#367 Prescription? Conscription for All. Steps to Implementation. (Part 2)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #365.  

If you want to a diversion, there are easy-to-read booklets for download.  These include:

ENTRY #367 BEGINS.  Blog entry #366 proposed reinstituting conscription and expanding it to include women.  Doing so makes sense only if those “conscripted” can be productive and the output benefit many US citizens.

If implemented, the goals of conscription would be:

  1. Improve understanding with a broader swath of the population how to:
    • Work in teams
    • Work with people who have different skills
    • Work with people from different socio-economic backgrounds
  2. Provide reasonably skilled labor for major government projects, such as rebuilding infrastructure. Think of the 1930s and how the WPA was used for building roads, dams, and other infrastructure throughout the United States.
  3. Create a sense of having served, and being proud of having served the country. Less than 1% of citizens currently serve in the military. In addition, of those who volunteer for the military, most are from families whose members have also served. The current military is supported by a very narrow segment of the population. The current enlistment model is likely unsustainable over time.
  4. Create skills that allow those discharged to find meaningful employment in the private or public sectors.

Key components of a broad-based conscription program would include:

  1. Everyone subjected to conscription at age 18.
  2. Minimal exemptions from serving.
  3. Being able to serve other than in the military. Individuals would have the option to select the military or other agency. If after joining the military, the individual could not meet the physical requirements, the individual would then transfer to a non-military assignment.
  4. Assignments would be throughout the United States, not just near the individual’s hometown.
  5. Assignments outside the US would be available for certain categories.
  6. Basic training would be required for everyone, even those not serving in the military. For anyone who has served in the military, basic training is a memorable experience. For those who have never lived away from home, basic training is an opportunity to begin to understand how the world operates.  The non-military basic training would not be as intense as the military but would have many of the same components: (i) being trained with people of disparate backgrounds; (ii) living in “barracks” for a certain period, including some KP. Total basic training for non-military would be maybe 8 weeks. Advanced training would vary by general assignment but likely not exceed 8 weeks. Depending on assignment, likely additional OJT.
  7. Meaningful tasks. During the time in service, members should be taught a skill that can be used in a meaningful job as well as a skill that can be transferred to the private or public sector once discharged.
  8. Uniform for all serving. While the uniform for non-military assignments would be different from the various military uniforms, requiring a uniform during working hours would help to: (i) designate who is serving their country; (ii) reinforce to the participant that he or she is a member of a team.

US Departments/Agencies where trainees could work include:

  1. Defense – optional. However, if DOD does not meet its recruiting quotas by branch, then some trainees could be assigned to help meet quotas.
  2. Interior.  Participants would work in national parks, for example.
  3. EPA.  Monitor pollution in and sources of pollution in lakes, rivers, air.
  4. Education. Could work at federal facilities – Native American schools, e.g., state facilities – academic institution, or local – neighborhood school. Dep’t of Education would be overall coordinator and manage selection of location.

Time Required to Serve. Two (2) years active service plus four (4) years reserve duty. Reserve would allow government to recall key individuals in critical situations.

Reenlistment. Participant could re-up for an additional two years, including seeking a higher-level position.

Years of Credited Service. Number of years would transfer with the individual if he or she transitioned to a government job, whether federal, state or local level.

Options of When to Serve. All individuals would be expected to begin service not later than age 23. Participant could join immediately after high school, at age 18 to 19. Program would include option to defer service until after college, with a maximum deferral of five years.

Exclusions from Serving. Minimal reasons for not serving.  Bone spurs would not qualify for exclusion. Few would be categorized as “4F.” Even those with physical handicaps would be expected to serve, unless the level of physical handicap was deemed extreme. Every effort, for example, would be made to include people using wheelchairs. For those who are handicapped there might be different level of training and jobs might be somewhat different. Nonetheless, every effort would be made to include them in the “corps.”

Autism Spectrum. To the extent possible all but the most extreme on the autism spectrum would be expected to serve in some capacity. Like those with physical disabilities, training routine and the type of job might be different.

While some might argue against including people with special needs, the service requirement would: (i) help train the individual with some transferable job skills; (ii) help reduce the stigma often associated with some type of perceived disability; (iii) help reduce the long-term cost of care since many will be employed following service and become taxpayers.

Non-Citizens in the US. Would be eligible to serve. Serving would be a path to US citizenship.

While the devil is in the details for large-scale projects, much of the framework to implement a conscription program is already in place. The US military has systems and procedures that could be modified. In addition, a “conscription-for-all” program could be implemented in phases, allowing inevitable kinks to be worked out before the program is expanded to everyone turning age 18.

An argument can be made that with such a low unemployment rate, a “conscription-for-all” program would make finding employees more difficult.  Well, if you look behind the numbers of the unemployment rate, its not as rosy as what the White House promotes.  Many counted as “employed” are in fact workers with low-paying, part-time jobs.

In addition, the economy is not going to grow forever.  There will be another recession, possibly depression. While the likelihood of a depression is the topic for another blog entry, there is ample historical evidence that supports a sharp economic downturn following a period of rapid concentration of wealth and “bubbles” in the financial markets.  Both conditions exist today.

Another reason to support “conscription for all” is to help mitigate the impact of the coming “technology tsunami.”  The tech tsunami will cause a major disruption to the workforce.  For more about the technology tsunami and the likely impact, download Tech Tsunami Booklet with Supplement.

Now, how to get the House and Senate to pass a bill to expand conscription.

#366 — Prescription? Conscription for All. (Part 1)

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #365.  

If you want to a diversion, there are easy-to-read booklets for download.  These include:

Start of Entry #366.  With the new year, I decided to try, emphasis on try, and get back to outlining practical solutions to complex societal problems. Ideally all of the topics in the coming blog entries will be related to factors that could contribute to the 5th US Revolution, the Revenge Revolution.

Some topics will be more obviously linked to the projected revolution; some less so. Doubtless, there will be entries that are more a reaction to some recent event inside the Beltway, or some inane comment or action by Trump. However, one of my resolutions for 2020 is to keep “reactionary” entries to a minimum, or at least put the entries in a broader context.

A societal issue that seems to generate little discussion but one that has long-term implications for a stable US democracy is how to staff the military. In a previous entry (#293), I recommended conscription be reinstituted in the US. I also recommended that satisfying requirements of conscription could be expanded beyond service in the military. One could satisfy requirements by serving in any number of government agencies – Federal, state, local – as well as serving in certain jobs outside the US – embassies, e.g.

The general benefits of conscription include: (i) exposing “draftees” to jobs, people and activities they would likely never experience otherwise; (ii) providing an excellent way to train people for work in the private sector. Many of the jobs skills learned while serving, especially non-military assignments, would have direct applicability in the private sector; (iii) helping people understand how to build a highly functioning team from a group of individuals with disparate backgrounds. Such an understanding should help reduce the polarization that continues to worsen in this country; (iv) maybe the most important, allowing people to state rightfully and proudly they served their country.  Under the proposed conscription system, let’s change the term “draftee” to “patriot.”

Conscription would help overcome what is a growing problem for the military – a very narrow segment of the population volunteers to serve. According to an article in the New York Times (20 01 11 NYT Makeup of Military Recruits), less than 1% of the US population serves in the military. Further, nearly 80% of the current recruits come from families where someone has served, and 30% of the recruits come from families where one or both parents have served in the military.

The current volunteer system limits the personality profiles of people in the military. While some might find this comforting, my experience has been limiting personality types in a group can result in distorted thinking and/or distorted behavior. Expanding the type/personality profiles of individuals serving in the military can have a moderating influence on “group think” behavior. Such moderation seems especially important for members participating in units subjected to extreme training and precarious assignments – special forces and Navy SEALs e.g. Members of these units may find having a moderating force in the ranks would help mitigate the difficulty in transitioning to civilian life.

Admittedly, the number of former special forces personnel I’ve worked with in say the last ten years is limited. However the actions of each suggest a problem in the transition to civilian life. Of the four (4) in various special-forces units, one was a convicted felon, two were extortionists, and one was a seemingly “normal” individual but who also maintained a significant cache of weapons, including several .50 caliber rifles. Folks, .50 caliber rifles are not for hunting. They’re for armed warfare.

The military seems to be trying to address the most egregious misbehavior of personnel in special forces. Recent examples include the Navy’s conviction of Edward Gallagher, a high-ranking NCO SEAL, and the Army’s refusal to restore a Special Forces tab for Major Mathew Golsteyn, who had been accused of killing an unarmed Afghan suspected of bomb making.

Unfortunately, the efforts by the military have been thwarted by Trump. Trump, who has zero military experience and apparently no appreciation of the need for discipline within the system, pardoned both men and hailed them as true “warriors,” thereby undermining the military justice system.

Whereas reinstituting conscription won’t necessarily stop egregious, even criminal behavior by those in special forces, it will increase the appreciation among a wide swath of citizens, including those inside the Beltway, of what is required to operate a military that can be model of integrity for other countries worldwide. A credible, well-disciplined military with proper, separate oversight is also critical to a functioning democracy.

For “patriots” who serve in government organizations other than the military, the organizations will benefit by being exposed to a workforce with fresh ideas and skills that should be especially useful as more technology is integrated into these organizations. The “patriots,” in many respects, will be like interns in the private sector. Having “patriots” as workers allows managers of the government organization an opportunity to evaluate performance and then potentially recruit the higher performing individuals for employment following discharge.

Reinstituting conscription needs to be fair and equitable. Some ideas in the next entry.

 

#365 Sense Check re Likelihood of 5th US Revolution

Entry #365 is a periodic “sense check” about the likelihood of a 5th revolution in the United States.  The first entry for this blog was in the fall 2013. The theme was based on a correlation that I discovered while writing another paper. The correlation was the United States has experienced some type of Revolution about every 50 years. (See Entry #1 for more explanation.)

According to my analysis, Revolution #4 occurred in the late 60s, early 1970s. If the pattern holds true, then there should be another revolution sometime around 2020. For nitpickers, measuring social change is not a precise algebraic equation. Therefore, a revolution in 2025 and even a few years later would still fall within the general guidelines of the 50-year cycle.

So, what’s the likelihood of this 5th revolution? What was unknown in 2013 was a likely trigger point. By late 2013 the Obama Administration had implemented numerous social reforms but none seemed likely to trigger a revolution. Doubtless, some groups in society, especially those on the far right, were frustrated by the Administration’s policies but some groups are always frustrated when there’s change.

What has changed since? Enter the effect of Trump. The “Trump effect” cannot be attributed solely to Trump. Trump was more a catalyst than the cause. Some change had been building in the Republican Party for years. No question that Trump has managed to accelerate the change in the Republican Party. And the change has been more extensive and faster than anticipated.

Trump’s involvement was even a surprise to Republicans and Democrats. Few expected him to earn the nomination and even fewer expected him to be elected. But Trump was elected, well sort of elected. Based on a popular vote count Trump received about 3 million fewer votes than Clinton. Nevertheless, Trump won the Electoral College vote, the second consecutive Republican to lose the popular vote and still be elected.

While the Electoral College win was frustrating for many Democrats, what seemed to shatter any hope of Congress and/or voter coming together was Trump’s personal behavior. From the moment the outcome of the election was clear, Trump ramped up his insulting, boorish behavior, further alienating Democrats and many independent voters.

Trump also managed to bully Republicans in the House and Senate into supporting his strange policies. Other than the late Senator John McCain, no Republican has been willing to challenge Trump’s abandonment of many previously held Republican principles – free trade and fiscal conservatism, e.g.

The bullying has resulted in the same Republicans making no public effort to stop Trump’s serial lying, denigration of widely-respected government employees, trashing of the FBI and CIA, insulting the military chain of command, and repeatedly insulting leaders of long-standing US allies. Nor, has any Republican made any serious counter to Trump’s public support of known enemies of the US, which is a direct threat to national security.

Among the voting public, Trump supporters seem to fall into three major camps and a fourth smaller camp. The three major camps are: #1, far-right fringe groups, who relish Trump’s support, whether intentional or not; #2, Evangelical Christians who seem to focus on one issue – abortion – and somehow disregard 99% of Trump’s behavior that seems contrary to their core religious beliefs; #3, long-time Republicans who somehow cannot fathom voting for a Democrat no matter how bad the Republican is for the welfare of the country. Many of these “yellow-dog Republicans” are likely primary voters who hold a disproportionate influence on members of Congress.

The fourth camp, which has the fewest number of people but the most influence, is the money camp. If one filters out all the noise, the quest for money is what drives Trump. His policies, whether tax policies or directives to such agencies as EPA to slow or stop enforcement, have consistently favored the money group. There is considerable evidence that seems to indicate his positive attitude toward and accommodation of the Russians is driven by access to their money.

Maybe most surprising and illogical to me is that Trump and Trump TV talking heads (Fox News) have convinced the three non-money camps that Trump’s policies are in their best economic interest, when in fact, the policies are contrary to the economic interests of virtually all these families. The 2017 tax cut is a good example. The tax cut threw a few bones to middle and lower-income families in the short term. However, beginning in the mid-2020’s, the “tax cut” results in penalties to middle-income families while continuing to benefit the rich.

In addition, the tax cut for corporations combined with the tax cut for the wealthy was so significant that the Federal deficit ballooned in 2019 – up 50% to about $1,000,000,000 – even though the economy was reasonably strong. Oh, yes I forgot, Trump is the reason the economy grew. The deficit grew because of Obama’s policies.    (Seriously, if you want to understand more about why “trickle-down” economics is a fraud, even though widely supported by many Republicans, start with Entry #21. It’s conversational and easy to understand. Entry #237 also addresses some fundamentals of economics.)

What could be the trigger point for the 5th US revolution is Trump’s reelection. But the revolution will not be started by Democrats. The revolution will be started by Trump supporters. Why?

Long before Trump, I assigned a name to the projected 5th revolution – the Revenge Revolution. But revenge for what?

Right now the table seems to have lots of plates that qualify for revenge – inequitable economic policies; environmental degradation; a department of education that favors private over public education; a president and first family that are enriching themselves at public expense; an immigration policy where children are physically separated from the parents then housed in cages for indefinite periods; an attorney general who promotes Trump as being above the law; a president who labels wounded military veterans as “scum;” a president who is a serial liar, distorting the truth about even the most insignificant issues…and the list goes on.

Despite all the obvious reasons for revenge against the Trump Administration, the Revenge Revolution may be started by an unexpected group. The group is Trump supporters.

If Trump is reelected, Trump will try to satisfy his money camp and start screaming about the need to reduce the Federal deficit. But Trump will argue the deficit cannot be reduced by raising taxes – such a move would kill economic growth and result in a recession. No, the only way to reduce the Federal deficit is with additional cuts in spending for social programs – food stamps, e.g. – as well as cutbacks in Medicare, Social Security and support for Obamacare.

If Trump is not reelected, then Republicans will make the same arguments that the Federal deficit is too high and must be reduced. One thing about their argument is correct. The rate of increase in the deficit needs to be reduced. But reduced by returning tax rates to levels under Obama, or even Clinton, and not by cutting social programs and cutting benefits for program workers have funded.

The proposed cuts in Medicare and Social Security may finally awaken Trump supporters to realize how much they’re going to be screwed economically under Trump’s new proposals , and then how much they have been screwed under Trump’s existing policies. When they do awaken, this group will be shocked and angry. They might also start listening to their children and grandchildren and finally acknowledge that global warming is real and not a hoax of some 3,000 scientist and every credible news outlet worldwide.

What form might the Revenge Revolution take? The 4th revolution in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s was a mix of social upheaval and armed rebellion. The social side is often referenced with a cutesy photograph of a couple hippies dressed in tie-dyes and smoking weed in Haight Asbury or at Woodstock.

The armed side of the 4th Revolution was much grimmer. Events included significant riots that devastated parts of Newark, Detroit and Los Angeles as well as protests in many other cities and college campuses. 1968 included the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

Given the continued expansion of ownership of firearms, the Revenge Revolution is likely to be more of an armed rebellion than the 1960’s/1970’s. But who will be the aggressors and who will be the targets in the Revenge Revolution?

Although I have not done a deep-dive into the psychology of why, a group that seems likely to be part of the aggressors is those who view the changing demographics of the United States as diminishing the value of their “whiteness.” To me such thinking seems a bit absurd.

However, a long article in The NY Times (19 12 29 NYT Example of Attitude of Trump Supporters in AZ) discussed attitudes of some of Trump’s core base in Arizona. The base is very white, less-educated and seemingly either brainwashed or completely delusional about who is really impacted by Trump’s policies. Like many Trump supporters I’ve tried to talk to and understand, this group’s lexicon seems to be unique – “up” means “down,” “good” means “bad,” “hate” means ”patriotic,” etc.

A number of comments and quotes in the article left my head shaking. One comment from a Trump supporter that I found both frightening and amusing, “I don’t have a problem with Muslims but can they take the rag off their head out of respect for our country?” The scary part is this guy’s very anti-Muslim, and probably anti-black, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic as well.

The amusing side was it probably never occurred to the speaker he too was wearing a head-cover, thus by his own definition, disrespecting this country. And it probably never occurred to him his MAGA hat was made of the same basic cotton as the Muslim’s “rag.” Somehow I don’t irony would play well with this guy.

This group of self-proclaimed patriots discussed having an armed revolt if Trump was not reelected in 2020. Nice to see the patriots support the US Constitution and the electoral process.

On a broader scale the likelihood of a 5th US Revolution seems to increase with the findings of the impeachment proceedings, the bizarre actions/inactions by Mitch McConnell and the continued overhang of the many unanswered questions of Mueller Report, especially Trump’s association with the Russians – likely more about money than philosophy.

In the last Sense Check, Entry #332, I indicated the probability of the revolution had increased to “highly likely.” Based on what’s happened in Washington the past few months, a forecast of “highly likely” seems on solid ground with an emerging forecast closer to “almost assured.”

Unfortunately, as experienced during the 4th Revolution, the 5th US Revolution is likely to include the assassinations of high-profile figures. Targets will likely include those deemed “liberal,” whether judges, politicians, prominent business people, or media personalities. Equally unfortunate is that the police and/or the US military will be unable to prevent many of these killings.

Think about all the mass killings in the US and how they’ve occurred. (As of December 31, 2019, 434 mass shootings occurred in 2019… In these shootings, over 1,643 people were injured and 517 died, for a total of over 2,160 victims.) Virtually all were carried out by a single individual. Imagine a well-organized killing effort by a group of individuals with military-assault style rifles. There are millions of AR-15’s in private hands and even more rounds of ammunition. Yes, it’s scary.

As noted repeatedly throughout this blog, I hope the assumption is wrong about a 5th US revolution, the Revenge Revolution. Everyone who makes predictions makes mistakes. And I am no exception. However, I wish my track record at making accurate predictions were a little less positive than it is.

Welcome to the year 2020.

Remembering a Friend from My Early Days

This entry is a complete switch from the usual content.  For a few days I’ll keep as a post, then transfer to one of the pages.  Thought it might be a good break.

A few days ago while thinking about an upcoming blog entry, the idea of writing about dogs in my life popped into my head. Most everyone has a dog story from childhood so this will likely be no different.

My childhood dog was named Frosty. Frosty arrived in early to mid-December. I was about 8 years old.

Her name came from the snow outside and her sort of whitish fur. Her Heritage? Mixed to say the least, and certainly no discernible breed. Medium size with a disproportionately large body and disproportionately small head, which made keeping a collar on her next to impossible. A couple of paw swipes and the collar was off.

Previous home? The dog pound. And like most pound dogs, Frosty was eternally grateful for her new home. I know that feeling.

Of all the dogs I’ve ever met, she might be the smartest. No, it’s not because she was my dog and my colleague for many years. She earned her reputation for being smart.

She’d walk anywhere without a leash and obey a variety of commands. She was also very sneaky and would go into stealth mode moving around the house. When outside she met her obligation as a dog by pretending to chase squirrels and rabbits. These efforts seemed more for show than anything serious.

She was great at keeping secrets. I would tell her my innermost thoughts and she never disclosed them to anyone. A couple of traits I remember most.

She was great at warming the bed.  My room was a dormer with no separate heat duct. My father liked to turn down the heat at night – and I mean way down – so my room was always chilly in the winter. Frosty would come to the rescue, sleeping at the foot of the bed and serving as a wonderful second blanket.

Feeding time was also a memorable experience. The kitchen was perpendicular to a hallway with a wooden floor. Her food came from a can – I mean, who knew then about gourmet dog food?

With the sound of the electric can opener, Frosty would race down the hall. She’d try to turn into the kitchen but always slid past the opening. Then, she’d turn around and would race into the kitchen. The routine was always the same and always fun to watch.

Frosty lived 15 or so years. I was out of college and married when she finally succumbed to cancer. I suppose in terms of dog stories, Frosty was nothing special. She was a mutt who hung around some kid and then became a companion to the kid’s father when the kid went off to college.

There’ve been other dogs in our life after Frosty. Ralph, a St. Bernard, was our fraternity mascot in undergrad. In Michigan, our neighbor’s dog, Mitzi, was crazy about broccoli. In California, Jeanie was a wonderful neighbor. In Charlotte we’ve been fortunate to be occasional caretakers for two Havanese – first Max, then Rocket. All the dogs have been fun.

But to me, Frosty was special. More than just a dog. Frosty was a friend. Frosty was someone I could talk to. Someone whose situation I could relate to. I miss her dearly. Thanks for everything Frosty.

#364. Would You Allow Your Child to Behave This Way?

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  An update coming later in December.

If you want to a diversion, there are two easy-to-read booklets you might want to read.  One is about my experiences working with Lee Iacocca after he left Chrysler.  Another describes some behind-the-scenes events affecting development and introduction of the GM EV1, the first modern electric vehicle. The third is a longer booklet about the coming technology tsunami and the implications for the US.

Entry #364 Begins. The coffee shop this morning was unusually quiet. When getting a coffee, the clerk, aka barista, and I were chatting. After a comment I made, she responded, “You know I’ve learned not to talk about religion or politics. People can make whatever choice they want, but I don’t need to hear their wrath about why they’re right and people with different opinions are wrong.”

Her comments were a segue to a discussion about where and how people get information. (I said the shop was unusually quiet.) We both expressed frustration that many people no longer make an effort to get credible information about a topic and use such information make a more informed decision.

That short conversation was the stimulus for this blog entry. Is it realistic to expect that people are willing to change behavior and seek more credible information about a topic? Based on the reaction of many this past week to the impeachment of Trump by the House of Representatives, probably not.

Given the likely resistance, why try to change anyone’s mind? Maybe a better approach would be to ask people to do what they think is right. If you were or are a parent, or if you were a kid at one point, which includes most of us, would the behavior of Trump be allowed?

As a kid, were you allowed to make fun of people with disabilities? Allowed to insult others publicly? Allowed to lie about issues who knows how many times a day? If you were, then your childhood was unlike any I’ve ever heard about.

So if we won’t tolerate such behavior in children, why do we tolerate such behavior from a president? Why do we allow the person who is supposed to be the role model for leadership to act like a bratty, spoiled 6 year-old kid?

Maybe the best way to get Trump to change his unacceptable childlike behavior is not insult or shame, neither of which seem to work, but resort to action my father took when I was a kid. My father was in the bathroom preparing to shave. Using a shaving brush, he was applying soap to the left side of his face.

I, too, was in the bathroom. What I said to him I don’t remember, although apparently he thought it was inappropriate. What I do remember is right after making the remark a shaving brush was partially inserted in my mouth. The brush was quickly removed and my father proceeded to finish leathering his face. No words were spoken, but the effect was immediate and obviously long-lasting.

By the way, shaving soap tastes awful. When I tell the story the taste comes back. Yuck!

Maybe someone should take the same approach when trying to get Trump to behave with more civility – wash his mouth out with soap. Nothing else seems to work. When they’re finished washing out Trump’s mouth, they can travel over to the House of Representatives and wash out the mouths of a few members.

Back to the barista. While she might not want to discuss religion or politics, it is very likely that sometime during the holidays at least politics will enter the conversation. To avoid a family feud, here’s an idea. When the conversation turns to discussing Trump, gently interject yourself and state, “I’ve got a couple of questions I’d like to ask.” Then proceed with:

“Assume everything about the Trump presidency is the same. All the executive orders, all the appointments, all the tweets, the insults to foreign leaders, the cozy relationship with Putin, the dichotomy of a growing economy and a growing Federal deficit, treatment of immigrants and children, etc. All that remains the same. The only thing that changes is rather than Trump being a Republican, Trump is a Democrat.

Question #1.

  • For Republicans, would you continue to support Trump if he were a Democrat?
  • For Democrats, would you continue to be opposed to Trump if he were Democrat?

Question 2.  if Trump were your child, would you tolerate his behavior – the tantrums, insults, swearing, and generally bad manners?”

Now, you can sit back and enjoy the conversation. Your questions might not get anyone to change his/her mind, but it just might get people to start thinking about real issues and understanding what those issue really mean for the country. And, if you can people to start thinking, that will be a major step forward for the new year.

 

#363 Connect Just Two Dots. Connecting Nine Not Necessary.

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  An update coming later in December.

If you want to a diversion, there are two easy-to-read booklets you might want to read.  One is about my experiences working with Lee Iacocca after he left Chrysler.  Another describes some behind-the-scenes events affecting development and introduction of the GM EV1, the first modern electric vehicle. The third is a longer booklet about the coming technology tsunami and the implications for the US.

Entry #363 Begins.  Ever been challenged to connect nine (9) dots in a square with four (4) lines without lifting your pencil? The solution requires one to put away conventional thinking and be a bit more open minded. (See solution at end of entry.)

This past week Republicans in the House of Representatives, and based on public comments apparently Republicans in the Senate as well, demonstrated being incapable of connecting not nine dots or connecting even two dots. I mean, how much intellectual capacity does it take to connect two dots?

While Republican members of the Judiciary Committee might have a different opinion in private, during the hearings about the impeachment, they clearly demonstrated an oath to uphold the behavior of King Trump and not an oath to uphold the US Constitution. Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, and earlier Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, made lots of noise about process but offered no credible evidence disputing the charges justifying the impeachment of Trump. If some of the Republican members actually believed what they said during the hearings, then they are incapable of connecting even two dots.

No one, especially Republicans in Congress, should be surprised at Trump’s behavior. Trump has a long, public history of lying, cheating and illicit activities. There is also highly credible evidence of a multi-year, possibly decades-long financial association with Russia.

Why are Republican members of the House so afraid of supporting the truth? If the Republican members are afraid of a Trump tweet and/or possibly losing a primary because they upheld the Constitution, then these members do not belong in Congress.

In fact, based on the legal definition, these Republican members appear to have committed treason. By supporting Trump, instead of the Constitution, these Republican members have aided and abetted the enemy, Russia.

Here’s a question the House Republicans…in fact all of us…need to answer. I’ve asked a question before but it seems worth repeating. Assume everything about the Trump Administration is the same – Trump’s behavior, Executive Orders, tweets, crony cabinet members, insults to allies, support for Russia, a growing economy with an ever-growing deficit, and much more. The only change is that rather than being a Republican, Trump is a Democrat.

Republicans, would you still support Trump?

Democrats, would you still oppose Trump?

Let’s take Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. I’ll bet $1,000 to a stale donut the answer from the Republicans would be “No, I wouldn’t support Trump if he were a Democrat. Not on your life!”

If you are a Republican and you would still support Trump as a Democrat, then I suggest you find a new country to live in. Try going to Russia, or North Korea. Find yourself a country with a good strong man leader.

The US does not need people who are loyal to wannabe King Trump who breaks the law and ignores the Constitution. If you support Trump you are supporting the destruction of the very fabric that has held the US together and made it different from other countries. We welcome your ideas on how to make the US better. We don’t welcome your worship and loyalty to a known lawbreaker.

Supporting Trump is the same as supporting a thug and or a robber. In case you’re still having trouble connecting two dots, Trump and his family are stealing money from you and your children. Ever ask yourself, “If the economy is so good, why is the deficit continuing to grow so quickly?” Forget the Trump response, “Must be Obama’s fault.” No it’s Trump’s fault.

The reason the deficit is growing so quickly is simple – the effects of Trump and the spineless Republicans who supported the tax cut. A tax cut that was designed not to benefit the middle class or the poor but to benefit the rich. Trump is giving your money to the rich.

In periods of economic expansion the deficit should be declining, not increasing. You, my Republican friends, are getting screwed by Trump and Republicans in Congress, and for some reason you cannot connect the two dots between the economy and the deficit. It is not hard to understand what’s happening.

Let’s try one more. According to Trump, the FBI and the CIA are “scum.” Go ahead and cheer for your boy Donald as he makes this claim. Then ask yourself, “Why would Trump be saying that? What does he have against the FBI?”

He denigrates the integrity of law enforcement because he’s a crook. Trump has no interest in trying to tweak some of the procedural changes necessary at the FBI and CIA. Trump’s intent is to make you believe the FBI and the CIA are out to get him.  And you’re falling for the trap.

Another question. First, assume all the facts about Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign are the same, except that Russia supported Clinton, not Trump. Would the FBI still be scum?

Of course not! You’d scream and shout the FBI should be doing more to convict Clinton. You’d claim the FBI was too soft on crime!

So Republicans, you need to wake up and connect just two dots. Dot #1 is Trump as president. Dot #2 is corruption, lying and cheating and stealing.

If you want a president who lies, cheats and steals, then Trump is your guy. But be careful. Not supporting the impeachment of a president where there is overwhelming evidence of lying, cheating and stealing is setting the standard to allow future presidents to behave the same way with no repercussions.

So when your kids and/or grandkids ask why you supported Trump, please be honest and tell them the truth. “Kids and grandkids, I supported Trump because wanted do my part to help destroy democracy in the US. I wanted to make sure the wealthy got even more money and the middle class was destroyed. I wanted to make sure there was a huge Federal debt so my children and grandchildren could pay more money to the wealthy who held Treasury bonds.” I’m sure your kids and grandkids will be very proud of what you’ve done for them.

Solution to connecting nine dots with four lines

#362. Trying to Understand Trump Supporters

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  An update coming later in December.

In the previous entry I committed to try and understand why people continue to support Trump. What is particularly puzzling is support for Trump by people whose core values are polar opposite of Trump’s behavior. Why would one make such a decision?

Because a discussion about Trump can be so emotional, I thought it better to first have a couple of “experimental conversations.” Also, and maybe somewhat selfishly, I thought the experimental conversations should be with people who are really more acquaintances than close personal friends. Thus, if the experiment went bad, then the consequence of alienating each other would not be damage to a close personal relationship.

Two candidates for the experimental conversations immediately came to mind. #1 was someone from high school with whom I’ve had no contact since other than on Facebook. #2 was a second-generation immigrant with whom I had a working relationship a couple of years ago.

When considering the candidates, I understand somewhat why the one from high school might be a Trump supporter. Why the second-generation immigrant supports Trump makes no sense. Why would he ever support Trump? He’s Hispanic, grew up in south Texas near the border. Obviously, I’m missing something in his logic stream.

A key open issue with the research is the venue for the dialogue. Each venue has benefits and drawbacks. Facebook is easy to use but uncontrollable. The conversation between us could be interrupted by a myriad of friends of the participants or of mine.

Email might be okay to introduce the idea and present a few questions, but nuances and subtleties are nearly impossible in email. Plus, the time lag with back-and-forth emails would break the rhythm of the conversation. Texting would be faster but, as with email, nuance remains nearly impossible.

So the plan? Use old technology. The initial contact with the candidates will be email. The email will discuss the experiment and ask about participating. If yes, then set a time for a call to begin the conversation.

Given the sensitivity of the topic, one of the guidelines will likely be that the candidate can stop the interview at any time, but with the commitment that within a few days, we would try to talk again. If the second call goes south, okay. The experiment with that person fails. Not to be discouraged, lots of experiments fail. Also, like experiments one should make every effort to understand what went wrong, and not just point fingers at the other person.

After a couple of experiments the idea is to talk to more Trump supporters, trying to understand their perspective. “Why waste your time?” has been a frequent comment from people I’ve discussed the idea with. The conversation usually also includes, “Trump supporters will never change.”

The naysayers are probably right. But the curiosity in me is compelling. Maybe, just maybe, there’s an underlying issue creating support for Trump that can be addressed with a solution that is good for society at large and addressed without Trump’s usual bombastic and hurtful approach.

At the worst, the experiment should become good conversation at cocktail parties and family gatherings. Rather than yelling at one another, talking about the experiment might allow different camps to have civil discourse. You never know.

So, I’m off to pursue my naive experiment. I’m going to try and start this week. Probably won’t have any results for a couple of weeks, but I will post them in the blog.

If you have an idea about how to approach understanding why people with a polar opposite set of values than Trump still support Trump, please let me know. Or, if you have a question or two you’d like to have answered, please forward as well. Thanks. All for now.

#361. Trump Supporters. Teach Me How You Got There.

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

Entries for a few months were an intentional diversion from the craziness in Washington. Entry #352 put us back inside the Beltway.

Part of my daily ritual is a short trip to the coffee shop. Usually I listen to one of several podcast on the way over and back.

Today I finished a podcast on “The Best Way to Deal with Anger”, originally broadcast on “The People’s Pharmacy.” The People’s Pharmacy offers a wide variety of medical related topics.

While I don’t consider myself an angry person, I do have an incredibly difficult time understanding why anyone would support Trump. In addition, I find Trump supporters, when asked about an issue, are very defensive, often responding with a comment unrelated to the question. Further, the tone of the response seems to challenge my right to ask the question.

In several previous blog entries, I questioned whether Trump supporters had been brainwashed. Trump TV, aka Fox News, is anything but news. Yet many Trump supporters seem to make no effort to check other sources of information about a topic, or even apply the most basic test of logic to a conclusion presented on Fox. No matter the facts, or the logic, Trump supporters seem to be all in for the Donald.

So those of us in the middle politically and farther left have two choices. #1, continue to treat Trump supporters as brainwashed, or at best uninformed. Doing so will not change anyone’s mind and probably make non-Trump supporters even angrier. Choice #2 is sincerely try to listen and understand Trump supporters’ logic behind their decision.

Listening and trying to understand might not change any minds on either side of the fence, but it could save a friendship or avoid the family feud. Look at it this way. If you sincerely try to listen and understand the Trump supporter’s perspective, and the person continues to spout Fox News gibberish, then you can rightfully say, “Bless their little hearts.”

Have I tried to understand Trump supporters’ logic? Well, sort of. Recently, however, I posted on Facebook what I thought was a probing, but apolitical question. The short version, “If Trump were a Democrat, would you, as a Republican, still support Trump? As a Democrat, would you still oppose Trump?” The Facebook entry included a bit more explanation.

The response from a longtime friend, a Republican, seem to fit the pattern of response by Trump supporters – shoot the questioner and never answer the question. The Facebook post by the Trump supporter generated a couple of angry retorts from non-Trump supporters. In addition to the Facebook post by the Trump supporter, there were a couple of private messages, but still no answer to the original question.

So rather than getting into unpleasant and often heated conversations, should we try to carry on as if politics don’t exist? Well, no.

I may be naïve but I’m going to try and understand why people support Trump. Doubtless a number of friends and colleagues will ask, “Why waste your time? Trump supporters use no logic and, therefore, cannot be understood.”

The doubting Thomases might be right. And I might end up being even more frustrated than I am now. At the same time, I might learn something. If nothing else, I might learn how to discuss issues with Trump supporters, and that might save a friendship or two and/or allow the holiday dinner to proceed without a figurative food fight.

I’ll keep you posted on progress, good and/or bad. In the meantime, please take time to listen to The Best Way to Deal with Anger podcast in its entirety. Even if you don’t learn something, the guest is interesting.

#360. Yes, There Is Hope. Thank You Immigrants.

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

Entries for a few months were an intentional diversion from the craziness in Washington. Entry #352 put us back inside the Beltway.

Yes, there is hope. In this week of Thanksgiving, we should make sure to thank those who have immigrated to our country.

We just finished two weeks of testimony to the House Intelligence Committee addressing among other things whether President Trump used the threat of putting a hold on military aid to Ukraine in exchange for “do me a (personal) favor.” That favor being having the recently inaugurated president of Ukraine announce publicly that an inquiry had been initiated into possible corruption by Joe Biden and/or his son. No need to carry out the inquiry, just announce it so Trump could use in his reelection campaign.

Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, and whether or not you believe Trump should be impeached, you should be proud of the public servants who testified during this inquiry. All but one were career employees of the government, having served in various positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations. The one who wasn’t a career employee was an ambassador appointed by Trump.

Each person who testified faced severe potential repercussions for telling the truth. By the time of the public testimony, several witnesses had received credible death threats, and for what? Death threats for telling the truth.

To me what was even more impressive than the courage of those testifying, was three who testified – an ambassador, a decorated military officer and a PhD intelligence expert – were immigrants. All were born outside the United States. Two migrated with their family, one alone.

Aside from the jaw-dropping testimony about Trump’s illicit behavior, the most disheartening part of the hearings was how Republican members of the Intelligence Committee disavowed their oath to uphold the Constitution and kowtowed to Trump by making disparaging remarks about these dedicated public servants. The snide remarks often challenged the individual’s loyalty to the US despite many years of service to Republican and Democratic presidents and having been thoroughly vetted by the FBI.

Putting the Republican theatrics aside, all of us should be thankful we have a country that is so appealing to people who live outside the United States. An interesting exercise is to look around your everyday life and count the number of immigrants that you interact with.

For me, a quick count included: the manager of the Starbucks, from Iran; the shoe-repair store owner, from Korea; the tailor, from China; the house- painting crew from Central America; the doctor, from India. And the list goes on and on. Spend five minutes thinking about how many immigrants touch your everyday life. You might be shocked at the number.

While I’m still convinced a 5th US revolution – the Revenge Revolution – will occur sometime in the next few years, I’m hopeful about the future after the revolution. Much of that hope lies with the men and women in our government who are truly dedicated to do the right thing. People in Congress should use these people as a reference points when making decisions. Doing so would help reduce the likelihood of a revolution.

As we look ahead, unless the country really goes off the rails, America will continue to attract people from a host of countries worldwide. We should give thanks to those who have already immigrated and we should encourage others to join them.

#359. Post-Trump Poetic Justice. Barr Disbarred. Jordan Jailed.

Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution, a list of earlier revolutions and the author, Entry #1.

Periodically I write a “sense check” to assess whether in the next few years, a revolution in the US is still possible or whether the entire exercise is based on a statistical aberration — i.e., a roughly 50-year cycle between major upheavals in the US.  Most recent sense check, Entry #332.  

Entries for a few months were an intentional diversion from the craziness in Washington. Entry #352 put us back inside the Beltway.

In another stunning setback for the Trump Administration, two key supporters – William P. Barr, formerly Attorney General and Representative Jim Jordan, Republican, Ohio – were publicly rebuked. In an administrative ruling issued today, William Barr was formally disbarred in all fifty states and prohibited from advising on any legal matters for a minimum five (5) years.

Barr, recently convicted of a felony for accepting illegal payments from Russians while Trump’s Attorney General, claimed the charges were trumped up by Democrats who disagreed with his theory that while in office, the president has absolute power and therefore not subject to any laws. Throughout the hearings leading up to the House of Representatives impeachment of Trump, Barr insisted the proceedings were illegitimate.

According to former colleagues, Barr’s fatal flaw seemed to be an illusion that he, as Attorney General and chief law enforcement officer of the US, fell under the same umbrella he promoted for Trump – exempt from any oversight by Congress and above the law.

The indictment against Barr, which originated in the Eastern District of Maryland, did not begin formally until after Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election and a new president inaugurated. While the FBI was aware of illicit payments by the Russians to Barr, the information was kept within a tight circle of agents for fear that any formal investigation would be sidetracked by Barr and/or then president Trump.

Once a new attorney general was approved by the Senate and sworn in, FBI agents came forward with information about the payments from the Russians. FBI agents also identified which foreign agents were funneling money to Barr’s offshore account. When questioned about the strategy of waiting for Trump to leave office, the agents felt vindicated since Trump issued blanket pardons to a number of campaign aides and staff members who had been convicted of various crimes and who were then serving prison sentences.

Much like events in the Mueller investigation and in the Trump impeachment proceedings, several of those indicted or ready-to-be-indicted decided to cooperate with prosecutors. The FBI agents indicated they also followed a tip from Trump’s former lawyer/fixer, Michael Cohen. What Cohen provided was the method Trump used to funnel money from the Russians.

While Cohen was unaware that Barr was on the take, the agents began to analyze transactions that followed the pattern outlined by Cohen. In addition to Barr, apparently several individuals close to Trump were identified as receiving payments from Russians. So far, only Barr has been indicted and prosecuted.

According to staff at the Department of Justice, the appointment of a new attorney general and prosecution of Barr has helped restore morale, especially among FBI agents. Although Barr was never as publicly critical of DOJ as president Trump, his actions of following Trump’s orders rather than following his oath to uphold the Constitution had seriously eroded morale within the Agency. When interviewed, FBI agents, in particular, were much more positive about the prospects under the new president.

At about the time of the announcement that Barr was disbarred, Representative Jordan was arrested and jailed. Jordan was charged with lying to FBI agents about knowledge of sexual abuse of athletes by another wrestling coach while Jordan coached at Ohio State University.

Despite public statements by a number of former athletes that Jordan was well aware of actions by his fellow coach, Jordan has repeatedly denied awareness of any improprieties.

The charges against Jordan were brought by the US Attorney in the Southern District of Ohio. Like the Barr case, FBI agents indicated waiting to bring charges until Trump left office because of concern that either charges would not be pursued or Trump would issue a pardon after any conviction. At the hearing Jordan was denied bail for fear of flight and will likely remain in jail until his trial is completed.

Based on a pattern established during previous indictments of Trump officials, additional indictments are likely to be forthcoming.