You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2011.

I’m beginning to wonder whether we may have been taken in a bit by the Rolling Stone and a disgruntled psy-ops reserve officer. While the psy-ops folks in Afghanistan may well have been brought in to help prepare dossiers and background materials for VIP visits by senators and such, it may have been only to help, from a manpower standpoint, with the very normal and legitimate work along these lines by General Caldwell’s public affairs staff. Might the psy-ops lieutenant colonel just have been miffed to be asked to do this routine work, rather than the slight of hand stock in trade of brainwashing the enemy? I don’t know — we haven’t seen any specifics of any psychological manipulation, and the senators named have said they didn’t recall being manipulated out of their previously held convictions. The background information from other sources indicates that the role of psy-ops in the Afghanistan training command had already been minimized before these accused incidents took place. We need better-sourced information than the Rolling Stone has provided to date to believe ethical lines have been crossed by the military command. So, this jury remains out.

The Rolling Stone is at it again, and raising the question about whether Psy-Ops units charged with propaganda targeted at the enemy should also be “targeting” U.S. Congress people and other diplomats and leaders to influence their thinking about increasing funding or troop levels for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Normally Public Affairs units would prepare background briefing papers and message points and presentations to be used by commanders in their interface with such decision makers.

As an old Army public affairs officer, and a career PR person, I understand the role of Public Affairs in helping their commanders communicate with non-military leadership decision-makers, but I never encountered Psychological Operations staffs normally charged with propaganda to influence the enemy being drafted to use propaganda techniques to win over internal VIPS.

I don’t know enough to judge, but one wonders if some generals might have college paranoid fantasies they developed after reading the book 1984 bouncing around up in their festering base-camp minds and leading them to lose grasp of the distinctions between fact-based, rhetorical arguments and outright psychological manipulation.

Here’s the article prompting the current blaze of media angst:

The protests in Madison, WI demonstrate that while unions and their supporters can rally a lot of people when the cameras are on, their ability to communicate the social value of unions and the union movement, for the benefit of both their members and the rest of us, is sketchy at best. The union movement needs vastly better PR, and they better get busy making up for lost time, or the movement will go out of the unions.

Take a look at this straightforward video by Tom Golisano, philanthropist and founder of Paychex, the 2nd largest payroll company in the U.S.

I don’t vote in Wisconsin, but I own a home, spend a lot of time and care about the people here — after all, my grandfather was one of the local citizens who bailed out the Green Bay Packers in the 1920s. So, why is Walker wrong?

Yes these are tough economic conditions to address, and “shared sacrifice,” as Walker calls it, is called for to address state budget issues. BUT, Walker recently passed more than $100 million in new tax breaks for business, then turns around and asks to help make up for that by cutting the benefits and future negotiating power of the unions representing certain state employees. Of course he exempts the fire and police unions that supported his election campaign, but nails those, including the teachers unions, that didn’t. That is vindictive politics all right, but it’s also asking chronically under-compensated teachers to give up current and future compensation, just when we need better education more than ever. Meanwhile, highly compensated business owners wallow in new tax breaks.

How dumb, how vindictive, how peevishly political, how shortsighted can a so-called leader be! If the Democrats are substantially behind organizing the teachers and other state employees to occupy Madison to make their plight known statewide and nationally, at least their efforts are transparent, while Walker threatens behind the scenes to slash state jobs if those protesting don’t back off and encourage Democrat legislators to cave in.

There’s no need to raise the age of eligibility for Social Security. That’s just political scare tactics. If the “cap” for Social Security deductions — the income level above which social security deductions end, now about $106,000 — is eliminated altogether, or just raised to about $180,000, as Robert Reich explains quite simply in this article (, then our Social Security solvency problems would be solved.

Presto: a tip of the “Cap” is all it would take to save Social Security, for yourself and future generations.

Here’s a lift from the Wikipedia entry for the undemocratic Electoral College system of indirectly electing our U.S. Presidents and VPs. I’d like to know what “rights of smaller states” the electoral College is supposedly protecting, other than giving them geographically outsized electoral weight, instead of counting voters, like you and I. Does geography deserve more influence on selecting our top leaders than the votes of people?

“The existence of the Electoral College is a subject of controversy. A 2001 Gallup article noted that “a majority of Americans have continually expressed support for the notion of an official amendment of the U.S. Constitution that would allow for direct election of the president” since one of the first-ever public polls on the matter in 1944, and Gallup found no significant change in 2004. Critics argue that the Electoral College is archaic, inherently undemocratic and gives certain swing states disproportionate influence in selecting the President and Vice President. Proponents argue that the Electoral College is an important, distinguishing feature of federalism in the United States and that it protects the rights of smaller states.”

For more information, also look in Wikipedia under National Popular Vote, and tell your legislators you’d like your vote for President to count equally with that of all other U.S. voters. By the way, the Electoral College system also disenfranchises citizens in U.S. territories from voting for President. If you look further, you’ll see the Electoral College was originally passed to allow slaves in southern states to count for 3/5th of a vote, and also then effectively disenfranchised women. The EC is a blight on our Republic!

When we travel, around the world or in the U.S., we try to visit major and minor maritime museums, for two reasons: 1) boats in all forms are a fascinating genre of terrestrial spaceship, and 2) museums dedicated to ships and those who steer them are glistening capsules of history, preserving the moments when daring people gallantly met the elements of nature with the technologies of their times, in search of trade, adventure, conquest and even sheer entertainment.

Here are some pics of maritime museums we encountered in the northern Mediterranean on cruise in 2008.

Today, coming off the Chicago Skyway, I was reminded of how I learned how useless “deer whistles,” little motion-powered whistle devices still sold that attach to a front bumper or grill, and are supposed to scare off deer approaching a roadway. Vicki was driving on our way back from Michigan and I spotted a little pug dog and her pup sauntering into our lane, headed for the median. Vicki quickly checked her rear mirror and braked hard, and the dogs made it safely off the road.

I recall that in the 80s and 90s, my mother who lived in Door County, WI, told me how terrific those little deer whistles sold in truck stops and hardware stores were in warning off animals. I bought a pair for my new company car, in 1995, a silver Lincoln that came with a new vice presidency in my firm. Driving from the Chicago western suburbs into southern Wi, where we had a weekend home, a deer suddenly burst from the trees and leaped into the road directly in front of my car. It was as if the whistle had called out “com-ere-deer.” As my bumper hit the animal at 55 MPH, it projected the deer into the windshield, bending the double-pane glass inward, but not breaking it. The sunroof popped open, the air bags inflated and the door sprung open. As I recovered, I braked and held the wheel straight. I was OK, but my brand new Lincoln was a wreck and had to be towed. Two farmers came up and asked if I was all right, and when I said yes, they asked if I planned to claim the deer. For what, I queried? They ran down the road and checked it out, came back and said just a crushed haunch. Guess they were in for some venison steaks.

The police drove me to a local McDonald’s, where I called my wife to pick me up. The manager brought me a coffee, and said when he worked at a less demanding fast food place, he kept a police radio in the kitchen, and when it reported a deer/car crash, they’d speed off to see if they could claim the deer. I’d never heard of this form of deer stalking, or deer hunting. I learned, the hard way, that anyone who bought a deer whistle was very naive indeed. Here’s a You Tube piece that gives the low-down on deer whistles.

February 2011

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,946 other subscribers