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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 55,638

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Flowers for Jeb

“How long is it going to hurt?”
-- Jeb Bush

Last month, at a time when I was desperate for new reading material, I bought an “on sale” copy of Jon Meacham’s book, “The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush: Destiny and Power.” I thought this would, if nothing else, add to the “presidential wing” of my library.

In a literal sense, the book is fiction: the author is so intent upon kissing the Elder’s ass that he avoids most of the unpleasant aspects of Bush’s career. More, Meacham attempts to present Bush’s offspring -- primarily W. and Jeb -- as decent human beings. Kevin Phillips’ book, “American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush” is far superior.

Yet, even a bad book can contain something of value. Meacham tells of how the Elder and his wife, the Babylonian Swine, backed their sons’ political careers. This includes, of course, the night that W. was elected governor in Texas, and Jeb was humiliated in Florida.

While George W. Bush is giddy in celebration of his victory, the Swine shares a moment alone with the son she had expected to be successful in politics. He asks her, “How long is it going to hurt?” I suspect that he is experiencing this same emotional turmoil, as his “inevitable” run for the presidency has become an extended humiliation.

Mid-Night Essay

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you, but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you
Cannot visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them
Like you,
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows
Are sent forth.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.
-- Kahlil Gibran


It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the horrors of the Sandy Hook elementary school, in Connecticut. It is really a shame that children have to worry about outbreaks of violence in schools. Or, their communities. Or homes.

This makes me think about children around the world, and how for many of them, high levels of violence have been occurring for decades. Even generations. And what impact all that horror has upon the survivors’ lives.

I think about how angry many adults become, after some of these terrible events, where they are ready, even eager, to send other people’s young adult children to distant lands, to kill or be killed. Even after most military leaders note that ISIS, for example, cannot simply be defeated by violence. Yet no “leaders” speak about what, other than violence, is required.

Many people recognize that no innocent people should be exposed to terrible violence, especially not children. Yet again, few “leaders” speak of non-violent dispute resolution -- and those few who do, are viewed as “unrealistic” or “weak.” As if there is anything “realistic” about trying to destroy an ideology of violent hatred with more violent hatred.

I think of Senator Robert Kennedy’s favorite Albert Camus quote, which in so many ways sums up Kennedy’s 1968 run for the presidency:

“We are faced with evil. I feel rather like Augustine did before becoming a Christian when he said, ‘I tried to find the source of evil and I got nowhere. But it is also true that I and a few others knew what must be done if not to reduce evil at least not to add to it.’ Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you believers don’t help us, who else in this world can help us do this?”

Tonight, many of us will be watching the republican debates for their party’s nomination for president. How very different it will be from RFK’s 1968 campaign message. The nonsense that will be spouted from these candidates is not the source of all evil, of course; rather, it is a byproduct of generations of it, one that continues the cycle by planting seeds of hatred. Yet, Americans will watch both the debate, and the news cycles that follow.

Maybe our culture should listen to children. Perhaps it is no coincidence that enlightened people throughout history have noted that true wisdom comes from the mouths of little children. Or that those societies that place the greatest value on children reach a higher status than those who do not.

The Trial & My Cousin

Greeting, DU Community:

In the 14 months since an off-duty cop shot my cousin and his son, in a tragic incident sparked by road rage, the DU community has provided me with a great deal of support and assistance. You have: allowed me to vent; communicated much-appreciated humanity; and participated in a campaign to let the District Attorney and County Court Judge know that “bail” was not an acceptable option in this case.

I have attempted to keep people updated on events relating to the upcoming trial. We had originally anticipated it would take place in the fall of this year. Then, it was moved back to January of 2016. And now, I’ve been informed that it will likely begin in April of 2016.

Court systems, like all bureaucracies, move at their own pace. This creates a bit of stress for my cousin, who wants to get it over with. But as I’m familiar with “the system,” I’m able to keep things on track on our side. When the thug came up with his second and third official version of that day’s events -- each sworn to, each distinct -- it upsets my cousin. I remind him that, when one tells the truth, they need only to remember and tell the same story; but when one tells numerous lies, they have to keep track of all of them.

This coming week, I will be delivering a packet of documents to the District Attorney, which includes yet another statement -- signed by the murderer -- that has not yet been seen by the prosecution. It will help to convict the thug. In fact, when the defense attorney learns of it, I suspect that it might make “copping a plea” deal seem like a better alternative, than going to trial.

I certainly have appreciated all the support from the DU community. I shall continue to keep you up-dated, as the trial approaches.

Sincerely,
H2O Man

On Scalia & Trump

In the past week, I’ve put up a couple of O.P.s, that focused on the potential for our federal government to totally disconnect with the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, the citizens of the United States should recognize and reject the tendency of individuals in the government to bend, or go against, the Constitution. We should not allow that document to become a parched piece of ancient history, hidden in the vault of some museum.

Today on both CNN and MSNBC, I’ve watched -- and listened to -- reports that included Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s highly offensive position on black university students. It was as if Scalia took offense to Donald Trump’s setting the bar low, as far as being the worst horse’s ass in America today, and Scalia sought to reclaim that title. However, it is worse than that: this provides evidence of exactly how a majority of the 1% view this nation’s people. Rather than “competition,” this is the coordinated agenda of the worst enemies of America.

In 2004, former Nixon White House theorist Kevin Phillips published, “American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush” (Penguin). On pages 107-108, Phillips addressed some of the connections between Scalia and the Bush family. This included a quote from the 5-justice majority decision on December 11, 2000, that put Bush-Cheney in office: “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for President of the United States ….”

Scalia takes pride in believing he is the Master of Original Intent. In a sick sort of way, he is: in large part, the original Constitution provided for a republic, to benefit the “enlightened few” -- with that club being restricted to wealthy, educated white men. It wasn’t until the early 1800s, that the nation became a constitutional democracy -- with some structures of a republic firmly in place. A person need study no more than about how common citizens began to vote for Senators, to get a historical grasp of the tensions between groups of wealthy, educated white men. Or, simply consider the Bill of Rights.

Individuals, organizations, states, and even the US government attempted to deny various groups of citizens their constitutional rights, ever since that powerful Bill of Rights was enacted. Even the US Supreme Court has ruled against groups and individual citizens, far too often. On the other hand, the Court has been consistent in upholding the rights of wealthy, educated, “straight” white men over the centuries. In recent times, they’ve even upheld the “rights” of corporations.

Scalia provides a unique window into which we can see the cold, less-than-human heart of the 1%. Few quotes grant us access to their actual beliefs than the following, from Kevin Phillips’ book:

“Part of Scalia’s objection to democracy, amplified a year later, was that it got in the way of a return to an eighteenth-century interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Speaking at the January 2002 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, he opined that as written, the Constitution reflected natural or divinely inspired law that the state was an instrument of God. ‘That consensus has been upset,’ he said, ‘by the emergence of democracy.’ He added that ‘the reactions of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it but resolution to combat it as effectively as possible’.”

It would be easy to think that Scalia merely represents the extreme right-wing of one political party; yet, his position is supposed to be nonpartisan. Rather, he is one of the most powerful people in American society, where he believes his noble obligation is to channel the divinity of the 1%. And that, as the most recent comments on affirmative action confirm, includes a “resolution to combat ….as effectively as possible” efforts by the 99% to be active, equal members of society.

No one argues that “affirmative action” in 2015 is a flawless approach to righting historic wrongs. Yet, no one has proposed a more effective and fair approach, Of all the problems facing public education, affirmative action is hardly among the most pressing. When more young black men are being caught up in the criminal justice system, than being enrolled in college, it should be clear that affirmative action still has a significant role in today’s social reality.

Just as with the “Founding Fathers” -- a relatively small group, which contained diverse thinking -- there is a wide range in the thinking among the “leaders” in our federal government today. And, in many ways, these are important. There are, for example, significant differences between Bernard Sanders and Rafael Edward Cruz, even though both of them are members of the same small, elite political organization. It would be foolish to hold that “they are all the same.”

Yet, at the same time, both Sanders and Cruz are part of the same system, the US Senate -- just as both are running to be president, the highest position within the larger system of the federal government. And, despite the very real differences in character between Sanders and Cruz, that system is primarily geared towards increasing the advantages -- economically, socially, and politically -- of the 1%. And a significant tactic for doing so is to divide the public into smaller groups that compete with one another.

Back in 1970, Vine Deloria, Jr., published “We Talk, You Listen: New Tribes, New Turf (Dell). Deloria predicted that the 1% would attempt to create a modern version of feudalism -- with rule by a corporate elite -- by dividing the public, and pitting groups against each other. He knew that so long as these groups mistakenly saw other groups as their competition, and thus enemy, that the future of America would be a feudal state.

However, if those same groups learned some basic lessons in organization -- the same one that many of the Founding Fathers learned from the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy -- and recognized that the 1% were their competition (and their common enemy), that would promote a higher level of democracy, and social justice. And 45 years later, that remains true. Indeed, it is even more important that we recognize this reality today, than in 1970.

Broken Government

“There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter this country, if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves. -- and lose their roughness and spirit of defiance. Tyranny may always enter -- there is no charm, no bar against it -- the only bar against it is a large resolute breed of men.”
-- Walt Whitman


In 1973, former Kennedy White House historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., published one of the most important books of the past century: “The Imperial Presidency.” It was at the time that many people believed this nation was at the beginning of a constitutional crisis, involving President Nixon, both Houses of Congress, and the US Supreme court. Schlesinger provided readers with the frequent attempts by the executive branch of the federal government to grab additional powers, with claims of “national security” during times of war.

A significant part of this book focuses on impeachment. This, of course, was Schlesinger’s advocating the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. The above Whitman quote, which Schlesinger used to close the book, is an accurate indicator of his views regarding the struggle with Nixon. When some of the Congressional Committees that studied presidential abuses of power made their reports (partially) public in the post-Nixon 1970s, thinking people were able to combine that information with Schlesinger’s book, and recognize the very real threats posed to our constitutional democracy.

In the years that followed Nixon’s resigning in utter disgrace, there have been two US Presidents who should have been impeached: Reagan, for Iran-Contra; and Bush, for the purposeful lies that resulted in the invasion of Iraq. Obviously, the impeachment of President Clinton was politically-motivated nonsense. When there is a high-profile, showcased nonsense, it suggests other things are quietly being accomplished.

For a brief but accurate description of the events that were “hidden” from public view -- or, at least what happened while the public was watching and debating President Clinton’s trial -- one should read Thomas F. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein’s, “The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America” (Oxford; 2006). The authors document how a group of politicians, led by Newt Gingrich, purposely “broke” the legislative branch of the federal government. It would be difficult to claim, with a straight face, that Congress has been repaired, or healed, in the time since the book was published.

The US Supreme Court, while on occasion returning surprising decisions, has proven to be a reliable advocate for corporations and for executive powers relating to “national security.” In 2001, Vincent Bugliosi published his classic, “The Betrayal of America,” which documented the US Supreme Court’s theft of the 2000 presidential election. As the author notes, their decision was not based upon the Constitution, or constitutional law. Instead, it was an authoritarian clamp-down on democracy. Their decision, Bugliosi proves beyond any doubt, was 100% rooted in four of the (in)Justices’ political and economic (re: corporate) interests.

Fast-forward to 2015. Early in the republican primary contest, it becomes evident that their party was experiencing a grass roots’ discontent with career politicians. This includes a rejection of the republican machine’s preferred candidate, Jeb Bush. But it goes much deeper than that: for a period of time, the three most popular candidate -- Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina -- are political outsiders …..at least to the extent that none of the three had ever held elected office.

Two of the three would implode, when the republican voters came to recognize them as unfit for office. Carly Fiorina was exposed as a liar, something forgivable; however, when she refused to admit that her horror story about abortion was false, her numbers did a nosedive. Carson proved to be beyond a lying creep; his delusional “religious” belief system offended even his republican audience.

The third candidate, Donald Trump, has been on a campaign of lies, insults, racism, narcissism, nativism, sexism, and hatred. Despite previous predictions from most political journalists, being exposed as an ass-clown has not damaged Trump’s campaign, in any meaningful way. Often, it’s just the opposite: the republican grass roots rewards his most vulgar behaviors.

In the past few days, while discussing Trump’s most recent proposal to refuse to allow people of the Islamic faith entry -- or re-entry -- into the United States, a growing number of people have recognized that Trump’s proposal is unconstitutional. It surely is serving to make the rest of the civilized world question what the United States has become. It definitely puts Americans abroad at higher risk, including the military. Some have pointed out that Trump may be violating the law in making such statements.

What is less apparent, in my opinion, is that regardless of the undeniable fact that Donald Trump has abandoned any respect for the Constitution, if he were to be elected President, those Constitutional restraints upon Executive power do not guarantee that his behavior would be harnessed by the House, Senate, and/or US Supreme Court. If it were as simple as a president going mad in office, those restraints might be enough to protect our society. The US survived the very real challenges that Nixon presented. But those of us old enough to remember know that it was a struggle.

The dynamics in our country have changed significantly since then. No serious person could argue that Congress or the Supreme Court are as functional today as they were when Schlesinger wrote that book. It would be realistic to think that the Constitution plays a significant, much less healthy, role in America today.

It seems safe to say that not only are the Americans who support Donald Trump the most angry, potentially violent, pro-authoritarianism of the population -- but internationally, the only people who want Trump to be elected are of the ilk of ISIS. Thus, it seems increasingly likely that individuals and groups within the pro-Trump movement will look for -- if not initiate -- the types of incidents that will increase the levels of the toxins of rage, paranoia, and violence in a way that they believe will increase Trump’s chances for victory.

This, of course, would be the environment needed for Trump -- or even a Ted Cruz -- to do further, severe damage to this country. This is not to suggest that this is definitely going to happen, or even the single most likely outcome of the 2016 presidential election. I’m not recommending that we begin a mental measuring for curtains in the FEMA camps. And I haven’t seen any black helicopters around my house ….or any drones, though I guess they aren’t highly visible.

But history teaches us that nations can be vulnerable, under certain circumstances. The Whitman quote provides a valuable insight into part of those circumstances. Indeed, it would require that Good People believe themselves to be helpless to stop the machine, and hopeless about the future. It would require another portion of the population to hold the same feelings of hopelessness, but to look to a “leader” to “save” them. And a bunch of spineless cowards, compromised by their own unethical behaviors, to over-populate the House and Senate, plus an authoritarian majority on the Supreme Court.

Look around you today …..watch the news, listen to the radio, read the internet …..and think about the current environment in America today. What do you see?

Peace,
H2O Man

Trump

Today I saw a post on Face Book that made me happy. A teacher from a local state university made some powerful points about the dangers posed by Donald Trump and his followers. Most of the comments in response were positive, but not surprisingly, a couple attempted to excuse Trump’s followers.

I’ve known this fellow since he was a teenager. He taught at the school my daughters attended, giving me the opportunity to get to know him as an adult. It’s funny: while I was a school board member, I played a role in moving his career forward, when he went from our school, to the university.

He was friends with my nephews as a high school student. So he was among those outraged when one of my nephews was seriously injured when a racist hate gang savagely assaulted him. I was honored to learn that, as a social studies teacher, he taught about that ugly chapter of local history -- including my role.

That hate crime would be a major influence on this young man’s thinking. And now, as Donald Trump spews his hatred, and tens of thousands of Americans are uniting with that campaign of rage. He understands the danger that this poses.

One of the Trumpite apologists stated that, even if Trump is elected, the Constitution would prevent him from accomplishing his proposed goals. In doing so, he was either purposely or accidentally missing the point. Burying one’s head in the sand is not a good strategy. I was pleased to see others confront him on his errors in thinking.

The Media vs President Obama

In the past week, I have been focused on the issue of how the media engages in perception management. If one were to believe the news -- specifically from yesterday afternoon until this morning -- it would seem that the United States is losing the war with ISIS, because of the weakness of President Obama. Last night on MSNBC, even Chris Matthews acted as if President Obama had somehow let the nation down, by not announcing that a million troops were being sent to Iraq, and martial law declared in the United States.

Perhaps the only sane voice heard on MSNBC and CNN has been that of Malcolm Nance. I noted that another forum member had an OP about Mr. Nance two days ago; shortly before it “sank,” another forum member questioned who Nance is? It is difficult to imagine how the public could have informed opinions on American policy on ISIS, without an awareness of Malcolm Nance and his beliefs on the topic.

If the media’s intention was to inform the public -- to provide rational, factual information that appealed to the public’s intellectual potential -- Mr. Nance would be provided with a bit longer than 40 seconds to speak. But instead, the general public is far more familiar with what Donald Trump says about President Obama betraying the nation, than Mr. Nance’s saying that President Obama is approaching the issue in the best way possible.

The result is that much of the public believes that sending ground troops to Iraq and/or Syria would lessen the chances of domestic “lone wolf” terrorist attacks. A growing number of republicans actually are convinced that Donald Trump could make the United States “safer” than has President Obama. And even those Democrats who are unfamiliar with Malcolm Nance know who Donald Trump is. Thus, even they tend to discuss ISIS et al in the context of the definitions provided by the media and Donald Trump.

I’m not in full agreement with President Obama. I do not favor an emphasis on military action to “defeat” ISIS. By definition, this is not a “problem” that the military can solve by killing “bad guys.” But I believe his approach is sane, while the republican-media approach is insane. It is troubling to see the nation being swayed by the drum-beats for war.

When the Music's Over .....


President Obama will address the nation tonight at 8 pm/est. This rare Oval Office address will focus on the threat of terrorism, and the US policy towards ISIS. I find myself thinking that it is a shame this President did not make more use of this uniquely powerful setting to speak to the nation during his years in office. President Obama is, in my opinion, at the same level as was President John F. Kennedy, in terms of his ability to communicate with the public -- with the pair being the most gifted in my lifetime.

I do think that the issues involving ISIS are important. I fear that the next president will likely get our country involved in yet another phase of the never-ending “war on terrorism.” And I do not deny that the brutal action that stained our society last week could easily become more common. Indeed, if a republican is elected, that will be the reality of life in the United States.

Yet, if one takes an objective look -- one that requires ignoring the rants on television news -- a woman in our country is at far greater risk of being murdered by a right-wing, white, christian terrorist in or near a Planned Parenthood, than being killed by ISIS. A young black man has a greater chance of being murdered by a police officer on the streets of America, than of being killed by ISIS. While I wish that President Obama could speak openly and honestly about the reality of terrorism in the United States, I understand that there is near zero chance that he will.

This is a strange and dangerous time in our nation’s history. While I do not agree with everything that is said on DU about current events and politics on this forum, I do enjoy reading the variety of opinions expressed here. I look forward to discussing people’s impressions of President Obama’s address tonight.

Peace,
H2O Man

Two Questions

“Do you know we are ruled by TV?”
-- James Morrison; An American Prayer

Yesterday, I posted one of the long, dry essays that I enjoy writing, but that I did not anticipate would become a DU:GD best-seller. It was on the sociology of terrorism. Perhaps the final two paragraphs best summed up the message: in them I suggested that the media presents the “news” in a manner that is intended to limit the manner the audience interprets it.

I suggested that, for example, the fields of psychology and sociology provide different options for understanding current events, and that we benefit from applying some of these. The mere fact that so many corporations, and their congressional lap dogs, attack “science” when it comes to issues involving climate change, would seem to imply that science offers insights that those in power do not want you or I exposed to.

On CNN’s “Smerconish” on Saturday, it was reported that in the 1990’s -- in the period that Newt Gingrich & Co. were purposely breaking Congress -- the federal government cut all funding of studies on the psychology of gun violence. Thus, every so often, the media does contribute some information that should be important to national discussions. I’m not suggesting the media is all bad, or involved in a conspiracy, but rather that it is largely a product of corporations, and that corporate interests are not exactly the same as the general public’s.

This includes not only what news is reported, and what is ignored -- it also includes the media’s analysis of the news. Today’s television “news” has far more analysis being offered than back in the days when there were simply three networks, offering a half-hour per evening. It involves the influence that politicians often exercise in determining what will be reported, and how it will be presented. It is what decisions that the owners of a given media determine will translate into the largest financial gains.

Thus, my questions: Why do you think that Congress cut federal funding for studies of the psychology of gun violence? How might this impact the manner in which the media reports on the gun violence being covered in the news in recent weeks?

Thank you,
H2O Man

Jacobs vs Quillin

Daniel Jacobs scored an impressive first-round TKO victory over Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin last night. The bout, which was Jacobs’ third defense of his WBA middleweight title, featured two of the top four fighters in the division (the others being Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez). As both Jacobs and Quillin -- the only US fighters in the middleweight top ten -- are from Brooklyn, it was also for “neighborhood bragging rights.”

Quillin, who entered the ring undefeated, and who had previously held the WBO title, was considered the bigger puncher of the two. Although Jacob’s record had more KO victories, he was viewed as the better boxer. Thus, what took place last night was “proof” that anything can happen when two good fighters enter the ring.

Older, long-time residents of DU’s sports forum will recall that I have thought very highly of Daniel Jacobs since his amateur days. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with him back when he was an amateur, and have maintained a casual friendship with him since then. I was happy to see him win in such explosive fashion last night, and anticipate that he will help to unify the title in 2016.
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