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

Journal Archives

The Scorpions, the Frogs and the TPP: Prepare to Be Stung

House Speaker John Boehner talks to reporters about support in the House to give President Barack
Obama power to accelerate a broad trade accord with Asia, on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 13, 2015.
The House has just passed President Obama's bill giving him fast-track trade authority by a slim margin
of 218 to 208. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

The Scorpions, the Frogs and the TPP: Prepare to Be Stung
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 18 June 2015

An Aesop fable, "The Scorpion and the Frog," has been much on my mind today. Short version: A scorpion asked a frog to carry him across a stream. "How do I know you won't sting me?" asked the frog. "Because if I do," replied the scorpion, "I will die, too." Halfway across the stream, however, the scorpion stung the frog. As they sank to their mutual doom, the frog gasped, "Why?" The scorpion replied, "Because it is my nature."

As I watched the House pass President Obama's bill giving him fast-track trade authority (TPA) by a slim margin of 218 to 208, I thought to myself, "Here are the scorpions, and we are the frogs."

Some 28 Democrats voted in favor of it, while nearly twice that number of Republicans, fifty, voted against it. The bill allows the president to submit trade agreements to Congress for a straight vote with no amendments attached. It is, in every respect, the first step toward the president's ultimate goal: passage of the dangerous, foolish, destructive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Refresher: The TPP is based on the NAFTA model, but with vastly broader powers and implications. NAFTA was an astonishing job-killer in the US, and the TPP will be worse. It is a massive corporate power grab by multi-national corporations whose control, upon passage, over every aspect of our lives will be multiplied a hundred-fold. Food, medicine, the internet, and especially jobs will be profoundly affected, and if the corporations are challenged, they can seek redress in a trade court whose power will supersede US laws.

The fast-track bill was shot to pieces last week through some fairly clever maneuvering by the Democrats. Packaged in that vote with the TPA was a program going by the nauseating euphemism "Trade Adjustment Assistance," or TAA (more on that in a moment). Even though most Democrats support the TAA, they voted it down with Republican help as a means of upending the whole rowboat, and it worked ... until today, when the TPA was brought to a vote again, but without the TAA attached, and it passed.

A word on this "Trade Adjustment Assistance" thing. Let's say you work for a software company doing customer assistance over the phone. You make a decent living and get health benefits. You go to work one day and find a note on your desk informing you that, thanks to the wonder of the TPP, your job is being air-mailed to the Pacific Rim. Please clean out your desk by the end of the day, here's a form for COBRA, and thank you for your service. You go looking for a new job, only to find that every position in your field has also crossed the ocean.

That's not outsourcing, or getting laid off, or getting royally screwed. It's "Trade Adjustment." There would be "assistance" for you, but the folks on the Hill don't seem interested in passing that portion of the deal. It was more important to get the big deal done, and leave the little deal - you, your livelihood, your future - for some nebulous "later." They promised they would ... and if we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.

That's not some idle fantasy, mind you. Despite all the happy talk from the president and his suddenly enthusiastic Republican allies about the TPP creating jobs for US workers, the very existence of a "Trade Adjustment Assistance" bill gives vivid lie to their hyper-optimistic hogwash. That bill exists because they know, as sure as little fishes swim in the sea, that the TPP will be a job-killer, and they created an "Assistance" plan as some sort of half-assed Band-Aid for all the people who will be streeted if this thing comes to be ... but they haven't passed it. Go figure.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31462-the-scorpions-the-frogs-and-the-tpp-prepare-to-be-stung

On the "news" media coverage of the horror in SC

Leaving aside for just a short moment the fathomless horror of what has taken place in South Carolina, I need to make note of something that compounded the sickness in my stomach.

I read the articles on the massacre this morning, but wanted more, so I started flipping back and forth between CNN and MSNBC for further coverage...and got a tidal wave of commercials on both. It just kept going on both networks, so I actually decided to time it: less than five minutes of actual news, followed by nearly six minutes of ads.

At one point, "liberal" MSNBC finished their avalanche of ads and came back to the studio, where the anchor basically said, "We're continuing our coverage, this is just terrible, we'll be right back," and another five minutes of commercials unfolded. CNN was no better. I turned it off in disgust.

No one has to tell me the "news" media sucks. I've made a career out of describing it, dissecting it, and working for an organization trying to be better than it. This, however, was notably egregious, and I'll tell you why.

Columbine coverage: no commercials, and I remember that clearly. Sandy Hook coverage: no commercials, and I remember that clearly. Massacre at a Black church? Buy insurance buy a car buy this bladder pill GE is awesome buy more insurance "This is terrible we'll be right back" buy a car buy a car buy insurance for that car buy this boner pill, lather rinse repeat.

Two schools and a church. What's the difference?

The difference is binary. The difference is Black and White.

Call me cynical for thinking ad placement is a bellweather for attitude, but in my eyes, it's grotesquely vivid. Binary. The One, and the Zero. I got 20 minutes of commercials and seven minutes of news about a White kid massacring Black parishioners - including a state elected official who was also the pastor - in one of the most historic churches in the nation.


Don't Believe the Hype: Candidate Clinton's Sudden Populism

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to reporters at a state launch party for her presidential campaign,
in Concord, New Hampshire, June 15, 2015. In spite of her use of populist rhetoric on the campaign
trail, Clinton's actions, history and friends in the financial industry tell a different story.
(Photo: Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist/The New York Times)

Don't Believe the Hype: Candidate Clinton's Sudden Populism
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Short of writing, following and studying the news is my primary profession; the latter nourishes the former. I swim in headlines, drown in text, and too often choke on nonsense. It's fascinating, but not fun ... and while much of the news these days makes me hedge the yawning chasm of despair, every once in a while a story will come along that quite simply makes me want to run my head through a plate glass window.

The Washington Post provided the latest example of pure, mind-bending awful. You've certainly heard by now that California is enduring the worst drought since God wore short pants. Governor Brown has initiated severe water rationing as a result, and according to the Post, the rich folks aren't taking it very well. "Rich Californians Balk at Limits: 'We're Not All Equal When It Comes to Water,'" reads the headline. The lawns and pools on their estates, their flower gardens and private golf courses, all will be affected.

"What are we supposed to do," said one aggrieved party, "just have dirt around our house on four acres?"

There you have it, friends. George Orwell - "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" - was a true prophet. In a state where the aquifers are almost empty, the water that's left has been tainted with fracking waste thanks to the profit motive, and the poverty-burdened migrant worker community which basically supports the state's economy only sees green when they work the fields or get their meager pay, the über-wealthy are worried about the lushness of their lawns.


For reasons some may argue are not entirely fair, the Post article about those preposterous people helped crystallize a few things as I encompassed the rhetoric contained in Secretary Clinton's big campaign speech this past weekend. Despite her long history of association with these kinds of people, Mrs. Clinton on Saturday deployed the sort of populist bombast that one might have heard at an Occupy Wall Street rally not so long ago...


The roll-call of Mrs. Clinton's top twenty campaign donors is topped by Citibank, and includes Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group ... basically, a cohort of the worst people in the United States, the ones who gamed the system by buying politicians like her and then proceeded to burn the economy down to dust and ash while making a financial killing in the process.

The hood ornament on President Obama's second term agenda, the positively nauseating Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and fast-track authority for same, has been much in the news of late. The deal was dealt a blow by Congress some days ago, but the argument is far from complete. Mrs. Clinton's silence on the topic is deeper than what one would hear in deep space. However, in her 2014 book Hard Choices, she positively waxed loquacious...


Candidate Clinton's words over the weekend matched with chiseled precision the populist wave that has been washing over the country ever since those first few brave Occupy Wall Street souls sat down in Zuccotti Park, refused to budge, and re-introduced the nation to a dialogue which made them realize just how badly they've been getting screwed.

In my humble opinion, her actions, her history, and most importantly her friends in the financial industry, give glaring lie to this sudden eruption of populist fervor. She railed against all of the entities that are tearing the country to rags on Saturday, and then cashed their checks when her pals at the bank opened for business on Monday. That is the sharp truth of it, and all the YEAH BUT REPUBLICANS arguments can go pound sand. When Secretary Clinton and the most terrifying GOP candidates on the skin of the Earth share the same donor list, the (D) after her name doesn't matter a dime.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31397-don-t-believe-the-hype-candidate-clinton-s-sudden-populism

One last thought on JeffR, Xchrom and JackpineRadical

Anyone who has spent any time at all here knows I am not the best Ambassador of Proper Behavior on DU. In the online realm of the 21st century, where we communicate by typing without ever seeing each other, your keyboard is the content of your character. Mine has been shown to be lacking on a number of occasions, so I am not soap-boxing here in any way whatsoever.

...but the loss of JeffR, Xchrom and JackpineRadical cut deep. Never met them, couldn't pick them out of a line-up, but I feel as if I lost friends. We may not have always agreed, and may have even traded the occasional barb, but they were long-time companions in this place, excellent contributors, and always good company.


Primary season is upon us, which in the past has translated to gouts of blood on the DU walls.

I'm not preaching, because I have no place to at all. But my final takeaway from the loss of these three friends, and all the others, is this:

The person you're roaring at, insulting, belittling, might not be here tomorrow. We've all learned that to our sorrow over the last several weeks.

I'm going to do my best to try and remember that, and act accordingly. Just a thought, but I hope you do, too. The primary wars on DU are what they are, as immutable as gravity...but I don't want to wake up one day and feel my guts twisted with regret over something I said to a fellow DUer who we suddenly lost.

One man's opinion.

RIP, old friends. You will be sorely missed.

To the loved and lost.

Xchrom and JackpineRadical, in the same week.

Break the "Defense" Industry Across the Knee of Democracy

Members of the American military disembark from a Black Hawk helicopter at Camp Taji in Iraq,
Dec. 27, 2014. On Wednesday it was reported that President Obama would be sending more troops
to Iraq while also building a new base. (Ayman Oghanna/The New York Times)

Break the "Defense" Industry Across the Knee of Democracy
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Sunday 14 June 2015

Nine months ago, I penned an article about our ongoing and seemingly endless tangle in Iraq, titled "The Pleasant Fiction of 'No Boots on the Ground.'" Specifically addressing those who claimed, "We have to do something" regarding ISIS and the situation over there, I replied, "What you are in favor of is the equivalent of doing nothing. We will blow some stuff up and kill some people, and every bomb dropped and missile fired will transfer more of your tax dollars into the bank accounts of 'defense' companies. That's it, period, end of file."

In that article, I stated with emphasis that the US would be at war there again, and soon, because Iraq has been a bottomless cash register for the "Defense" industry lo these last 25 years. "This next war, like the last war," I wrote, "stands to make them a great deal of money by selling US-made bombs for use against the US-made weapons we sold to them already, which are now in the hands of ISIS, because war profit is a wheel, and it always comes around."

... and hey, whadaya know, here we go again. More troops - "advisers" - are on their way in to Iraq, this time to "advise" and "train" the Iraqi army we've been advising and training for going on 13 years, so they can fight the menace we created after we created the previous menace, which was created by the menace we created by the menace we created before that.

It's a wheel, and it always comes around.

I have said it before, and am saying it again: People in the US have been hypnotized into thinking war is some magical nowhere-land where soldiers win glory for the Stars and Bars ... and it all just kinda happens, or something. No. Emphatically, no.

They collect your taxes, and then every bullet fired, every bomb dropped, every missile launched, every boot laced, every rifle greased, every field meal eaten, every uniform donned, every chopper shot down, every ounce of fuel burned, and every body bag filled is someone you will never meet getting paid, handsomely, with your money.

Cash register. Comes with sand, and sorrow. Please omit flowers.


We're digging in to Iraq again, with "operations centers" and "advisers" ... but it's all the same payday, and has been for a pile of denuded generations now. We have been waging war on Iraq for going on 25 years. We are bombing our own weapons with our own weapons, for money. Always for money.

Freedom, and peace, begin with a "No."

It is enough.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/31361-break-the-defense-industry-across-the-knee-of-democracy

Is there video available of the Clinton speech?

I wasn't able to watch it.

Thanks in advance if you have a link.

Ornette Coleman has passed.

This week sucks.

Springtime, here.

Sir Christopher goddam Lee

RIP, sir.
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