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WilliamPitt

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Name: William Rivers Pitt
Gender: Male
Hometown: Boston
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 57,556

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Merry Iconoclastic Christmas

I know this is a day late, but I haven't had the chance to post it until now. Hope you enjoy. -- wrp



(Photo: Jeff Weese)

Merry Iconoclastic Christmas
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 25 December 2014

The Houston Chronicle reported late Tuesday night that former president George H.W. Bush was rushed via ambulance to a local hospital after suffering shortness of breath. Despite the fact that the man is in the habit of throwing himself out of perfectly good airplanes to celebrate his birthdays, the truth is that he has passed 90 of them, so the medical precautions being taken to safeguard his health are wise.

This probably makes me a terrible person, but my first thought was to take sharp note, in the context of the times, of what happens when a wealthy white man says, "I can't breathe." Not to put too fine a point on it, but really, there it is.

I'm just sayin'. I sincerely hope the man recovers in time to celebrate Christmas at home in the mansion with the rest of his wrecking ball of a family. Everyone deserves a holiday. Hell, even God took a day off.

My grandmother would have scolded me for such talk. "That's not very Christian of you," she would have said.

And therein lies the funny part.

If you pay heed to the talking points boiling out of evangelical Christian churches all across the land, as well as media outlets like Fox News, you would be led to believe the United States is a "Christian nation." There is no passage in the founding documents to confirm this claim - and a mountain of established facts, in fact, to refute it right down the alley and into the dumpster - but this has not ceased the increasing fictionalization of the nation's creation. If the trend continues, the next generation of benightened evangelical home-schooled children will be raised to believe the Constitution was written by Jesus Christ as he rode a saddled Tyrannosaurus Rex over the graves of Muhammad and Martin Luther King, Jr.

(snip)

In point of fact: It's Christmas, upon which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, which is entirely wrong, because the Roman emperor Constantine gave Christianity its first taste of state sponsorship in the year 312, and later Christianized all the standing pagan holidays to consolidate his power. Jesus was not, in fact, born today. At the Council of Nicaea, the emperor and his crew made sure the "Good Book," and its interpretations, would read the way they wanted it to down through the centuries, and that flex has lasted for close to two thousand years.

Beyond these historical anomalies are the pressing modern realities, chief among which is this madhouse push to acquire personal belongings as a means of celebrating a man who cherished and preached the benefits of poverty and self-denial. Our annual carnival of consumption stands in stark contrast against the legacy of someone who took a whip in hand and beat the holy hell out of the bankers in the temple.

It's probably considered not "Christian" to say these things, either. But it's honest, at least.

There is what we believe, and there is what actually happened. There may very well have been a guy born in Bethlehem who spent three years preaching against the order of his day until he was executed for it. That may have happened, but the gross manipulation of that alleged event definitely happened, century after century, at the hands of people not seeking piety but power. So much of our culture has been shaped by the aftermath of the arrogance of the righteous, and we are all the poorer for it.

Jesus was not born today. Constantine told me so. Regardless, have a very Merry Christmas. The best present you can give yourself is an understanding of history. Misleading mythology withers on the vine of knowledge, and that is always a good thing.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28200-merry-iconoclastic-christmas

When I was a very small boy, my mother tucked me in on Christmas Eve...

...and ordered me, upon pain of Santa's vast disapproval, to stay put. I did as I was told, but tried very hard to stay awake so I could hear him arrive. I didn't last long...but at some point that night, I awoke to hear heavy footfalls across what sounded like the roof. Not long after, I heard my mother speaking to someone in hushed tones from the living room, and the tinkle of ice in a glass.

...the footfalls...the hushed talk...the glass...Mom gave Santa a drink of water! She was talking to Santa by the chimney!

The footfalls, of course, were my mother stomping across the attic right above my bedroom. The tinkle of ice in the glass was her own scotch, and the hushed conversation was the last part of the show. It worked; I believed, and a few lingering atoms in my soul still do, and I can't wait to run that same scam on my baby daughter Lola when she is old enough to appreciate it. Because it was perfect. Just perfect.

A wise friend told me that after her kids stopped believing in Santa, she sat them down and said they should still believe, because "Santa" is another word for a parent's love for their children. I plan intently on deploying that line as well, when the time comes.

Merry Christmas Eve, all. My very beloved best to you and yours.

If you're wondering just what the hell is going on between the cops and the mayor in NYC...

...I invite you to read this fully excellent breakdown and explanation. I have been a long-time admirer of Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo, but with this - an analysis of just what the hell is going on between the cops and the mayor in New York City - he absolutely parks it. Some of his finest work. Read it.

Who Do You Work For?
By Josh Marshall
Talking Points Memo

23 December 2014

Here in New York, over the last few weeks, we've seen a turbulent and tragic series of events which might seem far-fetched in its plot line if had it unfolded in a novel. Protests erupted in the aftermath of a Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an event which was itself catalyzed and primed by the roiling protests in response to the death of Michael Brown near St Louis. Major street protests followed. And then, as if to bring all the tension to a head, a deranged and violent man perpetrates what can only be called a street execution of two police officers waiting in their car in Bed-Stuy. The fact that the alleged assailant, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend hours earlier in Maryland suggests there was some deeper, more personal impulse to violence and self-destruction behind his rampage. But there is no getting around the fact that at a minimum he grabbed on to the wave of protest against police brutality to provide some logic or rationale for his violent end.

So now we have police and their critics, each with their own righteous aggrievement, thrust together for a collision with no good outcome for anyone involved.

Before the killing of the two officers, actually just a day before, I wrote this post about Pat Lynch, the head of the biggest NYPD police union. By then, Lynch had asked officers to fill out forms requesting that the Mayor not attend their funerals if they died in the line of duty. This was followed by a union meeting in which Lynch appeared to call for a slowdown of police work in response to a lack of "support" and "respect" from the city's political leaders and went as far as to say de Blasio "is not running the city of New York. He thinks he’s running a fucking revolution.”

As I said at the time, the head of the police union isn't an active member of the force. So he gets leeway serving officers might not. But still, as the official spokesman of the officers' labor organization this seemed like really over the top rhetoric. And with that lead-in it probably wasn't that surprising to see his vitriolic response following the deaths of officers Ramos and Liu in Brooklyn. At a press conference, Lynch didn't pussy-foot around with talk of rhetoric creating climates of tension or anything like that. He went right for it.

(snip)

The conflicts over policing are ones that need to be worked out at the grass roots level in the hard but critical work of police-community relations and at the grander level of city politics. But what has been disturbing to me for weeks, well before this tragedy this weekend, is the way that at least the leadership of the police unions has basically gone to war against the Mayor over breaking even in small ways from lockstep backing of the police department in all cases and at all times. When we hear members of the NYPD union leadership talking about being forced to become a "wartime" police department, who exactly are they going to war with? WTF does that mean? And who is the enemy?

The whole thing: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/who-do-you-work-for

Seems I've got to have a change of scene...





P.S. Play this loud.

"Head shots, head shots."

"Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they're going to be wearing bulletproof vests. They've got a big target on there, 'ATF.' Don't shoot at that, because they've got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots. Kill the sons of bitches."

-- G. Gordon Liddy, on broadcast radio, 26 August 1994

Dear right-wing moral outrage people: fornicate yourself with an iron rod.

Sincerely,

Me

Regarding the two NY cops, let me get this entirely straight...

Some asshole shoots up a school and kills a pile of kids...and I lament the event and bring up the excessive preponderance of guns in our society...and I get accused of politicizing a tragedy.

Some asshole shoots two cops, and the former fa-chrissakes Governor of New York says "Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of Eric Holder and Mayor de Blasio" because people are peacefully protesting excessive police violence...and that's NOT politicizing a tragedy?

Jesus.

I have said it a thousand times, and will likely have to say it a thousand times again until the lesson takes hold for all to hear:

The single greatest political strength of these right-wing fuckwits is their utter and complete lack of shame. They will say anything - literally anything - if they think it will move the ball a few yards down the field in their favor.

Comprehensively nauseating.

The Beginning of the End of the Cold War



A Cuban flag flies over a street in Havana, Dec. 19, 2014. President Barack Obama’s restoration
of diplomatic ties with Cuba this week has snatched a major cudgel from his critics and potentially
restored some of Washington’s influence in Latin America. (The New York Times)


The Beginning of the End of the Cold War
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Saturday 20 December 2014

I was walking home from grammar school one day beneath the bright blue ceiling of a late September afternoon. My street lay across the top of a hill and enjoyed a commanding view of the Brighton neighborhoods leading into downtown Boston. A storm was out to sea east beyond the city, and the clouds towered in the distant sky. At some point I looked in that direction, and stopped dead in my tracks, because one cumulus formation seemed the very definition of a mushroom cloud, and a trick of light and distance made it appear to be right over the city. I ran all the way home, terrified.

One night not long after, I was looking out the windows that faced the city. The distant buildings were beautiful in the evening light, but as I watched, a bright dot appeared in the sky. It was solid, unblinking, and moving fast toward downtown. My breath caught, and my hands tightened on the windowsill as I waited to be incinerated by a wall of nuclear fire.

One could, I suppose, chalk it up to the overactive imagination of a boy. The cloud above the city was just that, and not the aftermath of a nuclear strike. The light streaking toward downtown was a helicopter, or a plane headed for Logan Airport, and not a missile carrying destruction in its nosecone. But for a child mired during his formative years in the Reagan-era hysterics of the Cold War, a boy conditioned to listen for the sirens that could erupt at any moment to announce onrushing nuclear doom, these little hallucinations were daily fare. Living in constant low-grade fear of the possibility that "The Day After" would one day no longer be televised fiction was, as it turns out, the price of doing business.

These memories have been much on my mind as I watch these new and frankly remarkable developments unfolding between the United States and Cuba. My generation missed that whole show completely - the Cuban Missile Crisis happened nine years before I was born - and people my age are required to be students of history to understand what all the damned static is about in the first place. Read every book, watch every old white-knuckle black-and-white news broadcast from that time, however, and in the end those who did not go through that particular period are still left blinking in confusion under wrinkled brows: What's the big deal? Why did this take so long?

Answers: Serious human rights concerns, the politics of Florida and its Electoral College votes, and the lingering grip of the Cold War itself - the embedded policies that came from it, and the enduring influence of those who miss not only the simplistic binary polarity between "good" and "bad" it represented, but also the astonishing taxpayer cash spigot it provided. The reasons why the world has seemingly gone utterly and completely berserk in the years since the Berlin Wall came down are due in massive degree to the acts and actions of powerful nations during the Cold War, but there is a certain breed of cat that misses those days anyway, because the bright definitions at play helped the world make some semblance of sense. Plus, of course, dudes got mad paid.

(snip)

The Soviet Union may be gone, but the Cold War never really ended. This is a nation that needs an enemy, and beneath the bright blue ceiling of another September day thirteen years ago, a new one was established. Our haywire economy requires a state of permanent war; we lost it for a time when the Wall fell, but found it again when the Towers fell. The savage irony is that those Towers came down thanks to the chesswork of Cold Warriors who thought they could control the beast they created in Afghanistan in their desire to undo the Soviets. By any measurable standard, the United States of America, its people, its politics and its profiteering ethos stand as a bent monument to that era, which never really ended, but only metastasized into the so-called "War on Terror."

Yet the generations-old war against Cuba - which Castro won, by the way, hands down - appears to be coming to an end. This has to be a good thing, has to be made into a good thing, has to count for something beyond an opportunity for table-pounders to raise their voices and yell about Communists from the close end of the long, echoing corridor of history. The president is to be commended. At a bare minimum, we will soon hopefully have one less thing to argue about.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/28122-the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-cold-war

Castro won.

There's going to be a lot of shouting over this, because a whole lot of people can't seem to grasp one simple fact: Castro won this fight. He outmaneuvered every American president he faced, repelled an invasion attempt, thwarted serial attempts to undermine his government, and even survived a flurry of ham-fisted CIA assassination attempts.

Is he a nice guy? No.

Did he win? Yes.

Get over it. It's done.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/obama-united-states-cuba-embassy

"I Don't Know What to Do With Good White People"

I Don't Know What to Do With Good White People
By Brit Bennett
Jezebel

Wednesday 17 December 2014

I don't know what to do with good white people.

I've been surrounded by good white people my whole life. Good white people living in my neighborhood, who returned our dog when he got loose; good white teachers in elementary school who pushed books into my hands; good white professors at Stanford, a Bay Area bastion of goodwhiteness, who recommended me M.F.A. programs where I met good white writers, liberal enough for a Portlandia sketch.

I should be grateful for this. Who, in generations of my family, has ever been surrounded by so many good white people? My mother was born to sharecroppers in Louisiana; she used to measure her feet with a piece of string because they could not try on shoes in the store. She tells me of a white policeman who humiliated her mother by forcing her to empty her purse on the store counter just so he could watch her few coins spiral out.

Two summers ago, my mother showed me the welfare reports written about her family. The welfare officer, a white woman, observed my family with a careful, anthropological eye. She described the children, including my mother, as "nice and clean." She asked personal questions (did my grandmother have a boyfriend?) and wrote her findings in a detached tone. She wondered why my grandmother, an illiterate Black mother of nine living in the Jim Crow South, struggled to find a steady job. Maybe, she wrote in her loopy scrawl, my grandmother wasn't searching hard enough.

This faded report is the type of official document a historian might consult if he were re-constructing the story of my family. The author, this white welfare officer, writes as if she is an objective observer, but she tells a well-worn story of Black women who refuse to work and instead depend on welfare. Occasionally, her clinical tone breaks down. Once, she notes that my mother is pretty. She probably considered herself a good white person.

The rest: http://jezebel.com/i-dont-know-what-to-do-with-good-white-people-1671201391

An incredible, uncomfortable, important article. Read it.

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