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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,836

Journal Archives

"Hard Choices"

I called my friend while she was working at the library, and asked her if she could pick out something new for me to read. When I stopped by, she had selected two options: the first was a book about Antonin Scalia, the other was Hillary Clinton’s newest book. My friend knows that I do read books either by or about scoundrels such as Richard Nixon, and that my children think it’s a giggle to listen to me argue with various books, so she thought I might favor the Scalia book. But, actually, I prefer the Clinton book at this time.

I live in rural, upstate New York, not that far from where Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan lived. Everyone knew that if you had business with him, be sure to conduct it before noon. For Moynihan suffered from the Irish flu, and during afternoons and evenings, he was frequently dealing with the symptoms. He was a curious man -- he had served presidents in the 1960s and ‘70s, before becoming a US Senator. But for a flaw, he would have been considered presidential material.

Of course, he authored a controversial study on black families, and became identified with the neoconservative movement. He also proved quite capable of not only working for a republican president, but -- more importantly -- working with him, because their agenda was the same. Thus, it wasn’t bipartisanship; it was shared values. Although a young Pat Moynihan had identified his value system as being “democratic,” by middle age he recognized that at the top level, party identification was largely a game to be played.

I have had the chance to meet Ms. Clinton. I saw her in Oneonta, after she announced that she was running for Moynihan’s seat in the Senate. A few years later, I met her in Sidney, after a private meeting she had with a couple town officials and the head of a regional energy executive. The press, from national to local, covered the first event; no press at all had been invited to the second.

There was never any serious question about if I would support Ms. Clinton’s efforts to become a US Senator. I had long found her to be a far more likable human being than her husband. In 2000, I assumed that with Al Gore being elected president, that having Clinton represent my state in the Senate would be a huge plus, in terms of creating a national health care policy. And, other than one vote -- the one that granted Dick Cheney and his sidekick the authority to illegally and immorally invade Iraq -- I believed she had adequately represented our state in DC. Still, I’ve always wondered exactly what she and the energy executive discussed in Sidney, in that meeting that both declined to comment upon.

In the early 2008 Democratic Primary season, I tried to keep an open mind. By late 2007, it had become evident that the Democratic Party had a number of qualified candidates, while the republican party had virtually none. In many ways, I favored Senator Joe Biden, who I believe is an honorable man, despite the fact that he is a career politician. However, two other candidates offered the possibility of having either a women or a brown-skinned man elected to the highest office in the land.

To be certain, neither genitals nor pigment define an individual’s ethical standards. Maggie Thatcher and Clarence Thomas come to mind as examples of individuals who stand in direct opposition to what I consider necessary for holding positions of responsibility. And John McCain, in a desperate hour, would select Sarah Palin as his choice for VP, in a move that would make Bush the Elder’s choice of Danny Quayle appear statesman-like in contrast.

In the years since President Obama took office, the public would learn more about Hillary Clinton. This has been primarily because, rather than stay in the Senate, she agreed to serve as the Secretary of State. It is that experience that this book, “Hard Choices,” is about. If her years as First Lady and Senator provided a view of her positions on domestic issues, the years as Secretary of State provide insight on her beliefs on foreign policy.

Obviously, any book such as this will contain a lot of fluff -- things like the pride the author takes in the red, white, and blue, etc. And, when the author is considering running for office in the future (as opposed to definite retirement), it’s likely to influence how the book is written. Still, such books have value, and this one does make for a fun and valuable read.

Hillary Clinton is a unique character in American politics. She offers her supporters far more than simply being female. In terms of substance -- intelligence and experience -- she is obviously a thousand times more qualified to be considered for president than Sarah Palin. Yet, at this point in time, I am hoping that the Democratic Party puts forth a variety of candidates in the upcoming 2016 primary season.

What I think would be interesting here would be if people would answer three questions:

Do you want Hillary Clinton to be the 2016 candidate for president?
What do you believe is her greatest strength?

No matter if you support or oppose Hillary Clinton for president, it is important to recognize that all politicians have both strengths and weaknesses. I’m hoping for a meaningful discussion; in other words, avoiding the “so you’d prefer Mitt Romney?” or “she’s a corporate tool!” shallows. (Note: expansions on these, such as the ability to pick Supreme Court nominees and/or specific corporate ties could add to the discussion.)

Thanks,
H2O Man

News Report

There are two videos with this report:

http://www.wbng.com/news/local/Guzy-pleads-not-guilty-to-murder-284876781.html

So Far, So Good!

Court went well this morning. John Guzy’s attorney did not make a request for bail to be set. He did, however, reserve the right to ask for it in a future hearing (he has 45 days to do so).

We had a good turn-out of family and friends. There was also a lot of media; I should have a few links to post later today.

One of Guzy’s daughters did attend the hearing. I feel no animosity towards her, or the rest of her family -- except, obviously, her father. I feel sorry for them, for Guzy’s violence damaged their lives, too. (I did say, to folks outside the court, that she probably was tempted to join us in opposing that this guy ever gets out.)

My cousin continues to have serious medical issues. One of his lungs has recently begun to fill with fluid. Back to the doctor's this afternoon.

I wore the tie-clip that Robert F. Kennedy handed out on the steps of the Chenango County Court in the late summer of 1964, during his campaign for the US Senate. There’s a lot of history that has been made at the beautiful building. I do wish that my family wasn’t involved in this chapter. But we are all living in a strange time. There’s so much anger, fear, and pain these days. The DU community took a stance against that today.

Now, I've got to try to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Again, thank you!
Pat

Thank you, DU!

As I am preparing for tomorrow morning’s court hearing, I want to again thank all of you who have supported my family and I since the 10-27 shootings. And I speak for my cousin, his daughter, his siblings, nieces and nephews, and his parents. The District Attorney has also asked that I convey his thanks, as well. By 48 hours ago, the public response -- phone calls, letters, and e-mails -- had already been the most that Chenango County has ever received, on any case. And 100% of these provided the same message: no bail for John Guzy.

Anyone here familiar with my rants over the years, knows that I am fascinated by the workings of “systems.” Having said that, I want to briefly note a couple of discussions that I’ve read here recently. They were focused on if the Democratic Underground was fading into insignificance. Now, granted, I am but one cranky old man, and my opinion is of no more value than any other individual’s. But in light of the fact that the DU community stepped up, for no reason other than their beliefs in the need for social justice, and more than tripled the previous record for statements on a legal case in Chenango County …..I think it speaks loudly about just how significant this forum is.

This case is, of course, related to the many others that now infect our culture with hatred, racism, and violence. Guzy is a retired NYC cop, and had indeed just finished a shift as a sheriff’s deputy. In fact, he had left work furious, because he was required to work a 12-hour shift, rather than a regular 8-hour shift. As one of my good friends noted, he was going to kill someone that day, and my cousin and his son were the first people he encountered.

This case is unlike many of the others currently in the news, in that the victims were not black. Yet I can relate to those -- as can my family -- if only from a 1998 incident where a racist hate gang savagely attacked my nephew. This took place in the same town where the shootings occurred. One of the Assistant District Attorneys advocated prosecuting the case as exactly what it was -- attempted murder. Seventeen thugs attacked a high school student, because they were enraged that a brown-skinned youth was getting state-wide press, recognizing him as a top scholar-athlete. They left him for dead in a dark field.

The DA opted to charge the gang leader, who admitted that he had punched and kicked his unconscious victim in the head, at least 12 times, with a misdemeanor. When the ADA introduced testimony that the gang leader had called my nephew a “dumb nigger” (among other things), the (in)Justice of the Peace said -- in open court -- “Well, I don’t believe that indicates that ‘race’ played any role in this.” Then what the heck did it indicate? I remember the disgust I felt for this man, when he rendered his decision -- a $50 fine, for having an open beer at the time of the assault.

When I see people who are outraged by the legal system’s frequent refusal to hold violent criminals responsible for their crimes, I understand it. Oh, yes I do. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have thoughts about going after the men who inflicted permanent physical damage on my nephew. Non-violence was not my first nature, and those days sorely tested my attempt to live a peaceful life. It would have been easy -- very, very easy, indeed -- to react in a most violent manner.

Even today, I have periods where I wrestle with feelings of hatred for John Guzy, because he seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. He did a lot more damage to my family and our friends than “merely” shooting two men. I cannot describe how difficult it is to see my 84-year old aunt, and 86-year old uncle, suffering as a consequence of Guzy’s violent outburst. It would be easy for me to hate, and to feel justified in doing so.

But I will not. For if we are to change these systems that our lives experience daily, we must stop the violence and hatred. We have to rise above that, and identify the higher ground that is found in human potential.

So again, I want to thank each and every one of you who has supported me in recent weeks. It is much appreciated. And, if not before, then I look forward to talking with you tomorrow afternoon.

Peace,
H2O Man

Update: Road Rage (important)

Last week, I asked the DU community to contact the Chenango County District Attorney’s Office, to express opposition to John Guzy being granted bail. This is the man who, on October 27, shot my cousin and his son, in a fit of “road rage.” Guzy, a retired NYC cop, was employed as a part-time deputy at the Sheriff’s Department at the time.

On Friday, December 5, there is a court hearing in which Guzy’s attorney will ask that bail be set. Under NYS law, a judge can set bail, but does not have to if there are strong reasons not to. If ever there was a case in which a person should be denied bail, this is it. Indeed, both the DA and police think that this case could spark a change in the law that allows the John Guzys to be considered appropriate candidates for bail.

This morning, I was told by a source very close to the prosecution of the case that the DA’s office has had an unprecedented public outcry, demanding that bail be denied. This is due to the good people who are part of the DU community. A lead investigator on the case said that the DA’s office has been “overwhelmed” with the number of letters and e-mails, and extremely impressed with their quality. He requested that we now send those same messages to the Judge’s clerk.

Typically, such messages are appropriately sent to the DA, who then informs the judge of the general responses. This case, however, is not typical. It is important that the judge hearing the case be fully aware of the public opinion. More, we have identified one exception to the state law that prohibit’s a judge from reading a letter. If the opening sentence of the letter begins with, “As a (family member, friend of the family, concerned citizen, etc), I want Judge Frank Revoir to hear my voice before deciding if John Guzy should be granted bail,” he is allowed to read it.

There are four primary reasons that the Court can use to determine to not grant bail. These include:

The viciousness of the crime: Guzy was furious that the car ahead of him was traveling at the speed limit. As a result, he shot and seriously wounded Derek Prindle, age 60, a passenger in the vehicle; and shot and killed Derek Dylan Prindle, 26, the driver. Derek Dylan died in his father’s arms, before an ambulance reached the scene of the crime.

Guzy threatened to kill both men. In fact, while Derek attempted to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to his dying son, Guzy slammed his handgun into the back of Prindle’s head, and pulled the trigger. The bullet jammed in the chamber. Guzy’s home is located a few miles from Derek Prindle’s, and the entire Prindle family is afraid of what Guzy might do if released.

Guzy has threatened other community members in recent months. The police and DA are aware of his having at least two other “road rage” incidents, including one where he threatened to kill another driver. More, this summer, he became angry when two kids were riding “four-wheelers” (on their parent’s property). He fired his gun in their general direction.. Their parents called the police. Guzy claimed that he was merely “target-practicing” on his property. We know exactly what he was “practicing,” and what he is fully capable of.

Guzy presents a flight risk. Last night, my youngest daughter, a high school student, summed it up very well -- if he has the resources to make bail, he has the resources to leave this area. He knows he is facing a life sentence, and has nothing to lose. Even if he got caught, what can the court do? Add years onto a life sentence?

Derek’s 86- year old father, a WW2 veteran, has taken him to the doctor’s today, as the bullet wound he suffered on that terrible day became infected. Having had the DA inform him yesterday that the Judge is considering actually setting bail on Friday has re-victimized my family. The past 24 hours have been hell. Derek called me early this morning, to let me know he wouldn’t be home (we are in contact every day, and I visit him most every day). A few minutes after we got off the phone, he called back to remind me to express his thanks to all of you for your support.

By nature, I do not like to ask for help. And asking twice is way more difficult. But I am asking that, if possible, you please send an e-mail to the Chenango County Court Clerk, asking that bail be denied to John Guzy on Friday. I hope that you know how much your help means to me.

I’ve got a full schedule between now and Friday’s court hearing. So, if not before then, I will definitely be updating you on how it went on Friday afternoon.

Peace,
Pat

Link to Court Clerk: http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/6jd/chenango/county.shtml

Giving Thanks


The message of the words spoken is Good, but reading them really cannot compare to listening to an Elder reciting this prayer of thanksgiving. Something is always lost when words are translated from one language to another. Still, this is the approximate thanksgiving that has been said to open meetings between groups of people here in the northeast since the time of the ancestors’ ancestors, since at least 450 ad. I hope my friends here at DU enjoy it.]

I want to greet you, and to ask that we all put our minds together as One, to give thanks to the Creator for bring us together on this day. I hope that we are all well, and appreciate this opportunity to spend this time together. The Creator has intended it this way: that we take the time to consider all the Good around us, and give thanks for the many things that sustain life around us. Now it is my duty to give thanks.

The Creation includes the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. We give thanks for these. The Earth contains many entities that carry on their duties each day: these include the air, the water, the soil and rocks, and all that live on and within them. We give thanks for these life-sustaining forces.

The Earth is our Mother, and provides nourishment for all who live here. The Earth intends that we give thanks for these, and appreciate that her bounty is intended to be shared by all. When we honor our Mother’s intention that we share, we find there is enough for all of us to enjoy our turn to be alive here, today, and to participate in the ceremony of life on Earth.

We give thanks for the air we breath, for breathing clean air is an important part of life that we must never take for granted. We give thanks for the clean water that sustains all life on Earth. When we see the water, from the largest river to the tiniest stream, we learn about the flow of life’s energy here on Earth. From the rain to the great lakes, water provides Life. For this we give thanks today.

We give thanks for the soil, and all that grows from it. When we walk, sit, and sleep on the ground, we are aware that we share it with the plants, and the two- and four-legged beings that live around us. We appreciate that the life cycle depends upon the gift of the soil; we give thanks when we plant seeds, and harvest the foods that sustain our lives so that we may enjoy our turn to be alive here on Earth. For these things, we give thanks.

We give thanks for the plant-life on Earth. We appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. We give thanks for the trees, the shrubs and bushes, and the grasses that live all around us. We give thanks for the food that they provide, and for the wood that allows us to build a fire. We give thanks for all of these things, which participate in the miracle of life on Earth.

We give thanks for the fish in the waters; for the birds and insects that fly in the air; and for the many two- and four-legged beings that live on the grounds around us. We appreciate that they are participants in the miracle of life here on Earth, and we give thanks to them for carrying out their duties each and every day.

We give thanks to those who lived before us; they lived their lives in such a manner that we are allowed to live our lives today. We thank them for the lessons that they have passed on to us, so that we can enjoy our turn in the miracle of life on Earth today.

We give thanks for our families and friends. We appreciate that they enrich our daily lives. We give thanks for the opportunity to be alive with them here, today.

Now, let us put our minds together, and to see how we can hand down the opportunities to participate in the miracle of life on Earth to the generations to come.

Burnin' and Lootin'


“This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too - yeah!
Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

“How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the cost.

“(That's why we gonna be)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(Say we gonna burn and loot)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(One more thing)
Burnin' all pollution tonight;
(Oh, yeah, yeah)
Burnin' all illusion tonight”
-- Bob Marley; Burnin’ and Lootin’


I stopped by an associate’s house this evening, to pick up a legal document pertaining to one of the handful of cases that I’m currently involved in. I hadn’t seen her husband since early summer, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with him before heading home. He is in his mid-twenties, a clinical social worker, and has been active in a couple of the conflicts that his wife and I work on. We stood out on their porch as he smoked a cigarette; looking up at the sky, he said that “the whole world seems to be crazy right now.”

It would certainly appear that way to anyone reading a newspaper or watching the news on television. And even more so, to anyone surfing the internet. The attention being paid to events in Ferguson alone show how unresolved conflicts that polite society attempts to cover over will always rise again. After the 2008 election of President Obama, there were such attempts -- in discussions of how a mature America had reached a “post-racial” age. Yet, however well-intended or sincere those discussions were, in reality they were but fancy words, that at most defined a thin film covering our culture.

Beneath that thin film, our society still has the ingredients of social pathology brewing: poverty, racism, sexism, and crime. Each one of these is large, indeed -- for example, crime includes everything from domestic abuse to police violence, white-collar crime to armed robbery. More, each one of these ingredients has overlap with others, creating synergism. And, as we witness in Ferguson, one event can spark an explosion.

The events in Ferguson in the past several months raise numerous questions that have to be answered, in order for the United States to move to the higher ground of social justice. And while “race” and “racism” are not the only ones, they are definitely central. Racism, much like sexism, can be uncomfortable to discuss in a meaningful way -- even here, on a liberal/progressive democratic web site.

Related issues include police brutality; a multi-tiered justice system; property being valued above human life; and options for grass roots activities, both positive and negative. These, too, can be difficult to discuss in a meaningful way, especially when emotions are raw.

I can only speak for myself, of course. I am opposed to “burning and looting” for a variety of reasons. The first has to do with ethics: I am opposed to the use of violence, with self-defense being the only exception. Yet, I certainly understand why people engage in these destructive behaviors.

Tactically, rioting does not accomplish much. It is not going to bring about positive change; in fact, it is likely to hinder, even prevent, potential positive change. Imagine if that same energy was harnessed by disciplined community leaders. A peaceful protest -- perhaps involving civil disobedience -- could have made a profound statement. More, an organized voter registration drive would provide the numbers needed for the community to elect officials with shared values. A new district attorney could still charge the cop with murder. It’s not unheard of for a prosecutor to present a case to a second grand jury. There’s not a statute of limitations, or double jeopardy involved here.

There are a lot of communities where the people are disorganized. Even more neighborhoods are. Although it is hard work, a couple of people -- or an individual, if need be -- can start the process of community organization: voter registration, public education, and active participation. It’s really odd how that is more difficult than, say, instigating violence in certain situations.

When I was young -- in my mid-thirties, as I recall -- a Clan Mother told me that the world, and many of the circles/cycles within it -- were entering a phase where they would begin to move very fast. And cause confusion, mistrust, and frustration. She told me to remember that as we went further in this era, that it would be important that some people -- those who are “awake” -- make the effort to move slower. Not avoid responsibility, nor withdraw. But use patience, and resist the momentum of the circles/cycles that were moving so fast that innocent life suffered.

I think we are there now.

Help (Please)

In the past four weeks, I have had the support of a large number of the Good People from here, in the DU community. On October 27, in a case of “road rage,” John Guzy shot my cousin, Derek Prindle, and his son, Derek Dylan Prindle, in Bainbridge, NY. My cousin watched sin son bleed to death as he held him in his arms, waiting for an ambulance. Derek then underwent emergency surgery that saved his life.

Since that day, I’ve posted a series of OP about issues ranging from the legal process to the impact this tragic event has had on my extended family. I think that the fact that Mr. Guzy is a retired NYC cop, who had recently begun working as a part-time deputy for the Chenango County Sheriff’s Department, has made this case go from one family’s tragedy, to a part of a larger issue of concern for the public. The combination of being able to “vent” here, and having so many of you providing emotional support, has helped me to maintain my sanity -- or at least to remain as close to sane as I normally am.

Now, I have another favor to ask of you.

In these dark and dreary days, a number of people have said that if there is anything that they can do to help my family and I, they would be willing. So here goes:

On December 5, there is a hearing to be held in Chenango County Court, in which Mr. Guzy will be seeking to have bail set. The District Attorney is strongly opposed to bail being set. I had the opportunity to speak with the DA and the two lead detectives on this case yesterday, at a memorial service for Derek Dylan. One factor that the judge will take into account in deciding if bail is to be set will be if the public voices strong opposition to it.

Obviously, my family, friends, and neighbors will be writing letters to the court, opposing bail being set for Mr. Guzy. Students at our high school are taking up a petition, asking that bail not be set. And if people from across the country take the time to write a letter to the court, it improves our chances of keeping this violent thug exactly where he belongs -- behind bars.

I would very, very much appreciate it if people here would help with this. Such letters should focus on any one or all of the following three reasons to deny bail:

The brutal nature of the crime: John Guzy murdered a 26-year old man, shot the father, and attempted to kill him execution-style while the father tried to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to his son (Guzy placed his hand gun at the back of my cousin’s head, but the bullet lodged in the chamber);

Mr. Guzy threatened to kill both of his victims, and clearly attempted to do so. My cousin and his family are afraid of him, and for good reason. People in the community, including the students at our school, are afraid of Mr. Guzy. This is not an unfounded fear, based upon their wondering what Guzy is capable of. We know exactly what he is fully capable of;

Mr. Guzy poses a substantial flight risk. The District Attorney has a solid enough case, that it is extremely likely that Guzy will be convicted. He faces a life sentence. He has the resources that would allow him to take flight.

Letters can be sent to the District Attorney by way of mail; by fax, or by e-mail. In cases such as this, those sent by “snail-mail” carry the most weight; faxed letters are next; and e-mails carry the least weight of the three. But all are important. (The judge does not read these communications before the hearing for bail, or similar letters before trial. Thus, they go to the DA, who absolutely does read them, and then provides the judge with an overview of the public opinion.)

Here are the addresses for sending a message to the court:

Joseph A. McBride, District Attorney
The Eaton Center
26 Conkey Avenue
Box 126, 2nd Floor
Norwich, NY 13815

Fax: 607-337-1746

E-mail: districtattorney@co.chenango.ny.us

Again, on behalf of myself and my family, I want to say that your support has been greatly appreciated.

Your friend,
Pat (H2O Man)

Critical Thinking

“Learning without thought is labor lost;
Thought without learning is perilous.”
-- Confucius

The concept of “critical thinking” provides us with the best way to make sense of the world around us. This is true in terms of the social, political, and economic reality that confronts us, as individuals, groups, a nation, and part of the human race. Perhaps at no time in history has there been such a need for critical thinking than today -- a time where an increasing number of resources is available for consumption, and we continue to poison the very environment that is required for human survival.

People define “critical thinking” in a variety of ways. For sake of this discussion, let’s go with a fairly general description: a mental discipline that involves open-minded gathering of relative information; a systematic manner of organizing the information; and an objective, rational analysis of that body of information. It is, not coincidentally, similar to the process that was taught as the “scientific method” when I was in grade school.

It requires that one be, to a large degree, emotionally detached from the issue at hand. Indeed, emotions are but one of the stumbling blocks that can derail critical thinking. Another stumbling block -- one that I have frequently wrestled with -- is, well, arrogance. Believing that you are pretty darned smart. This can lead to an unfortunate dynamic in the context of discussions ….one that is known in the world “snaky.”

Let’s consider the recent discussions on DU:GD about the death of President John F. Kennedy. Leave out any thought of who may or may not have been responsible for the assassination. Instead, focus entirely upon how people here think about, and discuss, that important event in our nation’s history. It is my belief that good and sincere people, capable of critical thinking, can and do reach very different opinions about “Dallas.” Likewise, people who exercise something less than critical thinking can and do reach very different opinions.

One school of thought puts great faith in the Warren Commission, and a wonderful book by former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi. The opposing school of thought has concluded that JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy; even among this group, there is an extremely wide range of belief regarding who was responsible -- the CIA and/or other military and intelligence groups; organized crime; Cubans in Florida who opposed Castro; big oil; and even, to some extent, the next two US Presidents (LBJ and/or Richard Nixon).

The Warren Commission’s Report was 26 volumes. Bugliosi’s 2007 book supporting the Commission’s conclusion is over 1,500 pages long. A resulting tactic of people who believe this version often ask those who are opposed to it, “Have you read the entire Warren Commission Report?” (Or Mr. Bugliosi’s entire book.) This tactic, incidentally, was made popular by Vince Bugliosi; it contains the unstated implication that anyone who hasn’t read one or both is incapable of having an informed opinion on them.

Now, let’s apply this same logic: there were literally hundreds of potential valuable witnesses the Commission never interviewed; agencies including the FBI and CIA withheld documents that had to do with things such as Lee Harvey Oswald’s connections with the said agencies; and literally tens of thousands of documents have been made public since Bugliosi’s book was published. Hence, literally everyone who holds or expresses an opinion does so, based upon an incomplete foundation (note: thousands of documents remain classified, and others were destroyed decades ago). Thus, either no person is entitled to forming an opinion, or we should be able to agree that people are capable of reaching a conclusion based upon what they have read.

There is a tendency to label certain schools of thought as “conspiracy theories,” and dismiss them as wild speculation or paranoid thinking. Yet, as we know, a Congressional investigative committee concluded that President Kennedy likely dies as the result of a conspiracy. More, Vince Bugliosi, shortly after retiring as a prosecutor, was involved with a civil law case that was based upon his belief that Senator Robert Kennedy was murdered in 1968, as the result of a conspiracy.

Thus, if we apply critical thinking -- and this isn’t about any one potential “conspiracy” -- we find a two-sided coin: because one case is not a conspiracy, does not indicate all others are not; and because one case is a conspiracy, does not indicate that all others are. Indeed, each individual case has to be considered and evaluated on its own merits.

The benefits accrued from critical thinking are not, of course, limited to considering conspiracy theories. An obvious example would be US military actions. Let’s take the nation’s response to 9/11. If one believes that our country was attacked by a foreign entity (I know not everyone does), then the response in Afghanistan was correct. But that hardly applies to the Bush-Cheney attack on Iraq. Indeed, by definition, the Bush-Cheney administration engaged in a conspiracy to fool the American public into supporting an action that literally had nothing to do with 9/11.

More, the example of Iraq highlights that stumbling block which can short-circuit critical thinking: emotions. In that example, the Bush-Cheney administration played upon the public’s fears and hatreds, in order to gain support for an immoral war. On top of that, they ushered in a set of laws known as the “Patriot Act,” that not only restricts “freedom,” but discourages citizens from critical thinking.

A common appeal to emotion that has too frequently been part of discussions on DU:GD is the insult. One need not use a magnifying glass to find examples on a daily basis here. Yesterday, for example, one OP implied that the belief that there was a conspiracy in Dallas is equal to a belief that the Clintons murdered Vince Foster. Discussions leading up to this month’s elections likewise contained numerous attempts to insult those with differing opinions. Threads with support for President Obama, and/or support for Hillary Clinton in 2016, almost always have some insults in them.

It can, of course, be fun to score debater’s points in an argument. It’s something that I am as guilty as anyone else here, in resorting to at times. It’s one thing to do, if a post is clearly the unintellectual property of a “troll,” and DU has had plenty of this species over the years. But it is a tactic that never enhances the value of a discussion or debate of serious issues among those who are here for the right reasons.

In my opinion -- for what it is worth -- the DU community would do better to focus on critical thinking, because the issues that confront us -- as individuals, a community, and a nation -- require our best efforts. Over the years, in a number of instances involving very serious issues, DU has acted as a grass roots think tank. Indeed, the quality of research, analysis, and discussion on this forum has reached far further than most people here are aware. The “Plame scandal” is perhaps the best example of this.

Any how, this is just the type of think that this old man thinks about while reading through the threads on DU:GD.

Thanks,
H2O Man

Speaking with Igjugarjuk

“The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and it can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone can open the mind of a person to all that is hidden from others.”
-- Igjugarjuk; Eskimo shaman; 1922.


A couple nights ago, I was on the internet site “Face Book,” when one of my cousins asked if it was okay if she called me. She is much younger than I am, and lives in a different part of the country. Two months ago, we had the opportunity to talk on the phone, and get to know one another. So I was happy to have another chance to talk with her. (She called at 9:45 pm, and we talked until a little past 2:30 am.)

She was aware that, on the “other side” of my family, my cousin and his son had been shot. We talked about that, and another murder case from Binghamton, NY, from years ago. A 12-year old girl was collecting on her paper route; a sociopath, James Wales, invited her to step inside his home while he got the money. You can guess the rest. Currently, the girl’s parents are petitioning the parole board, requesting that Wales not be paroled.

My cousin, who lived in the area at that time, had had her life changed by that event. Her father (my uncle) was the detective who solved the murder of her young friend. She had contacted the girl’s parents earlier in the day, to offer support in lobbying the parole board. The father told her that I had sent a powerful letter of support earlier in the day. Although I had been employed in a different county, my work at the mental health clinic had an area of overlap with that case; my letter to the parole board detailed why the murderer would always pose a threat to the community if released.

We talked about the ways in which people respond to tragic events. I told her that I try to be thankful for what life deals me. She said that she was going to “call the ‘bullshit card’,” as it was not possible to be thankful for a friend or relative being murdered. I agreed that I am not thankful for such a thing. Rather, when confronted with such a horrible events, I am thankful for the opportunity I had to know the person. I’m thankful for having had that relationship to enrich my life. And I’m thankful that I have the chance to be supportive of others, who are going through the pain and suffering from their loss.

We also discussed the concept of forgiveness. Not some sappy type of emotion. But she and I come from a large extended family, and there are some members who don’t get along. And people who hold grudges as if they are a treasured family heirloom, long after the memory of what ever caused the hostility has faded. Maybe it’s that way in lots of American families these days. But I have a hunch that Irish-American clans hold the national championship for such things. There are advantages to be accrued, I told her, in letting go of these conflicts.

Again, my Wonderful Cousin called the “bullshit card” -- for she knew that I have family members who I have not spoken with in many years. So I told her a story -- a true story that is a bit humorous, though pathetic: Last year, I encountered an old friend, a man I had not seen in over twenty years. After we talked for a bit, he said, “You’re a hard man to get a hold of.” He had tried, perhaps a decade earlier, by calling my mother’s house. My mother told him that I had died, and hung up. He felt terrible, so bad that he tracked down one of my sisters. He told her that he felt horrible, that he surely would have attended my funeral, had he but known.

My sister explained that I was still actually alive, and “dead” only to our mother. My friend asked her how to get in touch with me? She said that she didn’t know, as we hadn’t communicated in over a decade.

“Forgiving” doesn’t translate into being close to the other person. Rather, it means divesting in the acrimonious feelings that hold one back in life. It means accepting that the other person is who s/he is, and moving forward from there. There are some family members that you may have a cyclical relationship with, and others where it is best to simply let go of. My cousin said, “But that’s hard ….” I replied, “It isn’t harder than continuing an unhealthy relationship.”

Family feuds are anchors that hold us in dark and bitter places. Acceptance allows us to move forward, and to re-define what “family” means. Our society’s current family systems have only been in place for a very short period of human history. They are a reaction to our economic system, which seeks to dictate the boundaries of human relationships. (Agricultural societies = extended farm families; industrial = nuclear; high-tech = single parent/ blended.) Do not allow the plastic definitions dictate your options.

Again, we discussed how hard it can be, especially when those with whom we should be close turn against us for reasons that we don’t understand. Yet, it is more difficult to hold on to those wounds. We benefit from accepting life on life’s terms. And when circumstances bring us to that great loneliness, we benefit from looking inside, rather than outside of ourselves. It’s only that which can allow us to begin to heal, and return to our attempt to make our lives as normal as possible.

Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be spending time with the maternal side of my extended family. My cousin who was shot on 10-27 was in the hospital when his son’s funeral was held. So we are having a memorial service and meal, with about 125 people. Luckily -- as far as I know -- I get along well with all of them. I’m hoping that it will be the last funeral-type of gathering that I have to attend.

Peace,
H2O Man
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