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?

Reply
◦ 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.

AND HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!

Friday Morning News and Views

TGIF and Good morning, Conflucians! Yesterday afternoon, right before WordPress crashed, we were having a discussion about whether Joseph Stack smashing a plane into a government building should be considered domestic terrorism. I said yes. According to the MSNBC, the Feds say the government building was deliberately targeted. David Niewert, author of a book on right wing militias, seems Stack’s act should be considered terrorism.

Huh? Since when is attempting to blow up a federal building NOT an act of domestic terrorism? In response to a Fox News claim that it was not terrorism Niewert writes:

…this is true only if the conventional understanding of the word “terrorism” has now been narrowed down to mean only international terrorism and to preclude domestic terrorism altogether.

Since when, after all, is attempting to blow up a federal office as a protest against federal policies NOT an act of domestic terrorism?

You know, Timothy McVeigh used a “dangerous instrument” to kill 168 people in Oklahoma City. He too was angry at the federal government, and was converted to the belief that acts of violence was the only means possible to prevent the government from overwhelming our freedom and replacing it with tyranny. He also believed that his act of exemplary violence would inspire others to take up similar acts to stave off the threat of tyranny.

And that’s exactly what Joseph Andrew Stack believed too:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. … I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.

According to Niewert,

There are different kinds terrorism…. There’s international terrorism. Then there’s domestic terrorism, sometimes conducted by a larger conspiracy, and sometimes conducted by small cells like McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and lone wolves like Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder and James Von Brunn.

All of these acts fit the FBI’s twin definition of terrorism:

Domestic terrorism refers to activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. [18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)]

International terrorism involves violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any state, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or any state. These acts appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.

I agree with Niewert that if we don’t call what Stack and Roeder did “terrorism,” then we should redefine the term to mean only violence committed by foreigners. That doesn’t make much sense to me.

My new junior Senator, Scott Brown seems to think Stack may have been justified in his rage against the Feds. In his appearance on Cavuto yesterday, he didn’t express any outrage at the violence committed by Stack.

Dick Cheney showed up at the CPAC conference yesterday.

“I think Barack Obama is a one term president,” he told a roaring crowd. “It’s a great time to be a conservative.”

Liz Cheney also came out swinging in her conference address.

“There’s no polite way to put this, but that kind of incompetence gets people killed,” Cheney said, accusing the Obama administration of missing warnings from the intelligence community that Yemeni terrorists were plotting an attack.

“There is no doubt that the daily intelligence briefings that the president receives contained much more information on the threat from Yemen,” she said, without a hint of irony at the failures of the Bush-Cheney years, bemoaning “incompetence, misjudgment and presidential neglect.”

WTF?! Dick and Liz seem to have completely forgotten about the August 6, PDB that was ignored by President George W. Bush and was followed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. As I recall, those attacks killed close to 3,000 people.

There is also lots of new Amy Bishop news, which I’ll address in another post. But this story is really strange: Lawyer: Alabama Professor Likely Insane According the WSJ story, Bishop’s court-appointed attorney, Roy W. Miller thinks she has paranoid schizophrenia. This doesn’t sound anything like schizophrenia to me.

Miller said Bishop seems “very cogent” in jail, where he has spent more than three hours with her over two days, yet she also seems to realize she has a loose grip on reality.

“She gets at issue with people that she doesn’t need to and obsesses on it,” Miller said. “She won’t shake it off, and it’s really (things of) no great consequence.”

Bishop, who claims an IQ of 180, can’t explain the shootings, he said.

“She says she does not remember anything about it,” said Miller.

The chief prosecutor in Huntsville said he would not oppose a mental evaluation for Bishop, 45.

Admittedly, people with paranoid schizophrenia can function better in the world than people with other types of schizophrenia, but to suggest that someone with this terrible illness could earn a Ph.D. from Harvard, complete a postdoc, and work for years as a university professor while doing scientific research and publishing peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals? That’s nuts.

Schizophrenia strikes young people–usually people in their late teens and early twenties. People with any type of schizophrenia do not come off as “very cogent” in personal interactions. They have auditory and sometimes visual hallucinations and extremely bizarre delusions.

I think it’s more likely that Bishop is suffering from borderline personality disorder. That would explain her difficulties getting along with other people, her rage attacks, and her lapses into dissociative states. Someone with BPD would not be likely to qualify as legally insane, meaning that she didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. Some people have called her a sociopath (now called anti-social personality disorder). I don’t think so, because there is evidence that she agonized over having killed her brother.

Stateofdisbelief came across this story which, if it happens would be wonderful: EXCLUSIVE: Obama Eyes Western Land for National Monuments, Angering Some

More than a dozen pristine landscapes, wildlife habitats and scenic rivers in 11 Western states, some larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, are under consideration by the Obama administration to become America’s newest National Monuments — a decision the administration can make unilaterally without local input or congressional approval.

According to internal Department of Interior documents leaked to a Utah congressman and obtained exclusively by Fox News, the mostly public lands include Arizona deserts, California mountains, Montana prairies, New Mexico forests, Washington islands and the Great Basins of Nevada and Colorado — totaling more than 13 million acres.

What are you reading this morning?

HAVE A FABULOUS FRIDAY EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!


UPDATE:

Now a “famous criminal profiler” has come forward to diagnose Joseph Stack as a “‘self-loathing’ narcissist.”

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