Readers: The entries in this blog are built around the assumption there will be 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 a revolution in the US is 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.  Entry #400 was the most recent “sense check.” 

This past week I had two conversations that left me puzzled and bewildered, although I guess not surprised. One “conversation” consisted of a series of texts and the other occurred during a business call.

The first conversation was a follow-up to a birthday greeting I sent to someone I’ve known for 35+ years. We met when she was a student intern in one of the departments I managed. Sometime thereafter she asked me to be an advisor for her thesis.

Over the years we’ve stayed in touch, mostly chit-chat and rarely, if ever, politics.  Well, no politics that I remember until Trump.  Someplace along the way she migrated from being working-class to middle-class Democrat to a hard-right Trumpster. And the change in attitude wasn’t for any economic hardship.

I’ve given up trying to understand why she shifted political views because every time I’ve asked what I thought was an objective and rather innocuous question about Trump, the answer was filled with snippets from the far-right sheet of talking points.

So when I sent a birthday text recently I made sure the content read more like a Hallmark card with no reference to politics or even state of health.  The last message I sent several months ago mentioned we had gotten shots and asked if she had also.  The response was another series of texts telling me why vaccines were bad.

The response to the birthday message?  I should have known better.  “Thanks for the note” followed by another round of conspiracy stuff, this time focused on last November’s presidential election.  I was also informed not to watch any news on the broadcast networks or cable.  Even Fox was off limits.  These channels are trying to brainwash viewers.

Instead, I should watch news broadcasts on local channels. No mention, of course, that many local channels are owned by Sinclair Broadcasting, a company promoting far-right views.  Or, no mention that many allegedly local stories are either scripted by Sinclair or fed to local outlets by Sinclair and forced to broadcast. 

For national news, a credible source was some guy on an internet website who really told the truth.  Seriously?  How does one have a meaningful conversation about policy with someone who thinks like that?  

The second incident happened during a business call. We were discussing a product that could be used to help manage the transition from fossil fuel to 100% electric in transportation and homes/buildings.  The transition to 100% electric is a key element in plans to address climate change.

Part of the conversation was about the likely consequences of not addressing climate change aggressively and immediately. The response to my comments about likely consequences was something along the lines of “Predictions about the future are always wrong.”  As proof he noted that how wrong a prediction was made in the 1950s about life in the 21st Century.  What the prediction was I don’t know.

The implication, at least in my view, was that since predictions or forecasts are always wrong, one should not base behavior on such predictions. Rather, one should wait until it becomes clear what the outcome is going to be and then take action. Such an approach might work for whether to deploy an umbrella but it won’t work for climate change.  

Waiting until the effects of climate change become incredibly obvious is a formula for disaster.  By then the earth will have passed the tipping point and it will be far too late for any action to make a meaningful difference.  Think of taking action on climate change to jumping out of an airplane.  One can wait only so long to deploy the parachute.  Beyond the “tipping point” the outcome is the same – splat. 

In response to the comments about forecasts I mentioned virtually my entire career has included being responsible for some type of forecast, often longer term.  I also agreed there is one certainty about forecasts; yes, forecasts are always wrong.

However, the goal of a forecast is not be 100% correct but rather to minimize errors in estimates of key variables. My experience has been the most useful forecasts are guided by the 80:20 rule. Spend time making as accurate as possible the forecast for 20% for the variables that account for 80% of the outcome.  The remaining 80% of the variables that account for 20% of the outcome should receive some attention but are mostly noise.

For naysayers of forecasts, novices to forecasting, and conspiracy theorists it is easy to focus on errors in estimates of the 80% of variables that are the noise.  Focusing on the 80% allows one to develop a long list of items in the forecast that were wrong, thereby “proving” forecasts are of no value.  The naysayer group spends very little time evaluating the accuracy of the forecasts for the 20% of variables that matter.  Doing so would disprove whatever argument they are trying to make.

When discussing climate change, what are some key variables? One is understanding the major sources of CO2; another is understanding how CO2 is generated by that source.  A 3rd is understanding how the ecosystems will be affected as the Earth’s temperature rises or falls.

The list of practical solutions to climate change includes replacing fossil fuel with electricity or non-carbon fuel in transportation and homes/buildings.  While the solution is certainly feasible, even with available technology, what is unknown and frequently overlooked is how to ensure an adequate flow of electricity when the electricity is generated from renewable sources, primarily wind or solar.  Electricity from wind and solar is highly variable and unlike coal or nuclear which have a relatively constant flow of electrons.

Technology exists to store electrons. The unsolved problem, and one that needs to be forecasted reasonably accurately, is how to store enough electrons from solar and wind to make sure there is adequate amount of electricity available to meet peak-load demand.

Another head-scratching data point about “How Are They Thinking?” is a series of entries on Facebook.  One FB friend has repeatedly claimed Covid-19 is a hoax.  Further, the vaccines for Covid were being promoted by the government to control people’s behavior.  His solution to Covid-19?  Just avoid being infected.  How was never explained.  Besides, if someone contracted Covid, then no big deal since only a small percentage of people died. 

He further claimed the number of deaths due to Covid was greatly exaggerated and part of the plot by the “government” to control one’s behavior.  When I pointed out that during 2020 the total number of deaths, regardless of cause, was more than 500,000 above-normal – at least 3 and probably 4 standard deviations from the norm – he offered no response. I guess 500,000 people wanted to die early and thought the year 2020 was a good time to go.

Where do these examples leave us? The three people cited are all college educated and who should be reasonably rational in their thinking.  Somehow they have become irrational.  Early on in the Trump Administration I wrote that many of his ardent supporters appeared to have been brainwashed.  Although there is no clear answer how they became brainwashed – maybe watching the bloviators on Fox was enough – I’m even more convinced today of the brainwashing.  Otherwise, why would someone continue to promote theories with no hard data or any conceivable logic?   

Trying to “un-brainwash” this group of people likely cannot be accomplished before a portion of them take actions similar to storming  the Capitol or beginning widespread attempts to assassinate elected government officials and judges who are perceived not to support the Trump election fantasy.

Actions by Trump supporters does not bode well for mitigating a 5th US Revolution.  In fact, when history is written about the 21st Century teens and early 20’s, I think the conclusion will be that in 2021 the US had begun the 5th US Revolution, the Revenge Revolution. Historians will also note, and I hope I’m wrong about this forecast, the discord continued to intensify after 2021 until the fighting broke out a few years later.  More to come.

Booklets you might find interesting:

  • Revenge Revolution — description of what form the revolution might take, 20 01 07 Start of Revolution
  • Who took out the Donald?  Who/what groups are most likely to “take out” Trump? The booklet was written early in the Trump administration but still worth a read. Who Took Out the Donald Entries with Update
  • Working with Lee Iacocca after he left Chrysler, 2019Q3 Iacocca Personal Observations
  • GM EV1 — behind-the-scenes events affecting development and introduction of the GM EV1, the first modern electric vehicle. 2020Q1 GM EV-1 Story Behind the Story Booklet  Note: in January 2021, GM announced that by 2035 all light-duty cars and trucks sold by GM worldwide will be electric. “Automotive News” had a special section published Earth Day 2021 about the GM EV1. Lots of celebration about the engineering accomplishments, and rightfully so. Little, if any insight why the GM EV1 was cancelled.