Tag Archives | America

The Prescience of Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville Public Domain

Alexis de Tocqueville was amazingly observant and had an outsider perspective of American democracy. He was a deposed French Aristocrat from Normandy whose ancestors had fought in the battle of Hastings. His parents narrowly escaped the guillotine during the French Revolution. He came to America initially to study the Penal system but ended up writing his magnum opus Democracy in America, instead. He believed that democracy was providential, nonetheless, he expressed ambivalence to it. He observed then, that in contrast to his home country, America was beginning its democratic experiment with more or less a blank slate, whereas in France it had to establish itself over the legacy of aristocracy. So he often contrasted and compared American democracy with aristocracy.

I think of writers of Tocqueville’s era – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Mellville – as having greater social intelligence. They seem a lot more invested than today’s writers in what they believed made individual people tick.… Read the rest

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How To Read USA Today

More from the just-deceased Neil Smith -- a classic dissection of how to properly read and understand the USA Today newspaper:
Each edition of USA Today has four seperate sections aimed at the broadest possible appeal -- there's News, Money, Sports, Life -- who could object to that?  
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Virginia Man Kills Himself And His Family Over Fear Of Obama’s Reelection

A wealthy defense contractor and devout Christian from suburban Washington, D.C. fatally shot his wife, his children, and himself over fears of Barack Obama’s winning a second term, the Daily Mail reports:

Albert Peterson shot dead his wife and two sons hours after going to church because he dreaded the thought of Obama winning the election, a family friend has revealed.

A confidante of the family for the past 25 years has spoken to MailOnline about the strength and grace of the Peterson family, as well as the torment that plagued Albert which drove him to shoot dead his wife Kathleen and his two sons Christopher and Mathew at their suburban home in DC on Sunday.

A history of mental illness and a growing fear of Obama winning a second term in the White House took its toll on the mind of Mr Peterson, a wealthy defense contractor, the friend said.

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The Lessons of Medieval Venice: Will the Elite Strangle America’s Prosperity?

The Christian Science Monitor talks with Why Nations Fail co-author Daron Acemoglu, who says that medieval Venice could offer some helpful parallels in understanding threats that could undermine America’s future:

Americans on the left worry about the self-serving political clout of Wall Street and big banks, while Americans on the right worry about the self-serving clout of big public employee unions like Wisconsin’s teachers.

“Those are well-placed fears. But both historically and in the United States, the bigger threat has come not from the unions but from specific groups of employers. Only in a few societies – for example, in England in the 1970s – have unions become so strong and so well organized and presented a uniform enough interest to really block technological change.”

The prime example is the political power of the financial industry, illustrated by the skill in which it came through the last financial crash without the significant rule changes that usually follow big crashes.

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The Naming Of America

Happy Fourth of July! Native American Netroots provides some perspective on the meaning of ‘America’:

America was named on April 25, 1507 after the Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci made at least two voyages across the Atlantic… [the] first voyage was in 1499 when he sailed with Alonso de Hojeda.

While Columbus might be characterized as a religious fanatic who could hardly speak or write without invoking the Christian God and dwelling fervently on his personal relationship with this God, Vespucci almost never referred to God. Religion was never very high on the scale of values to which Vespucci had been exposed. While he undoubtedly learned a little about the Christian God as a child, he seems to have forgotten all of this by the time he was an adult.

Unlike Columbus, Vespucci never waged war on the natives, nor did he found any colonies. He never commanded a fleet or even led an expedition.

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150 Million Americans are in Poverty

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West discuss their new book on Democracy Now!:
The latest census data shows nearly one in two Americans, or 150 million people, have fallen into poverty — or could be classified as low income. We’re joined by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley, who continue their efforts to spark a national dialog on the poverty crisis with the new book, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.
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Is Democracy An Illusion?

Karl MarxJohn Stoehr writes on Al Jazeera:

In the US, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class.

Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas are usually the ideas of the people in charge. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview.

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Nothing Happens Unless White Folks Say So

redhook summerJames Mcbride, co-writer of Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer,’ has penned a pull-no-punches open letter to Hollywood, detailing some serious issues on race and representation in cinema, and what it means to be a storyteller in an overtly commercial studio system. Via Colorlines.

The reviews for Spike Lee’s film “Red Hook Summer” that premiered at Sundance earlier this week have not been good. His comments made after the premiere about Hollywood studios knowing “nothing about black people” made more headlines than the actual film.

An open letter published yesterday by “Red Hook” co-writer, James McBride, is sure to make even more headlines because he takes the film community to task and says “nothing in this world happens unless white folks says it happens.”

Below is an excerpt from McBride’s open letter on the 40 Acres and a Mule website:

Three days ago, at the premiere of “Red Hook Summer” at The Sundance Film Festival, Spike, usually a cool and widely accepting soul whose professional life is as racially diverse as any American I know- lost his cool for 30 seconds.

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America’s Bad Girlfriend: Mossad Agents Impersonate CIA To Foment Trouble In Iran

Mossad_sealAnother sad one. I think everybody’s had a Crazy Girlfriend at some time in their youth. It’s all thrills and drama before you’re mature enough to realize that the untraceable charges for men’s clothing on your cedit card and cryptic messages on your answering machine are signs of a deep, deep feeback loop of Daddy Problems, self-loathing and manipulation. Unwitingly you’ve signed yourselves up to play the roles of abuse victim/avenger and rescuer/cuckold.

Few of us have had totally ideal childhoods, but self-aware people usually get past this stuff by the time they’ve graduated college. The scipts get more and more alike and the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in.

If you’re altruistic types you’ll try to talk through the whole thing rationally before retreating to your separate corners in order to get your heads together. Ideally you’ll be able to part on friendly terms, but more often there are some undignified scenes ahead, complete with gouged eye sockets and your shame forever documented in a police report.… Read the rest

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The Trouble With Too Much Democracy

US_Government_Accountability_Office_sealIs America’s bigger problem the economic decline or it’s political decay? Andrew Potter writes in Axis of Logic:

The most telling moment of the recent standoff over talks to raise the American government’s debt ceiling came on July 22, when President Barack Obama called a press conference to announce that House Speaker John Boehner had backed out of the negotiations. “I’ve been left at the altar twice now,” Obama pouted. In case the image of the President as a jilted lover was not clear to everyone watching, he added that he had spent the previous day waiting for Boehner to return his phone calls.

The whole affair has left a lot of Americans in a state of bipartisan disgust, with citizens from all points on the political compass cursing out their elected representatives. Yet it doesn’t seem to have occurred to many people that there is something structurally flawed with a system that allows the head of just one legislative house to treat the supposed leader of the free world as his last choice for the senior prom.

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