Category Archives: America


Palin would clearly like images like these to disappear down the memory hole.  You won’t find them at any of her sites after today.  This suggests a guilty conscience.  Because if they really didn’t have anything to do with today’s murderous assault (which will no doubt be the endlessly repeated talking point), then why must they be made to disappear?


Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is dead is in critical condition.  Others are  reported to have died, including a nine year old girl.  Above is a campaign notice from Giffords’s Tea Party opponent last summer.

Andrew Sullivan is live-blogging on developments here.

The Right’s Eliminationist Rhetoric

Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head today in Tuscon.  At least eleven others were injured.  It may be that five of them, including the congresswoman, have died.

When the graphic above was released by Sarah Palin’s political action committee last year, it caused a stir, and it’s not difficult to see why.  The political “targets” here are literally in the cross-hairs.  Today one of them was targeted for assassination.

The eliminationist rhetoric of the right is not new.  It’s been around for a while, and it was just a matter of time before someone decided that it is not merely a figure of speech.  “Traitors” get what’s coming to them eventually.

What is most disturbing about the Palin graphic is how she personalizes it — “Join Me Today.”  That’s not an abstraction.  That’s a cult of personality with a more or less open agenda for violence.  So, okay, Sarah.  We’re going to hold You accountable.

Not that it will likely make much difference.  Advocates on the far right have been laying the groundwork for this day by repeating for months now that the “left” will be responsible for any occurrence of violence because it has been baiting its antagonists.  Glenn Beck has said so explicitly and repeatedly — he did so as recently as yesterday.  Everyone will scramble to deny this, and just enough people will buy into the denial.

I’m calling this one in the air: those most guilty of this egregious behavior will produce pious statements of sadness while denying that their words are in any way responsible.  Within the week Fox News will be asking some form of the question, “Did the Democrats bring this on themselves?”  Any effort to link the assassination to violent rhetoric on the right will be drowned out by escalating squeals of indignation.

At this point, the script just about writes itself.  We already know how this goes.

Quote of the Day: Wikileaks, Assassination Threats and Tyranny

“Whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they have not been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. Yet look what has happened to them. They have been removed from the Internet … their funds have been frozen … media figures and politicians have called for their assassination and to be labeled a terrorist organization. What is really going on here is a war over control of the Internet, and whether or not the Internet can actually serve its ultimate purpose—which is to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions,” – Glenn Greenwald.

All of this is disturbing.  But the most troubling thing about it is the fact that “media figures and politicians” are actually calling for the death of Julian Assange and people associated with him because they are “terrorists.” The situation has quickly become so grotesque that the routine weighing-in of Sarah Palin  (idiotically characterizing the leak as a “treasonous” act, even though Assange is Australian and operates out of Europe) is now the least of our worries.  After the normalization of torture under the Bush administration, it seems that anything goes.

Rounding out our references today to Fearful Symmetry, here’s Frye reminding us about an aspect of the human condition we complacently tend to overlook:

Tyranny is seldom (in the long run, never) imposed on people from without; it is a projection of their own pusillanimity.  Tyranny and mob rule are the same thing. (CW 14, 63)

Or, as Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founders whom Teabaggers like to cite as though they owned the copyright, said at the birth of the American republic: “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”

Neil Young


“Heart of Gold,” performed live in 1971 (sorry for the weird and inexplicable first five seconds of this clip)

Today is Neil Young‘s birthday (born 1945).  Young seems to make a point of being known as Canadian (there’s the Toronto Maple Leafs patch he prominently displays on his jeans in concert, for starters).  His more than forty year long career has always been based in the U.S.  But he has never sought American citizenship and lives about half the year in Canada.

That’s gratifying to know and to say.  But it may also be beside the point, as Frye suggests in “Levels of Cultural Identity”:

I suppose that nowhere in the world is there a relationship between two countries even remotely like that of Canada and the United States.  The full awareness of this relationship is largely confined to Canada, where it has churned up a great deal of speculation about “the Canadian identity,” the extent to which Canadians may be said to be different from non-Canadians, meaning, ninety percent of the time, Americans.  I am not concerned with this approach to the question, which seems to me futile and unreal.  A nation’s identity is (not “is in”) its cultural, and culture is a structure with several different levels.  On an elementary level there is culture in the sense of custom or life-style: the distinctive way that people eat, dress, talk, marry, play games, produce goods, and the like.  On this level culture in Canada, including both English and French Canada, has been practically identical with the northern part of American culture for a long time.  This fact is not, in my view, one of any great significance.  The time is past when we could speak of the “Americanizing” of this aspect of Canadian life.  What faces us now is the homogenizing of the entire world, including the United States, through twentieth-century technology.  Today Canadians, like other people, are hardly more Americanized in their lifestyle than they are Japanned or common-marketed.

Quote of the Day III: “Corporatism”

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Who does that sound more like?  Liberals or “conservatives”?  Barack Obama or Rupert Murdoch?

The quote is from the father of fascism, Benito Mussolini, who knew that the fascistic merger of state and corporate power involves authoritarian principles, not liberal ones.

Here’s a fun quiz.  Below is a short list of actual right wing organizations in the U.S.  However, one of them is a name Frye came up with in 1942 to describe an American fascist organization.  See if you can guess which one.

American Life League

American Society for Tradition, Family and Property

Coalition on Revival

Committee for Justice

Defenders of American Democracy

Eagle Forum

Plymouth Rock Foundation

Traditional Values Coalition

(The answer after the jump.)

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How Many Canadians Use American Health Care?

Every year my parents winter in Florida, and every year they are buttonholed by Americans who insist on telling them how bad Canadian health care is, and then get sniffy when assured that, no, no, it’s fine, the service is reliable and comprehensive and safe; no long waits, no preventable deaths caused by waiting.  Like universal health care everywhere else in the developed world, Canadian Medicare is vastly superior to the American system when it comes to access and cost of delivery (about half what it costs the Americans).  The Republicans are of course responsible for the canard that Canadian health care is all about nightmarish waiting lists, and that as a result desperate Canadian patients flood the U.S. border in search of relief (Republicans also insist on calling our system “socialized medicine,” which it is not).  Over the years they’ve successfully twisted the reality to fit their propagandized version of it for cynical, self-serving reasons.

But the quantifiable reality of the situation may startle even Canadians.  You can see it at a glance after the jump.

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Quote of the Day: “A weird and disorderly mob”

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi takes an in-depth look at the Tea Party.  He provides a history of the movement and gives an account of its corporate sponsorship, as well as — most crucially — its absorption by the Republican party.  It’s a grim story, but delivered with Taibbi’s characteristic knuckle-sandwich style.  The bad news is that the demagoguery that drives the Tea Party movement has given the Republicans a big boost for the midterms.  The good news is that the movement is also doomed: too many of its members are old and white and don’t live anywhere near a world of verifiable fact.  They are paranoid, resentment-driven and about as intellectually dishonest as it is possible to be, if the term “intellectually” can even be applied here.  And, although they haven’t yet figured it out, they’ve already been betrayed by their corporate puppet-masters.  The article, “Tea and Crackers,” can be read in its entirety here.  A sample:

So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul “Tea Parties,” but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey “unconstitutional” orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It’s a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement — which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. (“Not me — I was protesting!” is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Dick Armey, who explains that the problem with “people who do not cherish America the way we do” is that “they did not read the Federalist Papers.”) Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill “cracker babies,” support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called “White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo,” checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.

It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists. They’re completely blind to how offensive the very nature of their rhetoric is to the rest of the country. I’m an ordinary middle-aged guy who pays taxes and lives in the suburbs with his wife and dog — and I’m a radical communist? I don’t love my country? I’m a redcoat? Fuck you! These are the kinds of thoughts that go through your head as you listen to Tea Partiers expound at awesome length upon their cultural victimhood, surrounded as they are by America-haters like you and me or, in the case of foreign-born president Barack Obama, people who are literally not Americans in the way they are.

The Stewart-Colbert Conspiracy

You really have to ask yourself — with Fox News amping up the lies and the hysteria on a daily basis, with the “mainstream” of the Republican party now so demented that even Karl Rove is muttering nervously about it, and the Teabaggers endorsing a string of totally unqualified (and, one hopes, totally unelectable) candidates for the upcoming midterm elections — would we really have reason enough not to despair without Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

Watch Jon announcing his “Rally to Restore Sanity” here.

Watch Stephen announcing his “March to Keep Fear Alive” here.

They will, of course, be held on the same day, and in all likelihood be incorporated into a single event with the finesse that only Jon and Stephen seem capable of.

It’s at crucial moments like this that the masterly eirons in our midst remind us that no bully is too big not to brought down with a well-aimed blow.  (Yes, Glenn, we’re looking at you.)

United States Constitution

On this date in 1787 the U.S. Constitution was signed in Philadelphia.

Frye in The Secular Scripture:

America has a genuine social mythology in which beliefs in personal liberty, democracy, and equality before law have a central place.  Every major American writer will be found to have stuck his roots deeply into this serious social mythology, even if he advocates civil disobedience or makes speeches in a country with which America is at war.  Genuine social mythology, whether religious or secular, is also to be transcended, but transcendence here does not mean repudiating or getting rid of it, except in special cases.  It means rather an individual recreation of the mythology, a transforming of it from accepted social values into the axioms of one’s own activity.  (CW 18, 111)