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 and author, Entry #1. Many entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.
Occasionally I do a “sense check” about the likelihood of a Revenge Revolution. Entry #318 is a “sense check.” One more note — sometimes I write about another topic that does not quite fit the theme of the blog. Those comments are in the page titled “JRD Thoughts and Comments.“
When I started this blog more than five (5) years ago, two guidelines I set were key: (i) avoid spending too much time on political or economic events occurring in the previous week or two; (ii) avoid overreacting to such events. Throughout writing the blog I’ve tried to keep such events in proper perspective and also tried to frame the events in the context of the underlying premise of the blog – sometime after 2020 the US would experience a 5th revolution, which I labeled the “Revenge Revolution.”
Trying to avoid overreacting is borne out by history. Revolutions seem to be caused by events over time. However, a few events during a short period of time, or even one event, can tip the scales, triggering the populace to say, “Enough, already. Throw the bum(s) out. Time for a change!”
Although we rarely think about it, such trigger points happen in our everyday lives. A simple example is one day you look at your fingernails and think they’re too long. And with that realization, most of us feel an urgent need to take action and file the nails. Obviously the fingernails didn’t grow all at once. The fingernails grew a little bit every day and then, suddenly, the fingernails seemed too long.
This phenomenon is described by the Theory of Just Noticeable Difference, (JND). While JND is usually applied to more physical measures – e.g., length of fingernails – the theory seems to apply to less tangible measures as well. For many people, Trump’s behavior the past couple of weeks has been akin to a “fingernails-too-long” moment.
Just why would people think that way? Let’s take a quick review of events of the past couple of weeks. The list is not necessarily in chronological order.
- Michael Cohen, long-time Trump lawyer and “fixer” of problems, was sentenced to three (3) years in prison for what the judge called a “veritable smorgasbord of criminal conduct.” Earlier in 2018 Cohen’s offices were raided by the FBI. Cohen eventually became a cooperating witness against Trump in investigations by Mueller and the Southern District of NY. A partial list of crimes by Cohen has been disclosed. One crime of public interest, although one that eventually might prove to be a “lesser” crime, was for payments made immediately preceding the election to two women with whom Trump had affairs. The payments were a violation of campaign laws.
- National Enquirer, owned by American Media, Inc. CEO, David Pecker, admitted working with Cohen to help squash negative news about Trump immediately preceding the election. AMI was funneling money to cover a payment to at least one of the women. AMI’s involvement violated campaign finance laws.
- Michael Flynn, former Marine Corps general and former National Security Advisor to Trump, was anticipating no jail time at his sentencing. The judge chose to ignore the recommendations of the Special Counsel and dressed down the general in the court proceeding, indicating Flynn would be smart to ask for a delay in sentencing and agree to continue cooperating with Special Counsel for the next six (6) months. Even then the judge told Flynn he was subject to incarceration. Flynn was selected by Trump over widespread objections of the intelligence community.
- Matthew Whittaker, Acting Attorney General, refused to recuse himself from any involvement in the Mueller probe. Whittaker, who had been a regular on Fox News criticizing the investigation before being appointed by Trump, was strongly encouraged by the Ethics Office to recuse himself. Whittaker ignored the advice. In addition, there is some question whether his appointment was legal and whether certain actions taken by Justice Department under his appointment would be legal. The nominee to become the permanent head of Justice has been equally critical of the Mueller investigation and appears to have been chosen for that reason.
- Ryan Zinke, head of Dep’t of Interior, resigned. Zinke is subject of at least five ongoing investigations for various crimes.
- Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve after a lawsuit by the State of New York Attorney General claiming “…shocking pattern of illegality.” Based on claims presented by the State AG, it appears Trump and several members of the Trump family could face significant civil fines and possible criminal indictments.
- John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff and former Marine Corps general, was fired by Trump. Kelly’s replacement – Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney, a former representative from South Carolina, is currently Director of Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney supposedly will function as chief of staff and run OMB. The practical effect is Trump has no chief of staff to manage schedules or try to coordinate legislation with Congress. How long will Mulvaney last? Mulvaney once called Trump’s views on a border wall and immigration “simplistic” and “absurd and almost childish.” Mulvaney added a physical barrier would not stop undocumented immigrants from crossing the Mexican border and ranchers at the border say they don’t need a fence.
- James Mattis, former Marine Corps 4-star, resigned as head of Dep’t of Defense. For Mattis the “fingernails-too-long” moment was Trump not seeking advice of the military and intelligence community before announcing, via Twitter, that the US would withdraw troops from Syria and probably withdraw half the forces from Afghanistan. The arbitrary decision on Syria shocked people in the US military, Congress and US allies. Since DOD was established in 1947, Mattis is the first head to resign in protest. If you have not read the letter of resignation, please do so. 18 12 21 Mattis Letter of Resignation NYT
- Trump Administration lifted sanctions on a Russian oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, who has close ties to Putin and Manafort.
- Putin publically praised Trump for his decisions re Syria and lifting sanctions on the Russian oligarch. (Sort of makes you wonder whose camp Trump is in, doesn’t it?)
- Trump, in a highly unusual public meeting in the White House, attempted to negotiate with Senator Charles Schumer of NY (top Democrat in Senate) and Representative Nancy Pelosi (incoming Speaker of the House) about a budget resolution that would continue to fund the Federal government. During the negotiations, Trump demanded that $5.0 billion be included for part of Trump’s Mexican border wall. If the $5.0 billion were not included, Trump declared in front of rolling cameras that he would be “”proud to shut down the government for border security.” The Senate passed a bill that included additional funding for border security but not a wall. The House, still under Paul Ryan, passed a bill that included funding for a wall. The House bill then forced the bill back to the Senate which refused to fund the wall. Trump then flip-flopped and tried to blame Democrats for the subsequent shutdown what he claimed he would be “proud” to do.
- Trump, after claiming that he was responsible for gains in the stock market, then blamed the Federal Reserve chairman for causing the largest percentage loss in value in any December since 1931. To “correct the problem,” Trump indicated he would fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom Trump appointed earlier in 2018 after firing Janet Yeltin.
There are probably more events but these are the ones that came to mind…with no further research. Yikes!! Any one of these events would have been a major scandal in a “normal” administration.
What do these events mean for the likelihood of a Revenge Revolution? If we were living during the era of the Wild West, I’d say, “Add another notch to your gun.”
I’ve not conducted a survey that would be considered scientifically valid. However, after listening to a number of people on the left, center and right, I get the sense that many have reached a “fingernails-too-long” moment…and some corrective action needs to be taken. Interesting, even some on the far right seem frustrated, but maybe for a different reason. They might sense that adults could start taking back Washington.
One far-right person that I deal with (data points of one are dangerous except in Washington), suggested he would use armed force to defend his property against any government action. I had limited time and did not dig deeper into what he considered intrusive government action. Nor did I take time to remind him the only reason he can claim ownership of property is…well, because of the legal structure established by the government. I’ll explain that role of government to him on another day.
So where are we? Many people seem to think Trump is so out of control that he needs to be removed from office. And what does that attitude mean for the likelihood of a Revenge Revolution? When I started the blog in 2013, the chances of a Revenge Revolution by the early 2020’s were at the very most 50 (yes):50 (no). Over time the odds seemed to have increased gradually. Now the odds have increased to 75 (yes): 25 (no) – at a minimum. And, without much effort, I could be talked into raising the odds to 90 (yes): 10 (no). It is truly a scary time.
If you’d like to read more about how a Revenge Revolution might get started, take a look at Entries #1-#8. (E-book version of the entries, How the 5th US Revolution Begins and About the Author). These were my initial blog entries. I recently reread and the entries seem OK. If you are interested in how Trump might be “taken out” – impeached or physically removed from office – try Entries #244-#257. For a PDF e-book, DOWNLOAD Who Took Out the Donald #244-#257. These entries were written in summer 2017. The general content still seems plausible.
Thanks for your time. Comments welcome.