#404.  Error Message 404: True Republicans Not Found.

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.

START ENTRY: An occasional error message on the computer reads, “Error #404.  Not Found.”  This being Entry #404, a “404 Error Message” theme seems appropriate. 

But like the error message, who has not been found?  Inside the Beltway, one can find error messages on both sides of the aisle.  Lately, however, Republicans seem to be racing far ahead in making errors of significant consequence for the country.

During the past week or so, Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to strip committee assignments from a member who supported rioters breaking into the Capitol, who stated that someone should put a bullet in the head of Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, and who continued to spread lies about a host of other issues affecting democracy.  The vote in the House wasn’t to expel or even to censure Representative Greene (R-GA).  The vote was merely to strip committee assignments.  For Republicans in the House, anyone who supported Trump should not be punished, no matter how egregious the behavior.  

What about the fate of Republicans who didn’t support Trump’s attempted takeover of the government?  Different story.  Some of the same members who supported Greene’s behavior forced a vote among Republicans to remove Liz Cheney from the #3 ranking Republican in the House.  Why?  Because Cheney had voted for the impeachment of Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection.  The temerity of Cheney to uphold the Constitution and vote against Trump.  

Somehow Cheney survived.  Could it have been because the vote re Cheney was secret and “Only the Shadow Knows” how members voted?  The vote for Representative Greene was on the record.  Apparently, when Republicans must stand up and have their votes counted in public, they act like scared dogs. Who or what are the Republicans in the House – and Senate – afraid of?  

At the beginning of Trump’s second impeachment trial, 44 Republican Senators voted that the trial was unconstitutional.  Why was the trial unconstitutional?  Because Trump was out of office.  Forget precedent from a series of impeachment trials.  Forget that the House impeached Trump while he was still in office.  Forget that the Senate refused to take up the trial while Trump was in office.  Forget all those facts and pretend that once someone leaves, all is forgiven.

What 44 Republican Senators are supporting is that future presidents can be as corrupt as they want with no essentially consequences.  For example, the morning of the inauguration of a new president, an outgoing president can accept as much cash as he or she wants from someone, whatever the quid pro quo.  By noon that day, when the new president is sworn in, if the House doesn’t impeach the outgoing president and the Senate doesn’t convict, then there is no consequence.  And, oh, yes, using the logic of the 44 Senators, the outgoing president can pardon himself and avoid prosecution for any federal crimes.   Error 404: Credible Republicans Missing.  

The infighting within the Republican Party is a problem for the US.  The US needs two functioning parties and now one political party is being taken over by fascists, who are more than willing to throw out the US Constitution and manage by fiat.

While some people point to Trump as the cause of the infighting and the deterioration of the Party, the Republican Party started a downward slide under Ronald Reagan.  Reagan did three things that began to erode the credibility of the Republican Party as a true conservative party and erode the democracy.

#1 was the campaign mantra, “Government is the problem, not the solution.“ Reagan repeated the mantra during his campaign and even repeated it during his eight years in office. When he was president, if he wasn’t the government, then who was?

If “government” was really the problem and not the solution, then how did the US put a man on the moon in less than a decade? How did the US change the course of World War II in Europe and the Far East? How did the government help the US economy recover from the Great Depression?  Reagan lived through all those events, yet still claimed government was the problem, not the solution.

#2, Reagan was anything but a fiscal conservative. Reagan as a fiscal conservative is a myth.  Reagan was a spendthrift. During the Reagan administration, debt as a percent of GDP increased about the same proportion as under FDR’s New Deal Programs prior to World War II.  But was Reagan trying to turn around the economy from the Great Depression?  No, the economy wasn’t in great shape when Reagan took office but nothing as bad as the early 1930’s.

So what was all the deficit spending for? Was spending for infrastructure expansion and improvement like under Eisenhower? No. Was spending for technology advancement like under Kennedy/Johnson with the space program? No.

Reagan spent money on the military.  Why?  Unlike under Trump when the president kowtowed to Russia, Reagan actually believed, or seemed to believe Russia was a threat.  Therefore, the US must outspend the Russians.

The military spending did stimulate the economy.  Republicans, starting with Reagan adopted an unusual economic theory to justify excessive military spending and implement tax cuts.  The unusual theory was a combination of Keynesian economics and trickle-down economics. Keynesian economic theory, which states that deficit government spending will help stimulate the economy, was redefined under Reagan to apply only to military spending and not to any other government spending.

Why the narrow and bizarre definition? Because Republican voters like the idea of a strong military.  Therefore, government spending for the military was OK but deficit spending for non-military spending.  Only spending for the military would stimulate the economy.  As a result, all non-military government spending should be based not on Keynesian economics but on trickle-down economics.

The short version for trickle-down economics starts with the assumption there is an ideal maximum marginal tax rate that will generate the most tax revenue for the government.  The idea was proposed by Arthur Laffer and known as the Laffer Curve.  A marginal rate above the ideal would result in lower government revenue.  What the Laffer Curve also indicates, but Republicans refuse to acknowledge, is a maximum marginal rate less than the ideal rate would lower tax revenue.

Since Reagan, Republicans have insisted that cutting maximum marginal income tax rates will stimulate the economy.  And because the economy then will grow faster, overall tax revenue will more than make up the amount lost by the lower rate.  Why does trickle-down economics work?  According to Republican logic, those who have the most wealth already will use the extra money from the tax cut to invest in new plant and equipment.  The new plants will then hire new workers and everyone will be better off since income will trickle down to all economic levels.

If you’re a bit confused by this claim, you’re thinking clearly.  The rationale for trickle-down economics is so absurd that an eight-year old can see the flaws. Who is going to buy all the additional production from these new plants if regular consumers don’t have more money?

Trickle-down economics is more like “Field of Dreams,“ build it and they will come.  Trickle-down was described by George HW Bush as “voodoo economics.“  And he’s been proven correct repeatedly.  There is no empirical evidence from any economy that trickle-down economics works.  None, nada, zero.  Yet to this day, Republican tout voodoo economics as the solution – the 2017 Trump tax cut, the most recent example.  What happened after the 2017 tax cut?  Huge amounts of money were transferred to the wealthy, and oh, yes, the deficit ballooned to record levels rather than shrinking.

#3, Republicans trashing rather than conserving the environment. Republicans need to look up the definition of “conserve,” the root of “conservative.”  I’ll save them the trouble, “protect (something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction.”

Republicans appeal to the religious right. I guess fundamentalist Christians have forgotten what it says in the Bible about conservation. There are innumerable references to conservation, beginning in Genesis, about leaving the earth a better place.

Who signed legislation forming the EPA?  A Republican.  Yet Trump and Republicans have made every effort to dismantle the EPA.  According to Republicans, “Why make any effort to clean the air and water when we have mining dollars supporting our campaigns?  Mining means jobs.  You environmental socialists, go back and hug your trees!”

Under Trump, and to extent all Republican presidents back to Reagan, if members of Congress or some of the states wouldn’t support reducing air-quality and water-quality standards, then the president would try to limit any enforcement by EPA.  While Trump was the most extreme in trashing EPA, his behavior fit a pattern of Republicans beginning with Reagan.

What’s happening to the Republican Party now?  The Party is splitting in two. One faction wants to ratchet up the 40 years of anti-government actions started by Reagan and magnified by Trump. The other faction wants to regroup and begin to act like grown-up, principled conservatives.

What does the current bi-furcation of the Republican Party mean for the 5th US Revolution, the Revenge Revolution?  For one, the Trump crazies feel emboldened after the January 6 attack on the Capitol and other than a few participants too stupid to think social media posts couldn’t be viewed by the FBI and other agencies, have suffered no consequences.  And, many Republicans in Congress have aligned with the crazies.

As noted earlier in earlier entries, increased enforcement of laws by Justice under Biden may encourage the crazies to form small cells. The small cells could operate a guerrilla war against high-profile Democrats, judges and Republicans who appear to counter Trump’s wishes.

The part of the Republican Party trying to return to some conservative principles also faces a risk.  To the Trump crazies, the principled Republicans are more like Democrats, which the crazies now view as synonymous with socialists.

The threat of the crazies is not going away.  While Trump already has faded and may end up in prison, the crazies will rally around a new leader.  It may take some time for the leader to emerge.  However, the US must take strong action now to eliminate as many cells of crazies as possible.

The principled Republicans need to form another political party, call it the Lincoln Party.  And Democrats need to work with the “Lincoln Party” to thwart actions by scared-dog, Error-404 Republicans in Congress.

If there is not a new party for principled Republicans that can work with Democrats, what the US faces is not only a cultural revolution but one where democracy is eroded and replaced by the fascist right.  The clock is ticking and not much time is left.

Booklets you might find interesting: 

#403 Republicans Taking Double Dose of Stupid Pills

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. START ENTRY #403: Republicans, especially in the US Senate, apparently have doubled their dosage of stupid pills. In a move likely to horrify historians and likely to please Putin, all but a handful of Republicans senators voted in essence to let Trump off the hook for inciting the crowd to storm the Capitol. What would Republican senators have done following World War II? Would they say, “Let the Nazis who killed millions of Jews and others off the hook because the war’s over?  Let’s not waste our time with that Nuremberg Trial.”  Apparently by Republican standards, once the conflict ends everyone left standing goes home without repercussions. Republicans have been saying, “What’s the use of impeaching Trump? Trump’s left office.  Just let him be.”  While not saying it directly, these Republicans are implying that it’s no big deal that during the attempted coup of the US government, only five people were killed, none of whom was a member of Congress.  And no real damage was done.  Only Democratic offices were ransacked.  To help divert attention from the sedition by Trump, Republicans have focused on trying to block legislation proposed by President Biden.  The same Republicans are also complaining that Biden is signing too many Executive Orders. “He is turning into a dictator!”  Of course, when Trump issued Executive Orders he was operating like a smart businessman and helping the country. Actions by Republicans have no logic, unless you’re afraid of Trump and/or afraid of the hard right.  If you weren’t afraid, then why would seemingly every move be to mollify the right-wing white supremacists?  Obviously the Republicans in Congress don’t read and probably only get their news from Fox or some internet site.  But why should Republicans continue to fall in line with a guy who has no power?  What’s in it for the members of Congress?  Who’s paying them to support Trump?  When the details of a few state-level investigations of Trump are revealed, likely the evidence will be overwhelming that Trump was tied financially to the Russians.  Are the Russians supporting Republicans in Congress as well? Without some type of money trail, none of the actions by Republicans makes sense.  Even the two titular heads of the Republican Party, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, have relinquished the idea of upholding the Constitution and bowed to Trump’s wishes, or maybe Putin’s wishes.   McCarthy even traveled to Mar-a-Lago to beg Orange Man’s forgiveness. What do the Republicans’ actions mean for the country? And what do the actions mean for the 5th US Revolution, the Revenge Revolution? Republicans might be able to slow Biden’s legislation in Congress.  Republicans are already taking actions at the state level to make voting more difficult.  However, try as they might, Republicans will not be able stop a growing movement among citizens to address two major societal issues: (i) climate change; (ii) economic inequity. Just like the 4th US Revolution for in the late 60s, early 70s, the younger generations are going to force societal change. The climate change movement is already affecting decisions in the business community. Energy behemoths are moving away from fossil fuel toward renewables – Exxon, BP and Shell are notable examples. Auto companies are shifting more production to electric. GM announced that by 2035, all of its cars and trucks worldwide will be electric. Other auto companies are likely to follow suit. The pathway to address economic inequity is less clear. However, going forward all economic policy decisions, monetary and fiscal, will be viewed with the economic equity microscope. A major target for more economic equity will be reversing the 2017 Trump tax cuts, aka wealth transfer to the already wealthy.  While passing legislation to reverse the tax cuts may stall in the current Congress, given the growing block of votes by the younger generations, the 2017 legislation is likely to be reversed not later than by the Congress elected in 2024. What is going to happen to the right-wing supremacist groups courted by many Republicans – Proud Boys and 3%’ers? A more aggressive and focused US Justice Department will begin to break up these groups.  An example is for some of those arrested for storming the Capitol.  Federal judges in Washington have overridden state or local judges who allowed the defendants released on their own recognizance.    The danger from these right-wing groups is still clear and present.  Members of these groups could operate in small cells or even alone and attempt to assassinate high-profile figures – Democratic Party officials, federal and state, and federal judges who rule against the right-wing groups and/or against Trump.  Even if the right-wing groups break the association with Trump, the danger from small cells still exists. As horrible as the assassinations would be, like the tragedies of the 1960’s, such actions will help the citizenry focus on what’s required to maintain a viable democracy.  The citizenry is very likely to vote out Republicans who have continued to support Trump and/or the fringe groups. While much of the turmoil over the next few years could be avoided if Republicans stop taking double doses of stupid pills, and if Republicans began supporting the Constitution, such a change in behavior by Republicans seems unlikely based on the continuing kowtowing to Trump.  If an insurrection didn’t change their attitude, nothing will.  Or maybe the real reason for not changing is the money flowing from the Kremlin.  I’m not much on conspiracy theories but, stupid pills aside,  the only logical way to explain why Republicans in Congress act the way they do is money.  END#403  Booklets you might find interesting:

#402. Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz. Oh What a Relief He is.

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.

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration.  We’ve started a post-Trump presidency and working toward a post-COVID world, even if post-virus is a ways away.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #402: The inauguration of Joe Biden reminds me, and apparently many others, of a long-ago Alka-Seltzer commercial, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it (he) is.”  Within hours of Biden/Harris being sworn in, there was a noticeable change in the attitude of the White House and a change in the attitude of government agencies.

Adults were back in charge. Rational policies were being outlined and some implemented.  Biden issued a series of Executive Orders restoring many policies of previous administrations – from Obama to Bush to Clinton and even some policies as far back as Nixon – that had been overturned by Trump.

The Biden administration also began talking honestly about the problems trying to get everyone vaccinated against COVID-19.  A solution to every problem was not forthcoming but most adults started feeling more at ease.  The anxiety level in the US and worldwide dropped precipitously.  Biden may become known as the Alka-Seltzer president.

Will the Alka-Seltzer reduce the likelihood of the Revenge Revolution?  The Revenge Revolution began with raid on the US Capitol.  What remains unclear is the next step for the raiders.  Interestingly, very shortly after the inauguration, some on the far right – Proud Boys, for example – began distancing themselves from Donald Trump, calling him weak.  Soon after the Proud Boys declaration other far-right groups began distancing themselves from Trump.

With Trump out of favor, and out of power, some in the Republican Party have started auditioning to replace Trump – Senators Cruz and Hawley, e.g.   But so far no high-profile individual has emerged as the clear leader.

Does the lack of a leader reduce the danger of the far right militia groups?  I would characterize the lack of a leader, especially one inside the Beltway, more as a temporary pause in activity rather than any change in attitude by these organizations.  Only the most naïve would assume the groups will become true patriots rather than wanna be fascists.

The religious right is also searching for a leader.  Even though president Biden has a long history of commitment to Christianity – a commitment orders of magnitude more than Trump – some on the right, most visibly Franklin Graham, cannot allow themselves to support the Biden administration.  Franklin Graham went so far as to support the attack on the US Capitol.

Give the remarks of Graham et al, one has to ask, “What does the religious right want in a president?”  Apparently, even though Biden represents well over 90% of what the religious right believes, the religious right seems to demand the president support them 100% or be defeated. How the religious right reconciled supporting Trump I still don’t understand since his behavior was antithetical to virtually every tenet of Christianity.

Fringe groups and wackos are not new to the United States. Most of the time the fringe groups received little support and/or little publicity. That is until Donald Trump encouraged far-right groups, militant and religious to overturn the will of the populous and enshrine him as dictator.

With the Alka-Seltzer president calming nerves and seeking unity rather than division, some Trumpsters sympathetic to the fringe groups are likely to migrate toward the center.   This migration may push the fringe groups farther right.

Another push right could come from reaction to many of Biden’s Executive Orders, which were aimed at immigration and/or disadvantaged groups.  Examples of EO’s include lifting the ban on Muslims from various countries from entering the US; extending protection for DACA entrants and a number of other programs. In addition, the Biden administration has discussed and/or proposed legislation addressing a number of other cultural and economic equity issues.

How will the fringe groups react to Biden’s EO’s and a more centrist approach?  The fringe groups are not going to disappear.  Unfortunately, if the groups do not find a leader inside the Beltway, they could become more reactionary and more dangerous.  Without a charismatic leader, the groups could begin to operate locally.

The invasion of the Michigan Capitol then the US Capitol demonstrated how hard it is for law enforcement to prevent gorilla skirmishes. Given the number of people with military backgrounds who have been arrested for participating in the raid on the Capitol in Washington, many of the smaller cells are likely well trained in military tactics.  As a result, it will be nearly impossible for law enforcement to prevent groups from carrying out targeted raids.

One of the most difficult tactics to prevent, and one of the most devastating, would be snipers trying to assassinate key Congressional leaders and/or key state officials.  Even a few such attacks over a number of months would create nationwide chaos.

The Biden administration has made a great start toward bringing the country back together.  One example is the boyfriend of the woman who stole Nancy Pelosi’s laptop.  She was found not because of the FBI investigation but because he turned her in.

Is the action of the boyfriend a single data point or maybe a change in attitude by many people?  Numerous people who participated in the raid on the Capitol were turned in by family and friends.  Maybe, just maybe there is enough change there would be significant backlash by family and friends to actions by or even participation in far-right groups.

Hate is not going to disappear but can be managed more effectively with a concerted effort by participants in all levels of government, the media and the general population.  With such an effort the Revenge Revolution will be more of a cultural revolution and less of a fighting revolution.  Without a concerted effort, the US could slip into another civil war.  We’ve already witnessed the danger to democracy during the Trump presidency and with the attack on the Capitol.      [End of #402.]

Booklets you might find interesting:

#401. Here We Go. The 5th US Revolution Has Begun.

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.  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:

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration and a post-Coronavirus world.  We’re headed to a post-Trump world and post-COVID world, even if post-virus is a ways away.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #401: Blog entry #400 was a “sense check addressing whether a 5th US Revolution was likely, or even possible. Well, we didn’t have to wait long for confirmation.

On January 6th, in a rally outside the White House, Trump egged on a group of supporters to go to the Capitol and disrupt the counting of the Electoral College votes by the Senate. The Trump mob, many with either a Confederate flag or a banner with Trump’s picture superimposed on an American flag, then stormed the US Capitol.

The group overwhelmed the Capitol Police and broke into the House and Senate chambers. Some proceeded to damage artwork and then ransack offices, most notably the office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  A number of people were injured and 5 killed, including a Capitol police officer.

Trump’s reaction? He claimed the seditionists were really patriots. Reactions of high-profile Republicans? Some were genuinely outraged but many seemed to shed crocodile tears. A surprising large number of Republican Representatives and Senators have continued to support Trump, while criticizing the Capitol Police for failing to hold off the mob.

When the House and Senate reconvened in the early evening of January 6 to resume counting electoral votes, did Republicans continue to object to the votes certified by states, even if the certification was by Republicans?  Of course they objected.  Republicans claimed that the ballots supporting Biden were fraudulent, even though those same ballots resulted in the election of those protesting.  Only in Trump world could one use such logic.

These Republican Representative and Senators continued with Trump-world logic.  Comments went along the following lines, “What did Trump do that was so bad? I mean, the last time anyone invaded the Capitol was in 1812. And it was the British.  They burned the Capitol to the ground.  Trump’s group merely protested and rearranged some papers and furniture in a few offices.  No big deal.  All you liberals quit whining.”

Even more frustrating than the logic of the Trump Republicans in Congress was the reaction of some supposedly educated people I know. I have purposely maintained Facebook friendships with some hardcore Trump supporters. Several of these people I’ve known for many years and decided not to let some idiot like Trump ruin a friendship.  In addition, viewing their posts does provide some idea of how Trump supporters think.

The posts following the storming of the Capitol were interesting as well as baffling. One person claimed that the insurrectionists were not really Trump supporters but liberals trying to make Trump look bad. She had proof that one participant had been at a climate change rally on the West Coast. Not only was her “proof” quickly refuted – the alleged “climate change” participant was a hard-right group member – but apparently it never occurred to her that one or more participants at the Trump rally might have tried to disrupt the climate change rally. Oh no, Trump supporters would never do that.

Reaction from another friend was more drawn out. I received an unsolicited email from the individual stating the Trump should leave. I responded by agreeing, then discussing how Trump’s behavior could accelerate the split in the Republican Party, with more principled Republicans leaving the party and forming a third party with members of the Lincoln Project.  The “Lincoln” Republicans could gain considerable influence by aligning with more moderate Democrats. Such an alignment would effectively render the far right of the remaining Republican Party as a non-entity politically.

The reaction to my rather straightforward comments? No direct response. Instead, the response focused on Democrats, stating that Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, and Stacey Abrams were evil.  Not sure why they are considered evil, especially Abrams who currently holds no political office.

The next day I received another email with a link to a right-wing blog.  The author of that blog, of course with no data, proved the media had caused the US population to split politically. 

While the logic stream in the emails was confusing at the least, one point was true. The media have contributed to the split in the population.  But not the media the writer intended. The split has been caused in large part by Fox News, Limbaugh and some social media sites rather than the media the writer considered.

Like a few Facebook friends, Trump couldn’t stop and think.  He continued to tweet, encouraging supporters to protest at state capitols and protest during the Inauguration of Biden/Harris.  Trump made sure supporters knew he would not attend the swearing in.  Implicit in Trump’s tweet, “Have at it boys.  Fire away, I won’t be nearby.”

The adults in positions of power have reacted to Trump’s insurrection.  The House is preparing articles of impeachment. Pelosi contacted the Joint Chiefs about making sure Trump could not order use of nuclear weapons without additional review.  Twitter has banned Trump from ever having an account.  Other social media sites have banned Trump as well. 

Some people in Congress have suggested not pursuing Articles of Impeachment.  “Why bother since Trump is so close to leaving office?”  In an interview on PBS News Hour, Representative James Clyburn, D, SC and the House Whip, was quite clear.  I’m paraphrasing, “If someone breaks the law, they need to be held accountable.  It does not matter whether there is one day left in their term.”   

As far as the 5th Revolution, if storming and occupying the US Capitol is not the act of revolutionaries, I’m not sure what is.  How long will Trump be able to lead the revolution?  Likely he will fade rapidly once out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There may be a Trump-incited rally or two over the next month or so but that will be it.  Like most bullies who lose power, he’ll become a nobody.  Plus, the minute Trump leaves office he faces significant legal and financial challenges.  And no pardon can protect him at the state level.  The icing on the cake might be the town of Palm Beach enforcing a prior agreement that limits the number of days he can stay at Mar-a-Lago.  If the agreement is enforced, he’ll have to find another place to stay.

With Trump out of the White House, with no Twitter account and with no real financial resources, Trump supporters, especially the insurrectionists, will be seeking a new spiritual leader. No one is on the horizon. Cruz and Hawley are anything but charismatic. 

What may be the most concerning, however, is actions of small bands of Trump crazies to punish alleged enemies.  Targets could include Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, state officials considered “unfriendly’ to Trump – governors, secretaries of state, e.g. – and Federal judges who dismissed Trump’s lawsuits claiming fraud. Even VP Pence, a Trump lapdog for 4 years, is on the persona non-grata list of the hard-core Trumpsters.

As the US military has learned repeatedly, trying to prevent small groups from attacking specific targets is exceedingly difficult.  Such attacks would cause widespread angst among public officials and citizens.                

As noted in some other entries, the 5th US Revolution — the Revenge Revolution — will include some major cultural shifts. More about cultural changes in the next few entries.  Hang on. The upheaval in decade of the 2020’s could easily rival the upheaval of 1960’s/early 1970’s. 

#400 Sense Check. 5th US Revolution Still Possible?

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.  This entry is a sense check.  

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

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration and a post-Coronavirus world.  We’re headed to a post-Trump world and post-COVID world, even if a ways away.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #400: SENSE CHECK. The first entry in this blog was the fall 2013, just over seven years ago. The theme of the blog evolved 9-10 years ago when I began drafting a thesis for an unfinished degree at the University of Michigan.  The degree was a masters of liberal studies in American culture.

I started the degree program a few years after we relocated to Michigan. The degree courses were interesting and unlike any I’d taken in undergrad or graduate school. One of the benefits of the program was becoming much better at the TV show “Jeopardy.”

I finished the thesis and submitted to U of M.  Then learned I was a couple of courses short.  After a number of years in Michigan, we had moved to California, then to Charlotte.  I hadn’t been enrolled for some time but thought the coursework was completed. Although U of M indicated the two courses could be taken on line, I decided enough formal education.

However, I didn’t put the thesis on the shelf.  When researching material for the thesis, I “discovered” the US seemed to experience a revolution about every 50 years. I assume like many discoveries, this “discovery” was quite by accident.

The working title of the thesis was “The American Revolution.”  “The American Revolution” didn’t refer to the traditional American Revolution but a tagline from an old Chevrolet commercial.  Much of the content of the thesis focused on how to rebuild US manufacturing (yes, long before the Donald made such a claim), with particular emphasis on how Southeast Michigan could leverage knowledge of the auto industry to become a worldwide center for other products.  One example was leveraging skills in product design and electromechanical engineering to develop computer-aided prosthetics, which thankfully are now coming to market.

Because of the title, I wondered how many revolutions had America experienced.  Obviously, the American Revolution and the Civil War, but were there others?  As an early Baby Boomer, I considered the changes in music, hairstyles, attitudes toward sex, etc. in the late 1960s, early 1970s as a “cultural revolution.”  In addition to cultural change, that period included domestic violence with the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK as well as major civil disruptions in Newark, Detroit and Los Angeles.

After a bit more analysis, I decided there have been four (4) revolutions so far in US history with each occurring roughly every 50 years.  Since the mid-point of the last revolution was about 1970, if the 50-year cycle was correct, then the fifth US revolution would be sometime after 2020. (More information about the four revolutions and how the timing was calculated in Entry #1.)

Well, here we are just having finished 2020.  Time to have a sense check and ask, “Is a 5th US revolution likely?” Unless you’ve been in a cave or on Mars the last few years, I think most people would say “Yes, a revolution of some type seems likely.”

The country seems as divided emotionally and politically as any time since the years leading up to the Civil War.  The Donald and the Trump Administration with all the craziness were contributors to this split.  But the divide in the country started long before Trump. 

OK, Trump was outlandish, arrogant, stupid, childlike and a host of other psychological “isms.”  Despite the behavior, Trump was not the first to cause the split.  There’s always been some split but the movement toward a chasm started with Ronald Reagan. 

Reagan kept proclaiming, even after becoming president that “government is the problem, not the solution.”  Reagan would also promote private industry as the solution.  While government is clearly not the solution to every problem, private Industry is not the solution to many problems either.

How many private companies would be willing to develop a product or build a system for which there was no known market?  The answer is zero, nada, none.  So, then how did railroads, the highway system, air travel, ground and satellite communications systems and the internet get funded?  Mmm, must have been that incompetent government. There is not a single company that would risk the capital necessary for the development and introduction of these larger scale programs.

At the same time, at some point the government needs to get out of the business it helped develop and let the private sector take over.  While one can debate the timing, the government has been diligent about allowing, even encouraging, private industry to take over these industries.

One of Reagan’s strength was communications – after all he was an actor.  Reagan should be given an Academy Award for convincing so many Republicans he was a fiscal conservative. In truth Reagan was a spendthrift whose administration ran up huge federal budget deficits. By the end of Reagan’s term in office, federal debt as a percentage of GDP had increased about the same relative amount as under FDR’s New Deal program in the 1930s.  (There are number of entries in this blog with more charts and explanations supporting the contention that Reagan started the split in attitudes among the populace.)

Another factor helping split the country was the introduction of cable news, then the internet.  Cable news and the internet, combined with a decline in the circulation of daily newspapers, resulted in the proliferation of alleged credible news sources, with emphasis on “alleged.”  Unlike old-line mainstream network TV channels and mainstream newspapers, the cable and so-called internet news outlets were not subject to the same FCC standards. 

The lack of oversight has allowed supposed news outlets to either radically distort the truth or simply create stories with no basis whatsoever in fact.  Without another source of information – daily newspaper, e.g. – many believe the cable channel or social media.  Worse still is many people cannot seem to separate commentary from the talking heads on these channels and the real news.  Further, some high-profile cable channels, notably Fox, until recently were openly distorting the news to support a certain political position and ignoring the truth.  For most of the last four years Fox should have been labeled “Trump TV.”

Back to the sense check about the possibility of a 5th US revolution.  If the past pattern holds true and there is a revolution in the next few years, then what form of revolution is going to take? Cultural? Shooting? A bit of both?

Almost certainly there’s going to be a cultural revolution.  Just as the Baby Boomers created the cultural revolution in late 60s, early 70s the now teens and twenty-somethings – Generation Z — are going to force cultural changes.

What the Vietnam War was for the Baby Boomers, climate change is for Gen Z. And unlike the Baby Boomers, where jobs were relatively plentiful, most everyone in Gen Z faces a bleak job market, even for many who are college educated.

Gen Zers feel trapped economically and trapped by an ever bleaker outlook for the environment. And some in Gen Z point the finger at Baby Boomers for making these problems worse.

The coffee shop I visit most every morning is staffed with many Gen Zers.  One young lady, an excellent college student, said the other day when we chatted about solving social problems, “We’ve got to get rid of these old politicians. They’re too rigid and set in their ways.”

If you are a Baby Boomer, or even a bit older, watch out. The light at the end of the tunnel is a Gen Z freight train that is picking up speed.

The Gen Zers are not alone.  High-school grads, whether recent or older are frustrated as well.  Where do they find employment in this new world?

Covid-19 demonstrated that many critical societal jobs are being filled by less-educated, lower-paid workers. All of a sudden, the US seemed to depend on those previously invisible grocery-store clerks, hospital aides, delivery-truck drivers, transit staff, etc.  But what else can these workers do?

Covid-19 also demonstrated how vulnerable other entry-level jobs were, especially in restaurants, hotels, retail stores and office buildings. Their jobs disappeared almost overnight. And, even with the Covid-19 vaccine, it may be a decade or more before many of their jobs return.

Such service workers, along with lower-paid manufacturing workers, seem to be the most likely to be involved in an armed revolt. By revolting, what does a group have to lose?  As a group, they are underpaid; they have no real prospects for upward mobility; they are not adequately educated for, and therefore not qualified for higher-paying technology-focused jobs.  

What about support from the political parties?  Interestingly, many in this group have been ardent Trump supporters.  Yet, Trump and the Republican Party have repeatedly dumped on this group economically. Just this past week Republicans in the Senate refused to consider bumping up the Covid-19 stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.  Did the same group of Senate Republicans resist providing more Covod-19 funds to business? Of course not, the Republicans were glad to do so.

When this disadvantaged group finally wakes up, they will be angry and want revenge. That’s why I labeled the anticipated 5th US revolution as the Revenge Revolution.  This group will seek revenge for past injustices.  As noted in previous entries, many in this group are well-armed.

When there is a group that feels deprived, has no savings, has no job prospects, and has nothing to lose, and that is well-armed, you have an ideal core for starting a revolution. My take on the probability of a revolution?  The Gen-Zers will drive a cultural revolution for sure.  Probability the deprived start an armed revolution of some type?  75%.   To be continued.

#399. The Donald and Charlie. Two Peas from the Same Pod. (Part #4)

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.   Next Sense Check will be Entry #400.

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

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration and a post-Coronavirus world.  We’re headed to a post-Trump world and post-COVID world, even if a ways away.  The premise of a 5th US revolution in the 2020’s decade has not changed.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #399: The past few entries have attempted to understand the cause of and whether to attempt to solve cognitive dissonance among many Trump supporters. The issue is not about different political philosophies. A democratic society should have at least two strong political parties. The difference is trying to understand why so many Trump supporters are willing to sacrifice the basic tenets of democracy for a known wannabe autocrat.

What does Trump offer that has created a cult-like following? When one steps back and analyzes the data, the Trump cult is getting nothing in return for following the Donald. So why follow the Donald? What is the appeal; what is the quid-pro-quo?

Despite no obvious benefit, at least to rational thinkers, why does the Trump cult do whatever the Donald wants? The Trump cult supports his actions even when the actions are contrary to the best interest of the followers.

It’s as if Trump is like the Great Oz, “I say the coronavirus is like the flu. You don’t need a mask.” And the followers don’t wear a mask. Or the Great Oz says, “Send money to me to help fight a stolen election.” And the cult sends money. Or the Great Oz says “Support a gigantic tax break for the wealthy and the benefits will trickle down to you.” And the cult believes in voodoo economics, even though the Federal deficit has ballooned and the children/grandchildren of the cult will be paying for the wealth transfer.

In some ways Trump reminds me of Charlie. Reminds me not of Charlie Tuna, although Trump’s body profile looks similar. But reminds me of Charlie Manson. Often times Trump seems as maniacal and crazy as Manson.

If you think the comparison to Manson is extreme, consider Trump’s actions to suppress efforts to control the pandemic. Also, consider the claims about the White House intentionally distorting info from CDC re the severity of the virus. Now, count the number of unnecessary deaths by Trump’s actions and compare the number to Charlie’s death toll. Still think the comparison is unfair?

As far as members of the cult, at least the women who hung around Charlie Manson, got satisfied sexually. Those who hang around Trump only get screwed economically.

How does the US society begin to address and re-educate members of the Trump cult? I don’t think we should waste our time. The cult members have been brainwashed and the major protagonist will fade away by late spring 2021. Unfortunately, the essence of Trump’s message may not fade as quickly.

Post inauguration, Trump will act like many bullies when their perceived power is taken away. He will melt like the Wicked Witch of the West. Oh, Trump might hold a few pep rallies and generate some noise, but nothing of any lasting consequence.

If Trump understands one thing well, that one thing is how to take other people’s money. When he was in debt for the failing casinos, he declared bankruptcy and walked away leaving the banks with the debt. Since no US-based bank would deal with him, beginning in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s Trump turned to sources outside the US to fund purchases of golf courses and hotel properties. While in Charlotte, NC to visit one of the Trump golf courses, Don, Jr. bragged that the Russians had become Trump’s primary funding source. And you still wonder why Trump’s nice to the Russians?

A recent example of using other people’s money was when it became clear that he was likely to lose the re-election to Biden. At that point Trump formed a PAC that was promoted to help him get re-elected in 2024 and to help finance the legal cost of lawsuits associated with what Trump kept promoting as the “rigged” 2020 presidential election.

The reality is the PAC is Trump’s new piggybank. Donors likely didn’t read the fine print. After a small percentage is allocated to the RNC and some for legal costs for the frivolous lawsuits, Trump gets to keep the rest. The money will stay in the PAC although Trump will control the disbursement of funds, including use for personal expenses. Keeping funds in the PAC should protect the PAC from creditors, who will likely force Trump into bankruptcy when the $400+ million loans on his properties come due in the next few years.

Whether the PAC funds can be protected from judgements for fraud is problematic. The State of New York has been investigating the Trump organization and Trump personally for tax fraud and possibly other crimes. The investigations may lead to indictments soon after Trump leaves office. State crimes are not overridden by a presidential pardon. Oops.

To convince cult members he will keep promoting his message, Trump has claimed he will create a new cable channel once out of office. The claim seems to be another ploy to attract funds from the ne’er-do-well supporters, who can least afford it. Trump will need an outlet since most credible media, save a couple of bloviators on Fox, have started focusing on the Biden administration’s plans to address mounting economic and social problems.

Like Charlie Manson’s followers, some of Trump’s supporters will stay in the cult no matter the circumstances or the evidence against the cult leader. Most followers, however, soon will migrate to another fringe Republican candidate who probably will be more charismatic than Trump but spew the same BS.

The biggest problem for the Republican Party is Trump’s legacy and how to recover from it. The damage to the credibility of government and the democracy caused by Trump’s corruption, cronyism and complacency has been significant.

For the Republican Party in particular, how long will a substantial portion of the Party believe the dis-information and fantasies, whether promoted by Trump or a follow-on Trump? How can the Republican Party put forth a credible platform of governance beyond “Just Say No” to whatever Biden or Democrats propose? Without a more reasonable platform the appeal of the Republican Party will continue to shrink.

A shrinking and ineffective Republican Party could become a major contributor to a 5th US Revolution, aka the Revenge Revolution? On the optimistic side it will take 10-15 years to repair the damage to the Federal agencies and the credibility of the government caused by Trump and complicit Republican Senators, Representative and state governors. During the period of repair, the chances of unrest increase. Trump cultists could be persuaded to revolt, whether or not Trump is still around.

For many years a small group in Texas has promoted secession. That group and the Trump cultists appear to share many of the same characteristics. The secession movement could move beyond the obvious candidates of former Confederate states. A broader secession movement could find support in the upper Midwest – for example in the northern part of Lower Michigan – as well as a number of other Midwest and mountain states.

The secession movement could grow even stronger if Biden steps down after one term, which seems likely, and Kamala Harris then is elected president. Given the harassment and death threats by Trump loyalists of the female elected officials, especially in Michigan – Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State – the Trump loyalists likely would consider stronger action against a Black female president.

As noted periodically in these entries, a well-coordinated widespread guerilla-warfare like attack could cause significant damage to property and result in a number of deaths. Think of Charlie Mason’s Helter-Skelter attack but on a much larger scale. The disruption would create significant angst among the general population. Once the guerilla warfare started, unless the federal and state governments quickly quelled the attacks, the country could start to spin out of control.

More about the possible Revenge Revolution in entry #400.

#398 Overcoming Cognitive Dissonance of Trump Supporters (Part 3)

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:

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration and a post-Coronavirus world.  We’re headed to a post-Trump world and post-COVID seems possible, if a ways away.  The premise of a 5th US revolution in the 2020’s decade has not changed.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #398: The previous two entries discussed the seeming inability to connect two dots of 1/3 or more of the American voting population. Well, let’s make that the inability to understand one dot.

I vowed that entries would look past the election and Trump’s absurd claims of voter fraud. But what I cannot look past is the continued cognitive dissonance of Trump supporters.

Trump is the quintessential con man.  How many honest real estate developers do you know? The con man recently formed a PAC, with funds supposedly to be used for: (i) legal fees to fight fraud in the 2020 election; (ii) his re-election bid in 2024. To help fund the PAC, Trump sent a series of emails and letters to likely supporters. Since the election, roughly one month ago, how much has Trump raised for the PAC, mostly small donors? Not $10 million, not $50 million, not a $100 million but $200 million plus and counting.

What are the PAC guidelines for using the funds? A portion goes to the RNC, maybe 25%. The rest can be used by the Donald however he wants, including paying himself a salary, using funds for living expenses, legal fees, clothing, haircuts or whatever.  Folks, the con man is not going to run again.

Then, why did he start the PAC?  Dollars to donuts the PAC money is legally separated from Trump’s personal funds. If so, Trump created a separate source of money protected from future lawsuits against him.

In the next 12-18 months the Trump organization is faced with repayment of loans apparently totaling more than $400 million.  Many of the Trump properties were bleeding cash before the pandemic.  Likely worse now.  The problem for Trump is he personally guaranteed most, if not all the loans.  Thus, whatever personal assets he owns are at risk.

Will Trump pay?  Of course not.  He never pays his debts.  When the loans are due, he’ll claim the lenders are out to get him and his only way to get even with the deceitful creditors is to declare bankruptcy…yet again.  Although in bankruptcy he might lose rights to various properties, what does he care?  He’ll walk away without debt.  He also won’t be broke since he’ll have access to $150 million of PAC money. 

If he declares BK, won’t he lose Mar-a-Lago?  Probably not.  Under Florida law one’s “homestead property” is considered an asset exempt from the bankruptcy trustee.  Now you understand why he moved to Florida from New York, which has no protection provision.  So, with all the financial shenanigans, Trump still walks away with no debt, Mar-a-Lago and $150 million.  By any standard a very good con.

In the end, who got conned? Lenders, although most were foreign, especially Russian, and may have been repaid in other ways while Trump was president, and his supporters, many of whom have very limited funds.  (Take heart.  The State of New York seems to be readying a tax fraud case against Trump and family.  Assets exempt under BK law may not be exempt under a tax fraud case.)

Why can’t people understand the obvious? Forget the part about declaring bankruptcy, and just consider Trump asking for money.  He’s claiming the money would be used for his re-election bid. Such a claim should be enough by any standard to raise questions about his credibility.  Plus, there was ample media coverage, save possibly Fox, that most of the contribution to the PAC could be used any way Trump so desired, including personal expenses.

In the US, there have always been con men.  Recall part of Lincoln’s quote, “…you can fool some of the people all the time…”  With so many people are falling for the con, including supposedly educated people, how are we as a society to avoid such a huge con in the future?

In the last entry I suggested children could be taught to think critically by expanding educational focus from STEM to SMELT – Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Liberal-arts, and Technology. SMELT classes would start as early as possible, including kindergarten.

What do we do to educate adults during the years when children are in school and learning to think critically?  What about the adults who cannot understand one dot, let alone connect two or three dots? I confess, I don’t have any concrete suggestions.  Adults are not required to go back to school. As long as no laws are broken, adults are pretty much free to do whatever they want.

With these adults, logic does not seem to work. If you haven’t done so, try and reason with a Trump supporter. Evidence and facts do not matter. Even though the very same behavior would be excoriated if Trump were a Democrat, his followers fully support Trump’s actions as a Republican.

An alternative approach to education is to form another party with values similar to the pre-Trump Republican Party. Maybe values of a pre-Reagan Republican Party.  Reagan began the mantra that government is the problem, not the solution.  Imagine if Reagan had been president during WWII. 

The new Republican Party would appeal to disenfranchised Republicans, many independents and even some Democrats.  A concern is how long before the new party can became a formidable political force.  My initial guess was 4-5 presidential elections.  Then on second thought, I changed to maybe 1-2 presidential elections if the new party were formed around the Lincoln Project. 

A democracy needs at least two strong parties. Right now the US has a cult party, aka Trump Republicans, and a Democratic Party, which has a large umbrella covering a mix of ideas and some anti-Trump Republicans. A new “Lincoln Party” would be a draw for moderates, whether leaning left or right.

Is there a different way to break the Trump cult? The Biden/Harris administration’s commitment to work with both parties will be a start. My cynical side suggests Trump supporters are so brainwashed the Biden/Harris approach will fall on deaf ears.

People who belong to cults are not logical. Even acknowledging Biden as a legitimate president would require the Trump cult to admit a mistake. Since Trump never admits a mistake, why should the Trump cult members admit a mistake?

Okay, enough for this entry. A new “Lincoln Party” seems to be a reasonable solution to rebuilding a democracy that has two viable parties. If you have another idea, please let me know. I’m all ears.

#397 Those Who Smelt It Can Think Critically. (Need to Rebuild the Education System Part 2)

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:

Beginning #378 the entries began focusing on a post-Trump administration and a post-Coronavirus world.  We’re headed to a post-Trump world and post-COVID seems possible, if a ways away.  The premise of a 5th US revolution in the 2020’s decade has not changed.  Comments and suggestions welcome.

ENTRY #397 continues the discussion on cognitive dissonance.

A recent example of a high-profile educated person being unable to connect two dots was the remarks by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito at a Federalist Society meeting (11/12/20). Justice Alito, a supporter of individual rights, stated that while the coronavirus pandemic was a major health issue, government had no right to mandate wearing masks.  (20 11 14 NYT Alito Speech to Federalist Society)

Alito, apparently was an epidemiologist before turning lawyer, offered no plan to control the spread of the virus. Sam, in case you haven’t heard, there is no vaccine yet available and the country continues to set records for infections. And where are the most infections per capita?  Yes, in counties and states that voted for Trump.

Based on your remarks, apparently you are willing to let people decide, “I don’t need no stinking face mask ‘cause I ain’t infected.”   Please tell your dude friend he might be infected even though his symptoms are not yet severe. And, if infected, he’s also infecting people all around.   But, hey, that’s okay, right?  People need to be free to do whatever they want.

Here we are a couple of weeks after Alito’s inane remarks at the Federalist Society.  Since his remarks claiming masks were an intrusion on individual rights, the number of coronavirus cases has more than doubled to 200,000+ new cases per day with total cases 13,000,000+, 1/3 of those in the past month.

Justice Alito, I’m glad you weren’t around during World War II when people on the coasts were forced to block out lights during the evening to avoid giving the enemy easy targets to bomb. Glad you weren’t around when the EPA decided that lead in gasoline was dangerous and retarding mental development in children.  Glad you weren’t involved in the FAA decision banning passengers from carrying loaded concealed weapons on airplanes.  Those were bad decisions because some folks lost individual rights, right?

Further, according to the “New York Times” article about your remarks, you were insulted that President Obama mentioned during a State of the Union address that the Citizens United decision by SCOTUS would lead to unlimited spending on elections.  And who was correct?  Obama, but you didn’t need to be a constitutional lawyer to figure it out.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, in a decision released just before midnight, Alito apparently convinced four other SCOTUS justices that connecting two dots was only for liberals.  The court ruled 5-4, with the three Trump appointees voting as a block, that state governors did not have a right to limit the number of people gathered in one location, with special emphasis on allowing religious institutions to conduct services as they saw fit. 

Let me get this logic straight.  The Trump administration specifically mandated that the management of the pandemic was the responsibility of the governors.  Yes, the governors must be in charge.  That mandate was perfectly acceptable for governors of red states, most of whom did nothing.  But don’t let a Democratic governor issue any mandates.  Those mandates must be deemed too restrictive and overturned by SCOTUS.

The illogic of the SCOTUS decision proves once again that, if you’re a Republican, connecting two dots is difficult, if not impossible for you.  Part of the problem seems to be letting political ideology get in the way of common sense.

On another “can’t-connect-two-dots” front, Trump is still claiming voter fraud and that he really won the election.  By last count Biden won by more than 6,000,000 votes, and Trump was the clear loser.  And all states have certified election results.

What’s really disturbing is not Trump’s behavior.  Yes, Trump’s behavior is childish but he’s acted like a child his entire life.  What’s really disturbing?  Based on a credible survey, more than 70% of registered Republicans believe Trump won the election. Huh? 

Call me whatever you want, but folks if you believe Trump won you’re either the dumbest person on earth or you’re brainwashed. Surely you can’t be serious and think Trump won.

Unfortunately, I think they are serious. As noted occasionally, I have a number of friends on Facebook that could be considered far right politically. While their posts are sometimes comical, but often maddening, the posts do provide some idea what people are thinking, or at least how they’re reacting. The insight is helpful and at the same time frustrating.  Somehow they reached a conclusion but clearly there’s a deficit in their thinking and logic.

If 70+% of Republicans believe Trump won the election, that means 30+% of the voting population is effectively brainwashed.  According to Lincoln, “You can fool some of the people all the time…” Apparently 30+% of the population can be fooled all the time. 

30+% of the population being brainwashed makes it extraordinary difficult, if not impossible, to address and solve real societal Issues.  If that many people are so easily swayed, then we need to educate future generations to avoid being so easily swayed.

How do we avoid widespread cognitive dissonance?  Recent emphasis in education has been on “STEM” courses – science, technology, engineering, mathematics. These type courses are excellent for teaching how to solve certain kinds of problems.  Most decisions in STEM classes tend to be binary, either “yes” or “no.”  

While a binary decision is ideal for many situations, the answer in many other situations in life is not so clear-cut. Often two answers can include a portion that is correct and a portion that is not correct. In such situations which one should one choose?

Being forced to choose between “fuzzy” non-binary answers helps develop critical thinking skills.  To come to a conclusion, one must weigh the variables and decide the importance of each variable. 

To ensure students have the opportunity to learn critical thinking and reduce the likelihood of cognitive dissonance, my suggestion is we expand STEM to SMELT – science, mathematics, engineering, liberal-arts, technology.  Further we should start basic SMELT instruction in kindergarten and no later than first grade.

In the real world, children are faced with “fuzzy” decisions all the time. Let’s make sure our education system teaches them “how to” decide when faced with such a situation. The teaching would be “how to” decide and not “what to” decide. Teaching “how to” decide will reduce the likelihood of being brainwashed.

Teaching “how to” decide will also result in people who can at least consider and understand someone else’s perspective. In the binary world, if you don’t agree with me, you’re wrong. In the “fuzzy” world we can both agree on some things and work toward a more reasonable and practical solution. 

Biden is a critical thinker.  There is hope we can start to make a change. 

#396 The Need to Rebuild the Education System (Part 1)

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 #396: In Entry #395 and in the booklet titled “Technology Tsunami,” I outlined why the US needs a more in-depth and broadly available public education system.  My rationale was for the US to remain competitive worldwide, the workforce needed to prepare to use ever advancing technology. 

However, the US may be faced with two fundamental problems.  The second problem became increasingly apparent with the 2020 presidential election.  The problem is cognitive dissonance in an alarmingly high portion of the US population.  The cognitive dissonance seems to exist even among allegedly educated people.  The people in question cannot seem to connect two dots, let alone three.

While there has always been some portion of the population that suffers from cognitive dissonance – Lincoln’s famous quote, “You can fool some of the people all the time…” – and Lincoln’s quote applies to some portion of both political parties, cognitive dissonance seems to have overtaken most in the Republican Party. 

Republicans seem unable to look at a basic set of facts and draw any logical conclusion. An example: assume there are two columns of facts.  Both columns are critical to making a logical decision.  Further the decision at hand is affected by the data in both columns. 

Yet, a huge percentage of Republicans seem to view facts in column A and facts in column B as completely separate, even though inextricably linked.  This group seems unable to look at column A and look at column B and see any need for integrating the two.

In a couple of earlier blog entries I suggested that Trump supporters seem to be brainwashed. Being brainwashed could be a plausible explanation given how some of Trump’s supporters accepted his behavior as appropriate but rejected the same behavior when exhibited by others.

The cognitive dissonance seems extreme among some self-proclaimed born-again Christians. Let’s take just a couple of the Ten Commandments, a tenet of Christianity, and Judaism, and look at Trump’s Behavior. Example #1: don’t lie.  Trump lies multiple times per hour and the rate ratcheted up during the campaign. 

Trump has the distinction of telling more lies than any other president by several orders of magnitude. And, it’s not as if these lies are hard to fact-check.  Example #2.  Don’t steal.  Like his habit of lying, Trump has managed to divert government funds to his own pocket while President, clearly in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.  The most high-profile examples of financial diversions are at the Bedminster Golf Club, Mar-a-Lago and the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

So what are those on the religious right thinking while supporting Trump?  Okay, people can be forgiven for choosing Tramp initially.  Many voters claimed not to like Hillary and considered Trump the lesser of two evils.  Any kind of research would have highlighted Trump’s pattern of behavior but let’s give the initial Trump voters a break.

But with four years of behavior that is contrary to the tenets of Christianity and virtually every other religion, why choose him again?  Did the 2nd-time Trump supporters ever ask themselves, “Would I want my spouse to act the same way as Trump?  Would I tolerate such behavior in my children?  Would I have any kind of business or personal relationship with someone who acted like Trump?”

My guess is the answer is a resounding “No!” to each question.  Yet, why did they support Trump…again? 

After I finished an initial draft of this blog, I thought, maybe education is not the issue.  Really, the issue is a breakdown in what is considered moral behavior.  Rather than education, maybe there was a breakdown in the commitment to duty, honor, country.

Then, with a bit more thought, I went back to the problem being lack of a good educational foundation.  Without a good foundation, what once was considered immoral behavior can become acceptable.  What once was considered a commitment to duty, honor, country can be twisted so those who live by such a code were labeled by Trump as “suckers.”

For all the 2nd-time Trump supporters, why don’t you take a hard look at the cemeteries at Normandy of all those “suckers” who died to save Europe and the US.  Take a look at the Vietnam wall in Washington.  Take a look at the memorial at the Trade Towers for those who died trying to save others.  After you take a hard look, ask yourself, “Why did I vote for a guy who claimed to be 4F to avoid the draft because of a bone spur in his foot?  And then couldn’t remember which foot had the bone spur.”    

The illogic of voting for Trump a second time is so overwhelming to me I cannot fathom anyone having done so.  Yet, an example is a friend on Facebook, who shall remain anonymous.  The person is college educated, overtly religious and yet was wildly enthusiastic about supporting Trump in 2020.  There seems no explanation other than cognitive dissonance.  The Facebook friend seemed unable to connect two dots, let alone three dots.  And now the FB friend is in Maslow’s second stage blaming all those “liberals” in Pennsylvania and Michigan for illegally stuffing the ballot box for Biden.    

The behavior of my FB friend is not unique.  Take behavior with respect to the coronavirus.  In the past week new cases have exceeded 100,000 per day.  Where were most of the new infections occurring? Yes, the preponderance of new infections were in counties that voted for Trump. It appears that many, if not most, of residents in those counties viewed wearing a mask as political statement.  Not wearing a mask showed one’s support for Trump. 

Folks, the benefit of wearing a mask for protection is based on science and medical evidence, not politics. You’re following advice from a guy who got his degrees in epidemiology and immunology from Trump University, aka BS University.

If we look at history, one reason America was able to separate itself from the rest of the world was by offering residents a free, quality public education.  Such an education enabled families, within one or two generations, to transition from members having a very limited education to children graduating from college. 

The system also provided a solid, well-rounded base education for high-school graduates.  My father is a perfect example.  He had to turn down a free college education to be able to continue to work to support the family during the Depression. Yet, with that high-school education he was well versed in a number of subjects.   World geography was one of his favorites. I admit, his knowledge of geography put me to shame.

He was also a crossword puzzle aficionado. His favorite and most challenging day was Thursday, when the crossword puzzle was completely blank.  The crossword had only word clues.  With all squares initially blank, you needed 3-4 correct words just to get started.  

Like many others of that generation, he was a lifelong learner.  In retirement and virtually every day until he died, he read from cover to cover “The New York Times” and the local paper. 

Fast forward to today.  How many people actually read a real newspaper? How many really understand what’s going on in the world?  How many people can connect two dots?

If a contributor to cognitive dissonance is a shortfall in education, which it appears to be, then how do we fix the problem?  The first step would seem to be that “we,” that is societal we, need to come together. We need to put away the political labels; put away the “us versus them” mentality; put away the blame game. We need to look in the mirror and ask that tough question of many religions, “Are you treating your neighbor as you want to be treated?”

In his speech 11/07/2020 following declaration of becoming president-elect, Biden took a great step forward in asking the nation to come together.  Some of us remarked the speech reminded us of an old Alka-Seltzer commercial – “Oh, what a relief it is.”  Let’s hope he and VP-elect Harris can be effective in leading the charge getting US society to start acting as one again. 

The level of difficulty facing the Biden administration could be compared to what the US faced in the 1960’s with the race to the moon.  While the challenges in the 1960’s were mostly technical, a major hurdle was convincing Congress and the American public to support what would be an extraordinarily challenging, costly and dangerous series of missions. 

JFK spoke to Congress in 1961 and then to the public in 1962 at a speech at Rice University to address the challenges.  A portion of that speech seems appropriate as inspiration for the challenge that we face in rebuilding the education system in the US. 

 “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win…”

Read JFK’s remarks again.  More discussion about education in the next blog entry, including designating First Lady-elect as “Educator-in-Chief.”

#395 Post COVID-19 — How Do We Repurpose Human Capital? (Part 2)

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 #395: What has happened to unemployment during the Coronavirus? How severe is unemployment?

Counting the number of people who have filed unemployment claims paints a grim picture. Beginning March 2020, claims per week jumped dramatically.  Toward the end of March, new claims for unemployment for just one week  totaled nearly 7 million.  New claims per week have fallen since but seven months after the peak in March new claims are on average more than 3x higher than earlier on 2020.

Keep in mind these numbers are new claims. The numbers represent new people who are now unemployed. Obviously, some people who filed claims will be called back to work or find another job, but the net amount of those unemployed keeps increasing.  Further, throughout the 2020/2021 winter, the number of weekly new claims for unemployment is likely to remain extraordinarily high by historic standards.

What about the people who are self-employed?  You know, 1099 contract workers, consultants, musicians, even undocumented workers?  What’s happened to their workload?  They all pay taxes.

Contract, or gig workers, have seen jobs dry up as well. There is a provision in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) that enables gig workers to file for a limited amount of economic relief.  The program is administered by states, which makes tracking claims nearly impossible. 

Nevertheless, if we add the number of gig workers seeking  CARES-based income supplement to those filing unemployment claims, the total likely exceeds 1,000,000 every week since early March 2020.  Like those employed by companies, the number of gig workers working fewer hours will increase during the winter.

Some may comment, “Is unemployment really that bad? I mean, the unemployment rate lately has been less than 10.0%. And it bounced back fast following the spike in the Spring.  Early in the Obama Administration, unemployment reached 10.0% and it took years to decline. What’s the big deal?  Trump’s done much better than Obama ever did.”

How Is the Unemployment Rate Calculated?  The unemployment rate is the ratio of those unemployed and looking for work to those in the workforce – those employed and unemployed.  Let’s say there are a thousand people in the workforce. 100 are unemployed and actively looking for a job and 900 are working. The unemployment rate would be 10.0%, or 100/1,000.

Now let’s assume that 50 of the 100 unemployed get discouraged and quit looking for a job. The new unemployment rate would be 50 actively looking for work / 950 (900 employed + 50 actively working), or 5.3%.

What happened to the unemployment rate?  The rate dropped from 10.0% to 5.3%, even though the only change was 50 people became discouraged and quit looking for work.  

What Else Does the Unemployment Rate Not Count? Let’s say that of the 900 people working, 200 are being forced to work part-time because their employer reduced their hours.  Even though working part time, the 200 are counted as “fully employed” when calculating the unemployment rate.   

So what’s the real unemployment/underemployment rate when one considers those who are only working part time and those who are so discouraged about finding another job they quit looking for work?  We know the rate is not 5.3%, which would be the official government number. 

The real rate is more like 30.0% — 200 underemployed, 50 unemployed and looking and 50 unemployed but who’ve quit looking.  In our example, there are 300 out of 1,000 who are either unemployed or underemployed and looking for more work.

If the numbers in this simple example seem ridiculously high, the 30.0% rate probably understates the true underemployment rate the US experiencing in Fall 2020.  Even for professional economists, calculating a reasonable estimate of unemployment/underemployment is nearly impossible because the Trump Administration refuses to disclose what most of us would consider any credible information about many parts of the economy.

As stated in Entry #394, the unemployment problem will not go away post COVID-19. During the initial lockdown to control the virus, organizations began to understand how to conduct operations with far fewer people than in the past. Consumers also began to think differently.

The change in thinking will affect some sectors of the post-COVID-19 economy more than others.  Portions of the service sector will be particularly hard hit.  Even with a vaccine, how many people will be willing to attend sporting events if there are thousands of other people jammed next to one another? How many people will be willing to eat in crowded restaurants, travel on crowded airplanes, ride jam-packed trains/buses, stay in unfamiliar hotels, go to amusement parks, etc.?  While we won’t know the extent for a number of years, assuming a 25-30% loss of pre-COVID-19 travel-and-entertainment-related jobs would be a reasonable estimate. 

Manufacturing output should rise post-virus but the number of jobs in manufacturing will continue to erode relative to output.  The trend will continue to replace workers with more automation, use of sophisticated software and robotics.

What’s the Solution? After mulling over this problem for a number of months, my conclusion is a two-pronged solution is necessary.

  1. WPA-like programs that focus on building/rebuilding critical infrastructure throughout the United States. Yes, such programs require lots of manual labor.  And no, such programs are not a long-term solution.  However, WPA-like programs will employ a portion of the workforce that will have an extremely difficult time transitioning to a digital-based economy. Plus, WPA-like programs will address much of the US infrastructure that needs repairing and upgrading.
  2. Repurposing many existing jobs.  Initial repurposing training for some jobs could be completed in 10-12 weeks.  The basic training would be followed by a job using the skills learned and additional on-the-job training (OJT). 

Will some of the jobs after basic training be considered “make work”? Yes, but any kind of training includes time to practice and expand basic skills.

When I joined General Motors following undergrad (many moons ago), I worked at Cadillac HQ in Detroit.  At the time the Clark Street Cadillac facility was huge, including two assembly line, paint shop, welding, full engine machining and a bunch of other stuff.  The campus totaled nearly 50 acres and included many buildings with 3-4 stories. Who knows how many million square feet of floor space.  For someone who likes cars and manufacturing, the facility was like one giant candy store.

My initial assignment was in a department called “Project Control.”  The department’s primary function was to evaluate various proposed expenditures – new equipment in Engine Machining Department, e.g.

Truth be known, most of my early assignments really were “make work,” since the guys in the department who’d been around awhile already knew the answer. But I’d be given an assignment and off I go to find some department located in this huge complex. 

The purposes of these assignments were: (i) can he find the way out to the department and back without getting lost too many times; (ii) help me begin to understand the breadth and depth of the complexity involved in manufacturing a car/truck; (iii) can he understand the scope and purpose of the proposed project and write a coherent recommendation?

What do I remember from those early days on the job? Frankly I do not remember any specific project. What I do remember is beginning to understand that manufacturing components for a vehicle and then assembling that vehicle is an incredibly complicated task, but also one that fascinates me to this day.

I also remember discovering all kinds of places in the plant to eat. One cafeteria, for example, had great pastrami sandwiches every Thursday. I also remember finding vending machines that dispensed ice cream bars. The bars would just fit inside the canister for the plant-wide pneumatic tube system.  While on these assignments one of my tasks might be to send ice cream bars back to the office via the tube system.

While some of those assignments were make-work, I think the learning from those assignments served me and GM well for my entire career. I’ve also applied many of the lessons learned to situations post GM.

Now back to the problem at hand.  How do we, societal we, train people to transition to a more digital economy?  First, we need to understand and appreciate that the training will not be completed overnight. We also need to understand that some of the projects, especially those early in the training cycle, will seem like make work. And, we also need to understand that some people will not be able to make the transition as effectively.

However, if we don’t start transitioning now, then the US will continue to fall behind countries with more advanced or more disciplined education systems and/or fall behind countries that have fully committed to a digital economy.  How do we truly make America great again?  To be continued, including some discussion about changes in approach to education, from K through grad school.