#393 Can One Person Destroy a Large Organization or Country?

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the the future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #393: Note: This entry was written before the White House announced president Trump tested positive for Covid-19, then hospitalized.  The content of the entry continues to be relevant, whether or not Trump recovers and whether or not the president is a Republican or Democrat.  However, behavior of the current president is the issue at hand.  As you read the entry mentally substitute “Trump administration” for “General Motors.”  

For those who think one person cannot destroy a large, seemingly well-structured organization with significant checks and balances, think again.

A lesson we can learn from industry is how one person destroyed what was the largest, most consistently profitable organization in the world, General Motors. If you are not familiar with the history of GM, between roughly 1920 and the early 1980s, GM could have been the US Treasury – GM was so profitable it might as well have printed money.

As a company, GM was enormously large and yet, maintained very high profit margins on many of its products.  For example, variable profit on some car and truck models was 60%, and in some cases even higher.

How did GM become so profitable, even remaining profitable during the Great Depression? The key to GM’s success was the leadership of Alfred P Sloan.  Under Sloan’s leadership, General Motors operated following three basic tenets.

  1. Set clearly defined roles for operating divisions – Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, etc.  The products of each division were distinct in appearance and content.  There was no confusion, for example, between a Chevrolet and a Buick.
  2. Hire highly qualified people.  Sloan viewed his role as providing general direction and then getting out of the way and letting the managers do their job.  Under Sloan, the divisions operated with an incredible amount of autonomy.
  3. Strict adherence to a simple but powerful financial metric.  The metric allowed GM to make money even when sales declined sharply. Inside GM, the metric was known as “standard volume.”  Standard volume was equal to 70% of rated capacity.  If an assembly plant had rated capacity of say 200,000 units per year, standard volume was 140,000.  Budgets were established so the operating unit would break even at 70% of rated capacity. In addition to ensuring GM would be profitable during recessions, the standard volume metric allowed GM to become even more profitable as the economy improved.

What changed at General Motors? Why is GM no longer the juggernaut in the auto industry?  In 1980, then GM chairman Thomas A Murphy retired and was replaced by Roger B Smith.  Unlike Murphy, who was warm, generous and unassuming, Smith was cold, rude and narcissistic. Smith seemed to suffer from an inferiority complex.  He was physically short, had a ruddy complexion and a high voice. Inside GM, at least on the financial staff, Smith was known as “Squeaky.”

During Smith’s autocratic reign of terror – 1980-1990, he made every effort to reshape, some say destroy, most every aspect of what had made General Motors so profitable. My view, having worked on the financial staff for a good portion of my career – Smith was a wannabe Alfred P. Sloan. 

Sloan was, and still is, highly regarded worldwide.  Sloan’s name is associated with among other things academic institutions (The Sloan School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, and the Sloan Foundation, which makes grants primarily to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. 

 Despite experiencing Smith’s management first hand and now 30 years following his retirement, I have yet to understand why he took the approach he did.  One of the most baffling strategies was to divert funds from product development – one of the keys to GM’s money machine – to buy companies that added little or no value to GM.  Electronic Data Systems (EDS) was outside GM’s core competency.  Same with Hughes Aircraft.

Smith also eliminated the standard-volume budget and the discipline associated with that budget.  In addition, he allowed the operating divisions to begin to encroach on each other’s position in the marketplace.  Smith viewed as unnecessary the cost to keep Buick distinct and separate from say Chevrolet.  As a result, Smith began to force the operating divisions to share parts and platforms. 

Sharing, according to Smith, would save money.  And, the customer would never notice those parts that were shared.  Well, guess what?  The customer did notice. One of the most memorable was the disclosure that a more expensive Oldsmobile shared the same engine as the less expensive Chevrolet.  The Oldsmobile was labeled a “Chevmobile.” 

Smith also reorganized GM.  Rather than being an autonomous operation, the divisions were grouped.  The groups were: (i) Chevrolet, Pontiac and GM of Canada, aka CPC; (ii) Buick, Oldsmobile and Cadillac, aka BOC.  (The grouping is not dissimilar to how the Trump administration has grouped staffs at say CDC.) 

Two examples associated with the reorganization.

  1. Because of my job at the time, I was part of a small group interviewed about whether the company should be reorganized and, if so, how.  It was obvious during the interview by McKinsey & Co that the interview was perfunctory; my opinion didn’t matter and the decision to reorganize had already been made.

At the implementation kickoff, the “justification” for the reorganization was presented to about 100 executives.  Following the general meeting we broke into groups.  There were 10 people in the new Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac group.  At the beginning of the BOC group meeting, I asked a simple question to the head of the new BOC group, “What are we trying to accomplish with the reorganization?”  After what seemed to be an eternal pause, the executive responded, “Let’s get on with the implementation.” 

During that meeting and later, no one was able to answer my simple question.  (For reference, at the time Buick Division, which was by no means GM’s largest operating division, generated more revenue than say the worldwide operations of Goodyear Tire.  Why combine so many functions with another operation whose products have been distinct for decades?)  

The result of Smith’s reorganization and other actions was GM lost market share and significant earning power. Between 1980 and 1990 GM market share declined 10 points — ~45% to 35%.  The loss equates to far more than all Honda’s sold in the US every year. 

In 1992, just two years after Smith retired, GM was technically bankrupt.  GM avoided declaring bankruptcy by borrowing money from its finance subsidiary, GMAC.  GM has never fully recovered from Smith’s reign of terror.  While the current management has made impressive gains in product design and innovation, GM remains a mere shadow of its former self.   

2) Smith also demanded loyalty. Smith’s mantra was simple, “My way or the highway.”  To ensure loyalty and no dissent, Smith handpicked the staff that would support his decisions, whether or not the decisions were in the best long-term interest of General Motors and shareholders. He also tried to pack the Board of Directors with “yes” men. 

One problem, when Smith bought EDS, Ross Perot became GM’s largest individual shareholder and joined the Board.  Perot was good at asking tough questions.  Smith became so irritated he paid Perot $750 million for his stock (~$1.8 billion in 2020$) and kicked him off the Board.

What can the US learn from the experience of Smith as CEO of General Motors?  First the similarities in personality and management style between Smith and Trump are remarkable.  Many of the approaches taken by Trump to “break the mold in Washington” are similar to what Smith did with General Motors.

And the results of Trump’s actions are very similar to what happened to GM. Trump eliminated significant revenue potential to the federal government with a 2017 tax cut.  The tax cut created no jobs and ended up being a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest Americans. Plus, the tax cut cost the government revenue and, as a result, the Federal deficit balooned.

Like Smith, Trump demands absolute loyalty, surrounding himself only with people who bend to his wishes.  Those who challenge Trump are broomed out. 

C’mon, you say, “How can you even compare GM to the Federal government?  GM was large but not that large.” 

“Do you really believe one person can ruin a country? A country that has been a beacon worldwide for openness, honesty and integrity? A country that was founded on the principles outlined in the Ten Commandments. Do you really think it is possible one person could bring it to ruin?”

My short answer is, “yes.” Yes, a country can be ruined by one person. And the US is on its way to ruin unless the approach to governing is changed quickly.  If there were any question about how Trump’s radical approach to governing is negatively affecting behavior in the US, then one should look no further than the so-called stalwarts of the Republican Party. 

These so-called stalwarts, who claim to believe in the core values of Christianity.  Who claim to believe in duty, honor, country.    

Duty, honor, country?  No, according to Trump, that’s only for fools.  Be proud, says Trump, that before Justice Ginsburg’s body was cold you Republicans were able to disregard what you claimed was necessary when Obama was President. Be proud you are able to throw away your ethics and ignore all teachings of your supposed religion.

So, stalwart Republicans, with all that kowtowing, what did you get in return?  What you got was a Supreme Court Justice nominee who will disregard what is good for the country.  Disregard what you claim you stand for and disregard what’s good for the American people.

Instead this nominee for SCOTUS will support laws that give more power to a few that already have too much power.  This nominee will vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and then replace it with, well, nothing.  And who will suffer?  The very constituents you supposedly represent.

When history books are written about the end of the great democratic experiment in America, the text won’t assign all the blame to Trump.  In fact, most of the blame won’t fall on Trump.  Trump’s personality and style has been familiar to anyone who spent one iota of time searching. 

Most of the blame will fall on the weak-kneed Republican who enabled his behavior.  So-called adults who were afraid of some tweet from Trump.  So-called stalwart Republicans, go look in the mirror and ask yourself, “With such behavior am I worthy of any recognition or reward?  Am I worthy of being called an honorable citizen?”  And then ask yourself, “After all that kowtowing to Trump’s whims, what did I get for my constituents in return?” 

#392. “Mommy, Why Is that Big Teddy Bear in Our Backyard? He Looks Angry!” (#14 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #392: In a couple of earlier posts, I noted I was working with a group of MIT alumni on actions to address the impact of climate change. Some of the alumni in the group are recent grads and some, like me, graduated seemingly eons ago.

The group is very much trying to be apolitical and focus on science and practical solutions. Such an approach is complicated by the Trump Administration’s refusal to make any meaningful decisions on a scientific basis.  All decisions, regardless of the topic, are based on politics.

How urgent is the need to address climate change?  Even if beginning tomorrow we could somehow reduce net CO2 emissions to zero, existing CO2 would have a warming effect on earth’s temperature for several hundred years.

The MIT group understands there is no silver bullet to address the problems with climate change.  Thus, the need to take a multifaceted approach that can: (i) implementing what technology is available today to begin to reduce emissions.  Even if the solution is not sufficient long term, a number of actions can be taken today that will reduce CO2 emissions.  Using biodiesel can reduce tailpipe emissions up to 75% in heavy trucks; (ii) what technology needs to be improved or even invented to reduce emissions to zero; (iii) what’s required to remove CO2, thereby shortening the time for the earth’s temperature to return to normal.

As a group, we spend virtually no time discussing whether climate change is man-made or a natural phenomenon. The point of such a debate is moot. Even if a natural phenomenon, we as a society need to take steps to mitigate the effect for future generations.

For those who think climate change has not been exacerbated by industrial activity, take a look at the chart CO2/ppm and the Earth’s average temperature. The change in temperature is significantly faster than any “natural change” in earth’s temperature.  The slope began to change with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and has accelerated since.

Okay, you say, but what’s a few degrees? Some years are a little warmer than others, some years a little cooler.  So it’s getting warmer. Relax propeller head, a few degrees is no big deal.

Well Bubba, the last time CO2 parts per million was this high was about five (5) million years ago. Yes, that’s 5 million. And who was the big dog on the block then? Not man. Although T-Rex was gone by then there were some really mean and nasty animals and reptiles.  And some of these guys were real bad asses.

And what else? There were palm trees in the Arctic Circle. Oh, I forgot the ocean was 45-50 feet higher.

That’s where we’re headed if we don’t make a major change…now.  The oceans already are rising quickly and will continue to rise for several hundred years. Even an increase of 10-15 feet, which seems more likely than not, would wipe out many coastal cities, cause huge population disruptions worldwide and create havoc for agriculture.

Still think climate change is a hoax?  Just look at the all the fires on the West Coast. Our old house in Sonoma County was burned a few years ago in a major fire.  And taking Trump’s suggestion about sweeping the forest floor won’t have any impact.  Mmm, sweep the forest floor.

Here’s what life will be like for your grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.  Much higher temperatures, little or no ice in the Arctic, and maybe one of the kids yelling “Mommy, why is that big Teddy Bear in our back yard?  He looks angry.”  “Honey, that’s a very hungry and very angry grizzly bear who’s looking for dinner.  Let’s hope we’re not it.”

Think about such a life for the next week or so.  And also think about Trump and his band of climate-change deniers refusing to take any meaningful action to address what contributes to climate change.  Are you going to be satisfied with some lame non-scientific-based proposal and some even more lame excuse that blames someone else for not taking action?

More on climate change next entry.

#391 They’re Coming to America. Well, Not Any More. (#13 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #391: At the end of Entry #390 I wrote the next entry would be a discussion about actions to affect climate change.  Wait one more entry.

I decided to change the topic because of two events.  One was this past week’s reality show claiming to be the Republican National Convention.  The reality show pointed out just how far the country has regressed from its core principles, especially the Republican Party.  Ethics?  Why bother?  Respect for others?  Why bother?  Self-respect?  Why bother?  Duty, honor, country?  What’s that?  If I’m not the center of whatever is occurring, then I’m not interested.

Maybe more telling, at least for me, about how far the country has strayed, was the second event that occurred this past week.  While walking back from the coffee shop, I finished a podcast and decided to finish the walk listening to some music.

The song that first played I’d heard many times before but not recently.  For some reason, this time I paid more attention to the words and less to the music.  By the end of the song I was really sad and asked myself, “What have we done to this country?  What can we do to return to the country to what it once was?”

The song was Neil Diamond’s “America.”  Below are the words.  Read them carefully and as you do, think about the America being described in the song – written in the mid-1980’s – and compare that America to the America of today.

With Trump we have a president and administration with policies that are the polar opposite of the America described in the song.  If Trump and supporters want to make America great again, they should start by studying the words of “America.”

“America” by Neil Diamond

Far
We’ve been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star
Free
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream

On the boats and on the planes
They’re coming to America
Never looking back again
They’re coming to America

Home, don’t it seem so far away
Oh, we’re traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home, to a new and a shiny place
Make our bed, and we’ll say our grace
Freedom’s light burning warm
Freedom’s light burning warm

Everywhere around the world
They’re coming to America
Every time that flag’s unfurled
They’re coming to America

Got a dream to take them there
They’re coming to America
Got a dream they’ve come to share
They’re coming to America

They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
They’re coming to America
Today, today, today, today, today

My country ’tis of thee
Today
Sweet land of liberty
Today
Of thee I sing
Today
Of thee I sing
Today

Do yourself a favor, go back and read the words again, slowly.  Then ask yourself, “How far have we as a country strayed from our core principles?”  Now ask yourself, “What am I and what are we going to do to make America the country described in the song ‘America’?”

#390: Bring in the Repair Crew to Fix Trump’s Damage (#12 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #390:  One of the more positive events the last couple of weeks was Snoopy’s birthday. Yes, that Snoopy.  You know the great philosopher whose many friends and admirers include Lucy, Woodstock and Linus.

More seriously, the past weeks have been mind-wrecking. Coronavirus aside, Congressional Senate Republicans have all but disappeared from the landscape. Based on different credible news sources, no Republicans in the Senate, especially Mitch McConnell, were involved in the now stalled negotiations to extend government support for those whose economic well-being has been hit hard by Covid-19.

Trump became the de facto Republican negotiator. The outcome was no surprise.  Trump has proved repeatedly – in private and public life – to be one of the world’s worst negotiators. He maintained that pattern during these negotiations.

Always wanting someone to blame rather than working with someone to solve a problem, Trump and his brain-dead band of Munchkins refused to cut a deal with house Democrats.  Trump claimed the Democrats were at fault even though the House passed phase two of an economic recovery package in May.

McConnell, who may star in the sequel to “Dr. No,” refused to have any hearings on the House-passed bill or participate in negotiations.  Ah, isn’t it wonderful to play the fiddle while Rome burns?  Dilbert recently coined a new Covid-19 phrase that could be applied to McConnell’s behavior, “What a maskhole!”

So as McConnell fiddled instead of negotiating, Trump again declared himself king.  This time the self-declared king signed several half-baked Executive Orders that will do nothing to help those in need but seemingly will reinforce Trump’s image with his base as “solving the economic recovery problem.”  If his base only understood as much about economics as most 4th graders understand.

One half-baked Executive Order of his was to suspend Social Security withholding tax.  First, people who are working are not the bulk of the problem.  People who aren’t working or working very little need economic assistance. At least those working have an income.  Second, the withholding tax was to be “suspended” not eliminated.

As president, Trump has no power to change the tax law, especially with an Executive Order. So what does a “suspended withholding tax” mean? The money that should have been withheld from paychecks needs to be repaid. Thus, Trump’s Executive Order gave workers an opportunity to loan themselves money that they must repay.  Let me repeat, if his base only understood as much about economics as most 4th graders understand…

Suspending withholding tax seems fair, right? Mmm, maybe not.  Let’s see, workers get a loan they must repay while business owners get a loan from the federal government to pay workers and use for other expenses, but that loan doesn’t have to be repaid.  No such gift for the workers.

If you completed a survey of how many Trump supporters understood how Trump’s Executive Order really affected them, I’ll bet the total would be less than 5%. Why they continue to support actions by Trump that are not in their economic best interest is beyond me.

Trump’s nonsensical behavior and the abdication by Republican Senators of any responsibility to help the public does not bode well for the US post- 2020 election.  A Trump re-election would likely result in ever more dictatorial tirades. Some of his claims of late, as one reporter noted wryly, would make North Korea’s Kim Jung-un blush with embarrassment.  Attorney General Bill Barr seems equally bent on promoting an authoritarian-led Trump regime.

If Trump is re-elected and Republicans hold the Senate, another US civil war seems certain.  Yes, civil war with armed conflicts and attacks on segments of society deemed to be “Never Trumpers.”

If Biden wins, he and Kamala Harris will have an incredibly tough road ahead, even if the Democrats win back the Senate. The damage done by Trump, Barr, Pompeo and their cronies can be repaired, but…

Think of how long it takes to repair something – house, car, relationship – compared to the time it takes to cause the damage. What’s the time difference between time to break and time to repair? To repair takes probably ten times as long, or longer.

So, if Trump is re-elected and the US experiences a severe Revenge Revolution, or if Biden is elected and the US experiences a mild Revenge Revolution, the country is going to face a decade or possibly two decades before the damage from Trump can be repaired.  Repairing damage to some international relationships could take even longer.

Compounding the repair efforts will be demands to address societal issues caused by racism.  Effectively addressing issues caused by racism may be more complex than repairing Trump-related damage.

People who think some government actions or more laws will make racism disappear are being foolhardy. Racism, and not just racism directed at blacks, has been around for thousands of years.  For centuries, people outside one’s circle – immediate family, local community, ethnic background, religion, etc. – have viewed others with suspicion and often discriminated against them. No law is going to change such attitudes.

The demands that something be done right now to address issues caused by racism are understandable but very likely those demands will divert time and valuable financial resources from the effort to repair the economy, educational system, political system, infrastructure and other critical items which need to be repaired now.  In fact, one could argue rationally that without significant progress in repairing the Trump-caused damage, efforts to address racism will be for naught, and could even backfire.

The best solution for minorities to address the effects of racism, seems to be as it has always been for minorities – education, Education when supported by one’s community begets economic opportunity.  Consider the recommended approach racist if you want.

My view is members of the black community need to take the initiative to help one another.  The Black Lives Matter and other movements would do well to study the pattern of how every other ethnic group that migrated out of poverty.

There are many wealthy blacks who can support such an effort, from athletes to entertainers to business people. We need fair and equal enforcement of the law for sure.  But, it is also time for blacks to look in the mirror and begin to take charge of their destiny.

Significant progress might take two or even three generations. A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with one step.

As far as demands for reparations, my view is be careful what you ask for and especially be careful of what you demand.  Reparations might make some people feel better in the short terms.  Keep in mind reparations are a superficial solution that does not solve the underlying problem. A good sense check for reparation would be to research the lives of lottery winners for say 5-6 years following their so-called lucky day.

Real change takes time.  Real change takes commitment to change.  Real change takes hard work.  Respect must be earned.  Respect cannot be legislated.

Next time: discussion of actions to address climate change post-Revenge Revolution.

#389. Where Do We Go from Here? (#11 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #389: We are approaching the end of July 2020. Fewer than 100 days until the presidential election.  What’s happening? Just a bit.

  1. Coronavirus remains unchecked in many locations
  2. No clear strategy from the White House yet addressing the Coronavirus
  3. Growing effort to ban the Confederate flag and to remove statues honoring generals who fought against the US
  4. Growing effort to rename buildings, sports teams, schools, organizations and brand-name products that some group might consider offensive
  5. Sending non-uniformed federal troops to various cities to arrest often peaceful protestors.  Trump ordered the troops “to protect the cities from destruction.”  Of course, troops were sent only to cities with Democratic mayors.  None of the mayors asked for the troops.
  6. Sputtering economy that may beginning to backslide.  Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are so divided they cannot come to agreement on a stimulus package.
  7. Cancelling the Republican Convention in Jacksonville, Florida that Trump insisted on moving from Charlotte, NC because the NC governor had mandated rules for wearing masks and limiting the number of people who could gather in public places.
  8. Icing on the cake is both humorous and tragic.  Last week Trump was bragging to Fox News about how he “aced” a test designed to detect likely onset of Alzheimer’s.  His remarks were pathetic but memorable.  Trump claimed remembering five words, “Person, woman, man, camera and TV,” qualified him as an incredibly smart person.  Donald, I hate to tell you, a 5-year old can do the same thing, and the 5-year old can also identify an elephant.

Widespread uncertainty in any environment tends to lead to widespread chaos. No one in the White House, no one in Congress and certainly no one in the public, knows what’s next. Nor does anybody in the Trump administration seem to know how to fix the current problems, or even care about fixing current problems.

The most clear-cut answer to reduce the risk of contracting and to reduce the number of cases of the coronavirus comes from an epidemiologist who merely states facts – wear a mask and stay 6’ away from others.  However, even such a simple gesture from a highly trained professional has been met with strong resistance, starting with the Trump administration.  Finally, this past week, Trump suggested wearing a mask might be OK, although not for him.

In a series of earlier entries, I noted that many Trump supporters seem to be brainwashed. If there were ever a concrete example of brainwashing, the refusal to wear a mask is it.  One does not need an epidemiological degree to understand a face covering will slow penetration of inbound/outbound particles.

I wonder if any of these Republicans have ever watched the movie, “Lawrence of Arabia”.   Trumpsters, why do you think the guys riding in the desert on horseback and on camels covered their face with scarves? Without a scarf, blowing sand tends to get in the mouth and nose, and really doesn’t taste great.

Wearing a mask reduces the dispersion of particles when you breathe, cough or sneeze, thereby reducing the likelihood of contaminating others.  But since Trump has implied and even stated masks are for wimps, or at least he did so until only a day or so ago, no self-respecting brainwashed Republican wants to be seen wearing a mask.

In their brainwashed state, Republicans don’t need a mask because they are immune from the coronavirus. Only liberals need masks, and who cares if liberals are infected because of some Republican?

The two ends of “should-I-wear-a-mask?” spectrum were highlighted in a couple of recent Facebook posts. One post equated forcing people to wear masks in public locations as similar to Nazi’s forcing Jews to wear a yellow star. Not even remotely a legitimate comparison. But the guy who posted the entry is a hardcore Trumpster.

The other extreme regarding wearing a mask was lighthearted. The post was a quote, “Walmart is only asking you to wear a mask. You can still wear your pajamas and still leave your bra and your teeth at home.”

While Trump politicizing wearing a mask is baffling, even more baffling is the effort by the Trump administration to reduce funds allocated for testing the public for infection. Using Trump’s logic, if there are no tests, then the number of reported infections will decline. The decline in infections will prove that Trump has done a great job addressing the issue. Welcome to logic in Trump World.

Let’s put the brainwashed Trumpsters aside, and address the economy post coronavirus and post Revenge Revolution. The Coronavirus has been the catalyst for accelerating the shift to a new economic model.

In the post-coronavirus world, wealth will still be created the way wealth has always been created – integrating and/or processing individual components so the end product is more valuable than the individual components – aka, manufacturing. Manufacturing categories include a wide range of industries — farming, mining, automotive, software development, construction, etc.

The GDP also includes non-manufacturing categories, or “services.” Services include such industries as travel-and-entertainment – hotels, casinos, air travel, cruise ships – food service, retail, banking, professional services, including medical, and a host of other occupations. Think of services as “transferring money from one pocket to another.”  While many services are essential and generate many jobs, no societal wealth is created with the transfer of money between pockets.  However, services can result in individuals or companies becoming wealthy.

Like all past major shifts in the economy – agrarian to industrial, e.g. – some individuals and some companies will benefit. Other individuals and companies will be left behind and lose wealth. The shift often can be swift and brutal.  An example is the shift from steam-powered locomotives to diesel locomotives in the 1930’s.  Within a few years of introduction, diesel locomotives dominated and production of steam locomotives stopped.

Unfortunately, when these economic shifts occur, some in society will be hard hit.  If we use the experience of workers during the coronavirus shutdown as a proxy, then workers most at risk might be those in the middle – jobs above entry level that require some level of advanced education but not jobs that require skills for critical thinking.

During the coronavirus shutdown, many people in the United States got a surprise.  Critical workers included grocery-store clerks, sanitation workers, emergency-response teams, transit workers and other seemingly out of the limelight, lower-paid employees. While society was surprised about which jobs were “critical,” organizations discovered that many employees were in fact, “non-critical.”  Such workers included certain clerical staff, middle managers, sales staff, and other support personnel.

An open question in the post-coronavirus economy is what happens to central cities or other areas where offices are clustered? If people continue to work from home, and only need an office part-time, and if support staffs are reduced, what happens to all the office buildings in say Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.? What happens to the infrastructure – subways and light rail – restaurants and other jobs dependent upon office workers?

People still need space to work and food to eat. However, will those working at home look for a somewhat larger house? Will those working from home begin to order in more meals rather than going to nearby restaurants?

While the future of the economy and future size and style of homes are uncertain, one certainty is the United States and other developed countries are going to face huge dislocations and changes to the norm. Covid-19 accelerated the arrival and intensity of the technology tsunami. The next decade is going to be a wild ride. (More about coming technology tsunami, Tech Tsunami Booklet with Supplement.)

One variable sitting on top of the economic and social changes post coronavirus is action required to mitigate the impact of climate change.  The argument is moot whether climate change is natural or man-made.  Climate change is here and is not going away.

Next blog entry we’ll discuss how some proposed actions to address climate change might cause further economic and social dislocations.  Stay tuned.

#388. Donnie’s Dudes Defect to Deep State (#10 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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 #387.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #388: Many years ago there was a TV show with a segment called “That Was the Week that Was.”  The TV show, “Laugh In,” was the satire and a precursor to “Saturday Night Live.”

Well, this past week would have been ideal fodder for “That Was the Week that Was.” SCOTUS ruled 7-2 that POTUS was not above the law and must provide relevant information for certain legal proceedings. In the case at hand, the legal proceedings were a grand jury in the State of New York investigating possible tax fraud by Trump and/or the Trump organization.

The 7-2 majority included two justices appointed by Trump, Gorsuch and Kavanagh. When nominated and then approved by the Republican Senate, Trump had nothing but praise for the two justices.  Trump’s tune changed when the two justices joined the majority and voted to uphold a 250-year precedent that the president was not above the law. Immediately following the ruling Trump claimed the two justices were part of the “deep state” and out to get him.

I mean really Donald, can two guys who voted to uphold 250 years of precedent be part of the “deep state” (whatever that is)?  You think the law doesn’t apply to you? Apologies for the rhetorical question.

A day after the Supreme Court decision with Trump still fuming that the law doesn’t apply to him, Trump thumbed his nose at the justice system and commuted the sentence of Roger Stone.  Stone had been convicted on multiple felonies and faced at least a three-year prison sentence. Stone was also a well-documented liar, self-described “dirty trickster” and a long-time friend of the Donald.  Such nice friends the president has.

While slightly out of chronological order, the icing on the cake for the week could be the release of the manuscript of an upcoming book by Trump’s niece.  The book includes insights into many inner-workings of the Trump family.  The niece, Mary Trump, is a clinical psychologist and describes Trump’s behavior in a series of events over time. While the pettiness of the Donald’s behavior seems even more appalling in private, anyone with an ounce of gray matter has witnessed this type behavior from Trump while president.

One insight I found disturbing, but personally amusing, was Trump paying someone to take his SAT to get into undergrad. Another clear indication of a lack of confidence and lack of self-worth. Classic behavior of a ‘wanna be.”

What does always mean for the coming Revenge Revolution? As noted in last week’s entry, the 5th US Revolution seems to have started.

On the positive side for society, Trump’s personal behavior and his refusal to take meaningful action to address Covid-19, has convinced most Independent voters and many Republicans to pause and rethink whether Trump deserves a second term. Whereas some questioning Trump also are so-so toward Biden – as are many Democrats so-so – the idea of re-electing Trump is viewed as high risk to the long-term stability of the US.

Biden’s appeal could be enhanced considerably with a credible running mate — Senator Tammy Duckworth, for example.  A Biden-Duckworth victory could be the catalyst to encourage Congress and the public to come together and begin repairing damage done by Trump.

An open question is whether the Black-Lives-Matter movement will view itself as part of the effort to repair the nation or view itself as a separate movement.  Substantively addressing and solving the issues raised by the BLM movement will take time, in some cases decades.  If the movement cannot be folded into a larger effort to get the US back on track and the effort to repair the US’ reputation worldwide, then the Revenge Revolution may intensify and continue unnecessarily for years, rather than starting to diminish under a Biden administration. More to come.

#387. 5th US Revolution Possible? We’re In It!

Readers: The focus of this blog since 2013 has been if a 5th revolution in the US would occur around 2020, give or take a few years.   The caveat was whether the time between previous revolutions, approximately 50 years, would hold again.

The previous revolutions were: #1, the American Revolution, which ended with the War of 1812; #2, the Civil War: #3, the “industrialization and migration/immigration” revolution of about 1910-1915; #4, cultural revolution from 1965-early 1970’s. (For more explanation about the revolutions, Entry #1.)

Well, no need to speculate any more about a 5th US revolution. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, the 5th US revolution has started.

One might argue that a 5th revolution, which early on I labeled as the “Revenge Revolution,” began with the election of Trump. And Trump’s election might be a fair starting point.

Clearly many people were upset and thought someone with no political experience and no credible business experience could make changes they thought necessary.  (Trump supporters if you disagree with the statement that Trump had no credible business experience, do some research with good sources. You’ll understand why the statement is true.)

Trump became president because of a fluke in the Constitution. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.  Nonetheless, Trump gained the White House via the Electoral College.

Whether or not the Revenge Revolution started with Trump doesn’t matter for this conversation. The Revenge Revolution has started now, and on multiple fronts – economic, social, medical, and certainly political. The fronts are interrelated, although some discreet elements exist in each.

The coronavirus scourge seems to be the catalyst for the revolution. For starters, Covid-19 has demonstrated how disjointed, dysfunctional and discriminatory the US medical system is. Even if there are underlying genetic traits that make groups more susceptible to the virus – blood type A, for example – the treatment available to those needing hospitalization for Covid-19 has varied from adequate to warlike conditions where supplies are short and treatment has to be rationed.

Attempts to control the spread of the virus have also demonstrated how certain classes of workers could be classified.  Many highly educated workers were considered “non-essential” and therefore temporarily, if not permanently expendable.  Among workers considered “essential” were many less educated, lower-paid, minorities, often from Trump’s “shit-hole” countries list.  Mmm, how did so people from those countries become “essential”?  The Trump administration forgot to explain.

Attempts to control the virus also resulted in unprecedented closings of businesses, employee layoffs, and a record decline in GDP. While a percentage of people have been rehired, the rehiring could be temporary as the rate of infections accelerates in some areas.  The pattern of a quick uptick (in this case, employment) followed by a rapid decline sometimes is referred to as the “dead-cat bounce.”

The social leg of the Revenge Revolution has been simmering for more than 100 years. What brought the simmer to a boil was the video of the Minneapolis Police killing George Floyd.  Release of the video precipitated protests and some looting, not seen in such volume and intensity since the 1960s.

Unlike like many previous social protests, which often faded rather quickly, the current protest seems to be gaining momentum.  Actions being proposed range from reducing funding of police departments to eliminating statues of Confederate generals (these generals fought against the US after all) to changing the names of certain sports teams – Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, e.g.

The Trump White House has taken a stand that ignores the growing Revenge Revolution. Trump claims repeatedly that the coronavirus will “just go away”; that the economy will bounce back stronger than ever; and that the protests are being led by leftist, fascist, thugs.

Donald and his supporters can think whatever they want about the revolution but the revolution will only gain momentum, which in turn will lead to even more change.  Exactly what will change is hard to predict.  No pattern has emerged other than a likely shifting of political power to Democrats following the November election.

Since today is Independence Day, I want to end on a positive note. Revolutions often result in major technological advances. After the US works through the Revenge Revolution, there could be a burst of Innovations in the industrial and medical sectors with the potential of generating significant employment gains and improvement in life span.

There’s a great opportunity ahead. We need the right people at the top to manage the transition and capitalize on the opportunity.  Stay tuned. More to come.

Other information. Some of the blog entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

#386. BREAKING NEWS. Trump Resigns. Republicans in Turmoil about Candidate. (#9 in Series)

Readers: some of the dialogue in this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Entries addressing events in the The future assume 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.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude to the current series of entries: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #389 (Yes, it’s a forecast)

BREAKING NEWS.  TRUMP RESIGNS.  In the early weeks leading up to the November 2020 election, most polls, including Fox News, put Trump trailing Joe Biden, sometimes by 10 or more points. While Trump continued to hold rallies, many were sparsely attended. As has been the practice since the failed rally in Tulsa, OK in mid-June, Trump and the White House press secretary blamed the media and “leftist protesters” for sparse attendance at these rallies.

Now, just two weeks before the 2020 election, Trump announced that under doctor’s orders, he was being forced to resign.  The reason? Neither the White House press staff nor the doctor was available to elaborate.  Immediately before the cryptic press release, Trump left unannounced for Mar-a-Lago.  Upon landing he was whisked away with no interaction with the media.

Although unconfirmed at this point, there is strong evidence that Trump is suffering from some type of mental imbalance.  Over the course of his presidency, Trump has been noted for making incoherent statements, often rambling for 15-20 minutes about topics unrelated to the issue at hand. Such ramblings have become more noticeable the past year, and especially as the election date grew closer.

Since before taking office there has been speculation that Trump was suffering from early-stage Alzheimer’s, which had affected his father, Fred.  Another possible diagnosis is early-stage Parkinson’s disease.  In addition to the diminished mental acuity, Trump has displayed a growing number of physical limitations – difficulty walking and requiring two hands to drink a glass of water, for example.

However, the real reason behind Trump’s resignation remains unclear. Several staffers inside the White House indicated Trump was so fearful of losing, he begged the doctor for an excuse to resign.

Whatever the exact reason, Trump’s resignation has created chaos for Republicans.  In most states, the deadline has passed for changes to ballots for the November election, even if the designated candidate has died prior to the election.  As a result, Republicans are left with a candidate who is now ineligible to take office.  Although there is no precedent for presidential elections, it appears current VP Mike Pence becomes the Republican candidate for president with no designated VP.

The far-right has reacted by claiming the so-called “deep state” forced Trump to resign.  Fox Entertainment Network talking heads Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson supported claims from the far right and encouraged Republicans to forcibly prevent a Democrat from occupying the White House, even if elected by voters.

While no physical clashes have occurred, many Republican and Democratic governors have put the National Guard on notice for possible duty over the next few months. Most of the same governors also have asked the US military for help if needed to quell any major disturbances.  More to come.

 

#385. Is a Rational Conversation about Racial Injustice Possible? (#8 re US Post COVID-19)

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.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #385: An unexpected addition to the post-COVID-19 conversation is whether widespread racism exists in the United States. While such a discussion comes to the fore periodically, the current discussion seems to be more intense and have garnered a broader audience.

As usual in this administration, comments from Trump have created frustration and anger among most blacks and many whites. The event that precipitated the current conversation was not Trump but the gross misconduct of the Minneapolis Police in the death of George Floyd.

Although Mr. Floyd had a minor rap sheet, by all accounts from bystanders, Floyd’s behavior did not justify actions taken by the police – a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes, with the cop apparently unconcerned about a possible video from a bystander.

The protest against the police following Floyd’s death started with the release of the video.  The protests started in Minneapolis-St. Paul then spread quickly throughout the country. Protests have continued for more than two weeks, and as of today, still continue.

Actions taken by the Trump administration have created more anger and frustration. The most egregious action seemed to be when Trump, using a loophole in the law that allowed military troops deployed in Washington DC to bring protests “under control.”   Some of the protests included looting.

Last weekend (06/06-07/2020) Trump ordered Attorney General William Barr to have the military troops disperse peaceful protesters away from Lafayette Park. Protesters were met with “chemical” smoke (likely pepper spray or teargas), rubber bullets and low-hovering helicopters.

Why such drastic action? Was the White House in danger of being overrun?  Was there extensive looting?  No and no.  The protesters were cleared by military troops so Trump could walk across the street for a photo op at Saint John’s Episcopal church, often referred to as the “President’s Church.”  Trump, the paragon of Christianity, stood in front of the church holding a Bible.  What more could his hard-core base want than a picture of Trump in front of a church holding a Bible?

As the second week of protests progressed, conversations started to include demands for reducing funding for police departments, and in some cases, eliminating police departments. Other demands focused on improved healthcare, better education, improved housing and some discussions about reparations for blacks.

I’ve tried to listen and understand. Over the last week or so, I’ve also spent 4-5 hours on Skype with a long-time friend whom we met in our early days in Charlotte.  While we have great respect for one another, our ethnicity and backgrounds are vastly different. He grew up in eastern North Carolina.  His parents were sharecroppers with limited education, probably 8th grade. Interestingly, all six children of the sharecropper parents went to college.

My friend’s wife, whom he met in Charlotte. as did we, is a high-energy go-getter who’s had a very successful career in the insurance industry. One assignment was managing an insurance company’s operation in a very large developing country.  The couple has two children – one in college in California and the other finishing high school.

Our recent Skype conversations have included him describing the experiences of an educated, affluent black family with different police departments. Over the years I’ve heard bits and pieces of some of the stories.  However, until this series of calls and then when I read his detailed accounts, which I encouraged him to write, I never realized the entire story. Not pretty.

The Skype discussions also included what he viewed as ideas to address inequities between the races. Before we started that conversation, he said “Some of what I’m going to tell you will make you uncomfortable.”  He was right.

Every now and then I asked a question.  One question was, “How can some members of the black community seemingly justify looting?  How can one justify stealing, especially stealing from a neighborhood store?”  (His response paraphrased), “Whites have stolen from blacks forever. Some blacks feel the only way to get the white man’s attention is to steal from him.”  I found that rationale incredibly disturbing and still have not processed the idea.

Another suggestion was blacks should receive reparations from whites. The rationale, he explained, was if Republicans in the Senate were willing to spend $4,000,000,000,000 for a coronavirus stimulus package, they obviously didn’t care about deficits. Therefore, why not spend another $4,000,000,000,000 as reparations for blacks? Besides, he continued, the $100,000 per person (black population 45+ million so a bit high) reparation would flow back into the economy as recipients bought new cars, bought new houses, took vacations, etc.

At the end of that Skype call, the most recent, I indicated, yes some demands during the call made me feel uncomfortable. I also reminded him that I had listened carefully and didn’t challenge any of his statements. But the next call would be my turn. During that call, I might make some comments that made him uncomfortable.

What are we going to talk about the next call? First, I don’t believe the conversation about racism across the US should be viewed as a zero-sum game. If the parties involved will listen, and be willing to accept reasonable solutions, then everyone can come out ahead.  If one of the sides insists on their “solution” or none at all, then likely no progress will be made.

To me, the only issue that does not need a lot of debate is whether most organizations have some employees who are not performing appropriately and need to leave. Such organizations include police departments.  That conversation needs to include the police unions.  I understand the purpose and value of police unions. But the unions need to quit overprotecting the bad cops. Overprotecting is not good for the entire police force, not good for the union and not good for the community.

As far as the rest of the demands, I have attempted to frame the questions to allow more than one view to be discussed and evaluated.  The questions are:

  1. If every other ethnic group, many of which experienced extreme and overt discrimination, has been able to get off the bottom rung of the economic ladder and migrate toward the middle class, even though the journey often has taken several generations, then should blacks study these ethnic groups and consider a similar path? What’s preventing blacks from doing the same things as these other ethnic groups did?  While the situation for each ethnic group was somewhat different, the path followed seems somewhat similar.
  2. If there are reparations, is it fair to deduct certain amounts to compensate or repay taxpayers for the extra cost of education, the extra cost of welfare, the extra cost of incarceration, etc.?
  3. Wouldn’t money allocated for reparations be better spent on education, healthcare and housing? What happened to teaching someone to fish?
  4. If the percentage of blacks incarcerated is disproportionately high compared to the population, what percentage of crimes are committed by blacks? One can argue about the fairness of sentences for certain crimes, but that is a different issue than the percentage of crimes committed by blacks.  (And eliminate most traffic violations from the calculation.) Is there a reason beyond just “police harassment”?
  5. What percentage of businesses in predominantly black communities are owned by blacks? If the percentage is low, then why aren’t there programs by wealthy blacks to encourage and support such businesses?  Rebuilding black-owned businesses may be even more important post COVID-19.  A report by CBS News (06/12/2020) indicated that when restrictions are lifted, up to 40% of the black-owned businesses may not reopen compared to less than 20% of white-owned businesses. The higher closure rate was attributed in part to lack of available financing.
  6. Is it fair to demand quotas for white players in the NFL and the NBA? (Yes, that’s a joke.)

More to come.

#384 1967 Detroit Riots: Lessons for Cities and Trump Administration

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.  

Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download:

Prelude: I’ve concluded Trump is a lunatic and the administration filled with lapdogs save a couple of people at CDC.  Instead of wasting time commenting on actions by Trump, I thought it more productive to begin discussing what happens in the US once the coronavirus is more under control.  #378 began the series. At this point not sure how many entries.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

The topic of ENTRY #384 was not anticipated.  The civil unrest this past week may become more prevalent than anyone would like. Unfortunately, the unrest likely will continue well past COVID-19, and thus a topic for this series.

ENTRY #384 BEGINS:  The past week there have been rallies in numerous cities protesting the treatment of Mr. George Floyd by Minneapolis Police. More and more of these rallies have evolved into riots with extensive looting and burning of public and private property.  With Trump’s proclamation Monday evening, June 1, that maximum force, including US military personnel, could be used to quell all protests, the number and intensity may increase and the tactics more warlike.

Apparently the Donald forgot to read his history books and skipped classes as well on military strategy.  Using traditional brute force in a guerilla war, which is what is likely to evolve after the proclamation, rarely works, if ever.  The list is long of examples of brute force failing to stop guerilla warfare, including Vietnam.

Watching these riots has been painful. I can tell you from personal experience, it is quite scary to be caught in the middle of the violence itself.

In summer 1967, we were living in a suburb immediately north of Detroit. I was just months into my job at Cadillac Division of General Motors.

One Sunday afternoon our neighbor, a manager of a credit agency housed in Detroit, said he’d heard there was some disturbance downtown and wanted to go check on his office. I offered to accompany him and off we went.

What we got was a whole lot more than anticipated. When we arrived in front of the office, housed in the Fox Theater building, there were people everywhere. A liquor store next to the theater was being looted as was a TV shop next door to that.

We looked to be some of the first “outsiders” to arrive at this location because while we were still in the car, a number of police cars pulled in behind us. No, we weren’t stupid. It was time to get out of Dodge and we left.

Overnight there were more riots in selected parts of Detroit but there was no declaration of an emergency. So, Monday morning I headed to work. The main Cadillac plant was on the west side and several miles from downtown Detroit. Rioting continued as did the fires. Midday Monday a number of us stood on an enclosed walkway between the fourth floors of two different buildings. We could see parts of the city clearly burning.

Cadillac closed the offices and the assembly plant that afternoon and I headed back to the apartment using an alternate route that was even farther west and away from the activity. I returned without incident but was left with the nagging question, “Are we really safe?”

The apartment complex was just on the other side of the dividing line between Detroit and Southfield – 8-Mile Road. The apartment complex was not gated so there was nothing to stop rioters from entering. Fortunately, the rioting did not spread to our immediate area.

Rioting did continue to spread within the City of Detroit. Rioting became so extensive, Governor George Romney (Mitt’s father) asked for Federal assistance and members of the US Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were deployed to Detroit. In addition to light-infantry weapons, the units were supported by heavily armored tanks.

If you’ve never witnessed in real time the firepower of a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a tank, visualize this. The machine gun is aimed at a sniper holed up in say the 5th floor of a brick building. The first few rounds from the machine gun literally blow away the brick facade and then subsequent rounds penetrate the interior of the building. That scene was fairly common in Detroit as the military attempted to control sniper fire.

Thus, in the span of a few days, much of Detroit became a war zone. The devastation is hard to describe and imagine. Some areas of Detroit have not yet recovered, more than 50+ years later. Yes, Detroit had some other problems as well but I think what tipped over the City was the 1967 riots.

What caused the riots? Was there an incident like George Floyd in Minneapolis or Rodney King in Los Angeles? On the surface, the riots were precipitated by a seemingly innocuous single incident. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Detroit police raided and closed a blind pig in a black neighborhood (illegal bar often with some gambling as well).

While black residents were frustrated by the raid on the blind pig, residents housed a long-standing frustration with treatment by the Detroit Police Department, then mostly white. Economics was a contributing factor, but much less so than most people think. In the 1960’s, the US economy and especially Detroit’s economy were strong. Many black residents were employed at one of the many new-car/truck assembly plants or component plants in and around Detroit.

Further, all hourly employees in those plants were members of the UAW with extensive health benefits, multi-week vacation and a base wage that was sufficient for full-time workers to be classified as “middle class.” Detroit also had a relatively strong black-owned business community.

What happened to Detroit following the riots? Many whites fled the City for the suburbs. Auto companies gradually closed many of the assembly and component plants, although there were other reasons for that as well. Detroit became a shell of its former self. Only in the last decade, roughly 50 years after the riots, has Detroit started to rebound. New businesses are moving in. Housing is being rebuilt and population is gradually expanding.

What’s the lesson, or the caution, for other cities experiencing riots? While there is no simple answer, at a minimum, city leaders, public and private, need to work closely with citizens and be alert to problems with city services, whether garbage pickup, water quality (as in Flint), or unsavory or unethical actions by law enforcement. Understanding these problems, and making an effort to resolve the problems before getting out of control, will help mitigate the potential for disturbance.

An example of such an effort is the sheriff of Genesee County Michigan, north of Detroit and home to Flint, MI.  The sheriff has been working closely with residents throughout the county.  So far, there have been no unruly protests in Flint and other cities in the county.

Another issue that seems important, and one that does not get discussed enough publicly, is encouraging local residents to become business owners in their community. Maybe more black-owned businesses would prevent some of the insidious looting that occurred during recent protests. Why would you loot a store in your neighborhood that is providing critical services, and owned by one of your neighbors?

Those who loot or encourage looting neighborhood stores should not complain because few, if any, national chains open neighborhood stores. Why should these companies risk capital, if the stores are targeted for looting?

Finally, I think any honest conversation about unfair treatment, discrimination, and associated issues needs to ask the following questions. “How did other ethnic groups overcome what was often overt and brutal discrimination? What did these ethnic groups do, sometimes over several generations, to reduce discrimination and make better lives for themselves?”  The answers could provide some guidance for all sides.  Answers will also indicate solutions are never easy and never one sided.