Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Escape from the Veal Pen

1. Veal Pen: an individual's cube in the feed lot that is corporate America. The unsuspecting worker occupying the cube is kept in the dark and restrained to keep him or her tender until he and or she is butchered. (Urban Dictionary)

2. Veal Pen: Soon after the election, the (Obama) 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.  (Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake).

Some well-known examples of liberal veal pens are MoveOn.Org, DailyKos, MSNBC,  and ironically, the new group that Andrew Breitbart victim/ fired White House staffer Van Jones has founded. Called "Rebuilding the Dream", it trumpets the grand resurgence of Democratic values.  I got all excited until I read through their list of "supporters" -- not only the usual veal pen suspects, but the Obama Re-election Campaign itself!  Van Jones was veal penned before he even got calved, for cryin' out loud.  Here is a trenchant critique of Van the Brand.

So much for the liberal organizations co-opted by the White House.  But most of the denizens of the veal pen belong under Definition Number One, above.  The miserable masses living lives of quiet desperation, cowed by the powers that be and their pundit stenographers.  But not so fast!  The anger is a-rising!

The Rant to End All Rants was delivered by a raging bull of a veal pen escapee Dylan Ratigan yesterday on MSNBC .  If you haven't seen it yet, do not miss it!  I was in my usual mid-afternoon semi-coma on the couch when he literally woke me up.  Here is an excerpt to give you a preview of its glorious content:

"Tens of trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of America. Democrats aren’t doing it, Republicans are not doing it, an entire integrated system, financial system, trading system, taxing system, that was created by both parties over a period of two decades is at work on our entire country right now. We’re sitting here arguing about whether we should do the $4 trillion plan that kicks the can down the road for the president for 2017, or burn the place to the ground, both of which are reckless, irresponsible and stupid."
While we're waiting for Ratigan to get fired, there is this from today's New York Times, written by the guy in charge of moderating readers' comments, about reaction to the UK riots. The Times is amazed, just amazed, that readers are angry, fed up, decidedly unapathetic and are not going to take it any more.  We finally have proof that they actually digest what ordinary people write.

I got particularly ticked off reading another Times article today, by one of the Washington insiders of the journalistic class, Helene Cooper.  The article unquestioningly parroted the Administration drivel about Grand Bargains and the need to cut back "entitlement" programs in order to reduce the deficit.  Readers, God bless them, were not having any of her stenographic government propaganda:

Cutting the deficit will not stimulate the economy. And fixing social security is not a factor in the budget deficit. Yet these are the 2 main points of this article.
The bigger problem in this country is the superficiality of the news media. Allowing these comments as facts will help to insure that this country will struggle unnecessarily for longer than it should.
When will we start to see the NYTimes become the news organization of its past? -- Herje, Ft. Lauderdale.
Another propaganda piece for the deficit hawks!
Social security needs strengthening, not cuts. Our US system pays much lower benefits than any other modern country. We shold raise the cap on contriutions so the wealthy pay FICA on all their income, and use that revenue to make SS solvent "forever" while raising benefits to a more reasonable level. -- Ezra, Somerville, MA.
This writer is no doubt a rich neo con who, like all neo cons, wants to impose immense suffering on the elderly, the ill, and the working classes, and soon. She does not attempt to explain why it is that countries with much better credit ratings than the US manage to maintain much, much, much more humane and generous social safety nets which improve the quality of life for all citizens. There is no great hue and cry in the Scandinavian countries, or in Canada, or Australia, or France or Germany to throw senior citizens out on the streets. Why is that option so appealing to Americans, and to hypocrites like this one? -- Elizabeth, Florida.

The rhetoric of the hoi polloi is getting stronger and the activist anger is becoming palpable.  The "thundering herd" described by NY Times Public Enemy Editor Arthur Brisbane is getting noticed on Times Square itself.  The veal pen prisoners are calling bullshit on the whole culture of greed and corruption.  I knew it had to come sooner or later, and it appears that the sooner is right about now.



Denis Neville said...

More to be angry about…

The State of America’s Children Report reveals this distressing statistic. More than 1 in 5 children live in poverty in the United States, by far the most impoverished age group in our nation. We are the wealthiest nation in the world in terms of GDP and number of billionaires, yet we rank first in child poverty among all industrialized nations. There are 46 million people living in poverty, the largest number in the postwar era, which is 14 percent of our total population.

Two of the primary causes of this poverty are income inequality and high levels of unemployment. Government safety net (“entitlement”) programs that the poor rely on are targets for debt-deficit reduction. The alarming state of America’s children should be evidence that joblessness, poverty, and income inequality, and not the government debt or deficit, should be our nation’s number one concern.


Joint statement by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appointed to the congressional debt-reduction "super committee,” i.e., Catfood Commission II:

“This is an important moment for our country. Millions of Americans are struggling in this tough economy, working overtime to pay the bills, find a job, and find a way forward for their families, and they want this Committee to force the federal government to make similar sacrifices without the red hot partisanship and brinksmanship of the last months.”

Jay - Ottawa said...

Contrary to preliminary reports, Wisconsin is not a veal pen. Sure, I'm disappointed that only two tea baggers were recalled, not three, which would have allowed the Democrats to take back the Wisconsin State Senate. However, after reading lots and lots of comments following that first report in the Times about the results, I come away with a completely different perspective on what was really accomplished yesterday in WI.

Recall elections are rare, and success in recalling an incumbent is even more rare. Two out of six is unusually good, given the hurdles to be jumped over and that historical perspective.

As more than one commenter in the Times reminds us, Kathy Nicholaus is the Katherine Harris of Waukashaw County, she who tends to lose and then find thousands of votes on an as-needed basis. There are now calls for outsiders to recheck her latest count. Lots of luck with that. Still, we have reason to be suspicious; and, as in 2000, it just may be that the other candidate did win after all. More than being a morning-after consolation, that tells me progressives are not pushovers. Nice to hear about a political force that scared the hell out of Koch Heads for at least one night out of the year.

One of the commenters in the NYT reports that the recall of one Republican incumbent came very, very close to succeeding in a district where Republicans have held office without interruption for the past 150 years. Good show. A silver medal may not count for anything in winner-take-all, but it sure beats the Obama White Flag of Surrender with Oak Leafs. That's the medal so many milk-fed, milk-toast Democrats have been content to accept before they are led away down the chute.

Was it the Democratic Party that bent back the Wisconsin crazies, or was it the progressives in that state and from around the nation, plus the unions, of course, which invested heavily in these races?

Just how close is the Democratic leadership to the unions in Wisconsin or unions nationally?

What I'm suggesting is that progressives -- pretty much on their own –- did accomplish something positive in Wisconsin yesterday. I only hope it encourages progressives everywhere to join in and push back at every opportunity -- AS PROGRESSIVES.

Thanks, Karen, for this site to mouth off and plan measures to kick ourselves out of the veal pen. I want also to thank Janet Camp for pulling us into the Wisconsin fight, because a fight is where Progressives have to go from here on -- up or down.

The Black Swan said...

So how do we funnel all this anger and outrage into real productive change? If the Powers at the top are trying to undermine and subvert progressives on both sides of the aisle, how do we create a true People first movement? And how do we keep it peaceful? We don't want to see rioting and looting like what is going on in England right now. These are going to be some of the tough questions we need to answer before real change can get underway.

Anne Lavoie said...

Can you guys help me out with some ideas for messages on my signs that I plan to hold up on busy streets to get cars honking with their approval?

I really want to help get people fired up locally to action. I bet I have a crowd joining me in less than an hour. But first, I need the messages. What do we want? What do we want the People to agree on? Help!

Karen Garcia said...

As long as you're not in redneck country or the deep south, these might work:

Honk if you think politicians are sell-outs.
Honk if you think we are all screwed.
Honk if you're poor.
Honk if you want a national recall election.

Just be careful if you're gonna try this. There is a lot of road rage and crazoids out there. And cops. They might get you for jaywalking, obstructing traffic, or just annoying them. Plus you will probably get reported to the Homeland Security database! At least go in a group.

Jay - Ottawa said...


As Karen said, be careful. It's a jungle out there. Go with a bunch of people with as much gumption as you.

Denis Neville said...

Department of WTF

Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist with an agency of the Department of the Interior was flying over the Arctic in 2004 on a routine whale survey when his team spotted dead polar bears in the water. His report raised public alarm about the threat of climate change and melting ice and was cited by Al Gore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. He's now under an official investigation by the Department of Interior's Office of Inspector General. Some polar bear scientists worry that this investigation has created doubt about both the original observations of dead polar bears and the threat of climate change.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility News Release/

No doubt, the media, with its attitude that it must appear “fair and balanced,” will now allow the climate change deniers to question whether there are in fact dying polar bears. Just as they do for the few so-called scientists who claim climate change is a hoax, even though the vast majority of scientists agree that climate change is a fact and a legitimate concern.

Drill baby drill?

Are there are no limits nor depths to which the wrecking crew will go?

Valerie said...

Good luck with your protest, Anne! I especially like the first one Karen suggested only I would amend it to read, Honk if you think your politicians are selling you out! Also, honk if you think it is time for citizens to take their country back from the colluding politicians. I wish I could be there to join your little group! Do you have fellow Progressives interested in joining you? Maybe it will catch on and become a movement!

Jay, Thanks for keeping this Wisconsin election in perspective for us. We had great hopes and we set high goals. The fact that we didn't achieve all our goals doesn't mean we didn't achieve. I, too, thank Janet for keeping us abreast of the WI situation and interested in the recall effort.

Anne Lavoie said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I especially like the words Sellout, Crooks, Corrupt, Screwed, Bought. I have to figure out a way to fit them into the message. In the meantime, here are some preliminary ideas:

Want to Support Teachers? (or Police or Firemen)- Tax the Super-Rich!

Want a Balanced Budget? End the Wars!

Tell Obama and Congress - You're All Fired!

Best Government Money Can Buy - Sold to the Rich!

Want to Fix the Budget? End Congressional Pay and Perks!

Tell Washington - Stop Selling Us Out!

Republicans AND Democrats - Bought (or Owned) By the Rich!

And my favorite:

(Well, maybe I won't use that word, but I like the sound and the idea.)

Not sure how to fit in the honking part yet - I'm still trying to work out the whole thing. But I welcome any more ideas. And thanks for the warnings. I've done similar things in the past, but times have changed, and not for the better, so I hear you!

Where I live now in Montana, I don't need to look for just fellow Progressives to join me because EVERYONE has had it with Washington, regardless of party. It is truly We the People that are totally fed up, at least in these parts.

Neil said...

All this is great Karen, and I love Dylan Ratigan’s rant, but this is a non-starter for many Americans. CNN’s Ali Velshi summed it up pretty good tonight: The stock market is all of us, our 401’s and IRA’s...

What Velshi did not say, but inferred, is that corporations are the stock market, and thus represent the future and retirement for Americans in terms of 401s and IRAs because of the "social security is going bankrupt" yarn. Better support corporations, or plan to spend old age under a bridge eating handouts.

How many folks do you think are going to criticize corporate power? Many watch in horror as their 401s and IRAs drop in value. They want to reverse this trend and don’t really care how it is done. Re-inflate the bubble! Velshi and others talk about trillions lost as markets fall, but those are only paper profits, and illusory until the profit is actually realized with an executed transaction. Until then, its just smoke up the backside.

This fear is driving corporate fascism. Americans want jobs, a secure future, and retirement, and will embrace corporations to that end. These Americans will oppose criticism of corporations and (incorrectly) call you and your arguments delusional. They can’t handle the truth.

You could argue it was a mistake to tie the retirement plans of Americans with the destiny of corporations, but that ship has sailed. Facts no longer matter in this argument for millions of Americans who are now fear-based corporate fascists. (whether they know it or not).

Market risk was sold to the public as a sure bet, but that doesn’t change the risk. Real change will come when the financial system melts down.

Janet Camp said...


I think you nailed it. For every person who fears the loss of Social Security or Medicare, there is another whose main concern is his or her 401k. Corporations have shareholders, who want the Corporation to return dividends no matter how many children become obese from their products (just for one example).


Many thanks to all of you for your thoughts and hopeful take on the Wisconsin elections. After the initial despair, I have found much to be hopeful about. Notice, however, that Obama is visiting Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota on his upcoming bus tour. Now, wouldn't it have been a great time for Mr. Community Organizer to have dropped by the state so recently in the news for actively try to organize the community?

I loved Ratigan's rant! Those two women looked like a couple of deer in the headlights! Maybe this will ignite something--because I can't see where Patty Murray (bless her) will do a whole lot as chair of Catfood Commission II.

Denis Neville said...

All Americans should read James Madison’s ominous definition of government “operating by corrupt influence; substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty; converting its pecuniary dispensations into bounties to favorites, or bribes to opponents; accommodating its measures to the avidity of a part of the nation instead of the benefit of the whole; in a word, enlisting an army of interested partisans, whose tongues, whose pens; whose intrigues, and whose active combinations, by supplying the terror of the sword, may support a real domination of the few, under an apparent liberty of the many.”

We have been served poorly by the infidelity of our government to Madison’s desire for “a government deriving it energy from the will of the society, and operating by the reason of its measures, on the understanding and interests of the society…for which philosophy has been searching, and humanity been fighting, from the most remote ages.”

One has to worry, given the continued sorry state of our government, the business-as-usual corporate, plutocratic machine, if Madison’s principles that underscore our constitutional system will ever recover.

Denis Neville said...

Our indebted society…

A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves. ~ German Proverb

What has been missing from the debt-deficit reduction plans are the billions spent on the war in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Panetta recently warned that large cuts triggered by a failure of a special joint committee to meet its Thanksgiving deadline to cut the deficit would be “completely unacceptable.”

The problem is that the Pentagon budget is not based on any rational threat assessment, rather it is an ongoing welfare program for established corporate and government interests. It is a “debt-and-credit industrial complex.”

“Thirty years ago, neither firms nor politicians used (or could use) massive indebtedness to justify their actions or inactions. Since 1980, firms, politicians and others have regularly used debt to rationalize conduct that has been damaging to workers and to the poor…Debt, directly or indirectly, has decayed the very soul of America.” - James Medoff and Andrew Harless, The Indebted Society

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

Unfortunately, “Men love war because it allows them to look serious.” - John Fowles

“Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence, in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manner and of morals engendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” - James Madison, 1795

Ciara said...

I seem to be a little behind the curve here, as has happened before. My impression has been that and DailyKos are the real deal. Is that not true?

Jay - Ottawa said...

@ Anne

"Move to Amend" today sent a hefty mailout to its subscribers. This is the outfit that hopes to reverse, by constitutional amendment, the Citizens United case whereby corporations became citizens.

Deep in the text is a reference to the upcoming October Demonstrations -- The Next Big Thing, if I may say, for progressives. Anyway, here are the slogans that might be helpful for your honkathon. Take the first few words (only) from these bullet points if you like. Some of the bullet points actually contain the lines for 2 or 3 placards. Save your placards for reuse in October.

Here's what "Move" says the majority of Americans consistently support. Let us know whether all this is true when you get back from the front.

Tax the rich and corporations

End the wars, bring the troops home, cut military spending

Protect the social safety net, strengthen Social Security and improved Medicare for all

End corporate welfare for oil companies and other big business interests

Transition to a clean energy economy, reverse environmental degradation

Protect worker rights including collective bargaining, create jobs and raise wages

Get money out of politics

As for the beg to honk, you only need to say "honk for" on a few placards. Passersby will then honk for any one of your slogans.

Can you tell I've played this game before? Syracuse, NY, was the spawning ground for many troublemakers.

Karen Garcia said...

DailyKos used to carry water for Obama, or more accurately, the Obama Personality Cult. But in the past few weeks, I notice more diaries criticizing the Prez, countered by diaries hysterical in their criticism of the criticizers. It is a mess over there. Obama Derangement Syndrome meets Obama Disappointment Syndrome.

Re MoveOn, one of its directors is married to the White House staffer whose job description is to push back against progressives they consider unfriendly to the Administration.
Whether or not these fit the criteria for "in the veal pen" is of course a matter of opinion. However, both sites enjoy the full faith and credit of the DNC. Democrats as a party are embracing an austerity plank normally reserved for conservative Republicans.

Rose in Michigan said...

@Jay - Ottawa

Just wanted to say thank you for the mention of Move to Amend. I checked out their web site and discovered that the (a?) Michigan chapter is holding a meeting this Sunday evening from 8-10 p.m. at the Side Track Bar & Grill in Ypsilanti. That's less than 5 miles from my house! My son and grandson are planning to join me for "exterior maintenance hell" during the day, but I'm going to try to remain conscious and coherent so that I can attend the evening's event. (Conscious I may be able to manage; coherent, not so much.)

This is a critically important part of election reform, but it's not the only element. We also have to mobilize to defeat the Republicans in their drive to disenfranchise those voters most likely to vote Democratic, and we have to fight for a non-partisan, apolitical system of drawing up voting districts.

And then there's this:

Chris Hedges warned us, and now it's dangerously close to succeeding. Where is Gort when you need him?

Personally, I'm considering relocating to Bajor.

Neil said...

@Janet Camp

Thank you. And your "deer in the headlights" metaphor is well taken; there are millions of smart, educated Americans like Karen Finney and Susan Del Percio who are either unable or unwilling to call this for what it is - America is a corrupt nation. It’s not just Obama’s failures (as pointed out by Maureen Dowd in "Withholder in Chief"), but a systemic failure as a nation.

Gerald Rubin said...

Dylan Ratigan's "rant" was the perfect challenge to the president.

A lot of liberal commentators still confuse Obama's corporatist objectives with ineptitude. Latest, Maureen Dowd in the NYTimes.

I myself am questioning what mainstream progressive organizations do to help beleagered americans. I belong to, but I believe their mainstreams solutions will be ineffective. A lot of big talk but nothing else. They stay dormant most of the time and only come to life with big issues. This is not good enough.

I was turned off by ProgressiveUnited when Russ Feingold declared Wisconsin a victory. What spinning, in the next part he is asking for a donation. Worse yet, ProgressiveUnited is trying to place progressives on the Supercommittee of 13. This is worthless, they should be fighting to disband the Supercommittee that is illegal and unconstitutional. I have named the gang of 13 the american Politboro, I hope it catches on.

I feel more in tune with Firedoglake and Ampedstatus, they do need to grow a lot before they can really be effective.

Jill said...

The problem is that when people are this disgusted, they tend to vote for people who give them easy, glib answers...and in this country those people are named "Rick Perry" and "Michele Bachmann."

I had once hoped it would all hang on until I ws safely out of this mortal coil. It now looks like it won't.

Valerie said...

Neil - Really good point. And I quote you:

"The stock market is all of us, our 401’s and IRA’s...

What Velshi did not say, but inferred, is that corporations are the stock market, and thus represent the future and retirement for Americans in terms of 401s and IRAs because of the "social security is going bankrupt" yarn. Better support corporations, or plan to spend old age under a bridge eating handouts.

How many folks do you think are going to criticize corporate power? Many watch in horror as their 401s and IRAs drop in value. They want to reverse this trend and don’t really care how it is done. Re-inflate the bubble!"

I watched this happen in Australia. Kevin Rudd, rightly so, said the mulit-national mining corporations (83% which are non-Australian) which are raping the land, polluting the water tables, pulling minerals out at an alarming rate and shipping almost all of them overseas, should pay a 40% tax for the privilege. The mining companies went into full propaganda mode - seriously, they had commercials up and running in a couple of days and were running them on all the television stations non-stop - promoting the fear that jobs would be lost and pensions and super- annuation values would be gutted. The population was convinced and supported the mining companies. Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister who had gotten Australia through the Recession pretty much unscathed, was thrown out of office and replaced by a Prime Minister who didn't make a peep about a mining tax. THAT is how powerful these multi-national corporations are and how they are so effective in getting the Middle Classes to cooperate with their own destruction.

Back in the 90’s the Middle Class went along with deregulation because our 401Ks were invested in the market and our portfolios were going up in value. Everyone felt rich. Now, I fear, Americans will fight to support the profitability of the corporations even if it means off-shoring of jobs and ridiculous tax breaks because their retirement is invested in these same corporations via the stock market.

It will take a really strong, charismatic leader to convince the American people to support going after the corporations once they start pulling the pension/401K argument out of their hat.

Neil said...


That is a good point about mining. West Virginia is dealing with a controversial Bush mining policy continued by Obama where opinions are largely tied to financial interests. This evening CNN aired "Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America" about mountaintop removal, a mining process in which a mountain is blasted apart and the debris deposited in nearby valleys ruining the streams and ecosystem. Many locals support the mining process while outsiders do not, according to a poll. One man who was interviewed said it was worthwhile to loose a mountain in return for 300 to 400 jobs. Opponents claim more miners would be employed in traditional underground mines but the mining company would not make as much profit. One local, Diann Kish said "Doesn't bother me what other people think," Kish said. "It's not their livelihood." A West Virginia University associate professor found increased health risks in mountaintop removal mining areas.

Commentor BSH199 wrote "Yet another Bush mistaken administration policy that Obama continued..." Here is a link to the story