Friday, October 09, 2009


Friends of AmCop, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen have a new play in town called Aftermath. It's a great piece about Iraqi refugees based on interviews with refugees living in Jordan. It should be at the NY Theater Workshop until October 18th. I had the good fortune to see it workshopped and again last night in its final form. Excellent.

You can get tickets here.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Leader: Anti-Semite? 

Sorry I couldn't resist the easy sarcasm.

Many of you probably heard about the recent death, at 90, of the truly astonishing and heroic Marek Edelman, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (Which he refused to call an "uprising," since it was just a matter, to him, of choosing one way to die rather than another.) Anyway, the guy was incredible for many reasons, not least of which were his humility and his decision to live in Poland until his death, despite persistent anti-Semitic and communist persecution. He was a major figure in Solidarity and got himself arrested by Jaruzelski in the 1970's...

Anyway, the Times obituary gave you some vague sense of who this guy was. But it of course it did not tell you that he was a leader of the Marxist and anti-Zionist Bund, which was crucial in the anti-German resistance. The Times desecrators also left out this:

Warsaw Ghetto leader's letter to `Palestinian partisans' raises a storm
among uprising survivors and Zionists
(Haaretz 8/9/2002):

Many internationally renowned figures have asked the Palestinians to end
violence and terrorism, but a letter from the deputy commander of the
Warsaw Ghetto uprising is causing a particular fuss. Dr. Marek Edelman, the last of the uprising leaders still living, wrote an "open letter" to Palestinians this week, asking them to stop the bloodshed and enter into peace negotiations. But the letter has prompted a dispute among the remaining survivors of the uprising and their families, since in his letter Edelman does not mention the word "terrorism."

Moreover, the letter is filled with hints of comparisons between the
Palestinians' fight and that of the ghetto residents. He addresses "the
commanders of the Palestinians armed organizations and the partisan
organizations, and the soldiers of the armed Palestinian organizations."

See here for an actual obituary that does not try to hide who the person was.

the Nobel folks disagree with us 

Interesting move. A good or bad thing?

Does this mean Obama's head gets so big that he does whatever he wants, or will it actually encourage him to rectify our positions on Iraq and Afganistan? I'm guessing that for some on this blog who have already lost all faith, it could only bode ill.

Clearly it helps to follow a piece of shit. Not shit = Nobel Prize. But is there a reverse alchemy, by which gold turns back into shit?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Veal Pen 

Or, Dinner at Tosca.
Or, United States of Podesta.

Frank Rich:

...You have to wonder what some of the Obama era’s most moneyed and White House-connected lobbyists were thinking as they preened before a Washington Post reporter recently for two lengthy articles. We’re not even nine months into the new administration, yet these swaggering, utterly un-self-aware influence peddlers seem determined to prove that nothing except the party affiliations has changed in the Beltway’s pay-for-play culture since Tom DeLay. If these lobbyists were stocks, I’d short them.

One of the articles focused on Heather Podesta — “The It Girl of a New Generation of Lobbyists” — who lobbies for health care players like Eli Lilly, HealthSouth and Cigna. Podesta is half of what The Post has called a “mega-lobbying” couple. Her husband, with his own separate (and larger) lobbying shop, is Tony Podesta, the brother of John Podesta, the Clinton White House chief of staff who ran the Obama transition. Back in November, Tony Podesta told The Times that only “very unsophisticated” clients would hire his firm because of his brother’s role in assembling the new administration. That encyclopedic and ever-expanding list of “unsophisticated” clients includes Amgen and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — and that’s just among the A’s. His business was up 57 percent from last year in the first six months of 2009. Heather Podesta’s was up 65 percent...

The second Post article, on the front page two weeks ago, described the scene, as well as the rabbit ragu, at Ristorante Tosca, the lobbyists’ hangout on F Street in downtown Washington... The stars of Tosca’s “Power Section,” we learned, include the Podestas, Tom Daschle (“not technically a registered lobbyist” but, as The Post put it, “a ‘special policy adviser’ — wink wink”) and Steve Elmendorf (who “eats lunch out only at Tosca”). Elmendorf was chief of staff to the former Democratic House leader Dick Gephardt. A quick visit to opensecrets.org reveals that Elmendorf Strategies’ client list includes Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, among other players in the coming battle over financial regulation reform. Then again, as The Nation details in its current issue, Gephardt has also lobbied for Goldman, among many other corporate clients in opposition to the populist policies he once championed...

The administration’s legislative deals with the pharmaceutical companies were made in back rooms. Business Week reported in early August that the UnitedHealth Group and its fellow insurance giants had already quietly rounded up moderate Democrats in the House to block any public health care option that would compete with them for business. UnitedHealth’s hired Beltway gunslingers include both Elmendorf Strategies and Daschle, a public supporter of the public option who nonetheless does some of his “wink, wink” counseling for UnitedHealth. The company’s in-house lobbyist is a former chief of staff to Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader. Gephardt consults there too.

The heroic Jane Hamsher (who will probably be more responsible than any other individual for whatever is good in the eventual "reform") wrote this over a month ago:

Someone asked me over the weekend to be more explicit about what the term "veal pen" means:

The veal crate is a wooden restraining device that is the veal calf's permanent home. It is so small (22" x 54") that the calves cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch and is the ultimate in high-profit, confinement animal agriculture.(1) Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves' muscles, thus producing tender "gourmet" veal.
About 14 weeks after their birth, the calves are slaughtered. The quality of this "food," laden with chemicals, lacking in fiber and other nutrients, diseased and processed, is another matter. The real issue is the calves' experience. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the Earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. They are kept in darkness except to be fed two to three times a day for 20 minutes.

Soon after the election, the Administration began corralling the big liberal DC interest groups into a variety of organizations and communication networks through which they telegraphed their wishes -- into a virtual veal pen. The 8:45 am morning call co-hosted by the "liberal" Center for American Progress, Unity 09, and Common Purpose are just a few of the overt ways that the White House controls its left flank and maintains discipline.

My own experience with the Veal Pen came indirectly, when some of them had the temerity to launch a campaign against Blue Dogs. They were rebuked and humiliated in front of their peers as a lesson to them all at a Common Purpose meeting, which is run by lobbyist Erik Smith. White House communications director Ellen Moran attends. It isn't an arms-length relationship between these groups and the administration. A few weeks ago, Rahm Emanuel showed up at a Common Purpose meeting and called these liberal groups "fucking stupid" for going after Blue Dogs on health care and ordered them not to do so any more. Since that time, to the best of my knowledge, none of them have.

These organizations may kid themselves that they're doing no harm, but that's not true. They are the institutional liberal validators who telegraph to liberals that there are problems, that things are happening that are not good for them. They are trusted to decode the byzantine rituals of government and let the public know when their interests are not being served, that it's time to pay attention and start making a racket. When they fail to perform that task, the public is left with a vague feeling of anxiety, intuitively understanding that something is wrong but not knowing who or what to blame.

When the White House met with bankers after the AIG scandal and they said they didn't want to be criticized for getting huge bonuses paid for by taxpayers, the White House complied and "cooled their rhetoric." The President told the public that Timothy Geithner had been instructed to do everything in his power to claw back those bonuses, and the House passed a bill doing just that. But it died in the Senate.

You remember all those campaigns by the unions, by the online groups, by liberal economics and finance organizations pushing the Senate to take it up?

Yeah, me either.

Which means that the teabaggers were in perfect position to harvest all of the discontent over the bank bailout, and no coherent liberal critique was offered. I heard it over and over again -- if you wanted to criticize the White House on financial issues, your institutional funding would dry up instantly. The Obama campaign successfully telegraphed to donors that they should cut off Fund for America, which famously led to its demise. It wasn't the last time something like that happened -- just ask those who were receiving institutional money who criticized the White House and saw their funding cut, at the specific request of liberal institutional leaders who now principally occupy their time by brown nosing friends and former co-workers in the White House.

And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don't Ask, Don't Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It's a chickenshit sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of "maintaining a seat at the table."

Where are they on health care? Why aren't they running ads against the AMA, the hospitals, the insurance industry barons who have $700 million in stock options, PhRMA, the device manufacturers and the White House for doing back room deals with all of the above? Why are they not calling for the White House to release the details of those secret deals?

Because they are participating in those deals, instead of trying to destroy them. Well, that and funneling millions of dollars in pass-throughs to their consultant friends that they are supposed to be spending on the health care fight. The truth is -- they've all been sucked into insulating the White House from liberal critique, and protecting the administration's ability to carry out a neoliberal agenda that does not serve the interests of their members. They spend their time calculating how to do the absolute minimum to retain their progressive street cred and still walk the line of never criticizing the White House.

Liberals are told that the public option is an acceptable sacrifice such that we don't repeat the 54 seat swing to the GOP after health care failed in 1994. The President told Progressive members of Congress that they should think about the poor Blue Dogs (who by happy coincidence are sucking up all the health care lobbying dollars) who might face tough elections in 2010.

Well, now that you bring it up, let's talk about 1994. The election came on the heels of NAFTA, which demoralized the liberal base and depressed turnout. Even as the GOP works hard to rile up their teabaggers base and push turnout numbers up for the 2010 midterm, Democrats are watching the public option die...

So where are the liberal groups in all of this?... As Jeremy Scahill notes, I guess they have better things to do, like argue for more war:

Reading the Center for American Progress‘ new report supporting President Obama’s escalation of the US war against Afghanistan is a very powerful reminder of how much neoliberals and neocons are alike. This, of course, is not some genius observation, particularly since CAP and the neocons are making it hard to miss, what with their love triangle with the war. Indeed, CAP’s launch event for its report, "Sustainable Security in Afghanistan: Crafting an Effective and Responsible Strategy for the Forgotten Front," included a leading neocon, Frederick Kagan and was promoted by William Kristol’s new version of the Project for a New American Century, the Foreign Policy Initiative. So, here is part of what we are seeing unfold: Running parallel to the bi-partisan war machine within the official government is a coordinated campaign in the shadow government — the think tanks. Or, as Naomi Klein describes them, the people paid to think by the makers of tanks. CAPs particular role in this campaign appears to be attempting to sell Obama’s war.

CAP's John Podesta is also a partner in the Podesta Group, his brother's lobbying shop that is representing WalMart against the Employee Free Choice Act...

So, sweet fucking cut.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Whatever this is, it isn't "too cautious" 

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the police force of collaborating Palestinian gangsters paid by the US and Israel, has withdrawn his support for the effort to bring the Goldstone report before the UN Security Council (the report details the myriad crimes committed during the Israeli terrorist mass murder operation in Gaza last December).

Abbas already lacked any popular legitimacy, as he is an obvious quisling ass-sniffing corpse-eater. Still, this recent betrayal of the people of Gaza is threatening to turn his own collaborationist government against him. Even he must have known that this was making the order of things impossibly explicit. And yet he gave in to American and Israeli pressure to forget about Gaza.

My question is: what is the purpose of this pressure? What do the Americans think they're going to get by signing a forced "peace" deal with an utterly depraved and humiliated Palestinian "leadership" that they've bribed, beaten, and shat on for years? Does Obama actually think this will lead to peace? If he does, he's utterly stupid. If he doesn't, he is murderously cynical.

This grotesque charade of a "revived peace process" is of a piece with too many other Obama initiatives. It's not just too cautious. It is transparently false, and it is in fact worse than doing nothing. In this situation there are other ways of proceeding that are in fact more cautious.

I understand that under Obama at least Israel doesn't feel free to slaughter thousands of Palestinian civilians at a time. But this pathetic kabuki poses its own very serious problems. The issue is not Obama's cautiousness or his failure to pursue peace intensely enough. It's his willingness to try to conceal very serious and painful problems with a layer of sanctimonious bullshit. And this is not the only area in which he's proven willing to do this.


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