#416. What Are They Thinking? Or, How Are They Thinking?

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.

#415 Personal Responsibility and Accountability. Where Have You Gone?

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.” 

Personal responsibility and accountability, where have you gone? I’ve been struck over the past few weeks by what seems to be an ever increasing lack or maybe abdication of personal responsibility and personal accountability.

Among politicians, while Trump may be the most egregious example of someone who refuses to be personally responsible or accountable – it’s always someone else’s fault – the disease seems to have infected virtually the entire Republican Party. As noted in Entry #414, Republicans in the House of Representatives kicked out Liz Cheney from a leadership position because she had the temerity to tell the truth. Shame on you Liz for telling the truth.

As if such skewed thinking weren’t enough, most Republicans in the House voted against establishing a bipartisan commission – yes, an equal number of Republicans and Democrats – to explore causes and responsibility for the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Some Republicans claimed the attack was no different than an ordinary day with the usual throng of visitors. Other Republicans claimed the attack was really Democrats in disguise. Whatever the phony rationale, Republicans seem intent on not seeking the truth.

When it became clear the effort to establish a bipartisan commission would not pass the Senate, Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House and who voted no to the commission, publicly and loudly proclaimed he would testify under oath. Such an outstanding display of personal responsibility and accountability.

Unfortunately for society the unwillingness to take responsibility and/or to be held accountable is not confined to often spineless politicians. It seems to be pervasive.

In several recent articles in the Charlotte Observer, there was data indicating the percentage of people being vaccinated by various categories.  One chart noted the percentage of blacks being vaccinated was lower than the percentage of whites. Some people quoted in the article implied the lower percentage was further evidence that systemic racism against blacks.

Hold on folks. Not every difference between blacks and whites indicates racism.  What about the percentage of black athletes vs white athletes, especially the NBA and NFL?  Seriously, back to Covid-19 inoculations, there has been ample time for everyone to get shots. While appointments were difficult to get initially, that is no longer the case.

Further, the number of available locations has expanded considerably.  On a personal note, my wife’s appointment location was moved from a clinic reasonably nearby to one on the west side of Charlotte. The new clinic, much larger and better equipped than the original clinic, was located in a predominantly black neighborhood.  The clinic also had ready access to frequent public transportation. For those located without ready access to public transportation, Uber and Lyft have been providing free rides to and from the clinic.

So, in this situation, who is not being responsible? The clinic is nearby, and the transportation is readily available.

Another example of “who should be responsible” is from actions by Mecklenburg County Commissioners.  The manager and commissioners of Mecklenburg County, which surrounds Charlotte and is a significant source of funding for the school system, stated they want to withhold more than 10% of the funds allocated for public schools until the School Board develops and details a plan that ensures student performance will improve.

Few disagree that measuring teaching skills against a reasonable standard is legitimate.  If the teacher is meeting the standard, then holding teachers accountable for student performance is not reasonable and unfair to the teacher. The people directly responsible for student performance are the student and the parents of the student. Making teachers directly accountable is a no-win situation and discourages people from becoming teachers. Apparently Mecklenburg County has never heard the saying, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”

One more example, which is minor, but I think indicative of how widespread the problem of shirking responsibility has become.  Last week Sam’s Club was out of the birdseed mix that all the backyard critters seem to like best.  The clerk said to try ordering on online, which we did.  When the order was placed, the scheduled delivery date was six days.  The next day, FedEx said the delivery date was now COB the following day, a Friday.  Friday passes.  Next FedEx notice Saturday morning, delivery today.  Sunday morning, delivery today.  Finally.  Any updates or notices from FedEx there had been a delay?  Not until the delivery date passed.  Any reason given?  No.  Any apologies from FedEx?  No.  In the scheme of things, an annoyance.  In the larger context, indicative of the lack of willingness to be responsible.      

How do these examples link to the likelihood of a 5th US revolution, aka the Revenge Revolution? I think the unwillingness to take personal responsibility for something as simple as getting vaccinated, an unwillingness to acknowledge something as obvious as only an individual can decide whether to learn, or unwillingness to keep the customer informed, bodes ill for the willingness of the US populous to try and solve really serious problems facing the country.

How will the public respond to actions required and sacrifices required to help solve climate change? If people thought the backlash against non-mask wearers was bad, wait until the public begins to truly understand how much an individual’s actions can contribute to a carbon footprint that negatively affects climate change.

While there’s a lot of discussion inside the Beltway about infrastructure, voting rights, potential inflation, etc., as I noted in an earlier entry I think climate change will become the overwhelming focus in the near future. And who’s going to lead the discussion about and the effort to address climate change?

The leaders won’t be the current set of elected representatives, especially those in the Senate.  The people who are going to lead the charge are the ones who will be most negatively affected by climate change.  Look out, here come the younger generations. Update: 05/25/2021 — An example of the kind of climate-change demands that we might experience in the future — demands by workers at Amazon that the company end pollution from its operations disproportionately affect people of color. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-shareholders-demand-end-pollution-hitting-people-color-hardest-n1268413

Booklets you might find interesting:

  • 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
  • Revenge Revolution — description of what form the revolution might take, 20 01 07 Start of Revolution
  • 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.
  • #414 Lizzy Cheney Got 40 Whacks

    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.” 

    ENTRY #414 BEGINS

    Lizzy Cheney got the axe
    Kev McCarthy gave her 40 whacks
    But wasn’t Lizzy a rising star
    Expected to go quite far?
    She’s got a Republican pedigree
    All the time on daddy’s knee
    What’d she do that was so wrong?
    Sing a tune from some bad song?
    Her song consisted of a single note
    The truth about the people’s vote
    The truth about some washed up coot
    Yet, for the truth she got the boot
    It’s so hard to understand oh why
    Republicans said to her goodbye
    Telling the truth seems so wise
    So much better than all those lies
    What do Republicans really believe?
    That normal voters are that naive?
    What happens next is hard to know
    Will democracy take another blow?
    When will all the craziness stop?
    Or is the US experiment going to flop?

    Booklets you might find interesting.

    #413 How Actions to Address Climate Change Could Affect the Revenge Revolution

    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.” 

    For the past 6+ months, I’ve been working with a group of fellow MIT alumni to assess and then recommend practical solutions to climate change. While the group has made every effort to remain apolitical, by its very nature the group is highly biased toward science and quantitative analysis.

    Within the group there is no dispute whether climate change is real. There is no dispute within the group whether the consequences of climate change are severe for the US and every other country worldwide, even if we begin to take action now.

    Like many issues, most people have a difficult time imagining the future. Whether the consequences of climate change are difficult to imagine or the consequences are easier to ignore and one finds it more comforting to hope that the problems goes away, there seems to be a little concern within the general populace about consequences of climate change.

    The lack of concern makes implementing necessary solutions even more difficult. To help listeners better understand complex problems, using an any analogy often help. For climate change, I found the following analogy gets people’s attention and adequately describes the scope of the problem if nothing is done.

    Imagine climate change as a game of Russian Roulette.  If you want to ignore climate change and do nothing, then load the chamber not with one bullet but with five bullets.  Now, spin the chamber and pull the trigger.  Chances are the outcome will not be a good one. 

    If you want to take serious action to address climate change, then you put only one round in the chamber. A positive outcome is not guaranteed but the chances are very good. So ask yourself, do I want to play Russian Roulette with five rounds in the chamber or just one round?

    What also seems to help people understand complex problems is a set of Q&A where the questions and answers are phrased in terms understandable to most everyone.

    Recently a colleague asked me to list top-line bullet points about climate change that she could weave into an upcoming speech. A couple of Q&A examples follow. Link to entire Q&A set.

    • Q: What’s the solution to climate change or are we doomed no matter what we do?
    • A: We are not doomed if we start taking action now.  The longer we wait, the more difficult the solution becomes.  Think of the solution as a 3-legged stool.  The legs are:
      • Using existing and likely future technology to reduce CO2 and other GHG (greenhouse gas) – methane, e.g.
      • Providing adequate funds to pay for implementing technology
      • Creating new jobs to replace those lost and ideally creating  even more jobs
    • Q: How do we implement these solutions?
    • A: Think of another 3-legged stool. Most of the necessary technology is available today. Thus the implementation plan is one that is more dependent on a willingness to solve the problem. To address climate change both society and legislators need to commit to:
      • Implementing science-based solutions, not political solutions
      • Using not just public funds but insisting on private funds as well
      • Ensuring fair-and-equitable implementation across all socio-economic groups. Like Covid-19, all socio-economic groups will be affected by climate change.

    How will efforts to address climate change affect the 5th US Revolution, aka the Revenge Revolution? The groups most affected by climate change are under age 50, and especially under age 30. Like the cultural revolution of the 1960’s/1970’s, US Revolution #4, the younger generation likely will be the primary force for change.

    The younger generations tend to lean left politically and many seem more open to a larger role for government. The younger generations’ support for actions to address climate change will diminish further the voice of the Republican far right.

    The more I’ve delved into what’s required to address climate change, and how solutions now depend on personal commitment, since technology is available to solve most of the problems, the more I wonder if the Revenge Revolution will be driven by the younger generations. Are they waiting to “Throw the (older) bums out?

    Will the younger generation claim, and maybe rightfully so, “You old guys screwed it up. Now we’re going to run the show.” More to come.

    #412 Floyd Fades. Geeks Gallop.

    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.” 

    Some important developments this past couple of weeks that likely will influence the intensity of the Revenge Revolution. (I skipped an entry last week for several reasons, but primarily because of lack of time.)

    During the Trump administration, and especially since George Floyd‘s death roughly one year ago, social justice has been a major news topic. In addition to public demonstrations about social justice, there have been many efforts by organizations to address social justice.

    Efforts have ranged from support for more affordable housing units to improving access to medical care to ensuring more equitable enforcement of laws by police to eliminating Jim-Crow-like restrictions on voting rights. At the Congressional level, some members of the House have proposed that reparations should be paid to blacks.

    Interestingly, at least from my perspective, is the conversation about social justice has not included mention of improving educational opportunities for blacks and browns. Why no discussion about education, I don’t know.

    While increased equitable enforcement of laws and more affordable housing units are important, none of the top-line issues being discussed under the banner of “social justice” has a significant impact on long-term economic sustainability for families. The issue not being discussed – education – has proved over time to be a viable way for ethnic/minority groups to assimilate and to improve economic wellbeing. Over the last 125-150 years, every ethnic group that committed to education as a way to help children and grandchildren has improved their economic well-being.

    In the coming years, education will become even more important as artificial intelligence and automation replace low-skilled in semi-skilled jobs. Without higher education or expertise in a much-needed skilled trade, an individual’s earning potential will remain very limited. If black lives really matter, then educational opportunities and commitment to education by black families should really matter as well.

    While we won’t know for a while, but publicity about and focus on social justice issues may have reached a peak with the verdict in the George Floyd trial. Whereas the verdict seemed more than justified and provided much relief to the black community, the conversation about the longer-term consequences of the trail were overshadowed later the same week by other events.

    A series of technology-related events and announcement may replace social justice as the main topic of conversation in Congress and with the public. For blacks in particular, these events likely mean that the conversation about Floyd fades and the conversation about geeks gallops to the forefront.

    What technology-related events occurred? #1, and the least impact on public discourse was NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft taking flight on another planet. The flight was the first ever and will be followed by many more. In technology terms, the helicopter flight on Mars was on par with the Wright Brothers first flight. I guess license plates on Mars will read “First in Solar Flight,” trying to parallel North Carolina’s claim of “First in Flight.”

    2, and far more important for society at large was more detail about the Biden administration’s proposal of a roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The proposal defined infrastructure more broadly than roads, bridges and some communications. The plan has significant long-term implications for the US economy and daily life for virtually every citizen.

    3, and the big Kahuna, was the commitment by the Biden administration that by 2030 the US will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of the 2005 level. Like the infrastructure bill, the commitment on reducing GHG has major implications for the economy and daily lives of most citizens.

    Both proposals have the potential to create significant jobs. Although there are many differences between Republicans and Democrats on parts of both proposals, the infrastructure proposal already has broad public support, including a large percentage of Republican voters.

    The proposal to reduce GHG emissions likely will gain broad support among many younger voters. These voters could be a major influence on parents and grandparents to support the proposal.

    What does conversation about infrastructure and climate change mean for the conversation about social justice? Social justice will remain an issue, especially with certain groups, but the conversation about social justice no longer will be front and center. Less conversation doesn’t diminish the importance of social justice. However, most people, including those in Congress, can focus only on a few issues at a time.

    Further, the Biden proposals are forward looking and with a vision for America that is different than espoused by Trump. What does this mean for Trump supporters? Much less airtime other than a couple of marginal media outlets. Fox News no longer needs Trump and given that corporations supporting voting rights for minorities could pull advertising, Fox will focus on aspects of the infrastructure and GHG proposals. If you’re the Murdoch’s, why risk losing advertising revenue on the golden goose?

    In the next few entries I’ll address how reactions to the infrastructure and GHG proposals and the diminished conversation about social justice could affect the timing and intensity of the Revenge Revolution. The entries will also include some discussion about reaction to seemingly ever increasing gun violence could affect the Revenge Revolution. Stay tuned.

    Booklets you might find interesting.

  • Trump Supporters Brainwashed? A series discussing why Republicans have abandoned basic principals, Are Trump Republicans Brainwashed 2020Q1  Related article published 10/07/20.  Op-Ed piece in NYT about how people bend their thinking to justify beliefs.  Example is Fox News Information about Covid-19, 20 10 07 Fox News Still in Coronavirus Bubble aka Brainwashed
  • 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
  • Revenge Revolution — description of what form the revolution might take, 20 01 07 Start of Revolution
  • 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.
  • #411: “You Can Lead a Whore to Culture but You Can’t Make Her Think.”

    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.” 

    ENTRY #411 BEGINS: The title is the response from the writer Dorothy Parker when asked to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence.  Parker‘s famous reply seems to appropriate to describe most elected Republicans inside the Washington Beltway.

    I promised in Entry #410 to quit addressing how the Republican Party was imploding.  I also promised to quit offering suggestions how Democrats could help Republicans rebuild, or start a new, more principled Republican Party.

    Those promises certainly have not stopped inane actions by members of the Republican Party.  This past week we experienced another reason why behavior of elected Republicans is consistent with Parker‘s description of a whore. Republicans have quit thinking.  Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell promised yet again to fight every aspect of the Biden administration‘s infrastructure proposal, even though the proposal has strong support among Republican voters.

    McConnell must have said to himself, “Why should we rich Republicans listen to our constituents?  Our constituents are little people who really don’t matter.  They should be treated like we treat Democrats.  Let them eat old, stale fruitcake.”

    Let’s discuss what infrastructure is and why infrastructure is important. First the definition of infrastructure has always included more than roads and bridges, despite the claims by Republicans. Some examples.  In the mid-19th Century, the US government was involved in making it possible for railroads to expand in all regions and traverse the country.  Along with railroads came support for that new-fangled communication medium called the telegraph.

    Early in the 20th Century, the federal government was involved in building roads and bridges for autos as well as helping build the infrastructure to support another new communications medium called the telephone and another communications medium called radio. Yes, and the government was instrumental in developing places for those things that fly, called airplanes.

    Mid-20th Century the Federal government funded the development of the interstate highway system and managed yet another communications medium, television. By the end of the 20th Century, the government was helping promote a communications medium it had funded directly, the Internet.

    In addition to all the hardware, the government help fund software. Back to the 19th Century, early 20th century. What software infrastructure did the government fund? Free primary and secondary education for everyone, regardless of income. The government also funded higher education, providing land grants to help start many colleges and universities.

    So the idea that infrastructure includes only roads and bridges and a few airports, and that infrastructure does not include education or communications it’s not only hogwash but inconsistent with two centuries of actions by the Federal government.  I guess McConnell and gang hope that no one remembers one iota of US history.

    Another resistance point to infrastructure by Republicans is supposed cost.  Is the Biden administration infrastructure proposal expensive? Yes, but all major infrastructure programs supported by the Federal government have been expensive.  Have these infrastructure programs resulted in some tax increases?  Yes.  (We’ll save for another entry any discussion about the hypocrisy of the Republicans’ support for tax cuts and a higher deficit but then claim how Biden’s proposal will increase taxes and add to the deficit.) 

    What seems baffling to me, and many others, is why in the past decade or so, Republicans have refused to support expansion and/or even repair of critical infrastructure?  Infrastructure is a necessary component of national security and economic expansion, both of which Republicans claim to be basic tenets of their Party.  Yet, during the four years of the Trump administration and during the eight years of the Obama administration, Republicans offered no support for addressing infrastructure issues.

    Maintaining infrastructure in many ways is like maintaining a house or car. The longer one waits to repair an issue, the higher the cost.

    With their repeated refusal to support the Biden administration’s widely popular infrastructure proposal, combined with their continued support for state legislators suppressing voter rights, Republicans have made it nearly impossible to govern the country for the people. The behavior of Republican leadership, and apparently virtually all Republicans in Congress, focuses on placating the hard-core right.  Focusing on this narrow segment of the population and refusing the consider ideas that benefit the majority, including most Republican voters, increases the likelihood of a more severe 5th revolution in the US, aka the Revenge Revolution.

    Unless you’ve been in a cave the last few years, the Revenge Revolution appears to have started, in retrospect a bit earlier than I expected. The election of Trump could be considered the first major event of the Revenge Revolution.  Another major event was the storming of the US Capitol.

    The third major event will be more intense and more violent than storming the Capitol. When and where that event occurs is TBD, but it is coming.

    Back to the title of this entry. “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.”  Let’s change Parker’s quote slightly to read, “You can lead Republicans to culture but you can’t make them think.”  Stay tuned.

    Booklets you might find interesting: 

    #410: Republicans Accelerating the Revenge Revolution

    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.” 

    ENTRY #410 BEGINS: Entries #407-#409 focused on the need for and how to begin rebuilding the Republican Party. Legislation proposed or enacted by several states has left little doubt about the need for a new Republican Party.

    After losing the 2020 presidential election, did Republicans throughout the US focus on offering new ideas to attract voters?  No!  Instead of expanding the appeal of the Party, Republicans made being a Republican even more illogical for all but the hard right.  Since the election, Republicans have focused on making voting more difficult.  Well, making it more difficult only if you’re not white.  As if restricting voting weren’t enough for Jim Crow, the Georgia legislature passed and the Governor signed a bill that allows the legislature to discard election results in Georgia counties that the legislators don’t like.

    Oh, that county voted for a Democrat?  Well, there must be fraud in that county so let’s throw out the results and declare the Republican the winner.  Henceforth, we Republican legislators think it is our right to decide who wins and who loses elections in Georgia. You voters, especially “those people,” are not worthy of deciding.

    And while we’re at it, why don’t we make it a crime in Georgia for you to share some water with one of “those people” who is standing in line to vote.  Gee, we almost forgot.  Want an absentee ballot?  Let’s make getting an absentee ballot more difficult, especially if you live in the wrong neighborhood.  And then let’s restrict the number of drop-off locations. 

    If you decide to protest, even the most mild of protests, we’ll arrest you.  You know, we legislators had to arrest that Black state representative who knocked on the door while the esteemed Georgia governor was signing this necessary legislation.  You know, don’t you, she’s a terrorist!  She’s more dangerous than any of the patriots who tried to save the country by invading the US Capitol January 6.  I, mean, she wasn’t armed but she had that look of evil in her eye.  She could have killed everyone in the room with a single swipe of her hand.  She deserved to be arrested, handcuffed and booked.

    Like many citizens, I was frustrated, but not surprised by these actions in Georgia.  I also was prompted to ask myself, “Who was the last Republican president that had some ideas to improve the country for everyone?“  Trump? No. Bush 43? No. Remember Bush 43 try to privatize Social Security. Bush 41? Maybe but nothing stands out.

    Reagan? No. Reagan was all about tax cuts for the wealthy and trashing those mythical welfare queens. Remember, according to Reagan, government is not the solution; government is the problem. Gerald Ford? OK guy but he was really in cleanup mode as president. Most of his accomplishments were as Speaker of the House.

    Whoa Bubba, Now, we’re back to Nixon.  Yes Nixon, the Republican president who resigned in disgrace and was pardoned by his successor.  As bad as Nixon was for lots of reasons, he also signed legislation creating the Environmental Protection Agency. He proposed affirmative action in the Federal government and began diplomatic relations with China.  Much of the US population benefitted from those actions. 

    One has to go back to Eisenhower for a legislation by a Republican that benefitted the vast majority of Americans and fundamentally changed society – creation of the Interstate Highway system. 

    Given the nearly 50-year lack of Republican presidents shepherding meaningful legislation that benefitted the populous, why should anyone be surprised about the behavior of today’s Republicans? The problem for Republicans is the core of the Party is old white guys who spend the day watching Fox.  These guys are dying and the younger generations aren’t buying the same line of BS.

    Given the obvious outcome of this approach, has the attitude of Republican leadership been to try and change the message of the Republican Party? Try and make the message more consistent with Eisenhower and Nixon? No, let'[s not change. Let’s just double down on voter suppression of anyone who doesn’t watch Fox or isn’t white.

    A good timely example is Republican’s opposition to the Biden administration proposal to radically upgrade travel and communications infrastructure in the US.  The proposal has widespread approval ratings among the voters, with some polls indicating 50% support among Republican voters.  So, what does Mitch McConnell, ranking Republican in the Senate proclaim?  The hell with what voters want. I, Mitch McConnell, king proclaim no Republican will support this proposal.   Mitch, here’s a piece of advice, go see a proctologist and have your head relocated to the proper spot on your body.

    The strategy of McConnell and the Republican Party on the infrastructure proposal, climate change and many other proposals that could benefit a wide swath of the US population is like trying to bail out a leaky boat with a coffee cup. The problem is the leak continues to get bigger. You might stave off the inevitable for a while, but the boat is going to sing sink. 

    Republican actions are also likely to increase the likelihood and even intensify the Revenge Revolution. People who are suppressed are not going to stand by idly by, especially if they’ve experienced not being suppressed.  Just in case you Republicans haven’t heard, Jim Crow left town.

    You Republicans also are starting to lose the business community. Major League baseball announced the 2021 All-Star game will be relocating outside Georgia.  Companies with HQ in Georgia and Texas, which is in the process of passing Georgia-like legislation, have publicly stated strong opposition the vote-suppression measures.  Among a long list of companies are Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Dell Computer and a growing list of others.

    As far as members of the working class who supported Trump and Republicans, Biden has done more for the working class in less than 3 months in office than Trump did in four years. At some point, and I thought it would be a long time ago, the working class is going to wake up and realize how little the Republican Party has done for them. An egregious example of how Trump and the Republican Party screwed the little guy is detailed in a NYT article titled “How Trump Steered Supporters into Unwitting Donations.”

    So, who’s going to be left in the Republican Party?  Some old white guys and the younger white supremacists.  Principled Republicans have no place to go and Republican leadership in Congress is unwilling to recognize reality.  Democrats need to reach out to the more principled Republicans. Most Republicans in Congress are likely to resist the offer, but at some point the Romney‘s, Murkowski‘s and Collins’ of the world will begin to acknowledge and accept their responsibility to form a new principled Republicans Party and that Democrats can help, even if behind the scenes.

    Booklets you might find interesting: 

    #409: “She’s Real Fine My 409”

    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.” 

    ENTRY #409 BEGINS: OK so you have to be well on the other side of age 50 to remember the opening lyrics of the song “409” by the Beach Boys. But the lyrics have such a ring that I couldn’t pass it up for this entry.  Now, what to write about that’s consistent with the lyrics.

    The two most recent blog entries, #407-#408, addressed: (i) why the Republicans need to create a new credible conservative party and, (ii) how the Democrats could help Republicans form such a party.  The idea of Democrats helping Republicans might seem crazy at first blush but I think the idea is worth pursuing.  Why?

    Let’s start with the assumption that for a democracy to function properly, there must be at least two credible, functioning parties. Right now we have one functioning party, the Democrats.  And we have at least two splinter groups claiming to represent Republicans in some way.

    The splinter groups do not function at the national level, other than trying to block anything proposed by Democrats, no matter how rational the idea. At some state levels, Republicans are more of a force. Most recent efforts by Republicans in a number of states have been aimed at suppressing voting rights.  The need to suppress rights has been justified using made-up evidence that “proves” voter fraud, mostly from mail-in ballots, and only mail-in ballots from Democrats, of course. 

    Republicans seem to forget the only case of voter fraud in the last couple of decades, and maybe longer, involved mail-in ballots in the NC 9th district.  And which party was guilty of voter fraud?  Oops, it was Republicans rather than Democrats.  The fraud was so extensive the courts forced another election.  But Republicans never let facts get in the way.

    So how do Democrats make the crazy idea of helping Republicans actually work? How do Democrats get Republicans to consider the list of 10 ideas described in Entry #408 that should help rebuild or create a credible Republican Party? 

    During services Friday night, the rabbi discussed an event that occurred in the south in the early 1970’s. The storyline was about how the former head of a local KKK chapter and a black female activist ended up working together.  The lesson was that while both parties were obviously outside their comfort zone, to make the relationship work, each one had to trust the other and each had to give up something the other side viewed as valuable.

    We have the ingredients for a similar situation in Congress. Some far-right Republicans could be mistaken for the head of the local KKK.  And we have as president of the Senate, a black woman. Seems like a close enough match.

    Maybe our congressional black activist, VP Kamala Harris, could reach out to the likes of Mitch McConnell, and Rand Paul in the Senate and Jim Jordan and others in the House. What’s really the risk of Democrats reaching out? The Republican groups oppose almost everything proposed by Democrats, even proposals that have widespread support among registered Republicans. 

    VP Harris seems like she could be a good listener. She’s also probably a tough negotiator, having been both a District Attorney and Attorney General in California.

    Harris could offer to cut a deal with the Republicans.  But the deal should be based on terms that are more like a plea bargain. Yes, we Democrats will work with you Republicans.  But you Republicans must keep your word, unlike your behavior during the Obama administration.  If a key Republican agrees to a deal and then reneges, the Biden administration should use any number of non-public ways of inflicting pain on the traitor.

    I don’t know exactly what Democrats could offer that Republicans might really want and stimulate their interest. Doubtless, Democratic members of Congress and/or the administration have some ideas. Whatever is offered, make sure it is meaningful.

    If the Republicans are interested and willing to give up something and then Democrats give up something they think is important, the discussion might work and we could begin to see the rebuilding of some of the Republican Party. If the discussions don’t work, so what? No harm, no foul.

    Now back to the title, “She’s Real Fine My 409.”  I think VP Harris, a California girl no less, fits that title and would be an ideal person to begin helping the Republicans get back on track.  Use the 10 ideas in Entry #408 as a start.  What a great move that would be for the country.

    Booklets you might find interesting: 

    #408 Ideas How Democrats Can Help Principled Republicans Find a Home

    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.” 

    ENTRY #408 BEGINS: Entry #407 suggested Democrats should work with principled Republicans to form a new political party. #407 also noted this entry would present ideas to help form such a party.

    Maybe the best way to start is to refer to an old adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” For this discussion, let’s label principled Republicans as “enemies.”

    However, the real enemies to the US democracy are not principled Republicans but the far-right Republican fringe groups. These groups have demonstrated a number of times, the most recent of which was the 01/06/2021 attack on the US Capitol, they do not support democratic elections, but support violence and/or threats of violence to ensure far-right ideas are implemented.

    How do Democrats help principled Republicans form a new party?  For certain one needs to “think outside the box.”  One needs to put away the notion that politics must be a zero-sum game.

    The vast majority the US population wants government to function. The recent Covid relief legislation is an excellent example.  According to a Pew Research poll, 70% of the US population supported the bill, including ~40% of Republicans.  

    Despite widespread support among constituents, did any, even one, Republican vote for the relief bill? No, nada, none.  Why?  For many House members, apparently it was fear of losing the next primary to a far-right candidate.

    But what was the excuse for voting “no” among moderate Republican Senators, especially those elected in late 2020 to six-year terms?  Senators are elected by everyone in the state, not just voters from smaller districts.  So, why not vote for the Covid relief bill?  

    Many of those same Senators who voted “no” to help the America people with the Covid relief bill, voted “yes” to confirm Merrick Garland as US Attorney General.  In fact, 20 Republicans supported Garland’s confirmation, including none other than Mr. Hypocrisy himself, Mitch McConnell. 

    Why the disconnect in voting between the Covid relief bill and the Garland nomination? Put aside the idea of Covid relief bill was too expensive.  The same group of Republican Senators voted to support the Trump tax cut which was far more expensive.  If you have a reasonable answer for the illogical behavior by these Republicans, please let me know because it makes no sense to me.

    Since Republicans, or seemingly principled Republicans, don’t have a home and keep wandering about aimlessly, Democrats need to help them. Far-right Republicans despise those Republicans with principles and want to get rid of any moderates.

    What can Democrats do to help these aimless principled Republicans?  Following are proposals intended to: (i) provide some cover for these pour souls and (ii) make democracy function more in line with people’s needs. The ideas are not to suggest that the will of the majority should always prevail.  Such an approach is contrary to basic tenets of the US Constitution.

    The proposals are geared to allow candidates with different views to be elected and to diminish the influence of groups whose interests seem contrary to the best interest of the country. Yes, I understand the definition of “best interests” can be murky and can change over time but reasonable people can agree on many proposed actions.  The proposals listed should also be considered as “work in progress,” since some tweaks are likely needed.

    #1.  Create a legitimate umbrella party for independents, moderate Republicans and even some moderate Democrats. The umbrella could be called the “Independent Party.”   The action to create the umbrella party would include a federal mandate requiring all states to allow candidates to register as members of the Independent Party.

    #2.  Primaries would consist of a single ballot that includes all candidates from the various parties. The candidate’s political party affiliation would be designated on the ballot.

    #3.  Primaries would allow voters to select at least two, and possibly three candidates. The three candidates with the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, would be on the ballot for the general election.

    #4. Early voting and mail-in voting would be expanded. Online voting would be tested and implemented as quickly as possible after security concerns are addressed by a third party.

    #5. House and Senate rules would allow Independent Party members to become leaders of each body. The Independent Party would be considered separate, but equal to the Republican and Democratic Parties.

    #6. The Federal oversight provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would be reinstated fully to help ensure fair voting procedures in all states.

    #7.  Even without the Independent Party, Democrats would work with principled Republicans to develop legislation that both could support. In addition, Democrats would let principled Republicans take the lead on shepherding some legislation through Congress and take credit publically for initiating many of the proposals.

    #8.  The US Attorney General, as Merrick Garland stated within hours of taking office, would ensure to the extent possible that all prosecutions are based on facts and blind to party affiliation.  To the extent possible evidence in high-profile cases would be made public, with the purpose of reducing doubt about the legitimacy of the case.

    #9.  USAG would encourage the Attorney General in each state to take the same approach to evidence-based prosecution as done by the DOJ.

    #10.  Democrats and principal Republicans should agree to approve only moderate nominees for the Supreme Court. In addition, the vote for any Supreme Court nominee should return to previous requirement of 60 votes in the Senate.

    In less than two months in office, the Biden Administration seems to have made considerable progress in beginning to restore some confidence in the Federal government. These proposals are designed to help build on those early steps. 

    Will these changes work? I don’t know. But, for sure we need to do something.  More to come.

    Booklets you might find interesting: 

    #407 Republicans to Constituents: “Let Them Eat Cake”

    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.” 

    Some of the entries are part of a series.  Several series are available as easy-to-read booklets for download.  See list at end of this entry.  

    ENTRY 407 BEGINS: I promise this will be the last entry about the stupidity of the Republican Party. Well, I hope this will be the last entry.

    Why spend time on this issue? Many will say, “Who cares if Republicans do stupid things? Let the Republican Party fade into oblivion.“

    As frustrating as it seems sometimes, the US democracy does need two viable political parties. Without two, we the people face an increased likelihood of an even more severe revolution. The old adage, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is true and applies to Republicans and Democrats. Having two viable parties keeps the power of both parties somewhat in check.

    What’s happening now is an implosion of the Republican Party. Actions by most Republicans in Congress are 180° from the people who elected them.

    Since the signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act during LBJ’s administration, the Republican Party has seen an influx of lower-income white voters, especially in the south. At the same time, many black voters have shifted to the Democratic Party.

    Fast forward to today. Where are the voters who shifted to the Republican Party in the 1960’s/1970’s? They’re still Republicans as are many of their children and grandchildren.

    How are these voters faring in the pandemic? While the number of people being inoculated is increasing, new COVID-19 infections remain above the highs of last summer. Further, the economy continues to languish with about 9.5 million jobs lost compared to pre-pandemic levels.

    The job loss has fallen disproportionately on lower-income workers, many in the service sector. Even though some service sectors are starting to recover, claims for new unemployment remain extraordinarily high by historic standards. What’s not being counted in the unemployment rate are the many people who have left the labor market since the beginning of the pandemic. Why? Many have given up on finding another job.

    Soon after taking office, the Biden administration formally proposed what could be characterized as a 2nd-phase pandemic “relief program.” Key provisions of the program as proposed included extending unemployment benefits and direct payments to middle and lower-income families. The proposal also included raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00/hr., the first increase in 12 years. The proposal had wide support among Democrat and Republican voters.

    So what do Republicans in Congress do? Support funding to make the vaccine more available? Support funding to help localities open schools? Support extending unemployment benefits? Support increasing the minimum wage? Support any part of the bill to help their constituents, many of whom favored the legislation? Of course not. The Republicans response was, in effect, “Let them eat cake.“

    In the House, every Republican voted against the bill. In the Senate, every Republican voted against the bill, even after the provision for a higher minimum wage had been removed. The House bill was tweaked in the Senate and finally passed 50-49 because a Republican was absent. Otherwise the vice president would have cast the tie-breaking vote.

    It is hard to over emphasize how stupid the Republican’s response to this relief package has been. We all know what happened to Marie Antoinette after she uttered the phrase, “Let them eat cake.” Does no one in the Republican Party read history? Pardon me for the rhetorical question.

    Where will these Republican voters go in the 2022 elections? While some lower-income Republican voters will stick with the Party no matter what, others will look at their pocketbooks. Why would you vote for someone who refused to offer some financial relief to the working stiffs? Money does talk.

    What about Republicans who truly are concerned about certain economic and social principles? Will they continue to support the party of Trump wannabes? Even the Wall Street Journal has dumped on Trump, blaming him for the loss of the presidency and the loss in the Senate.

    The frustrated lower-income workers could turn to the far-right groups. What used to be considered fringe groups have become more mainstream with many Republican voters.

    As stated in several earlier entries in this blog, the far-right groups present a real danger to the US democracy. The groups can employ guerilla tactics to attack members of Congress, the judiciary and others who the groups believe oppose their views. Guerilla attacks are incredibly difficult to prevent and ideal to create angst among the populous.

    The solution to the dilemma of the Republicans? As crazy as it sounds, the Democrats might need to help Republicans re-form their party. And the effort should begin sooner than later to help mitigate the potential breadth and depth of the 5th US Revolution, the Revenge Revolution. More ideas in the next entry.

    Booklets you might find interesting: