Tuesday, February 20, 2018

How Easy It Was and Will Be!

We now know, without question every media corporation in America has a political agenda.  It doesn’t matter if it is the local cable company or Google, the local AM/FM station or SiriusXM, the home town paper or the NY Times, the major networks like ABCNNBCBS & Fox or internet giants like FaceBook and Twitter, everyone now thinks it is okay to push their personal or corporate political agenda.  Even commercial entities like car companies are now telling us what we should think about social issues.  Most are aligned with the left and have persuaded their fans that anyone who disagrees with them is evil and stupid.  Today’s “news” has evolved from setting out facts without comment to validating a desired opinion.  How simple we have made it for a technically savvy foreign entity to play into this landscape and manipulate an already conditioned generation. 

My simple observation: the media is incapable of changing their information model and we will see continued manipulation by an increasing number of foreign players like Russia, China, and a host of other smaller but equally important players (e.g. Israel or Iran).

There is an expression, “useful idiot,” often attributed Vladimir Lenin, although it is questionable he really said it.  It is usually understood to be a citizen of a non-communist country who is sympathetic to the cause of Communism and can be cynically used as a tool in its propaganda. What we see in the Mueller report on Russian hacking during the 2016 election, is we have become a nation is full of useful idiots who jump on board with any campaign that seems to align with their political fears.  Michael Moore is the name in the news today, although almost any of a hundred celebrities could probably be named.  People who the Russians can exploit to further their own agenda.

Unfortunately, I don’t think those celebrities who live for our hero worship will grasp the significance of their vulnerability so it will be interesting to see what actual solutions those in key positions will come to recommend.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Thing About Movements

In my morning readings, Ann Althouse had a review of a NY Times article The Feminist Pursuit of Good Sex by Nona Willis Aronowitz.  In her opinion piece Ms. Aronowitz talks of her personal challenge, “Was pornography a vanguard of sexual freedom or a tool of the patriarchy?”  Ms. Aronowitz writes of the split in the feminist movement where one side views sex and pornography as good, and the other as a patriarchal tool to suppress womankind.  Ms. Aronowitz writes this is caused by one sides lack of “nuance.”  Ms. Althouse believes there is a lack of nuance on both sides, with each accusing the other.
This got me to thinking about what does an individual gain or lose when they join in political movements and are they aware of their gain or loss?
Clearly, when people band together there is a strength and support of like-minded individuals who will encourage and perhaps guide the new members in the ways of the group.  This is a positive thing if it does not progress to the level of enslavement to an ideology.  For example, when an addict attempts recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous provide wonderful support and guidance in how to regain control of life.  If carried too far through the worst-case scenarios can play out as demonstrated by Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple project (AKA Jonestown) massacre, or the Branch Davidian Church confrontation in Waco, TX.
Then there are the politically inspired movements such as the feminist movement began shortly before the civil war, or the flat earth society, began shortly before Christopher Columbus left Italy for Spain.  Today we have the hashtag movements of a hundred different things ranging from the lives of certain colors to the wearing of pink hats.  Each began not as a movement but as an idea in a few activists as a way to gain a larger following.
But what does an individual sacrifice in becoming a part of the movement?  For me, that is the critical question.  As we look at the popular movements of today I can’t help but feel the average participant is asked to check their reasoning at the door and must accept without question the values of the movement leaders.
From my vantage -- outside looking in, this appears to be true regardless of the political leanings of the movement.  The further from the center the movement is, the more the followers must abandon their individuality.  In that sense, movements don’t seem all that much different than gangs, just without the chains and tats (although tats have become popular within movements as well).
What social media has taught me is so many people are searching for themselves and are willing to abandon their historically rooted values to be a part of the larger group, even if it means they must abandon the idea of self, and reason.  For many of the hashtag generation, it offers the illusion of rage without consequence, but I am afraid they will soon come to realize such a thing cannot exist.  There is always a consequence.  It may not be public, but it is there until it can be reconciled with the larger moral questions.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Déjà vu, All Over Again

Well here we are, watching the horror unfold after another public-school shooting, and nothing will change because we as a society cannot reasonably talk about simple things so the hard things are impossible.  Thanks to all who’ve chosen to be offended by views they don’t like, micro-aggressions, and gender specific pronouns -- you've taken the ability to debate this issue off the table.  Thanks also to the lobbying efforts of the special interest groups like the NRA or Anti-Gun groups who have shouted so long and so loudly there is no middle ground that offers possible choices.  There is only vilification and counter-condemnation.

Those who’ve read my posts on this subject know I don’t believe writing a new law will solve the gun violence issue in the nation.  We have all kinds of laws on the books that have done little to keep killers from killing, all they do is give us an opportunity to punish the offenders IF (and that is a big IF): the prosecutor choses to prosecute, the judge decides to judge fairly (putting personal agenda aside), and the defense attorney is not sharp enough to convince the judge and jury that his client is only a victim of society and it’s not his/her fault.  We now parse the laws with so many circumstances and uniqueness’s it is impossible to know if true justice is achieved.

The premise of our society is we are a nation of laws, but each day fewer and fewer of us actually believe we should follow the law.  As we see on the nightly news this holds true for even those who aspire or attain the highest elected and law enforcement offices of the land.  So, if laws no longer serve to restrain our actions, and we’ve established a morality that supports individual choice how do we convince people those individual choices should not include killing?

Those who cry loudest about the tragic rise in gun violence are the ones who have historically believed the answer is banning all guns.  It is as if they refuse to understand the human psyche that makes a banned item all the more attractive.  We attempted to ban the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors with the 18th Amendment.  How did that work out? The words “speakeasy, bootleggers and organized crime” entered our language.  A completely sober USA, not so much. 

When the past President attempted to explain who the average rural American is by saying “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” He set a tone for his entire administration that said we know better than you what is right for the country.  As a result of that sentiment what happened with gun sales during his eight years in office?

Those who oppose the anti-gun side always seem to suggest the problem of people who are killing other people is obviously a mental illness issue and if we were to just treat that everything would be okay, the guns are never the issue.  While mental illness is undoubtedly a contributing, and perhaps causal factor in many of the shooting, what happens when the media gives so much air time to the individuals, and next to no air time when it comes time for them to face the consequences of their actions which, if they survive, may not come until decades later?

Now I am just guessing, but I bet that the anti-gun folks will plaster social media with their outrage since emotional reaction is pretty easy.  ABC news tonight made it a point that each time President Trump responded to a shooting he said that immediately following the event was not the right time to discuss the issue, they did this as a not so subtle condemnation. 

Anyone who thinks rationally about this will know two things.  Unique to this instance, until we know what actually happened what is there to talk about, other than the emotional outrage?  The second point is really what the pro-gun groups are working towards, the news media will forget about this in a week or so and it will move to the back burner, at least until the next shooting, where the cycle will start all over again.  Our agenda driven society, and especially the two mainstream parties cannot engage in reasonable talk without suffering the wrath of their most extreme advocates, so they won’t.

The fact we have no middle ground on this issue will mean it will never be fixed.  Whether that is improved mental health care, a realignment of our moral compasses, universal gun awareness training, or perhaps increased armed presence in the schools. 

There are a number of problems with that last option that makes it an unattractive choice, but of the ones I mentioned it is the only one likely to be sought because it is the simplest and keeps in place most of the status quo.  At the end of the day, I don’t think any of the choices I’ve heard mentioned will actually eliminate the threat.  That can only come if we as a society choose a different morality where our young are not taught on a daily basis that gun violence is acceptable, where the family unit is rebuilt to provide stability for growing minds, and we abandon the idea the government is responsible for fixing everything that disturbs us.  That seems an impossible path at this point.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day

I learned today that Saint Valentine was a Catholic priest in the 3rd Century who was condemned for marrying men in the Roman Army who were supposed to be single.  He was clearly a visionary.  He knew married men would be more willing to leave home to fight with someone other than their wives.
There seems to be some issue on why the middle of February was chosen as the day of celebration with history saying it was either the day of Valentine's execution or an attempt by the early church to co-opt a pagan celebration of fertility.  I’m going with the latter.
When the Vice Count of Hallmark won the battle of Agincourt and began making greeting cards in the early 1400s people began sending little love notes to their friends.  Charles, Duke of Orléans is said to be the first of Hallmark’s card writers while a prisoner of war following his capture at the battle, where the Vice Count defeated the flower vendors of Lord Transworld-Delivery.  To this day his first poem summarized the battle as he wrote home to his girlfriend of the time.  It was quickly translated into English and became an instant success of the early Valentine’s Day/fertility celebrations.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Hallmark won the battle,
I am still here,
How about you?
 Over the years this poem has been modified to the current version taught worldwide as part of every third-grade curriculum.
Roses are red
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet,
And so are you.
I hope all who read this have a happy Valentine’s Day as you look for a quiet place to dine.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Forecasting the Future

Everyone, and by everyone, I mean anyone who puts their opinion out for public consumption, likes to forecast the future.  I am no exception, although I realize I am not all that great at it.  If I was I wouldn’t be worrying about upcoming bills or the future of the nation as I would already know it.
My first introduction to the forecasting business was back in 1989 when I attended a big joint exercise planning conference for Flintlock ’90.  The exercise had been going on for a number of years, and I was sent as the wing plans officer for the 39th SOW.  I had with me planners from the 7th, 67th, and 21st SOS.  We were meeting up with the planners from SOCEUR, as well as the Army and Navy units that would participate in this theater-wide exercise.
The planner from the 7th cautioned me that the Army National Guard and Reserve Special Forces reps would be asking for all kinds of airdrop support, but when it came time for the actual exercise no one would actually jump out of the airplanes.  I had been in the business long enough to know this forecast was probably based on experience.  The gentleman who had made the prediction proved exactly right.  In each and every case there was some unique and compounding issue that meant the SF A-teams needed to be landed at a nearby airport and allowed to take a comfy bus into where they were supposed to do their snake-eating stuff.  Although, how they found snakes in Norway in April remains a mystery to me.
Here is what I’ve come to believe after starring at my cracked crystal ball.
  • Self-awareness on the part of media celebrities and “mediaholic” politicians will continue to decline with direct proportion to their ability to broadcast their thoughts through venues like FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • Trump derangement syndrome (TDS) will expand to pandemic levels as we approach the upcoming Congressional mid-term election.
  • Some in the GOP will continue to talk about the need to reduce the national debt, although none of them really believe a word they are saying.
  • The Stock Market will enter into a period of real volatility as they see Government spending rise unchecked and government deregulation is slowed because all the easy regulations have already been ended.
  • Government fraud will increase as everyone attempts to get a bigger piece of the bigger pie and the number of regulators is decreased.
  • The Democrats will focus on TDS and DREAMERS as their primary issue during the upcoming elections, and the only places this will play well are in districts where they already have a democratic representative (with a few exceptions).  They do not seem capable of identifying policies that will bring a broader segment of society into the fold.
  • Through their own stupidity, the GOP will lose the Senate because they have proven themselves as unprincipled as their opponents.  In close races, their choices on debt, immigration, and TDS just might make the difference that costs them the race.
  • And finally, as we pour money back into the military we will spend it on hardware rather than the fundamental problem of figuring out the right size of the armed forces and beginning what would be a long-term effort to fix it.  The reason for this is simple, buying stuff is a lot easier, and perhaps cheaper, than building and caring for a skilled and qualified force. 
In Special Operations we’ve come to accept as truth words first written in the 1980’s by John Collins, USA (Retired)[1], the first of these imperative’s is “Humans are more important than hardware.”  In their quest for superiority decision makers always look to technology as a solution to the human needs/problems, but the need for humans with the right qualities is inescapable for all the services.  As our forces are stretched to the breaking point we see the impact of trying to do too much with too few.  It is amusing (for me) to see the public questions about why retention rates are declining and the survey’s the services conduct to try and figure out why they are so low.  Is our senior political and military leadership really so out of touch with the men and women they are to lead they really don’t know what is going on or is it just a game they must play when they can’t offer a reasonable solution?
Theodore Roosevelt is often quoted as saying “speak softly but carry a big stick” when talking about the use of force or violence to achieve an objective.  Every President since Franklin has used that big stick at one time or another in their presidency to either affect global events or react to some domestic issue by diverting attention or achieving a national consensus.  Obviously, if you use the stick too often it tends to splinter and break.  It seems we are at that point now and I wonder will it still be useful when it is really needed?
Well, that’s about it for my crystal ball.  It just fell off the table and I must glue it back together.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Watching the Olympics.

I was sitting at home, watching the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics and trying to avoid all the self-righteous social and political commentary that comes with international sports these days when one of the social commentators tells us how much the Koreans like Japan as a social and economic model.
I look over at my wife and noted I would be really surprised by that since Japan had subjugated the Koreans for most of the first half of the 2oth Century.  This was not a gentle peace-loving Japan, but one that felt anyone who wasn’t Japanese was less than human.  A Japanese occupation that took young Korean girls to be “comfort workers” for the Japanese Army scattered across the western Pacific and most of Asia.  Comfort workers was a polite way to describe sex-slave.
The men were also enslaved and used as expendable resources much like the Germans did with the Jews of Europe.  Until the end of World War II it was not a good time to be a Korean if you were employed by the Japanese.
Apparently, I was right.  NBC Apologizes
Maybe the networks should consider hiring people who actually know what they are talking about, rather than just having the right social and political views who look good on camera.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time in America we had a racial policy that called for “separate but equal” provisions for the black minority.  The legal doctrine arose from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessey vs Ferguson, in 1890[1].  The court, in effectively modifying the 14th Amendment, said the states could create separate facilities and thereby segregate the two populations. 

As we’ve come to know “separate but equal” is neither truly separate nor equal. For the next 65 years, the black minority in America suffered the racial discrimination imposed by this doctrine.  It wasn’t until the case of “Brown v the (Topeka) Board of Education” in the mid-1950’s did the Supreme Court move to correct the injustice it had created in its earlier ruling.

I find it interesting therefore that we see cries from the left now that we should return to the doctrine where one race or another has exclusive rights not held by the other, or that one gender or another have certain privileges not granted to the other.

When you couple this with the #MeToo sexual assault campaign the ideas of dating and relationships is undergoing a transition.  I doubt anyone can reasonably forecast the final outcome of that change.

In an earlier time, we would accept the premise of separate but equal and move to the logical conclusion that women should only work for women, blacks should only work for blacks, and so on, perhaps portioning down to natural blonds can only associate with other natural blonds.

But until “Brown v Board of Education” is overturned we are kind of forced to live together, despite the deepest wishes of those who would pull us apart.
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