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Name: William Rivers Pitt
Gender: Male
Hometown: Boston
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 57,106

Journal Archives

Obama, the CIA, and the Limits of Conciliation

Obama, the CIA, and the Limits of Conciliation
By Charles P. Pierce

Friday 14 March 2014

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government. The current constitutional crisis between the CIA and the Senate committee tasked with investigating its policies regarding torture during the previous administration has only one real solution that is consonant with the rule of law. Either CIA director John Brennan gets to the bottom of what his people were doing and publicly fires everyone involved, or John Brennan becomes the ex-director of the CIA. By the Constitution, this isn't even a hard call. The Senate has every legal right to investigate what was done in the name of the American people during the previous decade. It has every legal right to every scrap of information relating to its investigation, and the CIA has an affirmative legal obligation to cooperate. Period. The only way this is not true is if we come to accept the intelligence apparatus as an extra-legal, formal fourth branch of the government.

That is the choice that the president should give Brennan. Right now. This morning. Nobody is asking for the release of tracking data regarding the current operatives of al Qaeda. This information is being withheld because, during the late Avignon Presidency, the CIA repeatedly broke the law in its treatment of captives and it did so with the blessing of the highest reaches of the American government. That the president has not done this yet -- indeed, that he seems to have thrown his support behind Brennan -- is not merely a mistake, it is a demonstration of the practical limits of the political appeal that got him elected in the first place.

Increasingly, the election of Barack Obama seems to have functioned more as an anesthetic than as an antidote to the criminality of his predecessor's government. His message of conciliation allowed the American people to forget what they had allowed a cabal of bureaucrats and fantasts to hijack their government in the chaos and terror following the attacks of September 11. The president offered the country, as I wrote at the time, absolution without penance. And he put that philosophy into action by declining right at the outset to prosecute, or even to thoroughly investigate, what had been done. What we are seeing today is the final limit to looking forward, and not back. The CIA, and the rest of the intelligence apparatus of the country, was not reconciled to democracy. They were not brought properly to heel and the American people were not forced to confront the consequences of the terrible abandonment of self-government that, at its worst, the intelligence community represents.

The rest: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/obama-cia-john-brennan-031414

Emphasis mine.

Chris Christie and the 9/11 artifacts

I have taken a real slow burn to this, for two reasons: 1) No matter how many times Rachel Maddow covers the Chris Christie bridge scandal on her show, I am incapable of summoning the requisite number of smaller fucks required to comprise one full fuck to be given. They just aren't there; and, 2) While 9/11 is and will always be vividly with me, it is fair to say that the horrible swelling around my heart and soul has abated somewhat.

...so when I heard that Chris Christie gave away chunks of the 9/11 wreckage to political cronies he wanted endorsements from, my immediate reaction was double-barreled: It's Christie, so I don't care, and 9/11 was a long time ago.

But then the slow burn came on. This dog-ass piece of shit was peddling cemetery pieces for votes. I wonder how the NY firefighters feel about this, as the flash-burned DNA of their comrades may very well be imprinted on those twisted chunks of metal he handed out like Halloween candy. I wonder how the NYPD feels about it. I wonder how the first responders, who may very well have coughed and heaved the beginnings of their eventual deaths from the poisoned air onto those artifacts as they sifted the dust and rubble for bonemeal to identify for the families of the bereaved, feel about that.

I know how I feel about it. For a lot of us, 9/11 was one of the worst days of our lives, and came to be the gateway for many terrible days to come. For some, however, 9/11 is a corpse to be humped for all it is worth. George W. Bush humped it, Dick Cheney humped it, a whole slew of people in Congress jumped on the train...and now here's this fuck, still humping that corpse for votes.

What a scumbag.

Revealed: Chris Christie gave pieces of 9/11 wreckage to his cronies as gifts

In Memory of Bartcop: Seedcorn, Pioneer, Patriot

A little late with this, I know. I heard of his passing on Friday, but today was the first available writing slot. Thanks again, Bart. - WRP

In Memory of Bartcop: Seedcorn, Pioneer, Patriot
By William Rivers Pitt
Truthout | Op-Ed

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.

- Thomas Carlyle

If there was any single event that pushed me into chronicling politics in America - in combination with the Reagan years, the Bush Sr. coda, the 1994 midterm election calamity, and the rise and fall of Newt Gingrich - it was the impeachment of President Clinton. Beyond the gaudy opportunism of it all, the hatred for the sake of hatred practiced by the Republicans in an all-too-eerie preamble of the last few years, was the absolute and utter collapse of any semblance of journalistic integrity on the part of the "mainstream" news. Smoke had been pouring from the engines of big-time journalism for years at that point, but it was the Clinton impeachment that finally crashed the plane into the mountain. The wreckage has been there ever since, rusting in the sun.

And so, sixteen years ago, I took to my keyboard and wrote what I thought and gave it away to anyone who might be interested in publishing it. Very few were, but there was one guy who decided to put me out there, and for me, that's where all of this began. His name was Terrence Coppage, he lived in Tulsa, and his website was Bartcop.com.

Back then, our correspondence was about the impeachment, the ultimate failure of same, the odious antics of Rush Limbaugh, bad journalism in general, the 2000 presidential election, and the general state of derangement evident within the GOP. Looking back, it almost seems quaint...until the evening of December 12, 2000, when the Supreme Court handed the White House to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and unleashed 2,922 days of mayhem at home, mass murder abroad, and brazen theft all around.

It is difficult now to describe the sense of full-spectrum horror many of us dealt with in the aftermath of that despicable ruling. The entire "mainstream" news establishment - print and broadcast alike - bent their combined will towards convincing the country that "this is an orderly transition of power...an orderly transition of power...all is well..." when a whole lot of us knew down to our bones that it was anything but...and then 9/11 happened, and then Iraq happened, and everyone who wouldn't or couldn't swallow the line of nonsense being peddled came to feel perfectly insane.

It is no understatement to say that Terrence Coppage and Bartcop.com salvaged my sanity, and the sanity of many others. David Allen, co-founder of the forum Democratic Underground, said it best: "Back in the days when there was no 'liberal blogosphere' or 'netroots'; there were only 'anti-Bush websites.' Before DU there was Buzzflash, Smirking Chimp, and BartCop. That was pretty much the entire liberal presence on the internet." Those sites, along with Media Whores Online and later DU, were a lush oasis in a desert of bad information and blind hyper-patriotism.

But in truth, it all began with Bartcop.com in 1996. Terrence Coppage raged every day against the lies being peddled by the Right, against the lapdog media that empowered and protected them, and by publishing comments, articles and emails from regular everyday folks, he gave us a voice we would not otherwise have had. Terrence Coppage helped teach us to think clearly during those dark days when clarity was hard to come by. A fairly impressive list of now-known bloggers and commentators - Digby and Atrios leap immediately to mind - earned their stripes through Bartcop, especially after Salon's Tabletalk started charging for participation. He was the seedcorn, a true pioneer, and even though he probably pissed off every segment of his readership at one time or another by way of his brashly-stated opinions, there is not a single voice within the online Left community that does not owe him a debt.

Coppage was, in his way, the Charlie Parker of liberal bloggers. Every saxophone player who has followed Parker is blowing notes Bird had already blown better. So it is with Bartcop; he was playing those changes before the rest of us had our pants on.

The rest: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22376-in-memory-of-bartcop-seedcorn-pioneer-patriot

R.I.P. Bartcop: The passing of a modem, a smart mouth, and the truth

R.I.P. Bartcop: The passing of a modem, a smart mouth, and the truth
By Tom Boggioni
Friday, March 7, 2014 20:57 EST

Way back in the dewy early days of the Internet, back when it was still the World Wide Web and people actually prefaced a website address by saying “W-W-W”, there were not many places that were readily available to rage against the machine, indulge in the growing art that came to be known as ‘snark’, and generally vent at the world.

For some there were bulletin boards or listservs, where like-minded people congregated and traded stories and quips and information that was gleaned from between the lines of what eventually became known as the ‘Mainstream Media.’ Speaking for myself, a cheery group of us lived daily on Salon’s Table Talk, which you might say became the training ground for more than a few “somewhat popular bloggers.”

And then there was Bartcop.com.

Bartcop was a snarky, no-holds barred, riotous – at times mean-spirited, but never untruthful – oasis of hilarity and vitriol, where politicians and a compliant media were called out for their bullshit. Along with Media Whores Online (‘The Horse”), no journalist was ever again safe from having their stories fact-checked online and then held up to ridicule.

The rest: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/07/r-i-p-bartcop-the-passing-of-a-modem-a-smart-mouth-and-the-truth/

He was a pioneer, and an inspiration.

"I've been thinking about pronia - the opposite of paranoia..."

“I’ve been thinking about pronoia – the opposite of paranoia – the belief that the world is in a conspiracy for your well being,” May explained. “We assume that when we turn on the tap, someone is making sure the water is clean. Maybe this magical naive thinking is kind of necessary for a civil society, but we can’t assume that the world is out to help us when that is not in the self interest of the people in charge.”

How grassroots organizing came to the rescue in West Virginia’s water crisis

Simple, profound, and my new favorite word.

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
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