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

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All the Blood in Your Body (re: Ebola in Africa)

(Photo: European Commission DG ECHO / Flickr)

All the Blood in Your Body
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 29 July 2014

A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.

- Albert Camus, "The Plague"

It begins with symptoms analogous to influenza: fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches. Nothing to worry about, right? We've all had the flu.

After that are the headaches, seizures, confusion, exhaustion, as the central nervous system comes under attack. Toward the end, you start bleeding - from the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the anus, the vagina, the skin - and every drop of blood that leaves your body is loaded with the virus that is killing you, in search of a new host to burn down. One by one, your organs fail, your body drowns within itself, and you're gone.

That is Ebola, for close to 90 percent of the people who contract it. It gestates within you for thirteen to twenty-five days before it sinks its teeth into you, so you have from two weeks to almost a month to spread it around - sexual contact is the easiest way, but there are others - before it takes you over. For those first two weeks, you have no idea that you are a ticking bomb.

The worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history is currently burning through several countries in Africa. It began in Guinea back in February. By the end of May, it had spread to the capital, Conakry, a city of some two million people. The disease was found in several counties in Liberia by the end of March, and in Sierra Leone by the end of May. Days ago, a case of Ebola was discovered in Nigeria, carried by a man from Liberia who arrived by airplane in the city of Lagos, which has almost 20 million residents. The man died not long after his arrival, and a resurgence of the disease has since been reported in both Guinea and Liberia.


There are some who fear the disease can now be transmitted through the air, which would not only explain the rapid spread of this new outbreak, but would also explain how three trained doctors taking every available precaution also became infected.

I think of that, and remember the man from Liberia carrying the disease who arrived by plane in Lagos. I think of all the people who shared that plane with him, and wonder where they are now. I think of this disease infiltrating densely-populated cities in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and all the attached airports that connect to more large cities and more airports, and I remember that the disease sits and waits, sits and waits, sits and waits for two weeks before mimicking the flu, before it explodes. I remember that as many as nine out of ten people do not survive exposure.

The book The Hot Zone, published in 1994, explains in graphic detail what this disease is capable of, and what can happen if it gets loose in the high-traffic international air routes that wrap the planet like a web. Someone once said that a lie can be halfway around the world before the truth puts its pants on. In this instance, Ebola can be strolling blithely through Laguardia, or O'Hare, or LAX, before anyone is the wiser...and if the theory that this disease has become airborne has any validity, that scenario presents a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

We live, here in America, in an age where it is expected that nothing gets done. At this moment, the only groups working to curtail this Ebola outbreak are Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, and a few Christian missionary organizations. The local medical facilities and staff in the affected countries are woefully inadequate to the task.

In the strongest possible terms, I suggest the Centers for Disease Control, along with any and all pertinent Federal and state agencies, pool their resources and go to Africa as soon as possible. I suggest Congress write them a check sufficient to fund what will doubtless be a highly dangerous medical rescue/research operation. I suggest other nations with sufficient medical capabilities join in this endeavor.

This disease likes to travel, and the first case that pops up in New York or Chicago, thanks to a plane flight, will have the whole country wearing surgical masks behind closed doors. If we're lucky.

Remember the anthrax panic after 9/11? People picking up their mail with oven mitts? That was paranoia. This is all too real, and must be addressed immediately.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25241-all-the-blood-in-your-body

Hope in the Village

I had a really interesting day on Wednesday, and decided to write about it. Of course, two days later and will all Hell breaking loose, the idea of writing a hopeful story seems preposterous...but maybe a little of this is what we need.

Anyway, here it is.

(Image: Bob Jagendorf, Two kids
via Shutterstock; Edited: EL / TO)

Hope in the Village
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Friday 18 July 2014


The town square of Nelson, New Hampshire, a few miles north of me, is no bigger than a minute. It does not have a single traffic light, and is defined by the perfect white New England edifice of the Nelson Congregational Church. GPS systems do not work in Nelson; the "You have arrived at your destination" announcement always comes when you're still driving through the deep woods, 100 yards from where you're trying to get to. On one sprawling piece of property there is a lovely farmhouse, and behind it sits a large barn guarded by a floppy yet friendly Basset hound. That barn was my destination, for within, The Game of Village was being played.

The Game of Village is a day-camp for children between the ages of ten and fourteen (9-year-olds are sometimes invited, if they prove themselves to be sharp enough to keep up with the curriculum) that takes place all over the country and in several parts of Europe. It is a five-week community-building exercise in which the kids create small anthropomorphic versions of themselves out of dowels and yarn called "Peeps." The Peeps purchase "Homesteads," build little houses on their patch of land, and engage in commerce with their neighbors. There is a bank, a store, a working radio station, and a newspaper, and each Peep (and their kid) take shifts running them.


Most importantly, however, there is also government, which is where I came in. A dear family friend sends her daughter to this camp (she's one of the sharp 9-year-olds they invited), and convinced one of the adults running the camp (called "Commissioners" to invite me to give a talk. The timing, as it turned out, was perfect. Initially, the kids had chosen Anarchy as their form of government, but that was quickly overthrown by a small cadre of campers who manage to institute an Oligarchy. The bank was promptly looted by an oligarch Peep (does life imitate camp, or does camp imitate life?), and several of the other campers began an insurgency to dump the Oligarchy in favor of Democracy.

When I arrived, the children were arrayed across the main workroom, engaged in various projects. Some were repairing damaged Peeps, others were working their shifts at the bank and the store, and still others were debating the relative merits of their preferred form of government. It was a loose, friendly environment created, with little obvious influence from the adults, by what was clearly a very special group of kids. After I was introduced to each table, everyone gathered in a circle in the next room to hear what I had to say.


The news was still terrible when I got home - and has grown worse by orders of magnitude since Wednesday - but a few miles north of me, glowing like a coal in the night, a bunch of kids are immersed in the practice of community and good government. They are engaged, learning how to express themselves, learning how to work together, learning how to be real and effective citizens. They will carry those experiences with them into adulthood, and improve their world. Coals like that are glowing, as we speak, all across these United States, thanks to the Game of Village.

That, right there, is hope.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/25020-william-rivers-pitt-hope-in-the-village

The Lost, Lingering Legacy of Robert F. Kennedy

Robert Kennedy addresses an election rally in 1968. (Photo: Celestine Chua / Flickr; Edited: EL / TO)

The Lost, Lingering Legacy of Robert F. Kennedy
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Saturday 12 July 2014

Forty-six years ago, on the fifth of June, 1968, the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy came to an abrupt and horrific end. Having just given his victory speech after winning the Democratic primary in California, Kennedy was struck by three bullets fired by a man named Sirhan Sirhan in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. He clung to life for a time at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, and died early the following morning.

History, as recorded, has a way of focusing on the primary colors of a particular individual's impact. The Robert Kennedy who is generally known is remembered to be the son of a rich industrialist, the right-hand man of Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red-Scare witch hunts, one of the original architects of the Vietnam War debacle, the Attorney General, the Senator, and finally, the brother of an assassinated president. His own run for the presidency in 1968 lasted 82 days, and ended on a dirty kitchen floor in Los Angeles, with his life's blood pumping into the empty air along with the hopes and dreams and aspirations of millions.

But Robert Kennedy - son of the oligarchy, scion of a family of the ruling elite after his two older brothers were laid low by war and another assassin - was so much more than that. When President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November of 1963, Robert Kennedy was destroyed. Annihilated. Ruined utterly. He disappeared within himself and his overwhelming sorrow for a time, emerging eventually to win a US Senate seat for New York in 1964...and that is when the new, true Bobby Kennedy emerged.


There are two stories about Robert Kennedy that stand out in my mind, one well-known and the other nearly unheard-of.

The first story, well-known: Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968, just as Kennedy's campaign was getting underway. Kennedy was in Indianapolis, slated to give a speech to a large crowd of Black supporters. When he arrived, no one in the crowd had heard the grim news, and it fell to Kennedy to tell them.

Every major American city burned that night, as the rage in the aftermath of King's murder took hold...except Indianapolis.

The second story, far less known: Robert Kennedy had been an advocate for Native Americans since well before his time in the Senate, and had visited a number of reservations over the years. His work was so appreciated by Native Americans that the National Congress of Indians in 1963 adopted him into the tribes, and bestowed upon him the name "Brave Heart."

During his 1968 presidential campaign, he had only two days to spend in his swing through South Dakota, and over the bellowed protestations of campaign staffers concerned about votes, spent one of those two full days at the Pine Ridge Reservation. He spent the entire day in the company of Christopher Pretty Boy, a 9-year-old child whose parents had been killed in a car accident the week before. Kennedy sat with Christopher for hours, and when he went on a tour of the reservation, held Christopher's hand the entire time.

One year later, Robert F. Kennedy and Christopher Pretty Boy were dead.


Forty-six years later, the legacy of his campaign, of his cause, has been all but forgotten. Today, our politicians again wage war for political and financial benefit, ignore the rampant poverty and suffering of the citizenry, and in fact work hammer and tong to devise bold new ways to rob from the poor to fatten the rich. It is all too easy to imagine the better world that may have come to pass had Kennedy not walked into that kitchen, but that, in the end, is fantasy. It happened, and we are here.

There was a time all those years ago when, for 82 days, we were given an opportunity to believe that we as a nation can be better than what we are. The legacy of Robert Kennedy is still there, lying fallow, waiting to be born anew.

The time is just right, and anything - everything - is possible.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24908-william-rivers-pitt-|

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America."

In all the darkness, the teeth-grinding fury, the disgust, and the desperate temptation to surrender to despair, I remember:

That Black people who were brought here in chains won their freedom, and then more freedom, and then equal status under the law. It was a long and horror-filled road, it should never have happened, but we as a nation fixed it, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That women have only had the right to vote for 95 of the years this country has existed, which frankly blows my whole mind. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That growing old used to be a dead-bang guarantee of growing poor. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That 146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire because as workers, they had no rights. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That marriage rights existed in a state of apartheid, to the exclusion of LGTB people, until the dam broke recently. We as a nation are still fixing that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

The curious thought experiment that is the United States of America is built on a lot of mythology, and a lot of greed, and the machinery of that construction was lubricated with an ocean of Native American and African blood...but it has a lot of soul, too, and an astonishing amount of potential.

So very slowly, one brick at a time, we have worked to improve our flaws. It's a hell of a project: take people from every country in the world, every religion, every nationality, all packing centuries of racism and resentments and differences, throw them all together, shake it up, hand them a couple of pieces of old parchment, and say, "OK, figure it out." Sometimes, it's two-steps-forward-one-step-back...and sometimes it's one-step-forward-two-steps-back....but the push forward is always there, even in those times when it loses ground.

I'm not much for the concept of "American Exceptionalism," but unless I missed a chapter in my high school history textbook, nothing quite like this has been pulled off before in all of human history. All we have in common, really, are those old pieces of paper, and the ideas inked upon them.

It's hard. Brutally hard. What was that line from the movie "The American President?" Oh, right: "You gotta want it."

I want it. I will live my entire life and die not having achieved the goals I want for this country, and when I go, I will be fulfilled, because the effort yields its own rewards, and the idea is worth the fight.

While I am certainly not the biggest Bill Clinton fan in the world, I hold close and dear to my heart a line he delivered during his first inauguration.

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America."

Bang on, Bill.

Shoulder to the wheel.

There are more of us than there are of them, and the arc of history bends toward justice.

Happy Fourth of July, all. We rise, because evolution is real.

Land of the Free, Unless You're a Woman

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

Land of the Free, Unless You're a Woman
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Friday 04 July 2014

The flags are fluttering, the backyard barbecues are blazing, and the Souza marches will strut into the sky to greet the grand thudding starbursts of fireworks. It is the Fourth of July in these United States, our annual national celebration of freedom.

What a sad joke.

Not long ago, five men on the Supreme Court handed down their decision in the already-infamous Hobby Lobby case. In it, they ruled that the owners of "closely-held" companies with "sincere religious beliefs" can deny medical coverage for certain forms of contraception, if such forms of contraception go against those religious beliefs.


The decision in the Hobby Lobby case is many things. It is the continued elevation of Christianity over all other religions, and over the choice to hold no religion, in a country where no single religion is supposed to hold sway. It is yet another flat declaration that corporations have more rights than people. It is a purely political action to strike a blow against the Affordable Care Act, the right's most beloved boogeyman. It is a very sneaky back door through which alleged "people of faith" can peddle their onging discrimination against LGBT employees.

And, of course, it is simple, old-fashioned woman-hating from top to bottom.

It is another jarring attempt to remake the United States according to the opinions of men like Utah's Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who agrees with the court's decision because women only use contraception for "recreational behavior," and not for significant and pressing medical reasons or motivations of personal freedom. It is an attempt to remake the United States according to the opinions of men like Washington Post columnist George Will, who recently argued that women on college campuses only cry "rape" because they want the "coveted status" of being a rape survivor.

Two years ago, Cecily McMillan was participating in a peaceful Occupy protest in New York City when a police officer came up behind her and grabbed her violently by the breast. Like any normal woman, McMillan threw an elbow to stop the assault. For this, she was convicted of assaulting a police officer and sentenced to 90 days at Rikers Island. It could have been seven years.

McMillan was recently released, and gave a harrowing description of the conditions she and the other women incarcerated at at Rikers endured: women dying, women bleeding vaginally for hours, women with cancer, diabetes and other ailments who were denied medical treatment while being stacked like so much cord wood in overcrowded bunk rooms.

McMillan is free now, but still in jail, incarcerated with every other woman in the Rikers Island that is these United States, thanks to the five men who handed down the Hobby Lobby decision. The food is better, and there are no bars on the doors, but it is a prison nonetheless, where women do not enjoy equal status, where women can and will be denied basic and necessary medical services, because somebody's bastardized version of Jesus considers them to be lesser creatures, and not nearly as important as a corporation.

Enjoy your "independence" day.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/24773-william-rivers-pitt-land-of-the-free-unless-youre-a-woman

"What kind of a peace do I mean, and what kind of a peace do we seek?"

What kind of a peace do I mean, and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana, enforced upon the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave, or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on Earth worth living. Not peace in our time, but peace in all time.

Our problems are man-made, and therefore can be solved by man. Because, in the final analysis, our greatest common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.

We all breathe the same air.

We all cherish our children's future.

And we are all mortal.

- "The Peace Speech," John F. Kennedy, American University, June 1963

"Independence Day"? How about "Depends Day" instead.

For consideration by the committee: changing the name "Independence Day" to "Depends Day."

To wit, regarding how "free" you actually are: Are you a woman? Gay? Trans? In prison for weed? Poor? Etc.?

Are you a corporation? Rich? Healthy? White? Male?

Are you free?

It depends.


1610s, from L. hystericus "of the womb," from Gk. hysterikos "of the womb, suffering in the womb," from hystera "womb" (see uterus). Originally defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus.


These shit attitudes are embedded in the very language we speak and hear every day. It is beyond insidious.

Long road behind. Long road ahead.

You are not alone.

Iraq, Two Bullets and the Long Arc of History

Author's note: this article was originally inspired by a DU post from Benton D Struckcheon. Thank you, Benton. - WRP

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie leave the Sarajevo Guildhall after reading a speech
on June 28, 1914. They were assassinated five minutes later. (Image via Wikipedia)

Iraq, Two Bullets and the Long Arc of History
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 01 July 2014

There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.

- Eugene O'Neill

Over the weekend, the world observed what must be considered one of the bleakest, bloodiest anniversaries in the history of humanity. One hundred years ago, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo along with his wife by Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb who was a member of a group known as the "Black Hand." The Archduke was struck by two bullets and died within minutes, while his wife died en route to the hospital.

One month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, the other great European powers soon joined the fray, and with banners flying and trumpets blaring, the awesome butchery that was World War I began. The bloodletting did not end until November of 1918, and once the smoke and mustard gas had cleared, four of the great powers in Europe - the Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and German empires - no longer existed. Millions were dead, whole swaths of Europe lay in ruins, and the old Napoleonic practice of close-order battle marches had been rendered into so much meat by the lethal metal truth of modern mechanized warfare.

The cascading aftermath, however, was only just beginning. The chaos unleashed in Russia by the war led to the collapse of the government, the rise of Vladimir Lenin, and the birth of the Soviet Union. Ten years after the creation of the USSR, Josef Stalin was named General Secretary of the Communist Party. He remained the undisputed leader of the USSR until his death in 1953, and during those intervening years, Stalin oversaw one of the most ruthless, paranoid regimes that has ever existed on the skin of the Earth. At the peak of his atrocities, there were as many as 1,000 executions a day, while millions more were "disappeared" into gulags. Despite this, the Soviet Union under Stalin grew to be a tremendous industrial power, and a dominant presence on the world stage.

In Germany, the turmoil left in the wake of the war was just as pronounced, and came to effect the entire planet along with the course of human history. The war, and the armistice that was signed to end it, left Germany shattered and humiliated. The rage, deprivations and despair left in the wake of the collapse of the Weimar Republic became fertile soil for the growth of German fascism, from which a failed painter named Adolf Hitler was able to reap a truly bitter harvest. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland, the slaughter of the Holocaust was underway, and the global massacre that was World War II came to pass.

World War II beget the creation and use of the atomic bomb, the subsequent spread of which placed the human race in peril of extinction, a peril that lingers to this day. Upon observing the governing principles of Stalin, The US ambassador to the Soviet Union, George Kennan, penned and transmitted the "Long Telegram" in 1946, the document credited by history as being the genesis of the Cold War. The aftermath of World War II, combined with the onset of the Cold War, inspired the passage of the National Security Act in 1947 and the creation of the American "National Security State."


I make mention of this long, grim thread of history in the looming shadow of the ongoing chaos in Iraq. Over the weekend, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced the creation of what they call a caliphate, which spans large portions of those two nations. The current situation in those two nations, and in the Middle East entire, can be laid in large degree to the decision by the Bush administration to lie the United States into a war in Iraq, a decision based upon feckless dreams of empire and the desire for political and financial profit. The matter is on the verge of spiraling beyond control and could lead to a region-wide conflagration, the ultimate outcome of which is anyone's guess.

The very simple moral: big clouds condense around small particles, as Richard Bachman once wisely wrote. Individuals certainly, and governments absolutely, must think long and hard about the consequences of their choices before they decide to pull the trigger. Two bullets in Sarajevo unleashed one hundred years of carnage. Some facile lies from a few American politicians may well have unleashed another hundred years of the same.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/24705-william-rivers-pitt-iraq-two-bullets-and-the-long-arc-of-history
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