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Name: William Rivers Pitt
Gender: Male
Hometown: Boston
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 58,179

Journal Archives

Eric Shinseki is out of a job today because...

Eric Shinseki is out of a job today because he was right about how wrong it was to throw tens of thousands of men and women into the meat-grinder of unnecessary war, and then volunteered for the impossible job of trying to deal with the aftermath.

Period. End of file. In case you were wondering.

So the cat just brought a LIVE FUCKING SNAKE into the living room.

Other people's cats show their love by leaving dead birds or mice on the doorstep. Boomer brings a LIVE FUCKING SNAKE into the living room.

The snake has been returned unharmed to the wild. Thank GOD Cailen isn't home; she would have flushed herself down the toilet to get away.

Artist's rendition of Cailen's reaction:

For Memorial Day, A Jo'rneyman's Song

Shipping Specialists Staff Sgt. Star Samuels, front,
and Tech. Sgt. Willard Rico, rear, place a U.S. flag
over a casket during a dry run of procedures for the
dignified transfer of remains shipping process at the
Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, Dover
Air force Base, Delaware, March 31, 2009.
(Photo: Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III / US Air Force)

A Jo'rneyman's Song
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Monday 28 May 2012

For tomorrow we laugh and tomorrow we cry
Tomorrow we dance and tomorrow we die
And tomorrow you will be my yesterday song
And I would die richer for having you known

Sing away, hey, a Jo'rneyman's Song
Tonight I will drink to you all evening long...

His name was Ryan J. Wilson. He was from California, 26 years old, and he died on the 20th of May serving in the Afghanistan war. According to the Department of Defense, Ryan J. Wilson was the 3,000th member of the coalition forces fighting that war, and the 1,974th American, to die since it began a decade ago.

We still don't do body counts - we do drones by the score, but not body counts - so I can't tell you how many Afghani soldiers and civilians have also died over these last ten years. I can't tell you their names, how old they were, or where they came from. I wish I could, but since that information is not available due to reasons of national security and stuff, I thought you should have at least one name to dwell on over this long, relaxing weekend.

His name was Ryan J. Wilson. He was 26, from California, and I will never get to meet him and thank him for his service.

I've noticed, lo these last few years, how mainstream and awesome and cool our wars have become. We have one urban combat video game after another, complete with insane, hard-core graphics that give the player a real taste of actual combat. Isn't that cool? There have been a bunch of movies, too, capitalizing on everything from horrible injuries to PTSD to multiple deployments - you know, the stuff actual soldiers have been dealing with for ten years now - in order to entertain us.

Are we not entertained? Of course we are. This is America. One death is a tragedy. Five is a massacre. Thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths? That's just foreign policy, and a bitchin' video game, and nine dollars at the multiplex on Friday night. Granted, war stories and war games have been part of our cultural American consciousness since the shots fired on the Lexington green, but it seems almost pornographic to turn what has happened over the last decade into a cash cow.

There's a commercial on local TV here in Boston for a jewelry store sale that uses "Shock and Awe" as its tag line. The diamonds and bracelets and necklaces are displayed against an olive drab camouflage background, with the voice-over crowing, "Give her shock and awe, fellas, and buy her this blab la bla-diddy-bla..."

His name was Ryan J. Wilson.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9407-a-jorneymans-song

Sick of Secrets

Fracking site where chemical-laden water is injected at high speed into the ground.
(Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

Sick of Secrets
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Friday 23 May 2014

A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept.

- Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Regular readers of this space are well aware by now of the joy I take in highlighting and underscoring the bottomless vat of genuine entertainment to be found in the foibles, follies and gut-busting failures provided on a daily basis by this country's far-right fringe. From hilariously misspelled and misapprehended protest signs - "Respect Are Country - Speak English" and "Keep Government Out Of My Medicare" leap to mind - to bottomless calamities like the "Operation American Spring" in DC this past weekend, to the "patriots" at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada pointing their guns at each other over a rumor that Eric Holder was sending a drone to kill them all, these people are well and truly the gift that keeps on giving.

The problem is that some of these brain donors are actually in charge of stuff, as evidenced by the latest doings in North Carolina on the subject of fracking.

Fracking, for those not in the know, is the process of injecting chemical-laden water at high speed into the ground, so as to extract the last vestiges of useable hydrocarbons from a particular site. Bully for those who turn whatever is extracted into folding green, but the neighbors have a tendency to find their tap water undrinkable and/or flammable thanks to the chemicals being injected into the ground, and folks in places like Oklahoma, Texas and California will tell you all about the earthquakes that happen near active fracking sites.

The state fathers of the North Carolina General Assembly, it seems, do not want you or anyone else to know the precise composition of the poisons being injected into the ground in order to lap up whatever mouthfuls of gas and oil there are to be had. Three Republican senators from that august chamber have coughed up a bill that would make it a felony to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process.

Not for nothing, and try to contain your shock, but the three North Carolina state senators pushing this bill have each received lavish campaign contributions from a lobbying firm called McGuire Woods, which represents gas and oil companies like Koch Industries and Halliburton. Far be it from me to wave the bloody shirt, but it strikes me as singularly obnoxious that elected officials are seeking to criminalize providing information to the public about why the water they drink is probably killing them because of the crud being pumped into their groundwater by the companies doling out money to keep it secret.

I know, I know, it's just the price of doing business. Just Republicans being Republicans, right? Screw the people, because all that matters is the wealth-weighted paymasters lurking just out of sight.

Speaking of which, have you heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? It's this massive multi-nation trade deal that President Obama is just wild about. The thing is, the deal is being negotiated in secret between a few government officials and a few hundred corporate representatives. The only reason we know anything about it at all is because Wikileaks got hold of a few documents pertaining to the deal and was kind enough to share them with the world by way of the internet.

The little we know: TPP would paint some 40 percent of the world's economy with NAFTA-style rules that would, among other things, ship American jobs overseas, subsume our judicial system with corporate arguments that their rights to profit are more important than the standing laws of the land, and forever alter the free exchange of information on the internet. The price of medicines will skyrocket, US companies will no longer be able to pitch their wares under the "Buy American" banner, genetically-altered life forms will be able to be patented, tobacco companies will be let off the our-product-will-kill-you leash, and Wall Street - the biggest TPP fan of all - will make a killing.

And that's just what we know about this thing that is being pushed like mad by the Democrat in the White House.


So, yeah, here's the funny part: Republicans in North Carolina want to make it a crime to disclose the chemicals that the people they purport to represent are being exposed to. Meanwhile, the Democrat in the White House wants to sell you and everyone you know out to massive corporate and financial interests, and in an ancillary twist of the knife, that same Democrat's administration is trying to make it harder for you to find out about these things by warping the nature of the internet into a pay-for-play cash cow...and you know what? All of these Republican and Democratic secrets are going to make the same small group of rich people even richer.

I am mortally sick of secrets.

Aren't you?

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23891-william-rivers-pitt-sick-of-secrets

Rebecca Solnit | Feminism Has Just Started (and It's Not Stopping Now)

Marchers in the Minneapolis Slut Walk on October 1, 2011.
The Slut Walk is a worldwide movement to protest the further
victimization of sexual abuse victims. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Pandora's Box and the Volunteer Police Force: Feminism Has Just Started (and It's Not Stopping Now)
By Rebecca Solnit
TomDispatch via Truthout | Book Exerpt

Tuesday 20 May 2014

The history of women’s rights and feminism is often told as though it were a person who should already have gotten to the last milestone or has failed to make enough progress toward it. Around the millennium lots of people seemed to be saying that feminism had failed or was over. On the other hand, there was a wonderful feminist exhibition in the 1970s entitled “Your 5,000 Years Are Up.” It was a parody of all those radical cries to dictators and abusive regimes that your [fill in the blank] years are up. It was also making an important point.

Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many, perhaps most, cultures around the world, innumerable institutions, and most households on Earth -- and in our minds, where it all begins and ends. That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanently, definitively, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure. A woman goes walking down a thousand-mile road. Twenty minutes after she steps forth, they proclaim that she still has 999 miles to go and will never get anywhere.

It takes time. There are milestones, but so many people are traveling along that road at their own pace, and some come along later, and others are trying to stop everyone who’s moving forward, and a few are marching backward or are confused about what direction they should go in. Even in our own lives we regress, fail, continue, try again, get lost, and sometimes make a great leap, find what we didn’t know we were looking for, and yet continue to contain contradictions for generations.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23816-pandoras-box-and-the-volunteer-police-force-feminism-has-just-started-and-its-not-stopping-now

Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women

As Jennifer Longdon steered her wheelchair through the Indianapolis airport on April 25, she thought the roughest part of her trip was over. Earlier that day she'd participated in an emotional press conference with the new group Everytown for Gun Safety, against the backdrop of the National Rifle Association's annual meeting. A mom, gun owner, and Second Amendment supporter, Longdon was paralyzed in 2004 after being shot in her car by unknown assailants, and has since been a vocal advocate for comprehensive background checks and other gun reforms.

As Longdon sat waiting for her flight, a screen in the concourse showed footage of the press conference. A tall, thin man standing nearby stared at Longdon, then back at the screen. Then he walked up to Longdon and spat in her face. No one else blinked.

Longdon was shocked and embarrassed, she told me, but she didn't falter. "Wow, aren't you a big man," she said as he turned and walked away. Instead of calling for security, she wheeled herself to a restroom to clean herself off. She was tired—she lives with constant physical pain—and didn’t want to miss her flight. "Should I have done something more? Quite honestly, in the scheme of things it was a little man and a little moment," she said. "He felt to me like a coward and a bully."

What happened to Longdon in Indianapolis is part of a disturbing pattern. Ever since the Sandy Hook massacre, a small but vocal faction of the gun rights movement has been targeting women who speak up on the issue—whether to propose tighter regulations, educate about the dangers to children, or simply to sell guns with innovative security features. The vicious and often sexually degrading attacks have evolved far beyond online trolling, culminating in severe bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, and physical aggression. Though vitriol flows from both sides in the gun debate, these menacing tactics have begun to alarm even some entrenched pro-gun conservatives.

The rest: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/05/guns-bullying-open-carry-women-moms-texas

"We Kill People Based on Metadata."

"We Kill People Based on Metadata."
By David Cole
The New York Review of Books

Supporters of the National Security Agency inevitably defend its sweeping collection of phone and Internet records on the ground that it is only collecting so-called “metadata”—who you call, when you call, how long you talk. Since this does not include the actual content of the communications, the threat to privacy is said to be negligible. That argument is profoundly misleading.

Of course knowing the content of a call can be crucial to establishing a particular threat. But metadata alone can provide an extremely detailed picture of a person’s most intimate associations and interests, and it’s actually much easier as a technological matter to search huge amounts of metadata than to listen to millions of phone calls. As NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker has said, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content.” When I quoted Baker at a recent debate at Johns Hopkins University, my opponent, General Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, called Baker’s comment “absolutely correct,” and raised him one, asserting, “We kill people based on metadata.”

It is precisely this power to collect our metadata that has prompted one of Congress’s most bipartisan initiatives in recent years. On May 7, the House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 to adopt an amended form of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to rein in NSA spying on Americans, initially proposed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner. On May 8, the House Intelligence Committee, which has until now opposed any real reform of the NSA, also unanimously approved the same bill. And the Obama administration has welcomed the development.

For some, no doubt, the very fact that this bill has attracted such broad bipartisan approval will be grounds for suspicion. After all, this is the same Congress that repeatedly reauthorized the 2001 USA Patriot Act, a law that was also proposed by Sensenbrenner and on which the bulk collection of metadata was said to rest—even if many members of Congress were not aware of how the NSA was using (or abusing) it. And this is the same administration that retained the NSA’s data collection program, inherited from its predecessor, as long as it was a secret, and only called for reform when the American people learned from the disclosures of NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the government was routinely collecting phone and Internet records on all of us. So, one might well ask, if Congress and the White House, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, all now agree on reform, how meaningful can the reform be?

The rest: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2014/may/10/we-kill-people-based-metadata/

Mother's Day at the End of the World

(Image: Auraelius / Flickr)

Mother's Day at the End of the World
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Friday 09 May 2014

Feed the phrase "toddler shot" into a Google search, and you'll get more than 80 million results. The links on the first page of that search read like a bell tolling at the end of the world:

"Aunt of toddler who shot himself: 'He probably thought (the gun) was a toy.'" The gun was in the glove compartment of the car, loaded. This happened four days ago.

"Wichita toddler accidentally shot, killed by brother identified." The toddler was shot by his four-year-old brother, who found the gun in the bedroom nightstand, loaded. This happened eight days ago.

"Toddler shot by sister dies at hospital." The toddler was shot by his three-year-old sister with a rifle their father had left in the living room, loaded. This happened twenty days ago

To be fair, millions of the pages that come up in that particular Google search pertain to child vaccinations. Feed "toddler shoots toddler" into the search, and the number of results is winnowed down to only two and a half million.

Only two and a half million of these:

"Toddler accidentally shoots, kills 11-year-old sister."

"Toddler shoots fellow three-year-old with rifle in North Carolina."

"Father charged after two-year-old fatally shoots herself."

"Monroe toddler dies from shooting injuries."

Like a bell tolling at the end of the world...which, to no small degree, for the mothers of these dead children, it is.

Everyone has a mother. In the 48 hours between Monday and Tuesday of this week:

A 14-year-old boy was shot and killed in New Orleans on Monday night;

A 24-year-old man was shot and killed in Queens on Monday night over a parking dispute;

A 22-year-old woman was shot and killed in Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon after being "mistaken for a groundhog" by her shooter;

A 48-year-old man was shot and killed by his neighbor in Minnesota on Monday night after a dispute over feeding the neighborhood deer;

Two men were shot and killed in Chicago on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, ages 20 and 34;

A 25-year-old man was shot and killed in his car in Ohio on Monday night;

A man in his 40's was shot to death in San Jose on Tuesday morning, the result of a road-rage incident;

A 27-year-old man was shot while having a smoke in a Santa Ana parking lot on Tuesday morning;

A 39-year-old man was shot and killed on the sidewalk in Hartford on Monday night;

An 18-year-old man was shot and killed near a scrap yard in Pueblo on Tuesday;

A 30-year-old man was shot and killed in Dothan on Tuesday night.

Eleven dead in 48 hours.

In that same 48-hour period, thirty-eight other people were shot and wounded in gun incidents all over the country, including a New Jersey police chief who shot himself in the leg on Tuesday, and an Indiana police officer who shot himself in the leg on Monday. As of this accounting, 6,212 people have been shot and wounded in America, and 3,665 people have been shot and killed, since the first of January, 2014. Almost ten thousand people shot in 131 days.

Those numbers will rise, sure as eggs is eggs, by the time the sun sets this Sunday. Eleven mothers making funeral plans for their dead child on the eve of Mother's Day, thirty-eight mothers in fear for their injured child, because we are always children to our mothers, no matter how old we grow. The sorrow in this is absolute; it is that bell tolling at the end of the world.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/23589-william-rivers-pitt-mothers-day-at-the-end-of-the-world

O SHIT: Cecily McMillan jurors tell judge Occupy activist should not go to jail

Cecily McMillan jurors tell judge Occupy activist should not go to jail

A majority of the jurors who this week convicted an Occupy Wall Street activist of assaulting a New York police officer have asked the judge in her case to not send her to prison.

Cecily McMillan was on Monday found guilty of deliberately elbowing officer Grantley Bovell in the face, as he led her out of a protest in March 2012. She was convicted of second-degree assault, a felony, and faces up to seven years in prison. She was denied bail and is being detained at Riker's Island jail.

However, nine of the 12 jurors who unanimously reached the verdict have since taken the unusual step of writing to Judge Ronald Zweibel to request that he not give her a prison sentence on 19 May.

“We the jury petition the court for leniency in the sentencing of Cecily McMillan,” they wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian. “We would ask the court to consider probation with community service.

The rest: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/08/cecily-mcmillan-jurors-judge-occupy-activist-jail

One of the best editorial cartoons I've ever seen.

Republicans Abandon Americans to the Calamities of Climate Change -- LA Times
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