Wednesday, November 30, 2016

10 Characteristics of Mob Thinking on Social Media

It never ceases to fascinate me how certain topics go viral on social media whereas others do not.

Just like with branding, it is of course possible to artificially induce a "high" on a certain topic, at least for a time. But in the end a craze has to have enduring value on its own merits.

As most of us know, here are some of the kinds of topics that tend to attract a lot of interest: amazing talent; brands, shopping and coupons; celebrity news; cooking or decorating; family-related/relationship-oriented issues; heartwarming stories; holiday-themed updates; information of a specialized nature; opinion, well- or humorously articulated; shocking information; social awareness or activism; tragedy; unity of diverse people; violence caught on video; and of course, weird news.

Less well-understood is the way groups think collectively on social media. In other words, how does social media act to create a collective consciousness among members who interact around shared interest in a topic?

This collective consciousness, also known as "mob thinking" or "hive thinking," has certain observable characteristics that tend to repeat regardless of the issue at hand.
  1. Story: Complex, even convoluted story with seemingly no beginning and no end yet simple to understand and compelling to the average person by the nature of its subject matter--usually negative--such as abuse, exploitation, etc.
  2. Articles of Faith: The group's story is really a cause, which creates a community of those who believe in what it stands for, at all levels of the spectrum, from mild-mannered to extremely engaged--and sometimes even "over the edge." The cause itself is axiomatic, but the evidence upon which the group decides to form its beliefs is subject to extensive debate.
  3. Leaders: The group has unelected leaders, or spokespeople, whom others believe in and follow, who represent the beliefs of the group confidently and in a concise, engaging manner
  4. Researchers: The group has a researcher or group of researchers, loosely affiliated or not. affiliated at all. The role of researcher favors those with highly advanced computer research skills to seek out and store data in an accessible way, as well as those articulate enough to explain what the research means and/or to present it graphically.
  5. Martyrs: The group has someone who has lost their lives, or something very important to them in life, by virtue of suffering for the cause (perhaps unwillingly).
  6. Common Enemy: The group is united to advance a cause but also to beat back an enemy that does not wish them to succeed, because they benefit from maintaining that which the group opposes. That enemy may be a person, a group of people, or simply a constellation of ideas or values that are disfavored. The more tangible the evidence that the enemy causes harm, and the more resistance the group receives from the outside world, the more they are likely to become entrenched in their views.
  7. Projected Self-Image: People join the "mob" based on an idealized image of themselves, not based on their activities in "real life."
  8. Shared Characteristics: The people who join may be wildly diverse, but they also share certain values, beliefs, or personality tendencies that make it possible to interact in a way that is instantly recognizable and appreciated.
  9. The Spectrum: Though they may share certain personality characteristics (such as the desire to be heroic), members of the group will always represent a wide spectrum, from the rational to the "unhinged."
  10. Always On: The conversation happens in fits and starts but nonstop, and you can join it as many hours a day as you wish, and enter and leave it at will.
  11. Familiarity of Strangers: Although members of the group do not know one another in real life, they derive comfort from the anonymous fellowship of believers.Most group member are anonymous, although some feel comfortable naming themselves. Anonymous identities are an opportunity to express a belief or emotion strongly held.
  12. Respect: The members of the group value one another. There is an ethic of respect among the group simply by virtue of joining it, or even lurking around it and reading what it produces.
  13. Intelligent Skepticism: While anyone can put forth a theory online, the conversational nature of the environment tends to weed out illogical or unproven statements, when then "die on the vine."
  14. Evidence and Pseudo-Evidence: At the end of the day, all social media "mob thinking" prides itself on having arrived at some form of truth. However, it is also true that groups have limited access to information and therefore must piece together circumstantial evidence. Additionally, due to the fact that social media is fragmented and favors brevity, accurate information may be presented in a distorted or out-of-context manner that advances an agenda rather than the cause of truth. Complicating matters is an information environment where the beliefs of the group will inevitably fall under ideological attack by others who seek only to dissuade them. In response, some members will dig in their heels and insist that they are "right," while others will call out inaccuracies, distortions, and areas of confusion in an attempt to keep the group on track.
  15. Mainstreaming: Over time, the more convinced the group is that a certain belief system is true, and the more people join this "movement, the more likely they can convince others that the "unbelievable" actually "makes sense." If the body of believers reaches critical mass, their ideas, once reviled, become the "conventional wisdom."
Psychologically speaking, it is a hallmark of maturity to be able to stop and think critically, as well as to reflect on your motives, before you actually make a life-changing decision. Similarly, in the context of organizational dynamics, healthy groups don't act rashly. They stop to take stock before making any major moves.

On social media, it's great to be able to express yourself, and explore your ideas and values. But it is also a hallmark of maturity to pause and think critically about what you're "liking," sharing, and generally spending your time on. While the virtual world may seem somewhat "unreal," at the end of the day it is populated by real people: you, me, neighborhood, nation, world.


All opinions my own.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

10 Most Relevant Trends On Brand-Building For The Future (Brief)

My thoughts in response to a question posed on Quora.
  1. Social responsibility
  2. Building via social media
  3. Co-creating the brand with your audience
  4. Protecting the trademark
  5. Disintermediating retail
  6. Entrepreneurship from home
  7. Small business communities of interest helping one another with the brand
  8. Integrating personal politics with buying behavior
  9. Using your brand as a vote for a cause
  10. Domestic manufacturing, nationalism, protectionism 
All opinions my own.

One Day You're In, The Next Day You're Out

I've been thinking about Kellyanne Conway, and why she openly confronted President-Elect Trump over hiring Mitt Romney as Secretary of State. Not quietly, and not just once, but multiple times.

It's like, she hasn't even been hired yet. Is she trying to get herself fired?

Because I may not know very much about the world, but here is one thing I do know. Your job, when you're working for someone, is not only the job itself but also to have their back. You don't have to agree with what they do, and you can tell them so in private -- in fact I would argue that's it's your sacred duty to do so.

But it's absolutely unheard of to break ranks like she did, in public, and expect to continue working for the person or the team.

Even if she had a strategic reason, even if her motives were to support him, it was wrong to contradict his message to the world.

So it may very well be that while Conway was "in" for a period of time, her social media outburst and interview on television regarding the Romney issue render her "out."

What we learn is that even the most desirable, hire-able person -- or "personal brand" -- can drop to the bottom of the ocean floor. Can lose all or most of their reputation equity instantly.

It's a pretty frightening prospect. King Solomon said, in Proverbs (22:1), "A good name is more desirable than great riches."

So you have to be careful how you behave. Even if you're the best at what you do.

If you look at Kanye West, he offers another perfect example. It had long been rumored that his private behavior was out of control, and for a long time he got away with it -- he was cushioned by his music, his fashion business, his friends and even his affiliation with the Kardashians.

But then he had an onstage rant one time too many, and whether rightly or wrongly, he was handcuffed and taken in for psychiatric evaluation. His reputation, because of his behavior, is damaged if not shattered.

Who you affiliate with affects your personal brand, as well. As we all know everybody thought Hillary Clinton would win the Presidential election, and frankly if you admitted to being a Trump supporter it was a risk to your professional career, your friendships, and your family connections. I know this because I took a significant hit on all three of the above.

Even more significantly than that, people who openly supported Trump were at risk of being targeted for physical violence.

But what happens if the pendulum shifts, and Hillary Clinton and/or her Foundation are convicted of a crime? Who will be on the "out" then?

For a lot of people in D.C., it's a very scary thought.


All opinions my own.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Don't Rock The Boat

I may have shared this previously but a colleague (in government) once warned me that "they only hire people they can control."

At the time I was so much more naive than I am now, and I'll be honest, the words went into my head but they didn't really register.

My thought as she spoke was something like, Maybe she is telling me the truth, but that sounds absolutely crazy.

As it turned out this friend had a lot to share after many years of civil service. In her weary brilliance, cynicism and relentless positivity despite all the obstacles thrown her way she was one of the gems. But I meet fewer and fewer people like her.

One thing she said sticks out in my mind, and this was around the time the Obama administration was starting up. She said that we were looking at the "invasion of the pod people," and when I looked at her like "what are you talking about?" as I did not know who the "pod people were" she said, "The Stepford Wives, you know?"

I didn't. I really didn't.

But there was no mistaking the peppy, glassy-eyed stare of the new political appointees. Again, I was younger and much more inexperienced and I didn't know what I was looking at. From my vantage point, we were looking at the incoming "most transparent Administration in American history" and I couldn't have been happier as I waved that Executive Order around.

Smart people, with-it people, dedicated people, public affairs-savvy people, social media people. I had a vague feeling that something was kind of off, but I couldn't really nail down what it was. And frankly--given that new media techniques were so slow to be accepted at my agency--I was hoping they'd usher in a whole new era of communication best practices.

I am embarrassed to say that we started our social media accounts rather informally, although it was true we had provided reams and reams of research to back up their importance and worthiness.

As time went on there were some other oddities. For example when it came to internal communication I was told that "there are a few people who know what's going on" and that the internal communicators were not among that group.

In visiting or talking to my colleagues I would hear sometimes that "things have become politicized" but I did not know what that meant.

I kept my mouth shut, kept it shut, but from my little corner of the world it was clear that the civil servants were working extremely hard, as they say, "to protect the politicals from themselves," from the effects of their own ignorance or desire to engage in workarounds or even simple recklessness.

There's nothing new here. This is how the tension between political and civil works. Another colleague told me about a hilarious TV show from Britain called "Yes, Prime Minister" and I watched a few clips and doubled over.

It could have been transplanted, word for accented word, from the U.S.

But there is a bigger question here, a more troubling one.

When do we rock the boat? When don't we?

Often leaders ask about employee engagement. They want to know how to motivate people, how to get them to speak up, how to harness the innovation they already have in the office.

My reaction most times is to be pretty much incredulous at these types of questions. Because when you look around the typical office environment it is very much like the typical school. Highly regimented, highly hierarchical, deeply stovepiped and conflict-averse, and perhaps most importantly for the question of employee engagement--the nail that sticks out gets hammered.

When I talked with someone about the seeming hush that had fallen over free communication under the Obama Administration, they said it was no different under President Bush (I and II). Except that President Obama was more sophisticated about controlling the message: Bush just didn't say anything.

I look back to something Vice President Al Gore did, within his role in the Clinton Administration, which was to set up the National Partnership for Reinventing Government and the associated Hammer Awards. Whatever you think of either politician, there is no question among civil servants about the importance of this effort. Decades later, you will see in agencies across D.C. Hammer Awards proudly displayed for the achievements civil servants made in cutting costs and increasing efficient service to the public.

Alongside those operational achievements was a tremendous emphasis on communication. NPR pulled in civil servants from across the federal government, on details paid by the home agencies, to pool their efforts and get the common word out.

NPR is how the Federal Communicators Network--which I used to co-chair and am still a proud member of--got launched out of the White House 20 years ago. It still offers free best practice training and networking today.

In today's tumultuous political times, in an economy that feels unstable, in a social environment where shouting is more often heard than a polite exchange of differing views, it's easy to feel discouraged about the prospects of rocking the boat.

But NPR was successful. And although it did not last beyond the Clinton Administration, it proved that shaking things up, for the betterment of all, is always worth the time and effort.


All opinions my own.

Time For An Amazing Uplifting Song - Enjoy

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"See Something, Say Something" Goes Both Ways

When I started working as a public affairs specialist at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, part of the Department of Homeland Security, our message was nonstop "stop terrorism."

It was 2005 and people were still very shaken up after 9/11. I remember we spent a great deal of time trying to reassure people that we had robust security measures in place. We had a system, and so we were able to avoid the economic disaster of literally having to open up every single commercial cargo container as it arrived here.

Even the CBP officers were terrified. They feared being "the weakest link." They would say things like: "I have nightmares of being the one who didn't catch the next 9/11."

Every outreach campaign I worked on felt hugely important. I worked on the effort to end human trafficking at the southern border. A brilliant colleague made up the tagline: "Death Is Not The Way To Save Your Life." Together we made the posters.

The effort quickly caught fire among all the different agencies who touched this problem. Today you can find the DHS' current incarnation on their website; it's called the "Blue" campaign.

The State Department also issues its important Trafficking in Persons report annually, and hopefully the government does more; I don't pretend to be aware of everything.

But one thing I did learn from working on the campaign, and later on as an activist against sexual abuse in religious communities, is that there is no "bogeyman" in the closet you can blame for such crimes. Meaning, it is often the very people you wouldn't suspect--the educated, wealthy, and influential--who are actively involved.

Which brings me to the second DHS campaign that changed my life. I didn't think of the tagline, but to this day I think it is the best social marketing campaign in history: "See Something, Say Something."

The concept is that we must all share in the responsibility of protecting our Nation against terrorism. We've all seen or heard language to the effect: "if you see an unattended item, report it."

And I've done that.

But "See Something, Say Something" is a much larger concept than simply calling in strange packages. And that is what makes it so powerful.

It is the idea that fighting terrorism--fighting crime, generally--is not only the responsibility of "other people." It's actually our job, as citizens, to partner with law enforcement and be their eyes and ears.

Community watch is a very old concept, and it's lasted because it works. We need law and order, not vigilante justice, but the police rely on us as well.

  • It is the community that teaches its children respect for the law. 
  • It is the community that identifies individuals who are engaged in behavior that seems odd, suspicious, that might be putting other people at risk.
  • It is the community that hears things which might make the difference between criminals--and gangs--operating unchecked, and putting them behind bars where they belong.

The reality is, without the community it's almost impossible for law enforcement to do an effective job. We've seen that over and over and over again. With the ubiquity of social media, the tools of reporting are accessible to most, incredibly efficient and free.

So law enforcement is a partnership. That's what "See Something, Say Something" means.

But there is a flip side.

When law enforcement is provided evidence of a crime--particularly a crime as heinous as child sex trafficking, as in the case of "Pizzagate," it is their responsibility to communicate openly back with the community.

It is the responsibility of law enforcement to say: "Send us your tips."

To say: "We have received your tips on this issue and we're working on it."

To say: "Here's an update on the situation."

It is not okay to operate in total silence, to leave the community guessing as to what is going on or worse, to label decent people in a negative way for trying to do their part as citizens.

All opinions my own.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Astonishing Hypocrisy of “Fake News”

President Obama lied, openly, intentionally, and repeatedly, to the American public and to Congress in order to make sure that a nuclear deal with Iran was struck.
His speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, called this “the narrative.” Rhodes explained that most reporters are twenty-somethings who will basically believe anything released through the D.C. “echo chamber.”
So it was the White House itself that pushed “fake news.”
They ran the story that gun shops were selling firearms too loosely, that guns were then used to commit crimes, and so stricter gun control was a must. This was Operation Fast & Furious, and it was promulgated through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
By virtue of the fact that he was murdered and two F&F guns were found at the scene, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry effectively ended the scheme. Many months of investigation ensued, but in the end President Obama invoked executive privilege. We will never have the full truth.
In 2012, Ambassador Christopher Stevens was murdered in Benghazi. We don’t really know why. According to researcher Ed Klein, in his book Guilty As Sin, it was the President’s idea to blame a YouTube video for the fury of the crowd, which Secretary Clinton objected to but supported anyway.
The fake news manufactured by our President was so transparent, so laughable, that even today it is literally impossible to repeat it with a straight face.
During the election campaign, we had the lie that Hillary Clinton was ahead in the polls. Which, research showed, was the result of pollsters intentionally skewing the methodology by including more Democrats.
We had the lie that Trump was a racist, Jew-hating Nazi who raped 13 year old girls and grown women alike, peeped on beauty queens, and bragged about grabbing women’s vaginas. It emerged that the Democrats had tried to ensnare Trump in just such a scenario.
As someone who grew up in the New York City area, I was of course well aware that Trump fancied himself a collector of beautiful women and was a big talker. He was a regular guest on the Howard Stern show, which is about as politically incorrect as it gets. But the rest of it was absolutely insane — and yet many people absolutely believed it.
Total fake news.
We had the manufactured reality of CNN and other mainstream news outlets “reporting” on the election while simultaneously admitting that they would abandon all pretense of journalistic objectivity to make sure that Trump never got elected. The coverage was wall-to-wall Hillary cheerleading and similarly nonstop Trump hate.
As far as the debates went, there was Donna Brazile, feeding the candidate the questions, a shocking corruption of the election process that went virtually un-remarked upon.
There was the Democratic National Committee, which staged violence at Trump rallies and then got caught doing it.
And of course, they stole the primaries from Bernie Sanders — more or less openly.
There were allegations that voting machines, even on election day, were literally flipping Republican votes back to the Democratic side.
As a public I think it is fair to say that we have suffered through so many lies, for so long, all the way around, that trust is a rare commodity.
Much of the concern people had focused on Hillary Clinton’s email shenanigans. Others said her doings were more or less matched by George Bush.
This week we heard that President-elect Trump had a “meeting” with the press to more or less kick ass and take names. We heard him “announce” that he will not pursue prosecution of Hillary Clinton.
None of us know exactly what this means. We don’t know. Because there is no transparency.
Just yesterday, two of his biggest supporters, Breitbart News and the pundit Ann Coulter, called him out on the comment regarding Hillary Clinton. Not only had he backtracked on a core campaign promise, but he had also hinted at just the kind of political over-reach President Obama is notorious for.
But then again, maybe the announcement was a tactic?
The election saw a degradation in the value we should place on classified information, sensitive information, and information that is simply confidential. It is not okay to “set it all free.” And we should treat violations with the seriousness they deserve no matter who commits an infraction.
Clearly, though, it was the massive release of leaked emails that provided the public with critical information they needed to vote.
I actually share the President’s concerns about people relying on this kind of data. For one thing, it might not always be real — it’s kind of like buying prescription drugs from Canada, right? Could be cheaper, could be a capsule of shredded talcum power.
For another thing, when you only get the bits and pieces, you don’t see the full picture. We should have had a full accounting of the Clinton Foundation from official sources, what they were doing, who they were meeting with and why, and how decisions were being made when State Department business was involved.
When you only have partial information, and you are only talking to your small circles of self-reinforcing believers, what you get are very strong opinions based on a lack of facts.
But the government did not make enough information available.
And I disagree with Rudy Giuliani. This isn’t about opening up old wounds. It is precisely about avoiding the very real problem of people making shit up and sending it around as though it were true. While I dislike the term “fake news,” there is a valid concern about “hysterical news,” the rule of the mob— rather than facts and reasoned analysis.
It is very hard to get the facts if the Administration itself — an Administration which promised unparalleled transparency, but which was scolded by the Society of Professional Journalists for being just the opposite — literally makes stuff up to promote its own agenda.
I am a Libertarian, not a Republican or a Democrat, because I believe that we need far fewer regulations and far more respect for freedom. Since my party has never been in control of anything, I can stand back and opine rather freely that Republicans and Democrats alike are guilty of the same desire to control the news and thereby public opinion.
In fact the modern founder of public relations, Edward Bernays, was specifically recruited by the American government to manipulate the public into supporting World War I.
If you know me you know I am a government communicator (and as always all opinions are my own.) Having gained some experience here, I have pretty strong opinions about the duty of the government to affirmatively protect freedom of speech and the flow of information, and to provide easily understandable, reliable information that is not at all partisan in nature.
Nobody in America believes that the government should spill all its secrets. This is militarily indefensible, and on the domestic front makes it impossible for law enforcement to do its job.
But there are also too many people who think that the government is not only untrustworthy, but is actively working against their interest.
It is more accurate to say, I think, that the overwhelming majority of political and civil servants are there for positive and productive reasons. But when corruption takes root, as it sometimes unfortunately does, it needs to be rooted out — especially before it becomes part and parcel of institutional operations, and prevents good people from responding.
In the case of “pizzagate,” which was rapidly dismissed by the august New York Times as a crazy conspiracy theory, I think it is absolutely critical that we see a proper investigation. What is the story with kids in Haiti? Why is there a pizzeria where the President hangs out, which gets money from George Soros, and whose owner has an Instagram photo of a toddler’s hand taped to a ping-pong table, among others? Why do John Podesta and his brother Tony look so much like the police sketch of Madeline McCann’s abductors?
There is a saying among communicators that gossip will fill the vacuum when information is not forthcoming from the proper channels. Indeed, what we are getting right now is silence and stalling.
Why did we hear, in a video from a former State Department official, that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy was an attempted “coup,” and that elements of the government staged a “counter-coup,” and that this is how Wikileaks got all its emails?
What was with the focus on Russia during the campaign, anyway? Does anybody really believe that Donald Trump is a Russian agent?
Notice how that narrative is gone.
There is a sea change afoot that the powers that be don’t seem to understand. We in the public may be gullible, we may want to believe, we may find this leader or that leader affable and inspiring and even visionary.
But we have been through a lot in our personal lives and our professional ones. We have been lied to, and lied to a lot. We know what deception looks like and we truly lack the patience for it.
The issue with fake news is not communication. We are a very sophisticated world now, with constant exposure to both news and opinion and advertising. We know how to say things and we know how to discern what is said.
No. The issue we face is the imminent outing of corruption.
It has always been true that certain people, groups of people, and/or networks of groups, have operated outside the law.
But what is new today is the unprecedented power of people + technology to find, share, analyze and make public information that the criminals would rather keep to themselves.
If in the past you could poison a researcher to shut them up, in the future this will not be possible. Too many people are armed with computers and suspicious of the powers that be.
Oddly enough, it is often true that failure yields opportunity.
By working so hard to make falsehood true, the President has sensitized millions of people to the importance of discrediting falsehood.
That can only be good for democracy. As Pat Buchanan said about Donald Trump’s presidency, we who want the truth must “prepare for the long war.”
There will always be people who try to brainwash us into following their way.
It is our job, as good followers of the people we’ve entrusted to lead, to resist any effort to do so.
May God bless our wonderful Nation and help us to be free, and strong, and proud, and courageous in the defense of our ideals and laws.
All opinions my own.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Engage Employees In The Weeds, Not The Clouds

Typically organizations measure employee engagement rates to find out "how well we're doing."
Also typically most employees are nearly or totally checked out of the job, with reputable polling companies like Gallup putting the proportion at 70%.
Think about that: In an economy powered by emotional and intellectual capital, fully seven out of every ten people would rather be somewhere else.
The fact that most workers are disengaged from their jobs is mirrored by the level of actual or contemplated disengagement from marriage. We know that almost 50% of first marriages in the United States (and more than 60% of second marriages) end in divorce, but how many spouses are "checked out" of their relationships well before the marriage ends?
In November 2015 the Institute for Family Studies found that more than 50% of currently married respondents to their national survey (3,000 respondents aged 25-50) have "thought about divorce at some point" and 25% had done so in the past 6 months.
Marriage expert Dr. Terri Orbuch, interviewed in the Wall Street Journal, researches the hard lessons learned by people who went through divorce. Her advice for married people is 100% about communication. Not communication that is "pie in the sky," but rather communication on a moment-by-moment, in-the-moment basis:
  • Be loving and supportive
  • Talk about money openly
  • Stop thinking about the past
  • Focus on fixing the relationship right now, not on blaming the other person
  • Be open with the other person - help them understand your feelings
So to put it in a nutshell: Marriages begin to end when the partners emotionally disconnect from one another.
In just the same way, says work expert Victor Lipman, your job is really reducible to your relationship with the boss: "People leave managers, not companies."
If you want to bring your employees back into the fold, you have to connect with them emotionally. You aren't in a personal marriage with them, of course, but you are in a kind of professional one.
Instead of focusing on complicated, fancy, expensive ways to get them to "check back in," start with things like stopping to say hello, sincerely, in the morning.

All opinions my own.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On The Handwritten Notes That Won An Election

Can it be only a few short years ago that my bosses talked about "Twittering?"

That it took 5 hours to approve a single Tweet, which had to go through a "workflow?"

Shaking my head.

The "business case" required.

Agony and hand-wringing.

Confusion about metrics - is it "reach" or is it "impressions" or "total exposures" or what?

I know, let's make ourselves look good - by only sharing good news! In a peppy voice?

Or, let's talk to ourselves a bit...with "grip-and-grin" handshake photos taken at our latest event.


Call me controversial but I think it's safe to say that this is the first presidential election won on the basis of...Tweets.

What made those Tweets compelling?

It wasn't the fact that the candidate quoted himself a lot.

It wasn't the whirring blades of the helicopter overhead.

It wasn't that he landed in some remote part of the world, and gave us moment-by-moment updates about the fascinating people and cuisine.


The reason we loved those Tweets, was because they were so very real.

These were the thoughts of a man who spoke directly to us.

Who literally took a pen to paper.

Who confided in us his vision, his dreams, his soaring aspirations - and yes, also raw emotions that many of us keep to ourselves.





I think it's safe to say that nobody, not even the experts, saw such a successful Twitter account coming.

Nobody dared to breathe the words that were the truth - the truth - which is that Donald J. Trump knocked it out of the park, because he used a free social media tool.

In the way it was perhaps not intended.

For a serious man, a significant leader, to simply be himself.

All opinions my own. Public domain photo by geralt via Pixabay.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

French News Report Re: Global Pedophile Criminal Networks (English Subtitles) -- Not Political, A Video For The Skeptics

All opinions my own.

The Psychology of Problem Avoidance

There is an old story my husband likes to bring up about when we lived in Riverdale, NY many years ago.

I was walking home from work and saw a bunch of kids on the street fighting.

For some reason I can't recall, I actually went up to the kids in the hopes of breaking up the fight. My memory of the events is too hazy to remember specifics. But I remember telling my husband about it and he said, "Are you crazy?!!! Stay away from trouble!!! Are you looking to get beaten up?!!!"

If you aren't familiar with Riverdale, it's a city in the Bronx where there are some good neighborhoods and some bad neighborhoods and even the kids can be scary dudes. We're talking individuals and gangs, whether they're formally known as gangs or not, and you really don't want to be messing with trouble voluntarily.

It came up in my mind because why do I get involved in things that aren't my problem? Why was I so vehement about the election, for example? Why am I so obsessed with promoting awareness about sex trafficking, in the hopes that I can help stop it?

Don't I know that there is a kill list?

Don't I realize how many have been destroyed because they got involved, and tried to do the right thing?

All I can say is that I understand, logically, why it makes sense to focus on self-preservation.

I understand that there is enough trouble in the world, without seemingly going to look for it.

I understand that the people who are really bad, are not like the average person and really will not stop unless and until they get what they want and then some

I understand that there is an inner survival mechanism that operates in a human being. It's like we avoid people who are touched by tragedy because we are afraid the tragedy is somehow contagious.

We do not want to be infected by tragedy.

I pray that G-d should guide everyone who tries to fight injustice the right way, to do the right thing at the right time, and provide the necessary protections. We alone are powerless.

For usually it seems that the evil ones are unstoppable. They are not.

I beg and implore the One Above to help us fight back and end their terrible reign, wherever and whenever it manifests itself.

All opinions my own.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Communism Presented To Us As Democracy

Earlier I posted a cryptic message that I wanted to explain a bit more clearly. The question was, what do you call someone who promises to protect you, but beats you when you dissent? I was rushing and did not mean to freak anyone out - the point was to draw a parallel between our human right to live free of abuse -- a subject I care very deeply about, and communism.

Let me explain. When a person is being abused, the person abusing them (whether a parent or a partner or a caregiver) often pretends, at least at first, to be caring for them, when in fact they are manipulating the person to be under their thumb. This is communism in a nutshell. Because under communism, freedom of thought is only acceptable to serve the "interests" of the group. Individual rights are not acceptable, period.

(This was the experience I personally had in yeshiva, where you either believed and were "one of us" or you didn't and were ostracized...fortunately there has been some progress since then.)

Because nobody I know has actually lived under communism, I don't think they really understand it. Moreover, we are always told that we live in a democracy, and that democracy and communism are actually totally opposite in nature. Nevertheless the confusing media world we are living in, where there is apparently only one way to think, is a direct signifier of a communist society. Analysis is fine and good but if you cross the line into ideas that threaten "the group," you are to be silenced.

It is core to my nature to integrate the personal and political. I'm not an original thinker in that regard - feminists have always said and done this. I think about Passover when we celebrate freedom from slavery, but growing up the women slaved to put together a table. That hypocrisy always stuck in my craw.

If you think about it logically, the things we take for granted in our personal relationships with others, are also the things we believe should order our external social world. If a girl grows up thinking she exists to serve her father, her mother, her brothers and then her husband and kids...she is very unlikely to develop an identity of her own. Conversely, if a girl is encouraged to run free, to study and to be creative, guess what as an adult she will seek out relationships, jobs and community activities where she is valued as an equal person at the table - not a slave.

The bottom line is, regardless of your politics, in the United States all of us are free to have our own views regardless of what others think. We can marry who we want. Our status in life is not determined by family or caste or color or religion or anything other than initiative.

This is why, as a democracy, we must be aware of and resist any attempt to overthrow our way of life. And always know, when people try to take away something you have, they will always try to do it in such a way that you don't even know it's happening. Or even, that you happily follow along. They use words like "safe," "free," "together," "love," and so on when the reality is crushing conformity, slavery, roboticism and in fact the terminal end of everything our society is built on.

The link here is a short primer from Stanford University which explains, very simply and succinctly, how this riddle operates. It explains how someone can insist that they're against bigotry and hate, but actually be promulgating those very things, in order to centralize and consolidate full power over the individual.

The bottom line is, in a communist regime, freedom of expression is deeply desired - as long as you will go along with the program. Otherwise you are considered a danger to the state, and marginalized, punished, censored, exiled or otherwise punished by any means necessary.

We live in a democracy. Not a communist regime.

There Are Many Ways To Lie

I have worked for the federal government since 2003 across half a dozen agencies and not once has anyone ever instructed me to lie.

Not once.

But there are many ways to lie. What used to be merely disingenuous on the government's part -- a way to avoid controversy, maintain credibility, and try to look good -- has now become downright dangerous.

For in the space of just a few short years, all of us have developed an incredibly sophisticated vocabulary when it comes to decoding the signals and symbols of communication.

In the past, we woke up in the morning and we read the newspaper on the train. Some of us watched the morning news or listened to the news highlights on the radio, driving to work or school.

Not anymore.

The ubiquity and power of social media means that people consumes information continuously. It used to be shocking that people check Facebook in the morning before they brush their teeth. Now there are some who actually do this while having intercourse.

Times have changed.

It used to be that there was an absolute Berlin Wall between fact and opinion. As the presidential election made absolutely clear, that reliable construct has clearly fallen to the grown.

Hollywood used to be a stalwart defender of free speech, too. Not politically unpopular speech, but simply the joy of a well-reasoned thought battle. I remember The McLaughlin Group in particular as the exemplar of a panel with different points of view, even radically different points of view, where the participants had a fundamental respect for intellectual diversity.

Again, not anymore.

Branding has been with us for many, many years, too. It is of course the construction of a common fantasy, and for the dream you pay a very specific price premium.

But in the past I think we all knew, or at least had a certain respect for, the belief that there are some things which are "image" and some that are real. For example, President John F. Kennedy had many mistresses while maintaining the image of a marriage. But as a President we admired him, and still do, for his very real humanity, patriotism and vision.

Today branding proliferates to such a crazy extent that we ourselves sometimes forget when we're "being the personal brand" and when we're being real.

It is against this backdrop of a blurry, propagandistic information landscape that the President enters with his or her agenda and political appointees. They must explain their policies to the public, and they must also provide data that the public can rely on.

In essence this is a contradictory mission. For it will inevitably occur that data contradicts the message.

While of course there are many safeguards built in to prevent the politicization of the civil service, the mental block persists among "civils" and "politicals" alike against sharing information that "will make the government look bad."

As we say in D.C., "you don't want to find yourself on the cover of the Washington Post."

Often this means that it takes agencies a long time to respond to issues, get data out unless they feel it's totally impossible to misinterpret, or simply just to enter into dialogue with dogged critics.

All of this is a terrible mistake and leads to the politicization of what should be a very vanilla, neutral repository for information that everyone trusts, regardless of their political persuasion.

We should re-examine the communication function within government, and establish a cadre of professionals who operate according to recognized standards independent of whatever agency they serve. Their work should be evaluated every year against published standards, not for "return on investment" but for the extent to which it passes the "smell test," is factually accurate, and is trusted by the public, not government officials.


All opinions my own.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Become a Brand-Driven Organization - Without Breaking The Bank

Applying the principles of branding can help any organization increase its effectiveness, whether it operates on its own or as part of a larger corporate brand. Moreover, by involving employees in such a way that they are empowered to act, leadership is freed to focus on policy and process requiring attention.

What Is “Brand-Driven” and Why Is This Concept Relevant?

Brand-driven organizations are uniquely effective at aligning strategic direction with implementation. This requires business savvy to increase value while optimizing efficiency and cutting costs. To be effective, they focus on creating a customer (stakeholder) experience that is well-defined and consistent across all touch points. These individuals include everyone who deals with the organization.

What Is The Connection Between Branding and Corporate Culture?

When an organization operates according to the principles of branding, the employees are empowered to make decisions based on the values associated with the brand. This means that in the everyday course of business, supervisors spend less time making decisions and more time enabling and facilitating collaboration between colleagues. Such collaboration creates a “safe space” for employees to do good work and be valued for it, which in turn lifts morale and increases employee engagement.

What Can You Do In The Short Term To Promote A Brand-Driven Organization?

1. Form a working group charged with leading the brand transformation effort.

Normally there is an Executive Sponsor, an Implementing Officer, and a small team of assistants from throughout the organization (3-4), working part time.

2. Conduct a self-assessment of the brand. 
  • List all the stakeholders. 
  • Conduct a “gap analysis” (this is the difference between how leadership perceives itself, and how customers perceive it) around 4 focus areas: vision, mission, core values, and service delivery. 
  • Use primary evidence, such as focus groups, along with secondary research, such as newspaper articles about the company. 
3. Have the working group present its findings.

This meeting is a facilitated workshop where:
  • Individual findings are presented to leadership. 
  • Leadership has a free-flowing discussion of their reactions to what they heard. 
  • Leadership brainstorms ideas for next steps in each area, followed by a discussion of “what should we do about this?” 
  • The ideas are distilled into a set of notes and distributed to leadership for review. 
4. Re-convene executives to discuss next steps.

Again, this meeting is a facilitated workshop where:
  • The brainstorming results are presented to senior leadership. 
  • Action steps are narrowed into 3-5 specific areas for implementation. Typically this would consist of such things as: policies creating perception problems, process improvement needs, and identification of gaps between values articulation and delivery. 
Branding is not very hard to do, nor does it need to be expensive. Mostly what's required is the will to be honest, and then to do what it takes to succeed.


All opinions my own.

5 Impressions From Talking To An Arab Muslim Woman

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with a woman from overseas, an Arab Muslim. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions, and then she asked me a few.

The conversation itself was not all that enlightening in terms of the Q&A. But what did strike me were the unspoken things.
  • First and foremost, and I know this is obvious, ignorance is a tremendous barrier to intercultural understanding. It is simply not possible to form all of your opinions from reading or watching the news, movies or TV. You have to talk to people to really understand and you probably also have to study history to an extent. Whatever I know, I don't know enough.
  • Second, I know there is this idea that Muslim women are oppressed. Clearly many are. But I think there is a large and silent middle, don't know how secular, that simply is not. True this lady wore the hijab (but many religious Jewish women wear wigs or total head coverings too, so what does that prove?). She spoke in a way that said confidence, not fear. I did note the gender separation and formality between her and her companion; it was clear that when I asked her for permission to ask questions (and said I was a blogger) that she was immediately designated to talk to me, woman to woman.
  • Third, she allowed me to be honest and was direct with her questions in return (not fake polite). I wasn't afraid to ask - there was no sense of intimidation like I could say the wrong thing and be offensive. So I came right out, since we know that most Muslims are not the radicals that are portrayed on TV, why don't more speak out against it? She simply said: "I agree with you. We don't do nearly enough."
  • Fourth, I hate to say it, but I could tell she was uncomfortable when I said - in the spirit of disclosure - that I am a Jew and a Zionist. I felt it, although I will also say that she tried to be polite. I wasn't that I felt hated, per se, but more like the word "Zionist" is a real hot potato.
  • Fifth, and finally, as she left she asked me what I thought was an odd question: I had been recording her? It was odd because even before I said one word to her, I pointed to my computer, said I was a blogger, and said I'd share some things with my readers from her perspective if she didn't mind. Maybe she thought I was a Mossad spy? Who knows - I think I should be glad that she actually took the time to speak to me.
Overall, and this may be my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, I felt like I instinctively understood her communication style and method of comporting herself in a way that I think Western feminists cannot.

As she and her companion got up to leave, another person sitting a few feet away said, "I couldn't help but overhear" and then said something to them that seemed positive.

Washington, DC is a good place to learn about getting along with other cultures. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to move here.


All opinions my own.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Who Is George Soros? Judge For Yourself

"George Soros is the most dangerous man in the world because, just like the crazy megalomaniacs in old fifties movies, he is deceiving everybody into believing that he is altruistic, when in fact, he is using his Open Society/Shadow Party to undermine the very fabric of American society." - Human Events, "George Soros: Demagoat"

Key Points 

  • His ultimate goal is to end the concept of national sovereignty in favor of a global economic system characterized by open borders and central regulation.
  • He has spent billions of dollars promoting this agenda through various proxy organizations in the United States.
  • He has brought about the downfall of foreign governments through various means including currency manipulation and propaganda.
  • Soros contributed substantially to get President Obama elected and to Hillary Clinton's campaign.
  • He prefers to work invisibly.

60 Minutes Interview (1998)

Here are some key points from an interview #GeorgeSoros did with 60 Minutes' Jim Croft in 1998.
  1. "I am basically there to make money. I cannot and do not look at the social consequences of what I do." "As a competitor I've got to compete to win."
  2. Despite his amoral attitude toward making money, has a "tremendous sense of responsibility." He said: "As a human being I am concerned about the society in which I live."
  3. Admits he helped "confiscate property from the Jews." Does he feel guilty? Was it difficult? "Not at problem at all." "Of course I could be on the other side, I could be the one from whom the thing is being taken away. But there was no sense that I shouldn't be there, because that was - it's just like in markets, if I weren't there, of course I wasn't doing it, somebody else would be taking it away sense of guilt."
  4. Are you religious? "No." Do you believe in God? "No."
  5. Wants to save the world through regulation of the global economy, but admits he keeps his hedge fund accounts offshore so that they are not subject to regulation.

CNN Interview (2014)

The below is from the transcript of Soros' interview with Fareed Zakaria in 2014:
ZAKARIA: George Soros has made one of world's great fortunes betting on global trends, and he is deeply troubled by events and political trends in Ukraine, specifically, but Europe more broadly. He's just back from the region and he joins me to talk about what he saw, what he thinks and where he's putting his money.
George Soros, pleasure to have you on.
ZAKARIA: First on Ukraine, one of the things that many people recognized about you was that you during the revolutions of 1989 funded a lot of dissident activities, civil society groups in eastern Europe and Poland, the Czech Republic. Are you doing similar things in Ukraine? 
SOROS: Well, I set up a foundation in Ukraine before Ukraine became independent of Russia. And the foundation has been functioning ever since and played an important part in events now. 

Other Quotes

Further Reading

  1. 2016 - "Soros bands with donors to resist Trump, 'take back power'" (Politico)
  2. 2016 - "Here's Proof That Soros Money Is Funding The Anti-Trump Leftist Protest Riots" (Gateway Pundit)
  3. 2016 - "Leaked Documents Reveal Expansive Soros Funding To Manipulate Federal Elections" (PJ Media)
  4. 2016 - "George Soros Declares War On Trump As Ex-Soros Employee Prepares To (Maybe) Join His Cabinet" (Vanity Fair)
  5. 2016 - "Clintons and Soros Launch America's Purple Revolution" (ZeroHedge)
  6. 2016 - "Black Lives Matter Activists, George Soros Sued Over Slain Dallas Cop" (
  7. 2016 - "Make Soros Happy: Inside Clinton Team's Mission To Please Billionaire VIP" (Fox News)
  8. 2016 - "It Looks Like George Soros Is Funding The Trump Protests Just Like He Funded The Ferguson Riots" (Activist Post)
  9. 2016 - "Leaked Memo Exposes George Soros' Plan To Overthrow Putin & Destabilize Russia" (ZeroHedge)
  10. 2016 - "George Soros and Voting Machine Company Deny Alt-Right Conspiracy" (BuzzFeed)
  11. 2014 "George Soros and the Shadow Party Behind Crises to Take Down America" (
  12. 2014 - CNN's Fareed Zakaria Interviews George Soros (transcript)
  13. 2011 - "Are George Soros' Billions Compromising U.S. Foreign Policy?" (Forbes)
  14. 2011 - "George Soros: Demagoat"
  15. 2011 - "Top 10 Reasons George Soros Is Dangerous" (Human Events)
  16. 2007 - "Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism Reconsidered" (by George Soros)
  17. 2005 - "George Soros on Globalization" (by George Soros)
  18. 2004 - "George Soros: The 'God" Who Carries Around Some Dangerous Demons" (LA Times)
  19. 1998 - "The Crisis of Global Capitalism: Open Society Endangered" (by George Soros)
  20. 1993 - "The Billionaire Who Built On Chaos" (UK's The Independent)

All opinions my own.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Day I Decided To Just Be Myself

There's really no point to this blog post other than to share a single thought that seems important to me.

Ever since I was a little girl I always got the message that I was a fairly repulsive person to be around unless I was a) smiling b) performing and c) cute.

It's not like anyone ever said those things to me, but certainly I could see which behaviors got me attention of the positive kind and which behaviors didn't.

I learned that when I was angry, nobody wanted to talk to me.

When I was depressed, I was like a cancer that others didn't want to catch.

But when I was up there on stage -- and I do mean literally, on stage, playing piano or performing in a play or even giving a speech at the tender age of 10 to a national audience -- well for those occasions I was well worth paying attention to.

I learned that when I posed for photographs, I was immediately transformed into an interesting person.

I dreamed of being a fashion model, which I'm sure comes as no surprise to those of you who know me and my preoccupation with image. The only problem was that I was too short, and too fat, and one of my feet is actually longer than the other. (Scoliosis.)

My scoliosis is not a subject people like to discuss.

I lost my baby teeth and for some reason they came in crooked, and a bit yellow.

At some point they said I needed glasses.

And my hair got cut relatively short, if stylishly, in a Dorothy-Hamill type style. (If you were around in the '70s you remember her, she was a skater.)

All of the messages I got. They told me not to sit there with a RBF ("resting b**** face").

Instead they wanted me to smile.

I smiled and smiled and smiled some more.

All my life I smiled, even when I didn't have a single smile in me.

I remember many times crying my head off, but only when I was driving and the music was on. I remember putting on concealer so that nobody would know I had been crying.

Nobody wants to be around a sad, intense person.

Was it this year that I decided to just be myself?

Certainly online there is no chance of getting anyone to read your stuff if it's presented in a brown manila wrapper of misery.

But in person, and at work, and yes, even online, something has broken in me.

And though you might say I'm not as composed as I've tried to be in the past, I think I like myself a lot better.

I laugh more and when I do it's in a real way. It's actually really, really loud.

I don't feel compelled to smile when I'm not smiling, although yes I do still put on the concealer and some makeup. Because let's face it, we can't just let go of everything...can we?

Someone said to me today that I should "smile" and it felt like an accusation. "Smile, you aren't smiling" and I guess I felt like I didn't have very much to smile about today.

It's OK.

I'm getting older, and the things that matter are less and less what other people think, and more and more whether I can look myself in the mirror.


All opinions my own.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Sing along with me..."Dayenu" (translation: "it's enough")
  • If Hillary would blame the FBI for the fact that she committed crimes requiring FBI involvement...Dayenu.
  • If the DNC, the Clinton Foundation and George Soros were funding and organizing anti-Trump riots in secret...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary pretended to make a concession speech while signaling with her outfit the "purple revolution" against Trump's presidency, with George Soros...Dayenu.
  • If HIllary would have colluded with the mainstream media and the pollsters to portray herself the winner...Dayenu.
  • If the Democrats would have stolen the primaries from Bernie Sanders...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would have conspired to portray Donald Trump as a serial sexual abuser while concealing her own husband's history of rape and sexual abuse, and intimidating the women who accused him...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would have conspired to conceal her life-threatening health problems with a "note from the doctor" citing that she is fit to run...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary's campaign chair would have been found out to be involved with pedophiles and satanic devil worshiping artists...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary herself would be accused of sexual assault against minor girls, including sex slaves...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would give only 6 percent of every dollar donated to her "charitable foundation" to actual charity...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would be involved with child traffickers in Haiti, and deny funding to Haiti, while claiming to take money for the poorest people in the world, whose lives were destroyed by natural disaster...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary's "foundation" would take money from the women-abusing Saudis and then giving them the largest arms deal in history on behalf of the State Department...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would send Ambassador Chris Stephens on a suicide mission to cover up a screwup related to gun-running arms to radical militias...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would subvert Freedom of Information Act laws and administer the Department of State's most important secret discussions from a bathroom closet...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary would send classified emails to her maid to print...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary's closest aide, raised by radical Islamic fundamentalists, would have access to send email on her behalf...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary colluded with President Obama to pretend that Assad used chemical weapons on the Syrians when in fact they wanted to build a pipeline through Syria and needed an excuse to invade...Dayenu.
  • If Hillary in effect, by creating the Syria crisis, also created the refugee crisis that has nearly collapsed Germany, Sweden, the UK and Italy...Dayenu.
For all of this and more...for laughing at the vicious rape of a 12 year old and getting the pedophile rapist off...for viciously threatening women, cursing Jews and Black people, and name-calling her own Secret Service agents...for putting her own employees in danger...for using the State Department as a campaign prop...Dayenu.

Dayenu. Stop the phony riots and the fake protestations over how glorious a President she would have been.
All opinions my own.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Making Wealth Infinite, Together

We are living, right now, in the Messianic age. This is "a future time of universal peace and brotherhood on the earth, without crime, war and poverty." (Wikipedia)

The United States has a special role to play in bringing this age about -- one nation under God. No matter who we are or where we come from, all of us are in it together.

We also understand, uniquely, that generating wealth is the key to spiritual freedom. In this we have evolved. Where in the past money was considered evil, today we understand that abundance frees you to focus on what really matters in life.

At this time in our world's history we are on the cusp of universal abundance, which can bring universal peace. We can make it happen with technology. We need to free it up for common use, along with the instruction manuals. Meaning, let's unlock the gates to knowledge and make it free for all.
  • Imagine a world where homes could be constructed within days, not weeks.
  • Where nutritious food was freely dispensed from machines on the street.
  • Where healthcare was administered by robot, and the world's worst diseases were cured through the touch of a light.
  • Where the genes that contribute to rape, robbery and murder could be identified and excised from the human body, before a child is even old enough to walk.

All of this is possible, and more. One of the things I like about pastor Joel Osteen, similar to Donald Trump is that he always says to think in abundant terms. My father always talks this way too: "If you can dream it you can do it," he repeats, over and over again.

Our minds are conditioned to be small and passive. The world has become so overwhelming and confusing, so daunting and full of threats to our existence. It's easier to focus on our own survival, and that of our own small circles.

But to be so passive is to lack a certain kind of faith -- an expansiveness -- that becomes very easy once you focus on the infinite power of God. Again we are conditioned to focus on "personal brands," this leader or that, but humans are very fallible.

About ten years ago I made this painting about Abraham and his faith in God. It exemplifies how I feel about the world. We ought to look only up. If we look up all things are possible.

Now is the time for us to look up.

I bring it up because this week's Bible reading is "Lech Lecha," or "Go," a part of the book of Genesis. We meet a man named Abraham, who is fundamentally transformed by an act of total faith: He smashes all the idols in his father's store.

From a financial point of view and a material one, this was a very stupid thing to do. Those idols were money. Totally powerless in and of themselves, but -- just like brands -- they inspired in people a sense of power, and so the income flowed in as people lined up to buy them.

Abraham did the work himself: God did not come down and smash the idols. And after that there was yet another test of faith, and another, and another, and another.

Abraham's entire life's work was to show what it means to choose God blindly, in faith, even if it meant losing everything.

In return for faith -- or, more specifically, for the acts that result from pure faith --God blessed Abraham and his descendants with abundance. He also blessed the rest of the world.
  • Genesis 17:1-8: "I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly."
  • Genesis 26:4: "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;
  • Genesis 35:11: God also said to him, "Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.

All this brings us back to where we started -- Messianic times, and what it means to live in them. If you look at the different descriptions of this age, regardless of who is writing them, there are three common threads:
  • Peace: The concept of war will no longer be relevant. We will not have a need for weapons, for nobody will rise up against anybody else to do harm.
  • Prosperity: There will be more than enough for everyone. We will not know such a thing as poverty.
  • Truth: We will not live in a world of falsehood, illusion and evil but rather the truth will be evident to all, and this will lead all people to serve the One and Only God.
As the world has matured toward modern times, we have seen the evolution of the human mind. Peace is universally recognized as a mutual goal. Ending extreme poverty is the explicit mission of an entire agency in the United States Government, USAID. Truth, or at least the exchange of knowledge and ideas in search of truth, has become ubiquitously available through the Internet.

All of these are signs that we live in Messianic times. I am not at all concerned with who the Messiah might be. I couldn't give a darn about which religion invented which idea or whose version of the ultimate redemption is more perfect.

What I care about, and what I want to tell you, is that I do not believe a nasty War of the Worlds scenario is inevitable. Far from it! We all, as human beings, have the capacity to bring peace, prosperity and truth to the world together.

We can co-create Messianic times.

We can prevent any further wars, we can eliminate all the poverty, we can create a world together where most of our time is spent on the search for higher level meaning.

I see it in my head and I know it can be real.

But before we we can get there, we need to be like Abraham. Destroy all the false idols that enrich our wallets temporarily. And take upon ourselves the terrifying but freeing yoke of serving God alone.


All opinions my own. Photo by Nadir Burney via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Entitled Generation Is About To Wake Up

I took this photo of a Veterans Day display last night at a local university. Happy Veterans Day to all. Thank you and respect to those who served and to their families.

I have never served in the military and cannot conceive of the sacrifice.

Looking at the respectful display honoring those who gave their lives for our Nation gave me pause. And I stood there.

Suddenly I overheard a student talking to someone on the phone. She was walking briskly past me. I could hear her loud protestations.
"I don't understand! How did Trump win? I'm so FRUSTRATED!"
She really looked agitated. I think I did not realize, until that moment, how upset many people are about the results of the election.

Perhaps I missed the obvious signs. Here is a photo I took on November 9, the morning after the election, that pretty much sums up the mood on the train in D.C. (It should be noted that Hillary got 98% of the vote here.)

On CNN there was "Lily the protester" who in a span of 58 seconds managed to squeeze it all in, including what sounded like a call to violence. Breathlessly she mushed it all together:
"our lives begin to end the day we become silent" "people had to die for freedom" "we can't just do rallies" "there will be casualties on both sides" "people have to die" "Trump enough with your racism" "even all races, not just my Hispanic culture."
And of course she culminated with
"impeach Donald Trump."

If we step back for a moment and analyze all this emotion, what exactly is going on?

I do not believe it's about any love for Hillary as an individual.

In Panera yesterday the cashier was talking to her colleague. She said, cynically:
"I wonder if Donald Trump is really gonna go after her for those emails the way he said."

The Left claims to speak for minorities but this was an African-American woman who clearly did not have a high income. She was mad as hell, and it was at Trump for not doing something to put her on trial immediately.

Clearly, women are grieving that a woman did not make the Presidency. Typifying this emotion is the Facebook post by a woman named Margot Gerster, which went viral after she ran into Hillary and Bill in the park and Bill snapped a photo of them together:

Looking at the photo, at least, it seems like Hillary is the nicest and most normal grandma in the world and you totally understand what Margot is going through. Here is her post on Facebook, which is grief epitomized (spelling/grammar left intact):
Ive been feeling so heartbroken since yesterday’s election and decided what better way to relax than take my girls hiking. So I decided to take them to one of favorite places in Chappaqua. We were the only ones there and it was so beautiful and relaxing. As we were leaving, I heard a bit of rustling coming towards me and as I stepped into the clearing there she was, Hillary Clinton and Bill with their dogs doing exactly the same thing as I was. I got to hug her and talk to her and tell her that one of my most proudest moments as a mother was taking Phoebe with me to vote for her. She hugged me and thanked me and we exchanged some sweet pleasantries and then I let them continue their walk. Now, I’m not one for signs but I think ill definitely take this one. So proud. #iamstillwithher #lovetrumpshate #keepfighting #lightfollowsdarkness
So some of this is grief.

Grief so bad you can see the young people literally crying. Never in my lifetime have I seen a reaction like this.

On top of the crying there are protests all over the country. Some of them are clearly orchestrated, but not all of them. We cannot discount what's going on.

Nobody paid to stage this confrontational scene which was filmed on the New York subway.

Even toddlers are crying, it seems. In this video we see a (hilarious) meltdown as a child yells, almost incomprehensibly,

"Hillary has to put Trump in jail. Because she's the president!"

Clearly the anger people feel has something to do with their beliefs about Donald Trump's character. They imagine him a vile dictator, bringing us back to the Dark Ages of blame-the-victim rapes, coat-hanger abortions, back-slapping men doing deals in the back of the bar, lesbians and gay men stigmatized and brutalized, and African-Americans as worse than second-class citizens.

But there, again, I'm not so sure that people buy the argument, at least not anymore. As one of her own campaign staffer said, when Trump is on is own, he "normalizes." (You'll see this debate around him a lot - and the use of this specific word.)

Yet enough of us know Trump from many years back. He has never been accused of being all that stuff before. Maybe an asshole, a business cheater, a marketer, a fraud. Maybe he played up the "playboy" side of himself as exemplified by owning the Miss Universe pageant. But he also did a lot of public good, both publicly and privately, and overall I don't think anybody ever had the sense that he was Count Dracula.

The demonization tactic falls apart fast when you talk to those who actually know him.

So what gives?

After we peel off the "racist, sexist, homophobe" layer and after we peel apart the "fascist dictator" layer and after we set aside the "he has no experience" factor we are left with some kind of deep, raw wound that clearly has many, many people exploding.

Nobody paid Miley Cyrus to break out in tears on social media.

So now we get down to it. Here is my hypothesis.

After two generations of totally coddling our youngsters, the shit is finally hitting the fan.

When I was growing up, as a Generation Xer, nobody handed me anything. Yes I had a comfortable middle-class existence. But I left my home at the age of 16 after graduating high school early. My father dropped me off with $20 in my pocket. I worked as a grocery bagger, a pharmacy label typist, and a catering assistant to get by. I worked as a temp. I struggled to get through my undergraduate years, with sporadic help from the family.

It sucked!

As a child my mother took me to every conceivable lesson. But I don't recall ever winning any awards for being there. I went to summer camp, which was covered because she worked on-site as the nurse.

Nobody watched me when I went outside to play nor did they ask me what time I would be home.

If I didn't make my own lunch, I got an apple and an orange and an apple.

This is not to knock my parents at all. Maybe some kids had it worse, and some kids had it better. But we were expected to handle ourselves on our own, from a very young age, and when things went wrong it was just too bad.

Mom and Dad were working so that we could eat. And if that meant the TV kept us company all Sunday, then so be it.

Not so with the 1990s kids and beyond. I know this because I am the mother of two of them.

For my own kids, at least speaking for myself, I was determined that they should never know a moment without enrichment, encouragement, advancement, and recognition.

Is it a social disease that all of us caught?

I don't think I let them cross the street by themselves, ever. In fact I remember driving my younger one to school, every day, so that she would not have to cross a busy street.

It is as if all the anger at being left on my own manifested itself in an absurdly high level of care and concern for the children - I would say overprotectiveness - that has not left them until this day.

It has not left me, and if I would talk about my husband's feelings on the matter he would echo this. In fact I would actually argue that he sees overprotection as completely normal.

Now you may tell me that my own experience is unique, except I have corroborating evidence to show that others have enabled a culture of totally entitled young people.

I remember when the kids were in preschool and they were constantly getting certificates for absolutely nothing.

Same goes for summer camp. "This kid showed up" and for that you got a medal.

Fast forward to many years later and in so many ways I saw the same dynamic operating.

As someone who supervised Millennials I was initially blown away at their complete and total confidence in the work that they did, even when in my view it wasn't good enough.

I vividly remember telling someone who worked for me that I was not satisfied with the product. If I recall correctly I got in trouble the next day. The person stayed late and went crying to my own supervisor to complain about my total "insensitivity."

Another time I went to interview for a position as an adjunct lecturer. The interviewer said, she literally said, "What will you do if someone does very poor work? Will you grade them up anyway?"

I was shocked at the question. "No, of course not!"

"What will you do when the parents call to complain?"

At this my head was virtually exploding. I don't think my parents would have ever called a college professor to say diddly-squat.

"I would tell them to go fly a kite," I answered frankly. "That is totally ridiculous."

"Well, it's been nice meeting you," she said.

And then I got shown the door.

Fast forward, fast forward, fast forward to last night at the local university.

I sat there in the lobby of one of the buildings and just listened to the students, talking.

They seemed to feel like they knew pretty much everything there was to know.

They seemed to be very aware of one another's feelings.

They seemed to be very insulated from concepts like "fact" and instead were deeply engaged in debating largely ideological issues.

In this they are not unlike many popular celebrities who can't say enough loving things about Hillary nor enough hateful things about our new President, Donald Trump. (Like Judd Apatow saying voters "wanted an abusive father.")

All of these people, the students I watched and the Hollywood celebrities, have one thing in common: They live in a bubble. They are shielded from reality in so many vital ways. (Muslims, in contrast, are not shielded from reality, which is why so many support Trump; they don't want the U.S.A. to become the next hotbed of Muslim-on-Muslim violence; they don't want to be indoctrinated by radicals.)

In speaking the truth, the truth that we don't like to hear about radical Islamic terrorism, the truth about Obamacare, the truth about the Iran deal, the truth about the Trans-Pacific-Partnership and NAFTA, the truth about how our people are sinking under the weight of a collapsing economy, in speaking that truth and more, including the truth about government corruption -- Trump won enough support to attain the Presidency.

But also in speaking the truth, Trump drove a stake through the heart of the lies entitled people want to tell themselves. The lie that we can have whatever we want, do whatever we want, borrow as much as we want, be as irresponsible as we want, and on and on and on -- and face absolutely zero consequences.

Trump seems to me a pretty tolerant person. But he is a person who clearly, at this time, felt called to a higher duty: saving our country from itself.

With his authoritarian presence and "law and order" message, Judd Apatow may be partially right -- he does represent a father figure. But unlike Apatow's protege, Lena Dunham, Trump is willing to draw a line in the sand between good and bad behavior.

And Lena Dunham's signature character in the HBO hit show Girls, "Hannah," actually exemplifies the cultural rift we now face -- pretty well.

It's entertaining on TV that Hannah has zero social grace. It's interesting that she has a serious compulsion to nudity. It's frightening yet compelling that she puts herself into bizarre and painful situations where someone could get seriously hurt. As a mother, I wondered at the kind of culture that produces a Hannah, who casually performs sexual acts on her friends and hitchhikes into the city with a complete stranger after ditching her loving and loyal boyfriend in the woods.

As a writer I understand that Hannah has to be Hannah. Her journey is her own and it is only for me to watch and witness.

But as a citizen I am extremely concerned that we have so many young people who feel they can do "whatever" and have no consequence. Just like her.

Trump, as a president, represents the antithesis of that message. Although he seems a compassionate person, there is no doubt that his "brand," or persona, is fully about reality, structure, order, and yes, moral distinctions.

The past 30-40 years of moral relativism, of poststructuralism in the academy, of ideological flimflam passing as scholarship, of the total break between what the pundits say and what real people experience -- all of that is collapsing.

And it is in the break that the children cry.

Because they know the party is over.


All opinions my own. Photo by Chris Pelliccione via Flickr (Creative Commons)