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Be Brave, Scotland

Update: Check out this Trendsmap from today’s vote for independence in Scotland.  It’s a real-time interactive map tracking people who voted Yes.  Pretty cool. It looks like the Yes vote is turning out strongly.


Go, Scotland, Change your feet, er, fate.


And now a word from one of our Scottish ancestors, Thomas Jefferson, from his most famous work, The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

We average citizens have put up with a lot in the last 6 years since the bankers blew up the world.  There  will be (has been) a lot of handwringing about currency and oil revenues and fear.  I suspect all people who choose independence face similar fears.  Will it be ok afterwards?  Can we still be friends?  How will I make a living?

But if you don’t choose independence, you have to live with the current system- indefinitely.  And abusers never stay contrite for long.

Set an example for the rest of us.  Our midterms come up in November when we will have our own chance to throw the bums out.


Independence Day News

Happy Independence Day Conflucians!!

On this day in 1776 the second continental congress of the 13 colonies officially accepted a document to be used to sever ties with Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was signed and published soon thereafter. And of course not long after was a war for that independence, a revolutionary war. PBS that hosts the Capital Fourth celebration has a nice page with a brief history, including his quote from Thomas Jefferson in 1826 on the 50th anniversary:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. … For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

The Library of Congress has the document along with many related manuscripts, letters, and documents of the time. From the text, let’s revisit parts of it:

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

Among the grievances then listed are a few worth noting:

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

And then finally closes with:

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

What brave and brilliant people. They later formed a government and a constitution. And, to quote genesis, it was very good.

We’ve certainly come a long way since then. There have always been controversies, there have been wars, even a major civil war. There have been many, many corrupt politicians, and there have been disasters. But in recent years we have had some larger than life events that have shaken us to our foundation. We had a corrupt president who after impeached resigned in disgrace. We had a very questionable arms for hostages trading behind the scenes by people running for office that helped them get elected. We had an opposing party go on an endless witch hunt of a sitting president as a political tactic. We had a presidential election decided by the supreme court, with embarrassingly obvious conflicts of interest, selecting the loser of that election to be president. We’ve seen illegal wars for oil and profit a number of times, including our current wars. And finally in the latest blow to our system, we have someone who lost his party primaries but was installed by that party’s leaders nonetheless. He was backed when he was unheard of by major financial, insurance, and oil companies to the tune of more money than any established politician. And who has turned out to be a corporatist, uncaring, detached leader with seemingly endless disdain for the citizens. And further, we have two political parties that are effectively the same, owned by the same interests, making the whole system into a cruel joke.

How did this happened, and what do we do about it? Where is the press? As we saw from Myiq’s post last night, we’ve lost some of our rights of a free press and free speech to a British corporation on the orders of this president. Irony much. It’s now a federal crime look closely at what’s happening with the worst ecological (and probably soon financial) disaster this country has even seen. How can this be?

On top of that we are still in two wars, possibly heading to a third. We are still torturing “enemies.” We are still using rendition to get people into countries where it is easier to torture them. And now we have hit lists of dozens and dozens of US citizens marked for assassination. And we still have not regained habeas corpus, so US citizens can still be taken away in the night for any reason, including for asking too many questions.

How did this happen? How could an unknown, empty suit puppet, obviously owned and controlled by a few powerful corporations, with absolutely no experience get to be president? What kind of people would allow such a thing? Would gladly want such a thing? For those in the mainstream media that participated and helped this happen, and those in the Democratic party leadership that killed democracy and helped this happen, and those in the progressive blogosphere that fought tooth and nail for this to happen, how can you sleep at night? How can you stand there and watch everything unravel and continue to act as if you’re surprised? Or worse, continue to rationalize and excuse as if there is some secret plan? There is a hit list for assassinating US citizens for gods sake, it doesn’t get any more blatant than that. Wake up!

Just like with Reagan/Bush, just like with GW Bush, and just like with Obama, many of us saw this happening and screamed at the top of our lungs. We warned you. We told you so. We screamed. We argued. We proved our case. Each and every time. We are tired of screaming. It’s time for the rest of you to wake up and instead of carrying water for the corporatists hell bent on squeezing every last cent and rights from us, carry water for our country instead. Wake up!

As you can see, I got myself on a bit of a rant. Sure it started out nice all about the declaration, but then I started thinking about our current state of affairs and just got pissed off. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a picnic and hope beyond hope that people can still wake up and do better. We did have 8 years of Clinton, though still a bit conservative for me, did quite a few great things and took the job seriously. As if it mattered. So just maybe we can turn around before it’s too late. I’ll end on that tiny sliver of hope. And this song that John Lennon thought was one of the most perfect songs ever written. In this case, for me, it’s about my country:

Please chime in with any news. Yea, I kind of skipped that bit. And chime in with any good things you can find out there. I could use it.

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.


The Culture of Cannibalism in US Politics: The Triumph of The Cyclop’s Values Over Democratic Citizenship

{The first essay in this series introduced a model I created to explain the cycle of corruption that plagues US politics. This essay looks into the roots of this corruption. It takes a long time to get to the payoff. Further, the conclusion is somewhat ex nihilo if you have not read the first essay. This said, for those who dare, I hope you find it worth the read.}

Polyphemos the cyclops would have eaten Odysseus, if his survival was dependent on the moral virtues of Silenus’s satyrs. Fortunately for Odysseus, and Silenus and his lot, Odysseus could depend on his fellow citizens. If Polyphemos had the majority of America’s elected representatives depending on him for their survival in his cave, the way that they are presently beholden to lobbyists’ money for their electoral survival, he could have had a ready supply of citizens for his daily meals.

Cyclopean virtues regularly triumph over the virtues of democratic citizenship in the political landscape of the United States. Given that the Declaration of Independence embodies the spirit and principles that ground the virtues of democratic citizenship, why is it that cyclopes, who eat humans, win the day in America? Answering this question requires that we journey back to Attic Greece and her proto-democratic foundations. Continue reading

I Refuse to Be Invisible; I Will Not Be Silenced.


On election night I followed the returns on The Confluence. I simply couldn’t stand to watch television or even listen to Fox News on my XM radio receiver. Watching the electoral votes pile up for Barack Obama, I just felt numb. I went to sleep knowing that I cannot do what I did after Reagan was elected or after the debacle in 2000.

Back in the ’80s, I simply shut off the media and ignored politics completely. I went into my shell, read books, went to movies and just tried to stay sane as my country was dismantled before my eyes. Even though I tried not to pay attention to what was happening in Washington D.C., I saw the results of Reagan’s policies as homeless people appeared in the streets of Boston and surrounding towns. Early in the morning, even in the dead of winter, I saw people sleeping in their cars in a Star Market parking lot in Porter Square and a big open space next to Memorial Drive near Harvard Square.

After the debacle in Florida in 2000 and George W. Bush’s appointment by the Supreme Court, I again shut of the TV and refused to read newspapers for awhile. But this time I couldn’t shut it all out. What was happening was just too scary. Especially fter 9/11, I had to pay attention. What I saw was a bloodless coup by large, multinational corporations. I realized that my country was really an oligarchy now. Elections are only a pretense, a sop to the masses to make us feel as if we actually have something to say about what happens in our country. Continue reading