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

Journal Archives

The Ocean Is Coming

(Photo: Lance Page / Truthout )

The Ocean Is Coming
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 27 February 2014


I believe the minimum wage should be somewhere between $15 and $20 an hour, and that all the so-called business "leaders" crowing against any raise to that wage are self-destructive idiots. Commerce needs funds in the hands of consumers to survive and thrive, and consumers today are barely handling rent. Put more money in the worker's pocket, and he will spend some of it at your store, because he can. The minimum wage has been stagnant for 30 years, and is due for a right and proper boost. If people don't have money, your store won't sell any goods. Get out of your own way and pay your people, so they can have money to spend on what you're selling. This strikes me as simple arithmetic.

I believe the weather is going crazy because there is an enormous amount of moisture in the atmosphere due to the ongoing collapse of the Arctic ecosystem. More water in the atmosphere leads to fiercer storms and higher tides, and every major city on the coast is under dire threat. The ocean is coming, higher and higher each year, so we can either run for high ground, or we can adjust our behavior. The ocean is coming, and it brooks no argument. It is stronger than all of us, and will take what it pleases.

I believe the Keystone XL pipeline, the drought-causing national practice of fracking, the coal-oriented water disasters in West Virginia and North Carolina, the serial poison spills nationwide, the oil train derailments, and the entire practice of allowing the fossil fuels industry to write its own regulations so as to do as it pleases, are collectively a suicide pact that I did not sign up for. The ocean is coming, unless we find a better way.

I believe President Obama, who talks about the environment while pushing the Keystone pipeline, who talks about economic inequality while demanding fast-track authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, is a Hall-of-Fame worthy bullshit artist. I believe the sooner people see this truth for what it is, the better. He is not your friend. He is selling you out.

I believe the 50% of eligible American voters who can't be bothered to turn out one Tuesday every two years should be ashamed of themselves, because this is a good country, but if that goodness doesn't show up at the polls, we wind up in this ditch with a bunch of self-satisfied non-voters complaining about the mess we're in. Decisions are made by those who show up, and lately, the small minority of hateful nutbags showing up become a large majority because they're the only ones pulling the lever.

And that's for openers.

These things are happening nationally, but they are also happening locally, right in your back yard. These are your fights, in your communities, involving your air and drinking water and basic rights. The ocean is coming, boys and girls, and it will sweep us all away with a flick of its finger - rich and poor, powerful and powerless alike - unless we figure out a few home truths at speed and make serial changes to the way we operate on this small planet.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22126-william-rivers-pitt-the-ocean-is-coming

...and: http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/27/the-ocean-is-coming/

A Tribute to Harold Ramis

Some of his work, from films he co-wrote, wrote, or wrote and starred in.

None better, damned few as good. Thank you for the laughs, sir.

Feel free to share your own.

Not the Onion

(Photo: Ken / Flickr)

Not the Onion
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 20 February 2014

It ain't getting any smarter out there, people.

- Frank Zappa

Reality is a funny thing these days, because it's pretty much bent. A guy named Nathan Poe, after a number of singular interactions on the website Christianforums.com, came up with an adage that has come to be known as Poe's Law: "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."

To wit: it has become pretty much impossible to distinguish between actual craziness and parodies of craziness, because the craziness has gotten so crazy that literally everything is on the it-could-be-real table.

I run a fairly well-populated Facebook page, and whenever I post a true story that is too demented to be believed, I am compelled to caption it with three words: "Not The Onion." The Onion, in case you somehow don't know already, is the gold standard for internet satire. My two favorite Onion headlines of all time are: 1. "ACLU Defends Nazi Skinhead's Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters," and 2. "Pat Buchanan to Gays: 'I Will Not Incinerate You.'"

Years ago, when The Onion made its bones, it was still pretty easy to spot satire online. In the last few years, however, that bright line has gotten blurred. Example: I saw a Facebook meme just the other day quoting Michele Bachmann saying that Native Americans aren't real Americans and should be happy with what they have. I actually Googled the quote to make sure it wasn't real - it was fake, as it turns out, made up by another satire site called DailyCurrant, but it got plastered into memes anyway because it was so gruesomely believable. Poe's Law wins again.

This entire country, of late, has been transformed into a proving ground for the larger point behind Poe's Law: We can no longer distinguish between crazy and fake crazy.

For example:

A guy in Kansas brought a concealed pistol into a bar on Saturday, got drunk, and accidentally shot himself and another patron when he reached into his gun pocket to grab some cash. The name of the bar was "Shot Time II."

On the very same day, a corrections officer in Ft. Lauderdale walked into a bar with a concealed pistol, got drunk, and injured nine people when he reached into his gun pocket for cash and accidentally discharged the weapon. Those nine were injured by the one bullet because the bullet fragmented upon impact with the table he was seated at. The name of the bar was "Shooter's Waterfront Café."

Eleven people in one day shot by two bullets fired in places named "Shot Time" and "Shooter's Café," because irony leaves deep footprints when it stalks the land nowadays.

Oh, and also, a man in California found a gun by his garbage barrels, picked it up, and immediately shot himself in the abdomen.

Not The Onion.

The rest: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21984-william-rivers-pitt-not-the-onion


A flock of about 40 cedar waxwings descended upon the cherry tree outside my office window this morning just as the snow was starting, and proceeded to strip it clean of the remaining cherries. I caught this picture of four of them...and then a friend reminded me of the Robert Francis poem. Just too perfect.


Four Tao philosophers as cedar waxwings
chat on a February berry bush
in sun, and I am one.

Such merriment and such sobriety--
the small wild fruit on the tall stalk--
was this not always my true style?

Above an elegance of snow, beneath
a silk-blue sky a brotherhood of four
birds. Can you mistake us?

To sun, to feast, and to converse
and all together--for this I have abandoned
all my other lives.

- Robert Francis

The Poisoner's Reckoning

(Photo: Appalachian Voices / Flickr)

The Poisoner's Reckoning
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 13 February 2014

Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


Last week, Duke Energy in North Carolina dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River, turning it slate grey. According to Truthout's Mike Ludwig, "Coal ash can contain mercury, selenium, arsenic, chromium and other toxic and heavy metals, and at least 207 spills and contamination events have occurred in 37 states, according to data compiled by environmental groups."

On Tuesday, Patriot Coal dumped 100,000 gallons of coal slurry into yet another West Virginia waterway. The water turned black. According to Think Progress, "Coal slurry contains a range of toxic substances, including chemicals used to wash the coal and heavy metals, like iron, manganese, aluminum and selenium."

Also on Tuesday, some 2,000 gallons of oil-suffused bilge water was dumped into Puget Sound in Washington State at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base. It spread all the way to Hood Canal ten miles to the north. The Department of Health issued an advisory against eating shellfish from the affected area.

Patriot Coal...Freedom Industries...I am sensing a pattern here.

Are you?

A generation of industry deregulation, of government-is-the-problem, and of industries that quite simply and completely don't give a damn, have delivered us here. Of late, reports of poisons massively entering our water supply have been occurring with the same dreary regularity as reports of shootings at schools. It was happening before, but now it is happening all the time. It is entirely unsustainable, and must be stopped.

Ours are not the only communities being poisoned by runaway industry unfettered by even the most meager regulations. The village of Baha, in the Yunnan province of southwest China, was choking on factory smokestack filth and drinking factory polluted water for fourteen years, until they finally had enough. They called a meeting with the factory boss, but the boss blew them off. The residents of Baha responded by destroying the factory's offices, cars and dormitories, and wrecked the factory's equipment.

A meeting was called, the poisoners did not deign to show up, and all hell broke loose. Sounds a lot like Freedom Industries' absence on Monday, except, of course, for the hell breaking loose.

"We have been living with the factory for 14 years," said resident Huang Liangzheng in a UK Guardian report on the incident, "and we live in dust almost every day and can't sell our rice and other farm products. We need to live."

We need to live.

Think about that, you captains of industry.

Kick a dog enough times, and he will turn on you, tear out the seat of your pants, and come growling for more. "Enlightened self-interest" are your watchwords for this brave new century.

Quickly, now. Before it's too late.

For you.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21835-william-rivers-pitt-the-poisoners-reckoning

Diary of a Dying Country

Pumps in the Midway Sunset, an oil field operational for over a century, near Fellows, California.
(Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Diary of a Dying Country
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Thursday 06 February 2014

As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life - a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways. These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task no "high-minded orientation," no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.

- Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring"

It has been snowing all day here, the biggest storm of the season to date. There is at least a foot piled atop the stacked cordwood outside my office window, the trees are frosted, and everything is white and silent save for the hiss of flakes coming to rest. I am not one of those people who detests winter; in fact, I adore it, because it is beautiful. What I see out my window in the fading light of this late afternoon reminds me, again, how truly gorgeous this country is.

And then I remember that it is being wrecked, poisoned, denuded and ruined for money, and I want to go outside and sit in the snow and listen to it as it buries me until I am gone from this country that would do such harm to itself, brazenly and without restraint, for profit.

On Tuesday afternoon, Duke Energy in North Carolina released a press statement announcing that somewhere between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash, which created some 27 million gallons of water polluted with heavy metals and other poisons, had been accidentally dumped into the Dan River, near the towns of Danville and Eden. Eden, because God, or Fate, and definitely the coal industry have a vicious sense of humor. Duke Energy waited 24 hours to report the spill. They may not have said anything at all, but a security guard noticed an unusually low water level in what is called an "ash pond," which is where this crud is stored. That low water level means most of the poison had escaped into the river by the time it was discovered.

The Dan River is a source of drinking water for the region, as the Elk River was in West Virginia when the coal industry dumped poison there a few weeks ago. According to EcoWatch, "The spill is the equivalent of 413 to 677 rail cars of wet coal ash poured into a public drinking water source. If a freight train full of this toxic waste had derailed, there would have been immediate notification and quick news coverage in order to inform and protect the public." It appears at this point to be the third largest coal ash spill in American history.

This is what coal ash looks like:

By Tuesday afternoon, the Dan River had turned completely grey.


The 30-day period for public comment on the Keystone XL pipeline project has officially begun, and if you have a mind to, you can speak your mind on the matter here. Click the blue "Comment Now" button in the upper right corner and speak your piece.

I would not in any way presume to tell you what to say or how to say it, and I offer no guarantees that commenting on that site will be anything other than a waste of time; the damned pipeline is half-built already, the State Department has blithely brushed off a mountain of extremely unsettling environmental concerns, so I am pretty much convinced that the president is going to approve this thing even if God appears before him in the Oval Office and denounces the project with brimstone and fire. The president doesn't work for God, and he sure as hell doesn't work for us. He works for the energy industry that is turning this indescribably beautiful country - this indescribably beautiful world - into a parched, poisoned wasteland.

Speak your mind anyway, if you feel like it. Unlike the energy policies that are filling the rivers and the air with poison, drying up the water out West while making the tap water back East flammable, speaking your mind does no harm. Who knows? They may even listen. Stranger things have happened, and you still have time, because the seas have not risen to reclaim us.


The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/21691-william-rivers-pitt-diary-of-a-dying-country
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