James Carville’s shameful hypocrisy on the oil spill, and his ties to South America

James Carville has been all over the news lashing out at Obama for not being strong enough in his response to the BP oil disaster.  And with the news that the oil geyser will continue spewing its stuff until August, I don’t blame the man.  He is, after all, from Louisiana.

But for some reason I’m not convinced he’s being completely sincere.  In fact, Colombia held a presidential election yesterday and (this may seem somewhat bizarre if you don’t know much about him) Carville actually helped the establishment candidate who wants to encourage “foreign investment,” at a time when BP is considering offshore drilling in Colombia’s waters.

A political guru, frequent CNN pundit and a personality who was featured in the well known documentary The War Room, Carville moves in powerful circles in the U.S.  What’s less commonly known, however, is that Carville is also a virtual kingmaker in Latin America — indeed, his professional contacts have ranged from Mexico’s Ernesto Zedillo to Brazil’s Fernando Enrique Cardoso to many others.

Crossposted at DKos and other blogs

In an interesting article on CounterPunch, Nikolas Kozloff examines Carville’s ties to South America and his subsequent ties to the very company that (partially) caused the oil spill he crows about on TV.  With Kozloff reporting that a job in Bolivia – also connected to BP, as I will explain in a bit – netted about $30,000 a month for the man, it’s not hard to imagine why he didn’t have a problem with the company before this.

Somewhat strangely, after Clinton’s presidency, Carville became an international political consultant.  In what could probably be described as some weird new kind of imperialism, he brought American style politics (including reverence for a corporatist “free market” and militarism) to campaigns as diverse as Tony Blair’s in the UK, Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis’, the President of Panama’s, and now the establishment candidate’s in Colombia, among others.  As it is described on the website of “Democracy Corp,” the consulting firm Carville is part of:

Carville also has international campaign experience, having worked as a political advisor to Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis and done political work in Central and South America.

Kozloff goes into detail about Carville’s various stints in South and Central America, talking first about his role in Panama, then Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and now Colombia.  Aside from the highly questionable ethics of what Carville is doing (because of the fundamental undemocratic nature of it, among other aspects), his work in Colombia and Bolivia is of particular interest.

To back up a step, let’s just look at a few things Carville has said about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill…

“I do know, for too long, they were taking BP’s word for everything which turned out to be wrong at every junction.  It’s all turned out on the wrong side… I think the president has to address the nation.  His legacy depends on what happens with the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.”


“Man, you got to get down here and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this thing and get this moving. We’re about to die down here.”


“I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here,” he said. “They’re naive! BP is trying to save money, save everything they can… They won’t tell us anything, and oddly enough, the government seems to be going along with it! Somebody has got to, like shake them and say, ‘These people don’t wish you well! They’re going to take you down!'”


In Bolivia, Carville helped a president who was – at least for Bolivian politics, where the strong socialist Evo Moralez is now president – very favorable to “free markets,” Gonzalo S

Israel Navy opens fire on Gaza aid flotilla UPDATE

(It’s NOT a slow news day.  It’s not a slow history day, either. – promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

Some scenes on the Turkish IHH ship under attack.

New video UPDATE from CNN via Youtube.

It was report that at least 10 activists, perhaps as many as 14, were killed by Israel Navy personnel who opened fire on the Gaza aid flotilla, mainly the Turkish IHH ship, Mavi Marmari carrying over 350 Turkish peace activists, plus others including elected representatives from several other countries.

Over 60 activists were also reported wounded after six-ship convoy sailing for Gaza Strip ignored Israel’s order to turn back, Turkish news reported. Confirmation is difficult to obtain at this time. The IDF confirmed that two commandos were also wounded.

Source: Haaretz via the Associated Press and Reuters

Israel Navy troops opened fire on pro-Palestinian activists aboard a six-ship aid flotilla sailing for the Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 and wounding several others after the convoy ignored orders to turn back, Turkey’s NTV reported early Monday.

NTV said between 10 and 15 people were killed, with over 60 wounded.

The IDF also confirmed that two navy commandos had been wounded in fight, which apparently broke out after activists tried to sieze their weapons.

Earlier Monday, Al Jazeera reported that the Gaza aid flotilla had changed course to avoid a confrontation with Israeli warships. The Israeli naval vessels reportedly made contact earlier with the six-ship flotilla, which is carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza.

The Israeli navy was operating under the assumption that the activists manning the boats would not heed their calls to turn around, and Israeli troops were prepared to board the ships and steer them away from the Gaza shores and toward the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

It was reported that the attack came on Monday morning after one of the six ships in the convoy was hit (sic)by Israeli navy forces before being stormed by commandos descending from helicopters. The interception reportedly took place in international waters, more than 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

George Galloway spoke out in outrage from Houston, Texas:

Tweets from the convoy:

about 21 minutes ago Reports coming from Istanbul is that Turks are storming the Israeli embassy there in outrage over what Israel has done

about 38 minutes ago Israeli TV says that ten have been killed by Israeli gunfire.

about 42 minutes ago Israeli radio says wounded have been taken to hospital, but it is forbidden to tell anyone which hospital

about 45 minutes ago Israeli radio says that the boats are going to be hauled into Haifa. This was not a confrontation. This was a massacre

about 1 hour ago And that the boats are being hauled into Haifa and not Ashdod so that journalists are not there

about 1 hour ago Don’t know fate of the other boats

about 1 hour ago At about 4:30 am, Israeli commandos dropped from helicopter onto deck of Turkish ship, immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians.

An interesting statement from Israeli Army Radio: soldiers opened fire “after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects” The Free Gaza Movement, the organizers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships. They also reported that the ships were now being towed to the Israeli town of Haifa, instead of Ashdod to avoid waiting journalists. However, it was also known that dozens of journalists were already on board.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli action was surprising.

“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation,” he said.

Although condemnations have been quick to pour in, and thousands of Turkish protesters stormed the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke, similar protests in the US and EU countries have not yet occurred. Formally, the flotilla was in international waters, Turkish citizens were likely killed, the Mavi Marmari was flying the Turkish flag, and the flotilla was given the blessings of the Turkish PM, Ergodan.

We are now awaiting Israel’s spin on the incident, as well as Washington’s given that Netanyahu was just received at the White House in a somewhat envious position: Obama making amends for his earlier snub. Netanyahu damned well knew of the Israeli plan to stop the convoy by force.

Is this ANOTHER SLAP IN THE FACE FOR OBAMA. We wait in suspense to hear Obama’s explanation of the US position. Nobody likes presidents who kiss a….

Memorial Day mini-reality check: “Mission accomplished!” in Iraq

And Afghanistan is/will be different, how?

Arlington West

Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.

Arlington West Mission Statement

In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to honor the fallen and wounded to provide a place to grieve to acknowledge the human cost of war to encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.

Libertarian “freedom” vs. civil rights movement freedom

In my previous diary, “No Rand, you WOULDN’T have marched with Martin Luther King”, I stated that I wanted to make five basic points:

(1)  The Civil Rights Movement was much more involved in fighting private discrimination that Rand Paul acknowledges, which means there is no way that Paul would have marched with Martin Luther King.

(2)  The Civil Rights Act was much more involved in fighting private discrimination that Rand Paul acknowledges, which means there is no way that Paul would have supported it.

(3)  Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act was largely based on the same broad reasons that Rand Paul has a problem with it.

(4) Private discrimination has played a significant role in conservative politics in the years since the Civil Rights Act was passed, which means it is anything but an historical irrelevancy.

(5) Libertarians have a very different vision of “freedom” from the Civil Rights vision, although they take great pains to obscure the fact.  In fact, the libertarian vision of freedom was part of what helped keep slavery in place, as well as what helped justify opposition to the Civil Rights Movement.

In the end, because of length, I did little more than state the last point.  In this diary, I will complete what I started.  

In his book Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea, George Lakoff lays out the argument that liberals and conservatives mean very different things when they talk about “freedom”, which has a common core meaning that liberals and conservatives flesh out in very different ways.

Lakoff’s argument is developed in terms of concepts, and how they how they emerge from concrete physical experience into realms of increasing abstraction.  While the root meaning of freedom, common to virtually all of us, is grounded in the physical reality that freedom of movement is fundamental to our well-being, and that physical restraints are the most fundamental restrictions on our freedom as creatures, the ways that liberals and conservatives flesh out the meaning of freedom diverges so fundamentally that neither can understand the other.

Rather than go through Lakoff’s arguments, however, I want to take this general perspective he lays out and apply it to the history discussed in the previous diary.  In particular, I want to stress that the civil rights struggle for freedom was grounded in much longer historical struggle, which had its origins in the initial resistance to becoming slaves in the first place.  It was, in short, a struggle that was directly about the most fundamental physical meaning of freedom that is common to all definitions of it.  

There was no act of abstraction  in the beginning of this struggle.  It was about actual physical freedom.  And, indeed, by the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with its provisions curtailing private discrimination, it was still about actual physical freedom.  It was about the freedom of black Americans to walk into a drugstore, and sit down at a lunch counter to be served just like anyone else.  It was about their freedom to ride anywhere they wanted in a bus–even if it was owned by a private company.  It was about their freedom to go anywhere they wanted to, without hindrance, threat or opposition, other than that imposed equally on anyone else–such as paying the price of admission to a movie theater.

This struggle for freedom, so basically defined, was also a part of a much broader tendency, which Lakoff lays out at the very beginning of the introduction in Whose Freedom:

There are two very different views of freedom in America today, arising from two very different moral and political worldviews dividing the country. The traditional idea of freedom is progressive. One can see traditional values most clearly in the direction of change that has been demanded and applauded over two centuries. America has been a nation of activists, consistently expanding its most treasured freedoms:
  • The expansion of citizen participation and voting rights from white male property owners to non-property owners, to former slaves, to women, to those excluded by prejudice, to younger voters
  • The expansion of opportunity, good jobs, better working conditions, and benefits to more and more Americans, from men to women, from white to nonwhite, from native born to foreign born, from English speaking to non-English speaking
  • The expansion of worker rights–freedom from inhumane working conditions–through unionization: from slave labor to the eight-hour day, the five-day week, worker compensation, sick leave, overtime pay, paid vacations, pregnancy leave, and so on
  • The expansion of public education from grade school to high school to college to postgraduate education
  • The expansion of knowledge through science from isolated figures like Benjamin Franklin to scientific institutions in the great universities and governmental institutions like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health
  • The expansion of public health and life expectancy
  • The expansion of consumer protection through more effective government regulation of immoral or irresponsible corporations and class action suits within the civil justice system
  • The expansion of diverse media and free speech from small newspapers to the vast media/Internet possibilities of today
  • The expansion of access to capital from wealthy landholders and bankers to all the ways ordinary people-more and more of them-can borrow money today
  • The expansion, throughout the world, of freedom from colonial rule- for the most part with the backing of American foreign policy.

The simple fact is that all the above actions actually expanded human freedom, defined simply as the capacity to act in accordance with ones freely chosen desires. We may not immediately think of all the above in terms of “freedom”–but that only goes to show how stunted our concept of freedom has become.

In sharp contrast to the black freedom struggle, opponents of black freedom have used the notion of “freedom” as well–the “freedom” of slaveholder’s to own slaves, for example, and to do whatever they wished with their human property.  Indeed, in Jefferson’s Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism, Roger Wilkins makes the point that slaveowners were particularly zealous in demanding their freedom, precisely because they were so intimately aware of what it meant to be a slave.  But it was the very unthinkability of being in the slave’s skin, in the position of the other, that drove them in their passion for “freedom”. Thus, what was crucial for the slaveholder’s struggle for “freedom” was the incapacity to feel empathy beyond the most superficial level entailed in being horrified at the mere thought of being in the other’s place.

Historically, once slavery came under sustained attack from the Abolitionist movement, the Bible became the chief source of defense.  But “states’ rights” and appeals to the slaveholder’s right to property–and hence supposed Lockean “freedom” were never far from hand.  In the libertarian account that Goldwater invoked in opposing the Civil Rights act, and that Rand Paul reiterates today, black freedom cannot be advanced unless the slaveholder’s freedom–or its modern-day progeny-be curtailed. But the libertarian position entails there is a profound misreading of Locke’s argument for the social contract and inalienable rights.

The essence of Locke’s argument is that in the state of nature of supposed “total freedom”, no freedom is actually secure, because of the threat that every individual’s exercise of “freedom” posses to everyone else.  Where no freedom is secure, Locke argues, it does not actually exist.  What threatens freedom, most fundamentally, is the inability to recognize and respect the freedom of the other–the inability to see oneself in the other, a failure of imaginative empathy.  The social contract is the means to overcome that inability. It is, in effect, an institutionalization of empathy, and the social nature of human freedom.

Libertarians fail to grasp this, because they are fundamentally anti-social and and anti-empathetic in their outlook. (This is not to say that all libertarians are necessarily anti-social and and anti-empathetic in their psychology.  Their psychology and their political philosophy can easily be deeply at odds.)  They regard their freedoms as a kind of property, and they regard their property as pre-social.

However, Locke’s point is that property per se does not come into existence until there is a social contract that recognizes it.  Without the social contract, there is no recognition of property.  There is only brute force possessing objects–or stealing them. Because of his profoundly social understanding of the origins of property as well as all the rights we enjoy, Locke is directly opposed to the libertarian’s view of things.

Back at MyDD in June 2007, in a diary “George Will’s Lies Fails To Save Conservatism”, I wrote:

The freedom that conservatives talk about is their freedom–not “liberty and justice for all,” but  liberty and justice for them.  As the Dictionary of the History of Ideas says in its entry on liberalism:
    The hero is free, or freer at least than the ordinary run of men; and the cult of the hero is common to many societies in which freedom, as the liberal thinks of it, means nothing.

This is the “freedom” which conservatives cherish–though without actually having to do anything heroic, like fight in wars they cheer from their keyboards.  It is the freedom of the slaveowner to own slaves. The freedom of the President to ignore laws he doesn’t like. The freedom of corporations to ignore labor laws in breaking unions (and then pay petty fines years later, as a minor cost of doing business).  In the way of crumbs, it also includes the freedom of ordinary whites to discriminate against blacks, and of ordinary men to discriminate against women. But its essence is the freedom of the few to rule the many, the freedom of the powerful to dominate the weak.

Thus, history shows the real meaning of the saying that “conservatives care about freedom, while liberals care about equality”– liberals care about liberty for all, while conservatives just want it for themselves.  Indeed, liberals believe that “as long as one man is in chains, I am not free”–a precept fully in line with the teachings of Matthew 25:31-46, in the midst of which Jesus says, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.”


In short, what it all boils down to is this:  libertarians have a theory of freedom, but it’s a theory with (a) a piss-poor historical record of every delivering any actual freedom, and (b) a long historical record of being used by those with power to deny freedom for those with less power. In short, it’s a theory that’s repeatedly failed the empirical test of history.

And just to put a little cherry on the top of my argument at the end, he’s a short tape of Rand’s father defending some nutcase violent tax evaders by comparing them to Martin Luther King.  This is a classic demonstration of just how pathetically the libertarian model of freedom fails to comprehend what the hell it’s talking about.  For the full context, you can read my diary, “Ron Paul Equates Former Militia Wingnut Tax Evaders With Martin Luther King” in which I first presented this video.

Okay, take it away, Ron:

Left Ed: Turning Around Or Turning Our Backs?

If you want to get a firsthand observation of the inequality in America’s system of public education, just talk to my friend Bill.

In a conversation over wine earlier this week, Bill told me about his recent trip back to Detroit, his home town. One afternoon, he decided to take a side-trip outside the suburbs where his relatives now live, back to the ‘hood of his youth in the inner city. You know, check out the old grammar school. See what’s happened to the old home.

What greeted him, however, were blocks and blocks of dilapidated, boarded-up homes, abandoned storefronts, and trash-strewn  streets. Feeling decidedly out of place in his gleaming white, rented SUV, Bill was too nervous to drive down the streets of his youth, much less get out of the vehicle and snap a few pics.

Detroit’s catastrophic economic and cultural collapse has had a horrendous impact on its public schools. Next month, a quarter of the public schools in Detroit will be closed and the kids they served dealt out to schools that aren’t necessarily any better than the ones they left.

My friend Bill was fortunate enough to leave Detroit after his teen years, to end up in an affluent university town where he could send his kid to a great public school with caring teachers and supportive parents.

What happened to the public school of his boyhood, and others in Detroit, would be unthinkable in the community where he now lives. But it’s a mistake to assume that what is happening to schools in Detroit is confined only to Detroit.

According to AP, the US Department of Education has “found that the percent of high poverty schools rose from 12 to 17 percent between the 1999-2000 and 2007-2008 school years, even before the current recession was fully felt.”

There are now 16,122 schools in America classified as “high poverty.”

Attending a high-poverty school presents a number of statistical disadvantages. Kids in high-poverty schools are much less apt to graduate high school and attend college. And as the Center for American Progress reported this week, kids in high-poverty schools are much less apt to be taught by experienced teachers with advanced degrees.

The fact that there is a strong correlation between high rates of poverty and low performance on standardized tests is widely known.

And while the bad news about the state of schools in cities like Detroit, Kansas City, and Chicago continues to pile up, much less has been said about the fact that schools in rural America may be in even worse shape.

One would think that concerns over this inequality between schools of the affluent and the increasing numbers of high-poverty schools would be the emphasis of the discussion among our leaders in DC. But instead, all the rhetoric this week continued to be about how failing schools need to be forced into “turnaround” mode.

In Arne Duncan’s  proposal to turn around the nation’s struggling schools, never once does he mention the need to address poverty’s effects on schools and academic achievement. And his four turnaround models won’t work in impoverished rural areas or inner cities where the schools are already scarce and experienced staff have all fled to higher paying districts.

At last, some skepticism on Capitol Hill about the direction of the Obama administration’s education policy has started to surface. And in Representative Judy Chu there is at least one prominent challenge from Democratic legislators.

But as more and more of the discussion about education policy in America gravitates around “turnaround,” it’s looking more and more like what’s really going on is “turning our backs.”

What’s making that easier for some people is evident in a new report from the Brookings Institution showing that the gap between how well white kids perform in school compared to minorities continues to be a canyon, and America is heading for an increasingly sharp “demographic conflict.”

“Said Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at Brookings, ‘The population of people who bear the primary burden of paying for education but with no other stake in it … is growing.’

The report notes an increased segment of the population is made up of older adults without school-age children, who tend to be wealthier, and white, in contrast to the growth of poor and immigrant children from nonwhite families.

‘The paying and voting public,” he said, ‘won’t have the same emotional connection to schools as the public attending them.'”

So what will it be America? As we all head off to Memorial Day festivities. Will we continue to shove schools into the gladiator ring of “race to the top”? Or will we change the policy direction to a “race to equity” that brings “some of the most impoverished schools up to the material and pedagogical conditions of the most effective public schools?” (h/t The Frustrated Teacher)

Editorial Note: My Weekly Duncehat Award for the stupidest commentary on education is taking a holiday off today. Watch for it to return with avengence next Sunday.

Ramussen’s “mainstream/populist” narrative–validating the Tea Bagger’s fantasy

On Thursday, Chris wrote a diary, “Rasmussen vs non-Rasmussen Senate forecast” that further clarified the problem cluster of Rasmussen polling.  After the table showing all the relevant races with and without Rasmussen polls included, Chris concluded:

Here are the projected Democratic seat totals for all three of these forecasts:
  • No Rasmussen: 54.37

  • Only Rasmussen: 51.69

  • All polls: 52.49

At first glance, Rasmussen appears to be weighing down the projection quite a bit.  The overall forecast (52.49 Dems) is significantly closer to the Rasmussen-only projection (51.69 Dems) than to the non-Rasmussen projection (54.37 Dems).

For the 19 campaigns where there is a comparative trend, the Rasmussen poll average shows Republicans performing much better than the average of all other polls.  The median pro-Republican house effect is 7.0%, and the mean is 6.4%.  The difference is by no means consistent, as Rasmussen actually shows Democrats performing better in Pennsylvania and Washington than do other polls, and about the same as other polls in California, Iowa and Illinois.  As such, just tacking on 6.4%, or 7.0%, to the Democratic candidate in Rasmussen polls would not likely increase the accuracy of an election forecast.

Add this to my observations in “Ramussen’s junk polls distort House outlook”, where I showed that Rasmussen’s polls had a totally different trajectory over time than the average of other pollsters, and it becomes obvious that one simple, single explanation is not going fully explain what’s going on with Rasmussen. But I do think it’s important to understand as much as about them as possible.  And in that spirit, I want to comment on an a late January release in which Rasmussen openly pushed a Tea-Bag friendly narrative of “mainstream/populism” vs. the “political elites”:

65% Now Hold Populist, or Mainstream, Views

Sixty-five percent (65%) of voters nationwide now hold populist, or Mainstream, views of government. That’s up from 62% last September and 55% last March.

Mainstream Americans tend to trust the wisdom of the crowd more than their political leaders and are skeptical of both big government and big business (see crosstabs). While Republicans and unaffiliated voters are more likely to hold Mainstream views than Democrats, a majority of those in the president’s party (51%) hold such views.

Only four percent (4%) now support the Political Class. These voters tend to trust political leaders more than the public at large and are far less skeptical about government.

When leaners are included, 81% are in the Mainstream category, and 12% support the Political Class.

Polling conducted from January 18 through January 24 found that 76% of voters generally trust the American people more than political leaders on important national issues. Seventy-one percent (71%) 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. On each question, a majority of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters share those views.

These results help explain why most voters are angry at the policies of the federal government, and most think that neither political party understands what the country needs.

“The American people don’t want to be governed from the left, the right or the center. The American people want to govern themselves,” says Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “The American attachment to self-governance runs deep. It is one of our nation’s cherished core values and an important part of our cultural DNA.”

In his new book, In Search of Self-Governance, Rasmussen explains, “”In the clique that revolves around Washington, DC, and Wall Street, our treasured heritage has been diminished almost beyond recognition. In that world, some see self-governance as little more than allowing voters to choose which of two politicians will rule over them. Others in that elite environment are even more brazen and see self-governance as a problem to be overcome.”

I think it’s pretty obvious that this is a carefully crafted narrative, which larger serves the purpose (among others) of positioning the Tea Baggers smack dab in the middle of the political spectrum.  (Consider the date when this was released, prior to later mini-flood of polls showing how rightwing Tea Baggers actually are.)

This is not to say that there’s not a grain of truth here.  But there are plenty of other missing grains as well.  Most notable is the fact that Tea Baggers–despite their own reliance on Medicare, Social Security and the like–are much more likely to want to cut government programs that the vast majority of the American people (even self-identified “conservatives”) want to keep stable, or else expand.  And in that very fundamental sense, the American people do want to be governed from the left–just as they have wanted for as long as they’ve been polled on such subjects, which started in the late 1930s, when pollsters first discovered overwhelming support for Social Security, even among the GOP base.

Second most significantly, the desire for “self-government” is far more complicated that Rasmussen lets on.  I’ve discussed several times over the years in terms of Jack Balkin’s Yale Law Review article, “Populism and Progressivism as Constitutional Categories”.  A particularly relevant passage I’ve quoted is as follows:

Yet populism also demands recognition that citizens may have good reasons to neglect politics. This inattention may reflect the comparative urgency of the demands of everyday life, or a belief that government adequately albeit imperfectly serves their interests. However, it may also reflect the growing judgment that government is the seat of corruption, privilege, cronyism, and injustice. At some point, this indignation will surface in popular political action, and when it occurs, it must be given its due. From a populist perspective, an alternation between periods of relative inattention and episodes of popular uprising is not a pathological but a normal feature of democratic life. It symbolizes the people’s simultaneous recognition that they ultimately rule and that their government is usually in the hands of people who systematically forget this fact. The model of populist democracy is not prolonged dialogue but periodic revolution.

And, of course, as Digby and others have noted, the white majority tends to wake up in anger any time it looks like someone else is starting to get a larger portion of the crumbs.  So white “populism” does tend to have some troubling aspects to it that should not go unquestioned, and taken at face value–particularly when that face is made up for primetime by narrative-shapers such as Rasmussen.

If one goes further, and contemplates the larger scope of Balkin’s paper, which addressed both populist and progressive outlooks, it begins to dawn that there are two quite feasible alternatives–reflecting Chris’s and Kos’s contrasting views of how a Democratic majority should be constructed.  Kos’s libertarian Democrat solution centers on ex-Republicans like himself, decreasing the role of government to increase popular freedom,while making government nicer overall. Chris’s solution rests on reforming government, so that it no longer screws over and alienates people.  These answers are not mutually exclusive in their details, but they do represent contrasting overall approaches, and it’s much easier to envision how Chris’s alternative could produce results that Kos would like (super-strong net neutrality, for example) than to envision the reverse.

Finally, I want to call attention to the actual tests of the three questions Rasmussen uses to create this typology of theirs:

— Generally speaking, when it comes to important national issues, whose judgment do you trust more – the American people or America’s political leaders?

— Some people believe that the federal government has become a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests. Has the federal government become a special interest group?

— Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?

I think it’s transparently obvious that the second two questions are deliberately shaped to recast the corporate takeover of government–which conservative elites are generally ecstatic over–as a problem of government, not business, which is readily refashioned into a problem of “liberal elites” and their “love of big government”.  And I think that the presence of these two questions is similarly intended to give a slanted interpretation of the first question as well.  Combine all three together, and you have a powerful argument for accepting the Tea Baggers as the patriots they take themselves to be.  And that in itself is a powerful argument against taking Rasmussen seriously as a trustworthy interrogator of American public opinion.

p.s.  One final note: consider the vast difference between Rasmussen’s carefully constructed narrative of the people united against the the big bad government, vs. the emergent narrative that comes from Pew’s cluster analysis approach that yields a typology of political groupings more diverse than the two-party system.  Who is actually doing a better job of listening to the unfiltered voice of the people?

Neoliberal/drug war fail: Jamaica edition

Jamaica has been brought to a state of political crisis as a result of the failed (so far) attempt to extradite a drug kingpin, Chistopher “Dudus” Coke.  A discussion of the events on a local Pacifica public affairs program, Soujourner Truth, this Friday (audio file can be accessed through the station’s program archive file here), provides a very important link between two topics I’ve discussed this weekend–neoliberalism and the failed drug war.  A good deal else is implicated as well, such as the synergy between conservatism and organized crime in battling the left.  Mention is made of this history in Hollywood–a history that involves Ronald Reagan, among others.

Though this was entirely beyond the scope of the discussion, it’s worth taking note of here, simply because this history has been so thoroughly erase.  Reagan’s pre-GE career was almost entirely dependent on MCA, which was heavily involved with the mob.  In his last stint as President of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan arranged a sweetheart deal that allowed MCA and MCA alone to both produce TV shows and continue representing talent. The Justice Department eventually ended this illegal scam.  Reagan himself escaped prosecution at the time, but there is no doubt that if the Democrats had wanted to pursue a Whitewater-style investigation into Reagan’s past, they would not have had to go around inventing shit to accuse Reagan of.

To understand the discussion that follows, a general understanding of what’s happened in Jamaica this past week is needed.  A good-enough quick overveiw is provided by Jared Mccallister in the NY Daily News:

Jamaica prime minister OKs extradition of alleged drug king pin Christopher (Dudus) Coke

Jared Mccallister

Sunday, May 30th 2010, 4:00 AM


Sunday morning and I am getting more depressed…

OK. As we look at the alarming crisis that BP and the oil industry has brought us to, as we evaluate the amount of military spending we are pouring into the middle east for no evident return (and as we consistently apologize for killing innocent civilians with airborne missiles), as we observe politicians and lobbyists letting payoffs and focused fundraising deny the needs of voters in favor of the needs of corporations, as we see the Supreme Court gradually eliminate generations of civil rights achievements, we are getting more and more convinced that making a change in America… indeed in the whole world… is getting less and less possible.


Our air is polluted, as are our seas and lakes. Species we would like to preserve are becoming extinct, while species of new (to our shores) and dangerous insects are coming out in the changed environment to sting us with new diseases appearing in their wake. The climate… oh, the climate… it is getting warmer and, in some areas drier, and less beneficial to our agriculture. Our food sources might just disappear by the end of the century.

Yet it would seem that the public is more concerned with the price of SUV’s (which, of course, 95% of which are not used as off-road vehicles or for any sports/utility purpose whatever, and which pollute and use more fossil fuel than smaller, more efficient vehicles) than they are with the price that food, water and air will cost us in the very near future. Much of this is due to the prominence of advertising as the functioning basis of ALL of our media (and if you think public broadcasting avoids this, just start keeping track of all the donor companies that get noted with hardly subtle ads at the beginnings and end of programs … and guess how much influence these companies have on what is broadcast or reported.)

We listen to liars on television these days… like the corporate officer of BP telling us that this kind of crisis has never happened before less than a week after 60 Minutes publicly demonstrated that these crises happen all the time. We don’t want accountability debated… we need something done… something changed in how government and business work for people as opposed to profits.

So we will go our way into more organic gardening, and less automobile travel, and more working in our own local community, and less falling into trusting silence as those who are “leading” us become millionaires as we become the new poor.

If nothing changes, we most likely have ourselves to blame.


LATEST NEWS ON THE GAZA AID FLOTILLA-At least 10 peace activists killed

UPDATE: It was report that at least 10 activists were killed as Israel Navy opens fire on Gaza aid flotilla.

Over 60 additionally were wounded after the convoy sailing for Gaza Strip ignored Israel’s order to turn back, Turkish news reported. IDF confirms two commandos also wounded.

The flotilla was in international waters at the time.

UPDATE: 31st May 10 3 AM Gaza

Gaza TV News:

The Flotilla has now changed course and is sailing due west, further into International waters.

The Israeli war ships have pulled back, and are out of range at present. There is indication that the convoy will then head for Gaza in the morning.  

URL: http://ipad.io/KI8 OR http://www.ipadio.com/phlogs/G…

UPDATE: Gush Shalom Coalition against the siege in Gaza

Urgent message:

A demonstration supporting the break the siege flotilla will be held tomorrow, Monday, 31.5.10 at 4:00 pm in front of the Ashdod port, Gate No. 1. We will be leaving from Levinski garden in Tel Aviv, at 3 pm. We will be using private cars, a bus will be called if necessary. Those who can bring a private car are requested to come to the pick up location to help with transportation.

The humanitarian flotilla is predicted to arrive at the Gaza shore at noon. We expect the ships to be taken over and to be towed in Ashdod port. We will be there to express our solidarity with the flotilla. And will call to break the siege and open the gates of Gaza.

Registration: Ya’acov 050-5733276, 09-7670801. E-mail: manor12@zahav.net.il

UPDATE: The IHH ship Livestream is up showing passengers in life jackets after three Israeli ships confronted the flotilla 78 miles out at sea in international waters. Israel’s block of electronic traffic was apparently overcome by rerouting. This is obviously an act of attempted piracy.

WATCH HERE: http://www.ihh.org.tr/canliyay…

Email from one ship:


At 22:41pm tonight, preparations aboard the Mavi Marmara are extensive. We are 90 miles away from land – 22 miles further than the Israeli decided 68 mile exclusion zone – but are being approached by an Israeli vessel.

Triage is set up and various strategies implemented to resist seizure. The Israeli media is reporting that Israel will deploy a very large naval force. Far from minimising violence, this is an illegal aggressive move which will make it more likely.

We are broadcasting live from the ship. Calm and organisation overcome the fear that Israel is trying to instill.

Viva Palestina and all aboard are prepared.

We are calling on everyone to contact various political leaders to ask them to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of these brave people, and to stand up and add their voice in support of this humanitarian flotilla.

Full details of how they can contact these political figures can be found through following this link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/…

There you will find email addresses, and template letters to use. Full instructions are provided, and we ask that you follow these and show your support for everyone involved.

This is a very serious situation, and we are calling on everyone to play their part in helping ensure their safety, and that the aid reaches Gaza without difficulty.



Alice Howard

Viva Palestina UK

Tel: +447889726777

Email: alice@vivapalestina.org

Website: http://www.vivapalestina.org/

Sign up to the Viva Palestina Mailing List http://www.vivapalestina.org/a…

Viva Palestina, helping to make the positive steps in breaking the siege of Gaza!

Keep posted on developments.

Original TEXT:

On Sunday, at 9AM EST (4PM Cypress), the flotilla finally left for Gaza.

Slide show from the Challenger 1 (one of the small passenger boats), Mediterranean Sea, 30th May 2010, in the morning prior to departure.

There is livestreaming from the IHH Turkish passenger ship, now en route to Gaza, as shown here:


Click here for the LIVESTREAM: http://www.ihh.org.tr/canliyay…

(UPDATE: It is night now on the sea.

Here is another livestream from the Greek-Swedish ship, which is running older video, presumably until day break.


Link to the livestream from the IHH Turkish ship may be temporarily broken. There was some earlier expressed fears that Israel may attempt to block these connections, in order to interfere with footage of events when the convoy reaches Gaza. I will replace the link if it does not revive.)

Messages from the flotilla received this morning:

This one came from VIVA PALESTINA’S CREW MEMBER KEVIN OVENDEN (Viva Palestina is the British org):

At 08.50 am today we are awaiting the arrival of the European parliamentarians, who begin to shuttle from Northern Cyprus to our staging ground in international waters to the south of the island where they will board the lead ship. The decision by the Greek Cypriot government not only not to allow the flotilla to harbour there, but also to object to, and twice prevent, the departure of a parliamentary delegation directly by sea to join the convoy is creating something of a scandal in Greece and beyond.

Cyprus recently elected its first ever Communist President, earning him the moniker the Fidel Castro of the Mediterranean. If this recent shabby episode is anything to go by, Akel, the Cypriot Communist Party, would be better served by its previous policy of supporting a left of centre figure for the highest office. The last such president allowed friends of Palestine to

muster there.

Five vessels are ready to go – three cargos and two passenger, three Turkish and two that sailed from Athens – one Greek and one Greek-Swedish. They are larger boats and the clear lesson is that for such an operation a few larger and well fitted vessels are more effective than a larger number of smaller boats.

A coalition of organisations and initiatives has come together in this flotilla, but the Turkish IHH has set the standard by raising around 20 million USD and setting about the mission with elan, peerless organisation and a collegiate approach that belies the extent to which they are responsible for the impressive force that is gathered now in the Eastern Mediterranean.

To my mind, the lessons are worth learning now, for whatever the outcome of the next 48 hours, there will be another sea mission to Gaza – and it will need to be even bigger and broader.

A small boat has pulled alongside with the parliamentary delegation. They will now join us on the Mavri Marmara and then it’s all a question of timing:when to start the 18 to 20 hour journey down to Gaza so as to avoid giving the Israeli forces the best conditions to attack us.

Fatima Mohammadi added these remarks in another message:

If allowed in, this will be my third humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. Each convoy has had its difficulties and its joys. The difficulty of this current convoy is that nearly 800 volunteers aboard 6 ships are attempting to enter the besieged strip through International waters a completely legal activity despite constant threats by the Israeli government to block, arrest and deport the entire convoy. These threats have two effects in my opinion: 1) they highlight the severity and depth of the siege that Israel has imposed on Gaza for nearly four years, showing Israel to be the vicious occupier and instigator of hostility in the region that we know them to be and 2) they strengthen the resolve of volunteers around the world, on this convoy and beyond, who are aware of the plight of the Palestinians and who actively seek a resolution to the unjust occupation and continued colonization of Palestine. Of course, the joy of this convoy is the real potential it has to finally end the siege on Gaza if it gains enough international support and attention in the upcoming hours.

Currently, we are anchored in the Mediterranean Sea about a 6 hour sail from Cyprus, where we have been awaiting two final ships. A Greek ship carrying members of Parliament from half a dozen European countries has just arrived, and the Irish boat, the MV Rachel Corrie follows shortly. We will soon set sail towards Gaza, straight towards the threats of Israel to stop us at all costs, including by use of force. Rest assured, however, regardless of their tactics to stop us – force or delay – we will not turn back nor will we allow Israel to board our ships (The ships are now on their way).

It is imperative to reiterate that this is an unarmed humanitarian aid convoy carrying the better part of one thousand volunteers from 1