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

Journal Archives

The Sugar Makes the Poison Taste Sweet

President Barack Obama reviews his speech one last time while waiting in a room at the U.S. Capitol
prior to delivering the State of the Union address in the House Chamber in Washington, DC, January 28, 2014.
(Photo: Pete Souza / White House)

The Sugar Makes the Poison Taste Sweet
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 30 January 2014

The President of the United States gave the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and if you ask the right people, they'll tell you it was well and truly a barn-burner. President Obama dropped so many left-leaning, frown-inducing lines on the Republicans arrayed before him that Speaker Boehner, visible over the president's shoulder, changed hues from his standard orange to alarming red to call-the-paramedics purple on several notable occasions.


But then, if you're smart, you read the damned speech in detail...and if you did, like as not you have some serious questions to ask.


And then...and then, there was Cory Remsburg, the last invited guest Mr. Obama made note of. Remsburg, an Army Ranger, was injured by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan during his tenth deployment.

His tenth deployment.

His tenth deployment.

Cory Remsburg rose up before that parliament of whores, disfigured, maimed for life, and was duly recognized for his service and devotion to country. He received a deafening ovation from a room filled with the worst people in the country, many of whom voted over and over again to send him back to war ten times over, who cheered so loudly to cover over their shame...including the president himself, whose Afghanistan "surge" played its own part in putting Cory Remsburg in the path of the bomb that left him barely able to stand, blind in one eye, and forever damaged.

The President of the United States made no mention of the insanity of any soldier having to endure ten deployments, made no mention of the concept of actions and consequences, even as he stood before the loudest microphone on the planet. Perhaps he and his people thought the face of Cory Remsburg said it for him, and if so, that is another sorry example of the eleventy-dimension chess being played by an administration which is trying to run a country that only knows, politically, how to play checkers.

There are times when real leaders have to say things out loud into microphones, even when those things are so obvious that they bleed on the pavement. What happened to Cory Remsburg was wrong. It was, in fact, a crime, a long act of profiteering that has fed tens of thousands of men and women like him into the meat grinder, to be spat out into a VA system that is utterly overwhelmed and paralyzed before the avalanche of bodies it is tasked to help.

Instead, Mr. Obama said this: "My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy. Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy. Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged. But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress..."

We have put those things aside? Cory Remsburg, and the tens of thousands of soldiers who share his damage, cannot put those things aside. Mr. Obama turned that soldier's plight into a pep rally for the country that fed him to the bomb that almost killed him. "Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes" was the only apology that ravaged Ranger got from his Commander in Chief. He deserved far more than that, as do all the men and women not lucky enough to get applause from Congress on television.

It is easy peasy for politicians to talk about putting difficult issues "aside," out of mind, away. That's the bread and butter of the Teflon not-my-problem political hack. Leaders, real leaders, address those difficult issues head-on. They challenge we the people to take them head-on, as well, and that is how we heal and rise and move on. That did not happen on Tuesday night. Again.

If you ask the right people, they'll tell you it was a great speech.

Ask me, and I'll tell you I saw a man talk like an Occupy protester while promoting the same tired, failed economic principles that spawned our yawning inequality in the first place. I saw a man talk like a Greenpeace activist while promoting or ignoring the dirtiest fuel industries in the business. I saw a man honor a ten-times-deployed wounded veteran with an "Oops." I saw a man talking very eloquently out of both sides of his mouth, again, and it made me sick in my soul.

"Between the idea and the reality," said a poet, "falls the Shadow."

It's the sugar that makes the poison taste sweet.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21542-the-sugar-makes-the-poison-taste-sweet

Pete Seeger vs. the House Un-American Activities Commitee: The Transcript (so so so great)

Here’s the Amazing Transcript of Pete Seeger Pissing Off the House Un-American Activities Committee

Pete Seeger, the legendary folk singer (though he didn’t care for the term), died last night at the age of 94. A longtime political activist, Seeger is the only member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to have been cited for contempt by Congress for his refusal to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The transcript of said questioning is like a Joseph Heller novel come to life. Seeger was called on August 18, 1955 and quizzed about the where and when of his performances and allegiances. Seeger skillfully tap-danced around the questions, often with humor, sometimes with protest, and refused to use the Fifth Amendment as a literal get-out-of-jail-free card. He was eventually sentenced to a year in prison for contempt, a verdict he successfully appealed.

A portion of the transcript: http://www.mediaite.com/online/heres-the-amazing-transcript-of-pete-seeger-pissing-off-the-house-un-american-activities-committee/

The whole transcript is also available at that link.

Be this guy.

Seven in Fourteen

"I'm From West Virginia and I've Got Something to Say About the Chemical Spill"


...But something about this confluence, the way I had to bring potable water to my family from two hours north, the strange look of the landscape wreathed in rain and mist, the stench of a chemical that was housed directly upstream from the water company -- something about all of that made me absolutely buoyant in my rage. This was not the rational anger one encounters in response to a specific wrong, nor even the righteous anger that comes from an articulate reaction to years of systematic mistreatment. This was blind animal rage, and it filled my body to the limits of my skin.

And this is what I thought:

To hell with you.

To hell with every greedhead operator who flocked here throughout history because you wanted what we had, but wanted us to go underground and get it for you. To hell with you for offering above-average wages in a place filled with workers who'd never had a decent shot at employment or education, and then treating the people you found here like just another material resource -- suitable for exploiting and using up, and discarding when they'd outlived their usefulness. To hell with you for rigging the game so that those wages were paid in currency that was worthless everywhere but at the company store, so that all you did was let the workers hold it for a while, before they went into debt they couldn't get out of.

To hell with you all for continuing, as coal became chemical, to exploit the lax, poorly-enforced safety regulations here, so that you could do your business in the cheapest manner possible by shortcutting the health and quality of life not only of your workers, but of everybody who lives here. To hell with every operator who ever referred to West Virginians as "our neighbors."

To hell with every single screwjob elected official and politico under whose watch it all went on, who helped write those lax regulations and then turned away when even those weren't followed. To hell with you all, who were supposed to be stewards of the public interest, and who sold us out for money, for political power. To hell with every one of you who decided that making life convenient for business meant making life dangerous for us. To hell with you for making us the eggs you had to break in order to make breakfast.

The rest: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-waggoner/west-virginia-chemical-spill_b_4598140.html

The Easy Problem With Government

An environmental enforcement boat patrols in front of the chemical spill at Freedom Industries
in Charleston, West Virginia. (Photo: Foo Conner / Flickr)

The Easy Problem With Government
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 14 January 2014

So I enjoyed watching the Chris Christie Show last week. High entertainment, that, especially the part where he spent two hours saying he didn't know anything about that bridge, hadn't heard, had no idea, couldn't say, because eleventy thousand people work under him, and he can't be watching them all. That was great stuff, the way he exuded a real sense of executive command a year after describing President Obama as a man "walking around in a dark room looking for the light switch of leadership for the past four years," because irony is always awesome.

Chris Christie is a public servant, and a card carrying member (and former presidential frontrunner) of a party that goes out of its way to disparage, attack, diminish and deride public service and government at every opportunity. In Christie's case, and in the cases of so many others at the upper echelons of government employment, it seems as if these people are determined to establish how bad government is by being bad at government. Government is terrible!...I'm terrible!...See? I told you!

All this anti-government rhetoric, of course, is in service of the sainted private sector, the "job creators," the captains of industry. It was Reagan who said government is the problem, a maxim that has become holy writ not only among those on the Right, but among too many Democrats, as well as among all sorts of idiots in the "news" media whose grasping desperation for "balance" leads them on a daily basis to accept and broadcast demonstrably disproven and discredited arguments. Because "balance," and stuff.

Let's take a look at the track record of private industry over the last 200 hours.

The giant retailer Target let it be known that it wasn't 40 million customers who had their financial data stolen, it was 70 million...and then it was 110 million...and it was also PIN numbers and email addresses that got snatched, too. If the federal government had allowed so profound a theft of financial information to take place, the good people at Fox News would be handing out the pitchforks and torches. After a third of the country was placed in peril of having their money stolen, thanks to the failure of private industry? Silence.

In West Virginia, some 300,000 people have been deprived of water to drink, bathe in, or prepare food with for days upon days now. Hospitals and retirement homes have had no water to work with, restaurants and other small businesses have been closed, because the water is so dirty you cannot even boil it to make it clean. Why? Because thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol were dumped into the Elk River by the magnificently-misnamed Freedom Industries, a private company that deals with coal.

But damn those pointy-headed bureaucrats in Washington, right? Except it's the public servants in Washington who are running down the crooks who stole all that information from Target. It's the public servants who are cleaning up the mess made by Freedom Industries, and who are trucking in thousands of gallons of clean water to make sure the West Virginia residents affected by this get through it.

And there's this, too: the site of the spill in West Virginia has not undergone a government inspection since 1991, because government is the problem, so they de-regulated everything. And when it does go wrong, as it always does (ask West, Texas), it's the taxpayer who pays for the clean-up that is performed by the public servants.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21218-william-rivers-pitt-the-easy-problem-with-government

Wedding Vows: Mr. Duckett and Dr. Jones, Because Love Is All

Together 46 years, through Dr. Jones' deployment to Vietnam, shared fatherhood with an adopted child, and then grandfatherhood, and everything else that comes with a lifetime spent together.

A little back story: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/these-grandfathers-getting-married-might-just-make-you-well?sf21524348=1

He sat down.

On February 1, 1960, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond, and Ezell Blair Jr. sat down at the lunch counter in the Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Big deal?

Big deal, because they were Black, and it was a "Whites Only" counter.

Those four college freshmen stayed until the store closed, but returned the next day, and the day after, and the day after. They were joined by more protesters, whose numbers built to at least 1,000 by the fifth day. Within weeks, sit-ins were launched in more than 50 cities in nine states. The Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro was desegregated within six months.

Their sit-in led to the formation in Raleigh of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which became the cutting edge of the student direct-action civil rights movement. The demonstrations between 1960 and 1965 helped bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

"The best feeling of my life," Franklin McCain said in a 2010 interview, was ‘??sitting on that dumb stool. I felt so relieved. I felt so at peace and so self-accepted at that very moment. Nothing has ever happened to me since then that topped that good feeling of being clean and fully accepted and feeling proud of me.”

Franklin McCain passed on Thursday. He was 73.

So let me get this straight...

A West Virginia coal processing plant dumped poison into a river, and now 300,000 people have to avoid tapwater if they want to keep from vomiting relentlessly. Target let everyone know that they lost the financial information for 70 million people over Thanksgiving, which is a little bit less than a quarter of the entire population.

Quite a banner day for the Barons of Big Business. Clearly, the push to privatize everything while slashing regulation everywhere will lead us to paradise on Earth.

Please excuse me while I drink poison and watch my bank account get looted.


(Image: Marijuana gavel via Shutterstock)

By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 07 January 2014

All right with me
Is the way it should be
Is a good thing
Plant that bell
And let it ring...

- Neil Young

It was late September in 1993, and my friends and I were at a campground to enjoy a weekend away from the world. It was unusually cold as I shrugged my way out of the tent, and after answering an insistent call of nature just inside a line of trees to the east of our campsite, I set about the work of getting the fire going again. One by one, my friends emerged from their own tents in various stages of disrepair - the previous night had been a doozy, and more than a few of my crew looked and felt as if they had been devoured and shat out by wolves - to warm themselves by the flames.

Once the coffee was going and the blood was flowing, a joint the size of New Jersey began making the rounds, as was tradition, a soothing balm for the tragically hung-over among us. After a fashion, I happened to notice a man two campsites over giving our little campfire circle a long, hard stare. One didn't have to be stoned to be paranoid about smoking marijuana twenty years ago, and my first thought was, "Cop." I quietly told my friends to cool it, cool it, something's off with that guy, and everyone immediately began doing the I-Ain't-Doing-Nothin' Shuffle.

When the man started walking towards me, I began to do an inventory in my head of the cash I had on hand, the cash my friends had, in the event I wound up needing bail money. He presented himself before me, put out his hand, and introduced himself.

I hope I'm not intruding, he said. Not at all, I told him with trepidation flying around my head like I was Tippi Hedren. I offered him some coffee while my friends milled around the campsite pretending they weren't baked and had important stuff to do, casting furtive glances my way as they waited for the hammer to fall.

Listen, he said, I noticed you guys were smoking a joint.

Uh-huh, I replied.

I don't know anyone who smokes weed, he said.

Uh-huh, I replied.

My father has cancer, he said. It's bad. He can't eat because of his treatments, and that's as bad as the cancer. His doctor pulled me aside last week and mentioned marijuana as something that could help him.

Uh-huh, I replied.

You don't know me, he said, but I was wondering if you could give me some, so I can see if it helps him. I don't know anyone else I can ask.

I was still. This is either a set-up, I thought, or this guy is for real. As a NORML supporter, I knew full well that what he was asking for could help his father, but the very last thing I needed was a drug arrest on my record. I took a moment with his eyes, and decided to make a leap of faith...

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21058-william-rivers-pitt-homegrown

Dude, what are you doing? You can't give your son a baby doll. That's a girl's toy!

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