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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,029

Journal Archives

Rachel Jeantel

Yesterday, in response to a couple of articles posted on DU:GD, I made some harsh remarks. Some people thought I was knocking Rachel Jeantel (I wasn’t); others thought I was being cranky (I was); and one person stated that I was jealous of another author’s writing skills (I wasn’t). I was in a foul mood yesterday. It happens. So, I apologize to any friends I offended.

I watched Rachel’s testimony. I thought that she did well. Thus, while I have sympathy for the loss of her friend -- and especially the terrible circumstances that connected her to the murder trial -- I found some of the things people said on TV, or wrote on the internet, to be condescending. Rachel struck me as a strong young lady, deserving of respect and understanding, but not to be viewed as a victim of the court proceedings.

I appreciate that courtrooms create stress. This is especially true at a time when certain trials take on a circus-like atmosphere in the national media. And I also understand, all too well, having friends and family members murdered. It may be that the combination of first-hand experience with courtrooms and funerals has impacted the manner in which I view both this trial, and Rachel.

The legal process provides us with a unique look at sociological issues in our culture. For example, taken as a whole, the legal system provides greater opportunities and protections for one sub-culture, the wealthy. Clearly, poor people make up the majority of those incarcerated in the prison-industrial complex. More, black people are more likely to be incarcerated for the exact same crime as are white folks. Yet only a fool believes that the poor and non-white are predisposed to criminal activities.

In the past, blacks were identified as a sub-culture in the United States; today, they are correctly viewed as a co-culture. Yet there is no one blanket “black culture.” Hence, when the host of a HLN program asked a black guest if “blacks view Rachel’s testimony differently than do whites?,” she thanked him for trusting her to speak for all black people. Safe to say, for example, that Clarence Thomas sees the world differently than Rachel Jeantel.

Rachel belongs to another sub-culture, one that was first recognized when “baby-boomers” became older teens and young adults: “youth.” Older forum members will recall when they were called a “counter-culture.” This illustrates an important point -- that the larger culture frequently reacts harshly to the differences in sub-cultures. This is especially true when the sub-culture takes pride in, and identifies itself with those differences. Again, older forum members will recall that the larger society sought “protection” from (re: to punish) those who wore bell-bottoms, colorful shirts, short skirts, and love beads. I still have some old “warnings” from right-wing, conservative christian leaders on the terrible threat posed by The Beatles: not just long haired pot-smokers, they, but Ringo’s drums beat out a subversive “jungle beat” (accurate quote) that made youth vulnerable to communism.

Luckily, youth has its own unique defense systems. Rachel illustrated my favorite of these very well. When an “authority figure” asks a young adult the same stupid question, over and over, the youth often displays her/his utter contempt for the questioner. I am convinced that this is one of the most sacred duties of youth in the larger society. And I say that as a father of four, each with an impressive skill set that allows them to make others fully aware of that contempt.

As a rule, witnesses should not argue with lawyers while on the stand. The attorney has unique advantages in that setting. The defense attorney who cross-examined Rachel is actually talented at his trade. Although his “knock-knock” attempt at humor was pathetic, he is good at coming across as a wise and thoughtful grandfatherly gentleman. But from what I saw, he was not entirely comfortable in questioning Rachel …..not because he was hesitant to try to expose weaknesses in her testimony, but because she was a worthy opponent. They were trading shots pretty well, in my opinion.

That’s why I have respect for this young lady in terms of her trial participation. I did not see her as the victim in that context. I felt proud of her, not sympathy.

Reunion

You say you’ll change the Constitution
Well you know
We all want to change your head.
-- John Winston Lennon; Revolution


One thing I can tell you is
You got to be free
Come together,
right now
Over me.
-- John Ono Lennon; Come Together


“ ‘Come Together’ is a free-associating gumbooted walrus tossing off pithy one-liners …..originally conceived as a theme for Timothy Leary’s proposed campaign Ronald Reagan for Governor of California ….”
-- Nicholas Schaffner; The Beatles Forever; McGraw-Hill; 1977; page 124


I think that people should take the next 24 hours and stop arguing about those things that divide us, and concentrate instead on those issues and values that we have in common. As a show of good will, I’ll start:

I think that we should concentrate on considering the ways that we -- both as individuals and as a group -- can apply the constitutional powers defined by the Bill of Rights, in an attempt to improve our society.

I am convinced that late June and early July provide a wonderful opportunity for playing the music of The Beatles. Loudly. This includes in our homes, as well as in vehicles if we are riding around, with at least one window unrolled. (In preparation for a July weekend reunion with old friends from college, I have been listening to The Beatles and the Plastic Ono Band.)

Thank you for your consideration,
H2O Manifesto

Boxing (6-22)

June 22
At Brooklyn, N.Y. (Showtime): Paulie Malignaggi vs. Adrien Broner, 12 rounds, for Malignaggi's WBA welterweight title; Johnathon Banks vs. Seth Mitchell, rematch, 12 rounds, heavyweights; Sakio Bika vs. Marco Antonio Periban, 12 rounds, for vacant WBC super middleweight title


This promises to be a good fight card. The opening bout features Bika (31-5-2) against undefeated Periban (20-0).Bika is very strong and awkward; three of his loses were to world champions; he also lost an decision early in his career, and has been disqualified one time for hitting an opponent who was down. His most recent lose was in 2010, to Andre Ward -- in what has been Ward’s toughest fight to date. Bika has won three fights since then.

Periban has only had 4 fights outside of Mexico. Two were in Argentina, and two in the USA. This fight is a huge step up in competition for him. Judging from his opposition thus far, I suspect that Bika will be too much for him.

Banks vs. Mitchell is a return match; Banks (29-1-1) dropped Mitchell (25-1-1) twice in the second round last December, winning by a TKO in that round. Banks is taller, has a reach advantage, and has been involved in the sport a lot longer than his younger opponent. Although Mitchell was considered one of the best young heavyweight prospects, he had been seriously hurt in his last fight before Banks, by the relativel light-punching Chazz Witherspoon. Mitchell is a good puncher, and can certainly take out anyone he hits; still, I think Banks should win in under six rounds.

Broner (26-0) is moving up two weight classes to challenge Maligniggi (32-4) for his version of the welterweight title. I don’t think size will be an issue: Broner is only 23 and growing, plus he is less than 2 inches shorter, and has a 3 inch reach advantage. It is, however, a real step up in class for him. Last night, ESPN’s Teddy Atlas predicted that Paul would outbox Broner early, and test him, but that Broner would dig deep and pull off the victory. I agree with that.

Enjoy the fights!

"Make It Plain"

The 1994 book "Malcolm X: Make It Plain" (Viking-Penguin; text by William Strickland, edited by Cheryll Greene) is one of my favorites. The title comes from the simple instruction that Minister Malcolm gave to aides tasked with introducing him to audiences.

Malcolm perfected the art of communicating complex issues in plain, simple, easy-to-understand messages. For example: "Any time two people think exactly alike, it means that only one of them is thinking."

In my opinion, very few DUers agree with President Barack Obama on everything. There is, however, a wide range of opinions on the numerous issues that various good and sincere forum members may disagree with President Obama on. This includes differing opinions on how one might attempt to follow the President's saying he expects citizens "to hold his feet to the fire" on issues where they strongly disagree with him.

Malcolm also said that it is impossible for a chicken to lay a duck egg. In other words, a system can only produce something of itself. This is why intelligent Democrats and members of the Democratic Left (which includes liberals & progressives who are not registered Democrats) can and do hold such a wide range of beliefs about issues such as domestic spying; more, they are able to articulate their reasoning.

However, there is a small number of others here, who make it plain that they are intent upon stirring a pot of emotions, then splattering about insults which they hope will disrupt discussions and result in meaningless arguments.

Malcolm noted that "not every man who throws worms into the water is a friend of the fish." No matter what your opinion on issues may be, please do not bite at the obvious attempts to disrupt.

Thank you,
H2O Man

NBA Final Game Predictions

Who do you think will win & why?

Who do you want to win & why?

Sparks, Flames, & Fire

“A boy comes to me with a spark of interest, I feed the spark and it becomes a flame. I feed the flame and it becomes a fire. I feed the fire and it becomes a roaring blaze.”
-- Cus D’Amato; legendary boxing trainer


Several times, over the years, I’ve written that “all of life imitates the sport of boxing” on this forum. While many have responded negatively to this, I only say it with a slight bit of tongue-in-cheek. Last month marked fifty years since I fought my first amateur bout, and at least for me, most of my life has been intertwined with the sport of boxing. Indeed, the most decent group of human beings that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have been, or are, boxers. And the majority of other individuals who I rank with that group are in love with the sport.

But today, I’m not writing about boxing per say. This isn’t an essay that belongs on the sports forum. Rather, it is about that overlap of boxing and life, but where the sport is secondary to human beings. It’s about something that happened last night, something I hope you will take the time to read ……because it’s important …..at least to me.

Two nights ago, I had a phone call. A good friend from Philly is coming up to visit in about ten days, to promote his new book. It’s the autobiography of Marvis Frazier, the son of the great heavyweight champion, Smokin’ Joe Frazier. Marvis was an outstanding fighter himself: he won national and world amateur titles, and only lost two professional fights -- to two great champions, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson.

I’ve had the honor of knowing Marvis for a few years. He’s met my younger son and older daughter, as well. While he’s up here, we will be going to at least one gym, and hopefully three. He’ll be evaluating my boy, who will be having a couple more amateur bouts, and then turning pro.

Last night, I drove to Binghamton, and went to two gyms with my son. He does 12-15 rounds in the first one; takes a half-hour’s rest; then does another 12-15 rounds in the second gym. I particularly like the first one; it’s in the basement of a church, where they have recently started up the Redemption Boxing Club.


“There are very few new things in this world, very few. That’s why people that are young, if they’re smart, try to profit from the experience of an older guy so they won’t have to go through all the pain and suffering. But a certain amount of pain and suffer is good, because it makes a person think they’ve learned.”
-- Cus D’Amato

There were about 40 young men at the Redemption Boxing Club when we got there. There were also 5 young ladies training. Three older guys run the program; two of them are retired fighters. I’ve known one of them since the early 1970s; he made his pro debut on May 19, 1975, on I card that I fought on. The other guy had also served as a sparring partner for heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman. The three of us have worked together before in another gym, that since closed. We are comfortable enough that we take turns with different fighters, knowing that we all teach the same general set of skills …..something not always true in this type of setting. I’ve long thought that a boxing gym would make for a heck of an interesting sociological study in human nature.

I saw a young man hitting the heavy bag. He was doing okay, but making a few errors. So I asked if he minded if I showed him a few simple things to improve both his punching power, and his defense. He was happy to have me work with him.

After a few rounds on the bag, he could tell the difference. He told me that he was currently unemployed, but hoped to have a job soon; he said he wanted to know how much I would charge to train him? I said that as long as he was making the effort, I’d be pleased to work with him. After a couple more rounds, he said there was something he needed to tell me: he had recently been released from state prison for “stupid stuff.” And so he was living in a homeless shelter.

I told him about how the sport is frequently a successful social program, that helps young men get their lives on track. That I’d trained over 50 young boxers who had histories of problems at home, in school, and/or in the community. And that I’d help him set up a program, outside the gym, to improve his life. I’m glad to do that, I said, but I expect him to develop the self-discipline to make it work.

After doing a few more rounds, he said that since getting out, he’s felt angry and frustrated. He doesn’t want to be incarcerated again, but was confused why the “system” had relocated him from where he lived, to Binghamton. He said that he had just realized it was so that he would meet me, and have a chance in life.

That may sound unimportant in the grand scheme of life. But it is very important to me. It puts some responsibility on my shoulders, though he is the one that has to do the hard work. And that is one of the reasons why I say all of life imitates the sport of boxing.

Boxing (quick update)

I had a nice phone conversation last night. Marvis Frazier will be up from Philly in about 10 days. Besides promoting his autobiography, we'll be going to a few gyms, and working with my boy.

Democracy, Now

“Generally, when the commander in chief walks in and says, ‘Done deal,’ (the Joint Chiefs of Staff) say, ‘Yes sir, Mr. President’.”
-- George W. Bush; conversation with Bob Woodward

“The general thrust of the Kennedy military policy was to assert a political domination of the military leadership, which is hostile to the traditions and practices of American government. John F. Kennedy was telling the Joint Chiefs that they must accept his judgment of military matters. The Presidential dictum was of course contrary to law and should have been disregarded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If the military leader is willing to submit the professional integrity, morale, and effectiveness of his service or services to the adverse judgments of inexperienced politicians, he is not fit to hold office.”
-- Major General Thomas Lane; The Leadership of President Kennedy


In my opinion, a modern President of the United States has more power to do “bad” (damage to our Constitutional Democracy) than “good.” I base my opinion largely upon what has happened in my “modern” lifetime, which has spanned 11 presidents -- six republicans, and five Democrats. I would also speculate that I read more than the average citizen, including from my personal library that contains hundreds of books both by and about those 11 and many other presidents; my library also contains hundreds of other books on Senators, Representatives, the Supreme Court and other federal courts, and a wide range of other social-political issues.

For sake of discussion, let’s say that a good and sincere person is elected to the White House. She/he faces numerous problems from the giddy-up: the policies of the last President; international and domestic issues; and a whole host of difficulties that are not even part of the constitutional system that aims to balance power between the three branches of the federal government with systematic tensions.

Even within the executive branch, a President inherits a huge number of entrenched, non-elected bureaucrats, who may not share the new President’s vision or goals. It would be impossible for any human being to exercise a wholesome control over all of these groups and individuals. Even when we consider one of our nation’s worst bureaucrats -- who was very “high profile” -- we see how a J. Edgar Hoover held the presidency in contempt: the occupants of the Oval Office come and go, Hoover told his closest associates, but the Director of the FBI remains.

Next, as highlighted in the above quote from General Lane, there are those in the military who -- not unlike Hoover -- view the President as a temporary occupant of an office that is fully dependent upon the military. If one were to search hard enough, I’m confident that they could find some evidence that suggests that “war” has been a common feature in America’s way of life for a significant amount of the 11 most recent presidencies. More, a more intensive study could find evidence of an undemocratic, even unconstitutional amount of friction between the heads of the military and a few recent US Presidents.

Likewise, there has been similar tensions between Presidents and intelligence agencies. That is not to imply that the relationship between the Executive Offices and intelligence agencies is always defined by tension; indeed, I recall that as vice president, Bush the Elder got along rather well with intelligence agencies and military men like that noble patriot Oliver North.

In fact, President Reagan had VP Bush and Patriot North update the plans first created during Ike’s presidency, for a way to continue government leadership in times of dire national emergency. Bush and North’s updated plan, however, took all power away from two branches of the federal government -- at least temporarily -- and placed them in the hands of an expanded version of the executive branch. This expansion included placing some of the heads of the largest industries in power in this curious, unelected executive cell. And as Senator Robert Byrd’s powerful 2004 book “Losing America” documents, on 9-11-2001, VP Cheney -- and not President George W. Bush -- put this “shadow government” in control. At the time he wrote the book, Senator Byrd noted that Cheney’s order had not been rescinded.

Corporations do not always do everything they can to support a president -- or any other politician -- unless they are convinced that politician will at least go to bat for them. This is not to imply that any US President has failed to go to bat for corporate interests in recent times. One might have to go back to JFK versus the steel companies for a solid example.

And these days, especially thanks to that honorable hero Dick Cheney, corporations play a very large role in running the military and intelligence groups that secure our homeland. In fact, there are many para-military and intelligence groups now operating for private corporations -- though entirely at the tax-payers expense. And the Cheneyites were even thoughtful enough to remove most government oversight of these intensely patriotic entities.

I’m not writing this to support or oppose Barack Obama. Instead, I hope that it serves to illustrate why even the most decent , sincere, and talented president cannot, by him- or herself, breath new life into the decaying corpse of America’s Constitutional Democracy. The only hope is that the citizens of this country begin to think, to act, and to live in the manner prescribed by the Founding Fathers (despite their very real faults) and the other great leaders (both in and out of government ).

Fight the Good Fight!
H2O Man

Legend

“In the field of intelligence, a legend is an operational plan for a cover, or a cover itself, depending upon the mission.”
-- James J. Angleton; CIA chief of counterintelligence

“A legend is a false biography.”
-- Yuri I. Nosenko; KGB officer

“Everything is the exact opposite of what it really is.”
-- Harry Nilsson

“To attempt to place Edweird Snowden’s ‘career’ history in context based upon media reports is to let your mind get stuck on a gooey yellow fly strip. Do not focus on ‘who?’ or ‘how?’; the important question is ‘why?’.”
-- H2O Man

Intruder in the Dust

“The past’s never dead. It’s not even past.”
--William Faulkner; Intruder in the Dust


No matter how one feels about recent news reports on domestic “spying,” it is worthwhile to consider past events from our nation’s not-to-distant past. These issues should be of concern to everyone, from President Obama’s strongest supporters, to his most vocal critics on the Democratic Left. For this is an issue that reaches far beyond this President and his administration. Indeed, it involves forces in government and industry that are, at best, only partially under the control of Barack Obama or Congressional oversight. And it is an issue that will certainly help define America after President Obama leaves office -- and that is equally true, no matter if the next US President is a Democrat or republican.

The president most closely associated with legal and illegal spying on citizens is, of course, Richard M. Nixon. Thus, I would like to remind older forum members of some of hell that Nixon put this nation through. More, it is my hope that this may provide younger forum members with food for thought …..and while space does not allow for in-depth detail here, any interested person can “google,” go to their local library, or both, to learn more about this series of most important chapters in US history.

Again, my goal is NOT to take sides in the current debate -- not in this essay/thread -- nor is it to in any way pretend that Barack Obama is similar to Richard Nixon. For President Obama is a good and decent man, while Nixon was a severely flawed character; the only two things they had in common would be the obvious (being President) and both were highly intelligent.

I am also hoping that forum members will post related information on America’s “spying” history, including memories of the Nixon era. Also, in fairness, I should share two points of information: (1) my property was owned, at the close of the Revolutionary War, by one of two merchant brothers, who had served as “spies” for General/President Washington; and (2) in the 1990s, a “private” corporation, that employed retired county, state, and federal police, kept “intelligence” files on Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, myself, and others advocating for Native American rights. We had one of our spies copy these files, and I was entertained and disappointed in their quality. If they had simply asked Paul and I, we would have provided more accurate information.

Anyhow. Our national mythology pretends that domestic spying was limited to J. Edgar Hoover’s obsession with Rev. King’s sex life, until Richard Nixon began a strange domestic spy program that ended with Watergate. This, of course, is bullshit. Domestic spying had been conducted at least since the end of WW2. Much of it was done by the private investigators who were hired by corporations, usually after “retiring” from a career with a police agency, or the military. Indeed, the WW2 agency that morphed into the CIA was, in fact, primarily made up of “private” intelligent agents employed by the oil industry. I’ve documented that with uncanny accuracy on this forum in the past.

In the 1960s -- even before Nixon took office -- the military was spying on civilians who were doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights. It was done, of course, in the name of “national security.” This was first documented, beyond debate, by Christopher Pyle; he told congressional investigators that the US Army intelligence had 1,500 “undercover agents” who kept track of any anti-war protest that had 20 or more citizens participating.

Pyle’s testimony would play a significant role in several of the congressional investigations into the abuses of power associated with Nixon. He would work as an investigator for Senator Sam Irvin’s subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. (Pyle became a professor at Mt.Holyoke College; he has authored several articles and books of interest, including on the dangers that domestic spying pose to the Constitution since the “war on terror” began.)

It was later documented that Army Intelligence was “spying” on Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was in Memphis in April, 1968. Again, this pre-dates Nixon’s presidency. Yet Nixon was no stranger to the ways of Washington, and he soon would have a plan drawn up to coordinate local, state, and federal police agencies with domestic spying programs -- all in the name of “national security,” of course. Under Nixon, the potential threats to the nation were no longer limited to the Civil Rights and Anti-war movements. Any journalist who disagreed with Nixon, and any Democrat who might oppose him in 1972, would be included on Tricky Dick’s infamous “enemies list.”

It was documented in the Senate Watergate hearings that President Nixon would become aware that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were also spying on him. One could speculate that this may have played some role in the exposure of “Watergate” -- which is incorrectly remembered as a limited criminal event, involving the break-in at the Democratic Party Headquarters. In fact, it was a large series of felonies, that took place from the west coast to the east coast. And every part of it fell under the Huston Plan.

The Senate held the famous Watergate Hearings, led by Senator Irvin. Several congressional committees would follow with investigations of illegal and unconstitutional activities conducted by intelligence agencies. These included crimes committed both domestically and in foreign lands. Perhaps the best-known was the Senate’s Church Committee. The House of Representatives followed with a committee, which is best known as the Pike Committee, (Formerly the Nedzi Committee), named for NY Rep. Otis Pike. This committee’s final report was never officially released, due to conflicts among House members. Versions were released, and journalist Daniel Schorr was called before Congress to reveal his source; Schorr refused.

President Ford would attempt to derail attention from these two committee, by having VP Nelson Rockefeller head a “presidential investigation” into intelligence agency abuses of power. While the Rockefeller Commission’s report was of some value, it should not be confused as the most important of that era’s investigations.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson to come out of that era is that domestic spying programs take on a life of their own, even if a good and sincere President is in office. Likewise, these same programs take on an even more sinister character under a thug like Nixon.

Finally, I’d like to note that about a week ago, I posted an essay on fracking here. I wrote that the gas companies have deemed environmental advocates who oppose fracking as “potential eco-terrorists.” Further, I showed that the gas industry now has use of military intelligence experts in psychological warfare, to help prepare communities in the United States for exploitation by the gas industry.

Peace,
H2O Man
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