the attention, but he does not concern himself with the substance or the dirty-work of studying policy.   Frankly, President Trump’s complete laziness and refusal to study policy or stay on message destroyed any hope of a unified approach to pressure North Korea.  He made it harder to deal with North Korea and he, once again, alienated people from supporting him, because of HIM.  He sounds crazier than Kim Jong Un – that is the truth.

This PR disaster  is just another repeat of Trump’s war crimes as serious policy , where his ISIS plan was to order the U.S. military to murder ISIS family members, to scare ISIS terrorists into submission.  He doubled down on that in a primary debate.  Just like with his building the wall, or deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, his ISIS plan existed only in sound bites.  There never was a comprehensive policy.

There have been a string of these Trump self-immolation PR disasters, where he sets his own policy on fire by his careless comments.  We can expect, that for as long as his presidency lasts, there will be endless chaos.

Big Trump supporters keep ranting about the dastardly Left and their efforts to undermine President Trump.  Some of their efforts are dastardly too.  However, here’s the truth – President Trump really is a loose cannon, who likes to shoot off his mouth and he is a one-man show, who makes any undertaking harder.  He undercuts his own staff and would be a terrible leader in any military endeavor (see his transgender policy change for an example – military leaders were not apprised before his statement and there was no policy in writing  from the White House- just Trump shooting off his mouth).

President Trump does not pay attention to or study policy details.  Military success requires paying close attention to details.

By his own actions this week, President Trump made, even our allies, uneasy and the truth is there are no one-off military actions in dealing with North Korea.  Even, the option of taking out their missile sites could provoke military responses and those would likely directly impact the security of the other players in the region.  They have a larger stake in the outcome, with North Korea being in their neighborhood.   We need ramped up diplomatic efforts, so there are no misunderstandings or confusion about our position and any actions we undertake.

Clarity of purpose is crucial.

In regards to North Korea, there were never any good options.  Taking out the regime or even taking out their missile sites are both acts of war.  There are other big powers right next-door to North Korea and they have complicated, competing motives and interests.  The North Korean path of isolation, leading to their current state, has been centuries in the making.

Watching President Trump snatch defeat from the jaws of diplomatic victory at the UN last weekend convinced me that no matter what action he takes in regards to North Korea, he will be the biggest threat to its success.

He is unfit to be commander-in-chief, but he is what we have.

Talk about no good options…






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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military, Politics, Uncategorized

Tough talk is not strategy

President Trump used more of his “tough talk” on Tuesday and this time instead of the target being TV pundits or fellow Republicans, North Korea was his target.  Rather than argue the merits of Trump’s rhetoric, here’s what I’ve been thinking about in regards to U.S. strategy to deal with North Korea.

One of the most extreme options gleefully tossed about by saber-rattlers, many of whom are blathering bimbos and know nothing about military strategy, history or much else, besides cheering on “Trump being Trump”, is advocating a preemptive strike on North Korea’s missile sites.

Let’s be clear, despite semantical tap dancing, a preemptive strike is an act of war.

Unemotionally evaluating options is how I approach strategic-thinking, so in coming up with options, we need to understand the terms and what they mean in terms of military force.  While some pundit experts advocate using the preemptive strike option to curtail North Korea’s nuclear capability and couch it in terms of being almost a risk-free effort that will prevent war in general, nuclear holocaust in specific, and be a version of “deterrence”, let me repeat:

A preemptive strike is an act of war.

It’s an option, but so often with U.S. military strategy dealing with cultures that are very different than American and western culture, our strategists end up completely taken by surprise when their well-intentioned, competently executed strategies end up mired in many unforeseen and complicated consequences. For a primer in this outcome just sit back and take apart the evolving U.S. “war on terror”, or however you want to describe our military actions since 9/11.

Our leaders still regale us with the #1, #2, even #3 top Islamist leaders killed, but as John McCreary and other strategic experts have pointed out – decapitation strategy does not defeat Islamist terrorist groups.  They quickly find a new leader, often rebrand under a new name and the trend is the new version is more violent and difficult to deal with than the previous.  You would think that all military strategists worth their salt would have put this in their “lessons learned” file, but nope, many still tout this as a selling point for their “kill them all” strategic offerings.

Just as with Islamist terrorists groups, with North Korea, the United States doesn’t have good strategic options.  The countries that can impact North Korean behavior, China and Russia, are adversarial to the United States and would prefer that our strategies fall flat.  Beyond the big picture geopolitics, there are plenty of other factors that impact how China and Russia view the North Korean situation.  Even something like China looking at a potential North Korean refugee crisis on their doorstep, if the North Korean regime collapses, influences how China deals with North Korea.

After listening to punditry experts from the Trump tough talkers to the Clinton apologists, to the Obama leading-from-behind crowd, since Tuesday, I was thinking of Waco of all things.  How the Clinton administration handled Waco still bothers me and not because I have any sympathy for David Koresh or dislike of the ATF, but because there were children caught in the middle of an armed confrontation.

The airwaves were filled with experts selling everything, from blow up the compound to using tanks, to playing loud music as psychological warfare, and nothing got Koresh to surrender.

I don’t remember the academic’s name, but I saw him on a TV news show talking about apocalyptic cults and movements in history and he described the psychology of apocalyptic leaders.  I told my mother in a phone conversation that all they’re doing is feeding his apocalyptic delusions and he will die rather than surrender.

So, after almost two decades of dealing with a larger apocalyptic movement, with leaders who revere those who die for the cause, why are many of our strategic thinkers perplexed by the regeneration of these groups, no matter how many times we kill their top leaders?

For Christians and Jews, this concept that persecution feeds the faith should be easy to recognize.  The early Christian church fortified its faithful with heroic tales of those individuals, who stood strong against overwhelming force.  With apocalyptic movements, dying for the cause feeds the cause and in the case of  Islamists, they have the Islamic religious teachings that ground their actions.  They have a much larger pool of potential followers than a lone kook like David Koresh.

I’m not a psychologist and I sure am not an expert on North Korea, but after listening to so much tough talk in the past couple days, I think that we need a careful study of the possible outcomes from any U.S. policy courses we could follow, from appeasement up to taking out the regime.  We need to study the various U.S. and other countries actions in regards to North Korea, in recent decades, and carefully study what the North Korean reactions were.  We need to consult experts on paranoid delusion, because North Korea is not only a totalitarian, Stalinist regime, it has so oppressed its people, that there are millions of North Koreans steeped in a life controlled by ruthless propaganda, fear and intimidation.  They are thoroughly indoctrinated.  These people aren’t going to rise up and embrace liberators.  Just like when the U.S defeated the Taliban or when Saddam was removed, the initial euphoria quickly evaporated and what we faced were people who distrusted us and who were used to being controlled.  Many found more affinity with Islamist resistance groups than with U.S. troops occupying their countries.

And the other thing I was thinking is that we need to talk with the people who will be most impacted by any actions we take in regards to North Korea – South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.  This is not a time for reckless rhetoric; it’s a time for careful, serious strategic planning.  It’s also a time for robust diplomacy.

A miscalculation on how we think North Korea will react could be way more catastrophic than the Clinton administration miscalculation on how David Koresh would react.  We have tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the line of fire and Seoul is less than 200 miles from North Korea.  Things could escalate quickly and President Trump doesn’t concern himself with “details”.  Any missteps or hiccups in decision-making could cost a lot of lives, very quickly.

The thing that President Clinton did that infuriated me the most was before he made decisions, he put his finger to the wind, to test how it would reflect on his popularity in the polls.  This morning on Twitter I saw Todd Starnes had a poll:  “Should the United States launch a first strike against North Korea?”  It infuriated me, because the question of a first strike isn’t about looking “tough” – it’s WAR.  Assuredly, it is NOT a decision to be made based on opinion polls!

I was 19 years old, assigned to a Pershing missile unit in Germany in 1980.  I knew nothing about the Army, U.S nuclear strategy or war.  A very good 1st sergeant taught me the single most important lesson on all three.

He told me, “Kid, war is serious business!”

I realized that I knew nothing about war, so I started signing books out at the post library and reading.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading about military strategy since then. I realized long ago, there’s always more to learn and new perspectives to think about.

Perhaps, at the very least our president could take time out from golfing and watching “the shows” on TV to do some serious studying U.S. strategy, because he is the commander-in-chief.   President Trump is responsible for making these decisions, not the generals surrounding him.

The decisions he makes could cost thousands of American lives and the lives of hundreds of thousands children.

Time to quit with the petty posturing, buckle down, study policy, read some history and LEAD, Mr. President.



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Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Military, Politics

The Anatomy of Viral News

Here are two stories about the dissemination of stories on the web that are worth a read.  They cover different aspects of how information can go viral.

The first story is about the #FireMcMaster campaign, to get General McMaster fired:

#FireMcMaster, explained

The second story is by Franklin Foer, former editor of the New Republic, writing about his experiences dealing with journalism being driven by garnering clicks, rather than presenting good reporting:

When Silicon Valley Took Over Journalism

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Filed under The Media, Twitter Tales