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Lazy Saturday Morning Incoherent Ramblings

Good Morning Conflucians!! I’m being lazy again this morning. I’m trying to shake off a cold, and I’m moving more slowly than usual. I’ve been falling asleep at 9PM and then not wanting to get up in the morning. Today I got up at 6:00, but here it is 9:15, and I’ve wasted more than 3 hours just surfing around the ‘net. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading about.

This story really startled me: Only 21% Say U.S. Government Has Consent of the Governed

The founding document of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, states that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Today, however, just 21% of voters nationwide believe that the federal government enjoys the consent of the governed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% disagree and say the government does not have the necessary consent. Eighteen percent (18%) of voters are not sure.

However, 63% of the Political Class think the government has the consent of the governed, but only six percent (6%) of those with Mainstream views agree.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters now view the federal government as a special interest group, and 70% believe that the government and big business typically work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors.

I can’t help but feel we are headed for civil unrest if the Obama administration and Congress don’t start doing something about jobs and the disastrous economic situation that the bottom 90% of the people in this country can see, but those at the top either can’t see or don’t care about.

In my spare time I’ve been reading a book called It Could Happen Here, by Bruce Judson, who is a “Senior Faculty Fellow” at the Yale School of Management. Judson argues that economic inequality in the U.S. has reached the point where we are very close to meeting all the historical markers that lead to the overthrow of governments.

Judson writes that the disparity between rich and poor is now the greatest since the early 20th century, and most of this disparity has built up over the last 30 years. From the book (no link available):

The top earning 10 percent of U.S. families receive 49.3 percent of all U.S. household income, including capital gains. By comparison, this top 10 percent received a substanially lower 34.2 percent of the nation’s total household income in 1979. The comparison is far starker for the super-rich, the top 1 percent….In 1979 the top 1 percent of American received 10 percent of the nation’s total income, by 2006 this figure had more than doubled, to over 22.8 percent. The top 1 percent of American families now take home one-quarter to one-fifth of all of the household income generated by society.

Judson says that “extreme economic inequality ultimately leads to political instability and often revolution.” He says that historically revolutions have been set off when the middle class begins to feel that government no longer serves their needs. As long as a society has a thriving middle class, it is protected from such upheavals.

Now we have the case of Joseph Stack, who flew his private plane into a government building, claiming he was acting out of desperation. Will we see more such incidents as the middle class continues to suffer and the super-rich continue to be propped up by our government with our tax money? Yves at Naked Capitalism asks whether this is the beginning of a “violent backlash.” I was struck by this exchange she had with a commenter on her post:

Brian says:
February 18, 2010 at 8:03 pm
Your post seems unnecessarily partisan and mean-spirited. Do you find it ironic that you are contributing to the general level of anxiety and anger? The pitting of the people against each other using generic labels to divide and conquer?

◦ Yves Smith says:
February 18, 2010 at 8:14 pm
Wake up and smell the coffee. We’ve had 30 years of stagnant real worker wages, rising levels of consumer debt to cover that fact and buy social assent, and a grotesque increase in income inequality (our income distribution is now the most extreme of any advanced economy).

If the folks at the top of the food chain were suffering along with the general populace, it would be a completely different story. To pretend that people are not angry, and worse, to pretend that the anger is not justified, is wrongheaded. Saying that does not constitute support for random acts of violence. But a normally complacent American populace is increasingly roused by the spectacle of continued, unabashed looting.

Judson also points out that collapse doesn’t have to come from revolution. If we continue spending all our money on wars and letting our infrastructure deteriorate and our industrial base be destroyed, we may still collapse like the Soviet Union did or we could end up in a dictatorship as Germany did after the country was devastated by World War I.

Judson started a website, Americans for Economic Equality to support the information in his book with background information and links to new articles that related to the case he is trying to make. From what I can tell, it appears that Judson is no liberal–he is trying to warn the powers that be that they are headed for a fall.

At this link you can listen to an interview with Judson on NPR’s On Point, and here is a Huffpo piece by Judson in which he includes a transcription of a part of that interview.

I didn’t read Stack’s suicide note until yesterday, so I had gotten an impression that the guy must have been mentally ill. When I read what he wrote, I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t really think he sounded “incoherent” and “rambling,” as so many reports were claiming.

There have been a number of interesting reactions to Stack’s manifesto. Lambert had an interesting take on it. I liked Glenn Greenwald’s piece on it also. Like me, Lambert and Greenwald didn’t find the manifesto incoherent–Greenwald called it “perfectly cogent.”

This morning I came across this piece in Slate by Dave Cullen, who spent years researching the Columbine massacre: Seven Deadly Traits – Decoding the confession of the Austin plane bomber. Cullen finds similarities between in Stack’s manifesto and that of Eric Harris, one of the Columbine shooters; he also finds differences between the two suicidal killers:

I’ve spent 11 years studying routes to mass murder, in particular for a book on the Columbine school shootings, and it’s startling how similar all the manifestos sound. Many of Stack’s passages were practically lifted right out of the diatribes of Eric Harris, the Columbine mastermind. Yet while the notes are the same, the tune is not. Harris was a textbook psychopath, and Stack doesn’t read that way at all. Stack has more empathy, less callousness, and none of the vicious desire to torment others for enjoyment. There are echoes of Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui here, but Stack forms coherent thoughts and speaks rationally. He gives no indication of insanity. Instead, Stack shares Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh’s disgust with intrusive government and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski’s angry frustration at “the system.”

Each of those killers were [sic] driven by different motives. Yet they shared hallmark traits of a man headed off the rails. I spoke with several experts in mass murder Thursday, and we identified seven deadly traits of impending danger in Stack’s manifesto.

In the end, I’m not sure that all these “scientific” classifications of people’s motives will matter. If we get enough of them, we will be in the state of social unrest that Bruce Judson warns of. And then what? We could get a violent crackdown by the government. We could get a new new Deal {dreaming….}. We could get governmental collapse. We certainly do live in interesting times.

So what are you all reading this morning? Please share in the comments.


72 Responses

  1. Flying a plane into a building full of people is not very “empathic.”

    As far as goofing around for three hours – good for you! I’ve found the last few days that surfing is a great way to recuperate from a cold I’m getting over :-).

  2. I came across this interesting blog post on Twitter:

    Top 1%: Lower Tax Rate Than Their Secretaries

  3. 80% of today’s delininquent homeowners will lose their homes–6 million in all

  4. Thanks, bb. The growing economic disparity has to have consequences.

    Here’s a race I’m following since I’m in PA:

    “U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak stands by claim White House offered him a job to keep him out of primary against Arlen Specter”


  5. Thank you for posting Glenzilla’s link, BB. I had been eager to read his views about it all.

    I’m still “taking it all in,” given that Glen’s post are always complicated, but I think he’s right: defining “terrorist,” outside of just the president & executive branch deciding, will be a challenge for the country.

    He also says that slapping the term “terrorist” on Slack (while not condoning his choice) results in the media brushing off the cogent arguments made in his manifesto.

    I can certainly understand the Pakistani families whose loved ones are killed in our drone attacks, viewing US as terrorists, too.

    Anyway, thanks for sending me to Glenzilla’s musings….they always make people think.

  6. Thanks for the interpretation of Stack’s note. I didn’t find it too far afield either. He just hit the end of his rope and exploded. I fear this may be repeated many times if things don’t change. In fact, I imagine it already has been happening but not in a way which would have made big news.

    • There have been a lot of suicides and murder-suicides lately because of economic problems. This is just a very dramatic one and the guy left a manifesto behind. I think we will see more of this if the government keeps ignoring the needs of the middle and working classes.

      • This is a great post. It’s really thought provoking. I read Yves’ post too and was wondering how long it will take before we see more civil unrest and less tea partying. I think that when some of those tea partyers figure out they’re just being placed on the Republican mailing list and not much else, there could be hell to pay.

    • I think that’s right. And I blogged about it this AM:


      The similarity between Stack’s breakdown and some of the 1980’s farm crisis suicides is chilling…. I was immediately taken back to those memories. Deja Vu.

      Suicide rates ARE up. Among U.S. farmers and construction workers, it appears. Who cares? But now an engineering contractor snaps and commits a heinous crime? No way!

      • Yeah, I was thinking of that Michael Douglas movie where the white guy takes it out on the korean grocer … that was a similar bad economic period, the early Reagan years where the gutting of the middle class took root.

    • I said the same thing on an earlier post.

      After reading what is now being called, “Stacks manifesto” I also came away feeling that this man had hit a deep funk and snapped.

      Was it right that he decided to take others with him?


      But people that snap in this way usually take others with him.

      I think this is why the FBI wanted this taken off the Internet. My belief was that the FEDS do not want to encourage others to do what this man did. His rant, in some ways, hits too close to home with others in the same situation this man found himself in.

      • I’m just glad he didn’t succeed in killing as many people as he hoped. It’s a shame that one other person died.

      • Agree, Red. And the FBI wanted the media to run with the “isolated nut” image, rabid tea-partier (which he was not) narrative.

        More and more of his friends coming out to say they never saw him lose his temper, argue politics, or any of that. Band members describe him as easy-going, regular guy. They were stunned when they found out it was him.

        Glenn’s post analyzes the manifesto— says it’s quite populist, against corporate bailouts, pro “little man”—-some ideas similar to tea party, some ideas quite liberal (anti-Bush, pro universal healthcare, etc).

        Like you, I think he just snapped.

        I fear we’ll see more and more of this with time. And not because of any political ideology.

  7. (snort) Incoherent? Not at all. . . BB, this is a great post!

  8. Just received my latest DNC mailing “2010 Presidential Survey.”

    • No additional commentary needed…

      • It’s now at least being labeled honestly as Health “Insurance” Reform and not Health “Care” Reform. Although, honestly, it should be Health Insurance Profits Enabling Act.

      • “Leaders such as you” is true in this one case, SOD, so please
        let him know what your thoughts are and share them with us.

    • (gagging) Actually, I was gagging last year. This year? It doesn’t matter quite so much — at least it’s not an emotional shock.

      SoD — this comment really should be a post. How the evolution of the DNC priorities leaves us without a voice.

      • too bad I already made confetti out of the prior years mailing.

      • Oh shit, I forgot to mention that Tim Kaine is touting that under Obama

        “our financial institutions and investment markets are being better regulated.”

        Someone better check the punchbowl at DNC headquarters.

  9. Listening to a clip of Tiger Woods “apology” from yesterday. Insincere doesn’t begin to describe how he sounds. It sounds like he’s reading a note written by his mother. And never seen by him at all ’till he started reading it aloud.

    • I wonder who made him do that. He must be on some 12 step program and that’s on the checklist.

      • This is what the media demands in the realty TV age, I guess. There’s nothing wrong with the 12 steps–if he really means it. He is in an inpatient addiction program.

        • He is in a 12 step-type program – I think he really felt he had to do it in order to satisfy the media and get them off his wife and kids backs – they were actually following the little one each day to nursery school – cheesh – pooperootzie 👿

  10. I’ve got a new post up at Eat4Today – Saturday, What a difference a rule makes Stop by and tell us about the rules that help you.

  11. RE: the criminal motives reference, I think it’s important to look at criminal from both a psychological and a victimology and motive perspective to gain a well-rounded understanding. Not all crazy people commit murder, and not all people with motive do either.

    • What is your take on this one, based on your studies of criminal profiling? The piece by Dave Cullen that I linked to made some pretty good arguments, I thought.

      • It’s all that persecution complex stuff you posted something about him being profiled as a narcissist. I’ve noticed an increase in narcissitic behavior.

        IMHO, it’s all driven by our out-of-control consumer-driven, profit-driven culture. So many people WANT what they are told they SHOULD have but can’t have or can’t afford. They come to believe they are entitled to it. They believe they are a failure if you can’t be a millionaire and live a life of riches. Their whole sense of self is tied to unattainable goals. Then, when they fall short of those goals, their misplaced locus of control leads them to blame others and they seek a twisted justice.

        I don’t believe this is the same thing as the rise in crime associated with bad economic conditions. If you use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to separate and categorize the crimes, some are at the bottom level of seeking to survive; others are trying to feed ego needs.

        That’s the sociological and psychological aspect of such crimes that interests me. The victimology and motive component is tied to that in that those that “blame” others are somehow seeking twisted justice.

        As a society we need to address the sociological along with the psychological aspects. Those who need help to survive should be given that help (and by survival I mean that in a broad sense); and those who have had their expectations and locus of control skewed by their conditioning should also be addressed.

        • As for Stacks, I believe he falls into the narcissitic, ego-driven, messed-up locus of control, twisted justice categoryl.

        • Yet his complaints against the government made sense. I agreed with a lot of them. The point that I tried to make in talking about Judson’s book is that it is the middle class, not the poor, that usually leads revolutions.

          Stack wasn’t the type to be a leader–he was to self-centered and isolated. But we will see more of these fameouts by middle-class people. The crimes that poor people commit are for survival–the government doesn’t really care. But what will the goverment do when the middle-class rises up?

          • The only distinction I would make, from what I’ve read about Stacks, is that his sense of entitlement and locus of control was out of whack. His actions were as you said self-centered and so not the type of middle-class backlash that fuels revolution.

            The powers that be have carefully crafted a “me first” society to hamper the type of unifying spirit that drove the working class to rebel in the 18th century. It’s been centuries in the making, but they’ve done a good job.

  12. Bush lawyers cleared of any “misconduct” in torture memo flap by Obama DOJ.


    Quietly reported on a Saturday morning.

  13. Check this out. A guy in Moscow, Ohio bulldozed his foreclosed home (video w/interview).


    • They were taking his home to pay for debts on his small business. That’s why you have to incorporate these days.

      • Small business entrepreneurialism is the elusive dream anymore. Only the big boyz are allowed to play.

    • I read a story about this guy yesterday. Apparently he had financing to pay up to $170K for the $160K he owed on the home but the bank wouldn’t take it. They could make more money by foreclosing on the home. If true, that’s just sick.

      • The home was an asset held against the business problems. He wasn’t even behind on house payments or anything. They were taking the home to pay off his bad business debt.

        • The story I read was his debt was $160k and the bank wouldn’t accept a 3rd party paying it off for him. I don’t know for sure though.

  14. Stack was in country ‘n western band.


  15. Since the ability to own and control air has not been accomplished by any technology to date, look for them to take control of our water. It’s only a matter of time.

  16. http://www.pjtv.com/v/3115

    I know this film is made by a conservative site, but the question needs to be looked at by all Americans.
    During the depression due to FDR great things were built in this country. Why is today we can not rebuild after 9-11 or Katrina in a safe and timely manner? Americans have always been hard working and willing to make the country greater. What is different now? Why the government failure to do as the people want and HELP people rebuild?



    • Just to add……I’m reading that the WH version of healthcare reform to be announced Monday, will NOT include public option.

      I think we all know Obama pretty much took that off the table from the gitgo, and that he supported the Senate Bill all along.

      I wonder how the 30-or-so Democrats now supporting the PO will respond?

    • Good post, Lambert — thanks for sharing the link.

  17. Reid: Dems will use 50-vote tactic to finish healthcare within 60 days

    “I’ve had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi,” Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” in Nevada. “And we’re really trying to move forward on this.”

    The majority leader said that while Democrats have a number of options, they would likely use the budget reconciliation process to pass a series of fixes to the first healthcare bill passed by the Senate in November. These changes are needed to secure votes for passage of that original Senate bill in the House.

    “We’ll do a relatively small bill to take care of what we’ve already done,” Reid said, affirming that Democrats would use the reconciliation process. “We’re going to have that done in the next 60 days.”

    Does that mean Stupak-Nelson is out?

    The Senate bill saves 45,000 poor (men) at the expense of ALL WOMEN (Stupak-Nelson). Because face it: 45,000 poor women would be a special interest group.

    • 50 Democratic Senators including Reid plus Biden and Obama means no trace of Stupak-Nelson in the bill, right?

      Unless. They’re. Not. Really. Democrats.

  18. Yes, I agree that narcissism has alot to do with it. And why does this guy get special consideration because he flew a plane into a building. Would we be pouring over his coherent ramblings if he ended his life with a shotgun after emailing his message to the local paper.

    Not really related, but everyday I become less clear on what big P progressives supposedly stand for…what distinguishes their views from traditional liberals. Who speaks for them…Arianna, Greenwald, Howard Dean? And how long have Progressives been railing against wealth disparity in America. For that matter, why aren’t the tea parties attacking Wall Street. Where is this revolution coming from. I’m guessing most of the country is watching the Olympics and talking about their American idols. It’s like Obamania in reverse. Dissipation.

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