H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
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“The killer awoke before dawn,
He put his boots on.
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hal ….”
-- Jim Morrison; The End
I try not to learn the names of the ever-growing list of shit-heads that, for one reason or another, decide it’s time for them to go murder a group of people, in order to express themselves. That it has happened again, at this time of year, reminds me that no matter who you are, there is a chance -- small, but highly disturbing -- that the lives of you, your family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, can be altered, or ended, by some freak that wants to make a statement of hatred. This type of violence damages the social fabric, at a time when we can least afford it.
The media and internet discussion sites have had a wide range of information on this terrible event. Some of the coverage and attention has been of high quality, educational, and insightful. And, of course, some has been from the gutters of human potential.
Who is to blame? Let’s keep it this simple: the killer was 100% responsible for his actions. Not his parents, the police, social workers, school, or anyone else. He, and he alone, owns all of the blame. That he wanted -- no, demanded -- recognition for what he mistook for “power,” yet was cowardly enough to assign all blame to others, makes him repulsive to even consider. No one failed him, except himself.
I’ve read some interesting thoughts on what specific diagnosis he may carry. This includes here, on DU, by some folks who have the background required to build a foundation for their beliefs. There are also a splattering of uninformed guesses, that have no basis in the reality of mental illnesses. But that’s to be expected, when people attempt to understand and make sense of such a tragic, violent outburst.
Perhaps equally important, I believe, are the attempts to identify this within the context of sociological explanations, rather than the psychology of an individual. For this jackass, who was convinced that he was superior to mere humans, placed himself smack-dab in the middle of a cluster of societies’ worst losers. A few of these have been people suffering from the axis one mental illness most closely associated with violence -- paranoid schizophrenia. But far, far more are people, usually white males, who have personality disorders.
I tend to believe statistics that indicate that, nation-wide, violence crime is on the decrease. But it is evident that more unstable people are acting out in this type of very public hate crime. The fact that they will get their 15 minutes of fame may be one factor, yet for all of its weaknesses, I do not blame the media.
The smug, bratty manifesto this turd left behind separates him, to an extent, from the others who kill to be heard. Although extreme, his whiney rant probably reminds most folks of other toxic people we have met in life. It is semi-well organized, when compared to the few similar records left by his ilk. From early childhood on, he was as innocent as the lamb of Christianity, he needs to assure the audience. But society as a whole began to crucify him by the time he became aware of sexual passions. Indeed, vaginas seem to scare this poor child.
At the same time, his resentment that females did not find him irresistible grew into a rage against all women, especially blond-haired college students. His writings reveal an extreme case of the divide that Erich Fromm discusses in his 1976 classic, “To Have or To Be?” His entire sense of entitlement is rooted in what he has: the financial wealth of his family, along with what he wrongly assumes is a superior intellect -- which again is defined as a possession. His intelligence is a marketing tool, good for determining what employment opportunities and women he is entitled to.
Of greater importance, in the larger sense, would be Fromm’s 1955 classic, “The Sane Society,” which details why certain cultures produce higher numbers of social illnesses, such as mass-murderers. And, of course, Fromm’s 1973 “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” which addresses the issues involved when people enjoy torturing others. And while this dick-dripping shot his victims, he made sure that their families and friends would be tortured by his actions.
None of us is likely to have the opportunity to step in and stop someone with moral rabies from killing an innocent victim. But the way we live our lives can have an impact. In part, it can be by who we elect to office; this influences the socio-economic policies of our day. And the way we elect to live our lives, and how we interact with others -- family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and “strangers” -- can play a role in defining the society we live in. Even though we can’t prevent every act of hate and violence, we can reduce the frequency of them. And that’s worth our best efforts,
Posted by H2O Man | Sun May 25, 2014, 05:00 PM (9 replies)
"We have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society." -- LBJ; May 22, 1964
It was fifty years ago today, Rachel Maddow has reminded us, that President Lyndon Johnson spoke of his dream -- of the Great Society. It was a beautiful dream, though US involvment in Vietnam turned it into a nightmare. Ever since, the corporate media has done everything possible to convince the American public -- you and me -- that the very concept of the Great Society is impossible at best, disastrous in practice.
Indeed, one need only look at American society today to see that it is divided even more between the masses, or the 99%, and the economic elite, or 1%.
It is, in my opinion, a situation that can only be confronted at the grass roots up. All politics are local, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said. A foundation for a true constitutional democracy -- capable of bringing about social justice -- needs the grass roots foundation to be built upon.
Yesterday, an old friend running for a seat in Congress and I had an interesting conversation. Although he lives in another state, today's technology easily allows me to assist him from a distance. I'm volunteering as a speech writer.
The night before, I won re-election on the local school board. Today, I spoke with some leading democrats in our region, about my running for state office this fall. I also spoke with leaders from the Democratic Left, so that I can run on more than one slate this fall. While computers will play a role, a lot of this can only be accomplished by an investment in shoe leather.
I also met with a teacher from a NYC art college. He is publishing a book on the need to protect the environment. I added a list of quotes by Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, specifically about the power of clean water.
There has been so much going on, that I wasn't able to travel to Cooperstown today. President Obama was scheduled to vist the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was supposed to talk about tourism -- which was ironic, as the Hall of Fame was closed to the public today. Groups from across the state were prepared to show up, to rally against hydrofracking.
I believe that these public demonstrations are important. It;s an activity that is protected by Amendment 1. But, if we are to move towards becoming that Great Society, we have to do more than demonstrate. We need to begin to Occupy Public Office.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 23, 2014, 12:40 AM (12 replies)
“I’m the man you think you are. ….If you want to know what I’ll do, figure out what you’ll do. I’ll do the same thing -- only more of it.” -- Malcolm X
Malcolm X was born on this day, in 1925. His life had a significant impact on our country in the 1960s, and it should provide lessons for those of us who want America to live up to its promise and potential.
Hopefully, most DU members have read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” Carl Sagan said that he believed it was the most important work of American literature. There are numerous other solid books on his life, and books of transcripts of his speeches. Spike Lee produced a powerful movie about Malcolm’s life, which is definitely worth watching.
I first learned of Malcolm some fifty years ago, in the days following Muhammad Ali’s winning the heavyweight championship in a huge upset, when he TKOed Sonny Liston. In 1965, my oldest brother left a TIME magazine open to the page reporting Malcolm’s death; somewhere, I still have that magazine, and the brief note my brother left with it.
I didn’t think much about Malcolm over the next few years, until one day when a high school English teacher recommended that I read his autobiography. I was a “homeless” teen at the time, heading straight for the troubles that homeless teenaged males frequently find. Besides bringing some much appreciated bags of food to class for me, this wonderful teacher wanted to expand my mind.
A few years back, I posted an essay on this forum, using Joseph Campbell’s studies of “the hero’s journey” to describe Malcolm’s life. I believe that he was one of our nation’s most important prophets. I remember back in the late 1970s, when Americans were being held hostage in Iran, when Dick Gregory said that America couldn’t understand Islam, because it had failed to understand Malcolm X.
Later today, I’ll get out my collection of old records of some of Malcolm’s speeches. I have six albums of his speeches; while they make powerful reading, one gets a clearer picture of what a gifted communicator he was by listening to him speak.
Happy birthday, Malcolm X. And thank you for your contribution to the struggle for social justice.
Posted by H2O Man | Mon May 19, 2014, 01:01 PM (10 replies)
“.I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” -- John Burroughs
One of the nice things about spring-time in the northeast is going for walks. At my extreme age, I don’t get around as well in the snow and ice, and so I’ve been making up for being inside too much during the long winter months. My favorite places to walk tend to be around my own property, and along three trails in particular: one is a long-abandoned turnpike; the second is the bed of a railroad that closed in 1957; and, third, a beautiful creek that crossed each of the first two.
This week, I’ve left the “comfort zone” of my own neck of the woods a couple of times. A bank, a doctor’s office, a drug store, a library, a garage, the Post Office, a grocery store, and then, last, to a school to give a presentation. Add to that a trip to the Canadian border, to pick up my daughter from college.
Although I am prone to enjoying solitude, I do enjoy people. In the bank, a pleasant woman approached me and said that, with my long hair and beard, I reminded her of the Founding Fathers. I thanked her, though I can’t recall any of those fellows having long hair nor beards. Another woman, who I went to school with, saw me and said, “Ah, our eccentric hermit; what brings you to civilization?” I explained that I had actually left civilization to come to a community of human beings.
I’ve also had a virtual flood of phone calls and e-mails this week. Extended family and friends, several with news about people I know who are ill; a couple of invitations to speak here and there this summer; a few asking advice on political matters; and a close friend who is feeling detached and burned out. She has stopped by the house a couple of times this week to see my daughter, who is back from college. They are in an acoustic group together.
The library where this friend works part-time -- she’s a full-time teacher -- has asked me to do a display of artifacts that document local Native American history there. I’ll be presenting a program to the public there in June, then in another city in July. In coming up with a mental outline, I found it worthwhile to take a walk along the banks of the Susquehanna and Unadilla Rivers, visiting ancient occupation sites, as well as an expansive camp where Mohawk leader Joseph Brant had warriors during the Revolutionary War. Letters to General George Washington from that time tell of a significant number of “rascally escaped slaves” who had joined the Indians there.
This is the land where I spent my childhood. Across the river is the old house where the grandson of Seneca historian David Cusick lived; we remained friends over the decades, after we had both moved away from that rural neighborhood. I end up stopping to see my childhood “best friend,” who recently bought his grandfather’s farm. We talk about the various people who lived on this rural road, and influenced our childhood. They are all long gone now. My buddy says, “How did we end up as Elders so quickly?”
When I get home, I decide to cook the evening meal out at the fire pit out at my pond. As always, I start by feeding the fish, and refilling the bird-feeders. My daughter and friend come out, and we enjoy watching the birds, and listening to their songs. One of my favorite things is when these two play guitars and sing. I know that human beings have sat around a fire, and sang, for thousands and thousands of years. It’s as much a part of “nature” as the birds’ singing their songs.
We all get a turn here on Earth. People tend to measure their turn in terms of how many times this living planet goes around the sun. For some, it’s quite a few circles around that life-giving sun; for others, it’s a shorter ride.
Before I know it, I’m alone at the pond. The sun has gone down, and the fire is giving off the only light. Most of the birds have called it a day, and now it’s the frogs’ turn to sing their songs. As it grows dark, I can see the reflection of the fire on the pond’s surface. In time, the fire burns out, and I begin my walk back to my house.
It’s a busy time in our society. The combination of a larger population and technological advances has created a new speed of daily life for most people. While the planet continues to move at its own pace, the world is spinning faster and faster. Everyone should be taking time to “turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream,” as John Lennon sang. Especially those who are feeling frazzled by all the pressures of everyday life.
Spending time in nature is what I do. How about you? What helps put your senses in order?
Posted by H2O Man | Sun May 18, 2014, 10:15 PM (5 replies)
At Los Angeles (ESPN): Bermane Stiverne vs. Chris Arreola, rematch, 12 rounds, for vacant WBC heavyweight title.
ESPN boxing continues to provide fans with bouts that are often as interesting as those on HBO or Showtime, including most PPVs. Saturday night's bout, for the heavyweight title vacated by Vitali Klitschko, is certainly one of them.
In April of 2013, Steverne beat Arreola by decision in twelve rounds. He broke Chris's nose in the third round, and won almost every round on all three judges' cards. This earned him at shot at Klitschko, but Vitali postponed the bout once, then retired. Thus, Steverne has been out of action for a full year, although not by choice.
Steverne, 34, is 6' 2" tall, has an 80" reach, and packs knockout power in his right hand. Most people would have difficulty recognizing many of his opponent's names -- other than Arreola, and perhaps a faded Ray Austin -- but he is the #1 ranked contender in a division long dominated by the Klitschko brothers. Although he did not have the luxury of solid backing early in his career, he has a record of 23-1-1 (20 KO wins; 1 KO lose). His lone defeat came early in his career.
Arreola is the more familiar of the two, as his fights have frequently been televised. At age 33, he is an inch taller than Steverne, but has 4" less in reach. His record is 36-3 (30 KO wins; 1 KO loss). In 2009, Vitali Klitschko stopped Arreola in 10 rounds. Since that first defeat, Arreola has been inconsistent in the ring; when he trains, he has impressed, but too often, he does not show the self-discipline needed to compete at the highest level.
About a month ago, Chris spoke with Teddy Atlas from ringside at an ESPN Friday Night Fights. Chris is a very likable, outgoing young man, who rarely seems serious. Teddy put the good humor in check quickly, and pointed out Chris's lack of discipline. (For example, Chris was proud he was doing 2 miles of roadwork.) I know that since then, Teddy has been visiting Chris's training camp -- and Teddy is not a funny guy in the gym!
So, Chris should be in good shape. And I know Teddy focused a lot on his jab. Everything behind the jab. At the same time, Steverne -- a quiet, thoughtful man -- has put himself through hell in his training camp. So it should be what people want to see: a tough, hard fight between two highly-trained warriors. May the better man win!
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 9, 2014, 11:56 AM (5 replies)
I took my loved one out to dinner,
So we could get a bite to eat ….
We sat and talked of revolution,
Just like two liberals in the sun …..
I took my loved one to a big field,
So we could watch the English sky ….
-- John Lennon; Well, Well, Well
Three events from recent days stand out in my mind. The other day, while taking a walk with a friend, I found a projectile point from the Adena cultural phase. Those that come from the Ohio River Valley region tend to be larger, made of material not found in upstate New York, and are older; those made here are smaller, made of local flint, and are newer. This particular one likely dates to about 450-550 ad. It is as sharp and crisp as the day it was made, without so much as a chip missing.
Last night, I attended the local school board meeting. An audience of about 30 came for the open meeting. There were teachers, students, and interested community members, there to express a variety of interests and concerns. Although our district was just ranked rather high among small schools (in the state and nationally), none of the audience was there to either thank us, or give us a pat on our backs.
Today, on the drive home from a grocery store, and while passing a small lake at the outskirts of our town, I saw an eagle. After checking in my rearview mirror, I pulled over to the side of the highway. It’s not uncommon to see eagles in these parts, but I still find myself in awe of their beauty and power.
I did purchase, among other things, 40 lbs of bird food today. Soon, I’ll go out to my pond and fill the numerous bird-feeders. Later this evening, after dinner, my best buddy and I plan to sit out by the pond, build a small fire, and discuss our plans for upcoming social-political events. I am hoping that we see some fire-flies, as we listen to the peeper-frogs sing.
One of the things that I was focused on last night was how various people “do” tension. I know, I know: it’s difficult verging upon impossible to believe that there could be tension at a school board meeting. Yet, it happens. And there is a wide span of ways people behave in a public setting where there is tension.
Public speaking creates discomfort for many people. Even if it involves a relative small group of friendly, good-natured folks, some of us get nervous. If it is a moderate-sized group of angry people, it can be difficult for many people to speak their mind. Obviously, that increases if one is addressing workplace concerns where supervision is there. Likewise, there is the potential for board members, who serve voluntarily, without pay, to feel like they are on the old “hot seat” when the public questions their insight, their values, and/or their integrity. That potential seems to increase, when the person attacking them has their facts way wrong. (On the other hand, if that person knows exactly what they are addressing, that can create tension, too!)
Other factors can include money, be it in the context of taxes or salaries. Another is how parents view the quality of the education their children get, and even issues involving school sports. It happens.
What I noticed -- and surely not for the first time -- is that certain individuals, on both sides, follow a fairly predictable path: they become defensive; they have a compulsive need to speak (often mistaking volume and quantity for quality); they accuse the target of their anger of things that simply have not been said; and they close their minds, making it impossible to hear, much less process, “new” incoming information.
One of the most shallow things President George W. Bush ever said was the “you’re either with us, or against us” bit of nonsense. That obviously tends to limit one’s perception. And, at times, that’s not really a huge deal, in and of itself. We can all be “wrong” sometimes, and even in situations where issues cannot be simply “right vs. wrong,” we are all human, and suffer from errors in thinking from time to time.
It certainly can be a very real problem in some circumstances, though. For example, there is a certain tipping point, where if enough people become angry, a group discussion loses the ability to be productive. That handcuffs efforts to engage in conflict resolution. It reduces the art of negotiation, into something that crudely resembles a sporting competition, where some participants will do anything to “win.”
Somehow, some way, human beings need to rise above the “us versus them” dynamic. It’s a luxury that we cannot afford. That doesn’t mean that we are all going to hold hands, and be best buds. Or even friends. It does mean that we have reached a point in the life cycle of our species, where we have a common interest -- one that not everyone recognizes -- in taking steps that increase our ability to maintain human life on Earth, on a meaningful scale. We are already in a growing environmental crisis. There are consequences that are to be paid for the ignorance and greed that has damaged the air, land, and water.
In order to be able to deal with those larger and more complex issues, people need to be able to deal with the smaller things that arise in our daily lives.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 2, 2014, 04:54 PM (29 replies)
At Las Vegas (Showtime PPV): Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Marcos Maidana, 12 rounds, WBC/WBA welterweight unification; Luis Collazo vs. Amir Khan, 12 rounds, welterweights; Adrien Broner vs. Carlos Molina, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; J'Leon Love vs. Marco Antonio Periban, 10 rounds, super middleweights; Anthony Ogogo vs. Jonuel Tapia, 8 rounds, middleweights; Andrew Tabiti vs. John Shipman, 6 rounds, cruiserweights; Ronald Gavril vs. Tyrell Hendrix, 8 rounds, super middleweights; Ashley Theophane vs. Angino Perez, 8 rounds, welterweights; Lanell Bellows vs. Thomas Gifford, 6 rounds, super middleweights; Ladarius Miller vs. Richard Colas, 4 rounds, welterweights
The "tale of the tape" for this Saturday night's fight between Mayweather and Maidana reveals little about the welterweight unification title bout. The biggest differences between the two are their ages and records. Floyd is 37; Marcos is 30. Floyd enters with an undefeated record of 45-0, with 26 knockouts; Maidana is 35-3, with 31 knockouts.
Both are expected to weigh in at 147 pounds on Friday afternoon. Mayweather will enter the ring at about that weight, though he may be up to 150 lbs. Maidana could be up to 155 lbs by fight time. Mayweather stands at 5' 8", compared to 5' 7" for Maidana. Floyd's reach is 72 inches, three more than his opponent's.
Based upon those numbers, it appears to be a fairly even match-up. However, most if not all "experts" are predicting a one-sided fight, in which Mayweather will win a 12-round decision. Indeed, in Floyd's last fight, against the much larger Saul Alvarez, an undefeated young champion, Mayweather dominated in a manner that made his victory appear easy.
Floyd Mayweather's status as one of the sport's elite, all-time greats is the reason he is so heavily favored. It is interesting to consider how four groups of people view him. Among the "experts," which includes journalists, he is recognized as the pound-for-pound best fighter today. Most fighters give him the respect he is due; this includes the retired fighters who now train the young lions. A couple of promoters -- Bob Arum and Oscar de la Hoya -- cannot speak of Mayweather without hostility. And boxing fans are divided between those who admire him, and those who despise him.
Maidana is respected by the boxing community, as a tough, hard-punching warrior. He turned pro in 2004, fighting in Argentina and Germany, and won his first 24 bouts. He was then given a shot at a minor title, and lost a close decision. It was then that an American promoter brought him to LA to get beat by Victor Ortiz in June of 2009. Ortiz was a good prospect at the time, being promoted as "the next Oscar de la Hoya" -- by Oscar, who was promoting his career.
The fight was outstanding. Neither Ortiz or Maidana relied upon defensive skills, in an explosive brawl. Both fighters were floored in the first round; Maidana was decked twice in the second; and Victor was dropped before quitting in round six. Journalists such as HBO's Max Kellerman focused more attention on Ortiz's quitting -- especially when he told a reporter that he "didn't get paid" to get hurt in the ring -- and overlooked Maidana. (So much for Max's "concern" about fighters' safety, health, and well-being!)
Promoters recognized that Maidana was the type of fighter that could sell tickets, however. Although he returned to Argentina for two of his next three bouts, he was soon matched with welterweight champion Amir Khan. Although he was dropped in the first round by a body shot, Maidana was able to make it an exciting fight. His reckless, hard-punching offense had Khan running in the championship rounds. That loss would actually increase Maidana's standing among fans.
Maidana won two more fights, then lost to Devon Alexander. In that bout, his lack of ring skills was exposed. Khan would lose two fights in a row around this time, which resulted in people giving Maidana less credit for that performance. They questioned if Maidana could compete against the top-level boxers.
After the loss, Maidana sought out Robert Garcia, one of the best trainers in the sport. Garcia worked to refine Maidana's style: he taught him the proper stance, adequate foot-work, defensive skills, and a surprising good jab. Maidana won his next three fights -- each by knockout -- before being matched against another top prospect, Adrien Broner, for a welterweight title.
Broner, who was undefeated going into the bout, was engaging in self-promotion that he was "the next Floyd Mayweather." He certainly has talent, and had generally been impressive in his fights below the welterweight division. In his last fight, however, Paulie Malignaggi had exposed some vulnerabilities. Broner won a split-decision that could easily have gone the other way.
There have been few, if any, professional athletes who could compete with Broner in being obnoxious. Adrien engaged in a cheap imitation of a young Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and appeared offended when the boxing community noted his total lack of orginality. He opted to fight Maidana, to showcase his talents in a manner that would elevate him to a pay-per-view star.
On 12-14-13, Maidana gave Broner a 12-round thumping, which included knocking Adrien down in both the 2nd and 8th rounds. This was made possible, as a result of Garcia's teaching Maidana the skills necessary to deliver his powerful punches. In particular, this ability is based upon the jab; when Maidana showed the ability to out-jab Broner -- by coming up, under Broner's jab -- it translated into his actually being able to outbox his opponent. (Jabbing up, under the other man's jab, allows you to land your punch on either his chest, or to lift his chin. As Broner tends to defend by pulling back to the side, Maidana's jab pushed him off-balance. Even if Broner is only slightly off-balance, it does two things: it prevents him from returning punches, and more importantly, creates that split-second required for Maidana to land his follow-up blows.)
That victory put Maidana in position to challenge Mayweather. It's not surprising that this fight is not creating as much interest as Floyd's last bout: the pro-Mayweather crowd assumes Floyd will easily outbox Maidana, while the anti-Mayweather folks claim he hand-picks "easy" fights. While I think Floyd will win, I actually think this will be one of his toughest fights in his professional career.
Why? Three reasons, really. Styles make fights. Maidana will pressure Floyd, making him work hard for three minutes of every round. The last two fighters who did this were Hatton and Cotto, and these were both exciting, competitive bouts. Second, Maidana has more concusive power than Hatton or Cotto. And his trainer has provided him with the ability to deliver that power. Third, temperment plays a significant role. This includes the fact that Maidana is a pleasant man outside the ring, who has always been respectful of Mayweather. Thus, Floyd doesn't have the edge in terms of disliking Maidana, in the manner he did Oscar, for example. While Floyd's intense self-discipline in training is one of the most important factors in separating him from the "merely" great champions he has defeated, it can be difficult to be up for someone like Maidana.
Yet it is Maidana's temperment that promises to make this a tough fight. He is a throw-back to the great fighters of old, who were willing to take their opponents' best shots, in order to land their own. Khan dropped him with a vicious left hook to the liver, which is surely the most painful punch in boxing. In over 50 years of watching the sport, I had never seen anyone beat the count after taking a perfect shot to the liver, largely because one's legs do not work for at least 10 seconds. But Marcos got up, and fought back.
Temperment is what allowed Carmen Basilio to beat Sugar Ray Robinson for the middleweight championship. No one would argue that Basilio was anywhere close to Ray in terms of talent. Robinson was bigger, faster, and hit harder than Basilio. But Carmen was willing to take Ray's best shots, in order to get close to him, and force Robinson to fight on the inside.
I expect this weekend's fight to be far better than the boxing "experts" and Vegas odds-makers are predicting. Obviously, Floyd has to be favored to win. But he won't have an easy time. And anyone who says that Maidana has no chance of winning simply does not understand the sport.
Enjoy the fight!
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Apr 30, 2014, 11:11 AM (5 replies)
“Any time two people think exactly alike, it means only one is thinking.”
-- Malcolm X
I went to a grocery store today. The gentleman ahead of me in line was in a discussion about public education with the lady at the cash register. I listened for a moment, then asked, “Are you a teacher?” He said that he used to teach, but now was the superintendent at a nearby school district. I know the lady casually, enough to know that she teaches at another area school. And I’m on the school board at yet another area school district.
Because there weren’t many shoppers there, we were able to carry on an interesting conversation about some of the issues that all three schools face. Because each of us comes from a different position, we each had a somewhat different view of both the problems, and possibilities for dealing with them. Having a unique viewpoint did not translate into any one of us thinking we had a monopoly on “the answer.”
What we all shared was an interest for the quality of education that the students at each school get. This included a shared concern that some of the state and national mandates are having an unintended, negative consequence for a segment of the student population. A “one size fits all” approach overlooks the reality that there are some issues that, while perhaps common in large city public school systems, are very different than those in the rural, small town school systems in our region.
If another customer had not gotten in line behind me, I suspect that the three of us could have easily talked for another half hour or more. Now, that’s the way it should be: when it comes to an issue as important as public schools, people from different backgrounds should be able to talk, and to listen, to other people. It certainly doesn’t mean that we are always going to agree with one another. Nor should we. For complex issues never have a single “right” answer -- although there are sometimes very definite “wrong” approaches.
Certainly, many people who are registered as republicans believe in promoting public education. Yet, at the higher levels, there are republicans who are engaged in a campaign to destroy the public school system. It’s curious how jackasses like O’Reilly and Rush will babble about “the war on Christmas” -- which exists only in their imaginations, while ignoring the very real war on public education.
In my opinion, this “war” is being waged because the primary purpose of public education is to prepare young people to become active participants in the social, economic, and political world that they are part of. In other words, to become good citizens. If we look back, for example, at the first national politician to advocate that tax dollars be invested in public education, we find a man who believed in preparing youngsters to be informed, active community members. (Daniel Dickenson had also been a school teacher, as was his wife. Her father used to own the house in which I now reside.)
Those republicans are in a coordinated effort to create a feudal society in the United States, with an isolated ruling class that has full opportunity to the quality of education that the masses cannot afford. That may sound harsh, and it may sound brutal. But it is the ugly truth. And until we recognize that fact, we will be defenseless against an enemy that is seeking to capitalize upon the ignorance of the peasant classes.
I said that, to say this: I came home, and was looking through at a few OP/threads on DU. On one in particular -- having to do with the 2016 presidential election -- there were some strongly-held opinions expressed about a potential democratic nominee. As has been the case in times past, none more so than 2008, there were strong disagreements between people who were all sincere, and I believe informed, in their beliefs.
A couple people held that if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, all people of good will are obligated to vote for her. One noted that an unwillingness to do so could result in Ted Cruz becoming president. Now, that example is silly, to the extent that it simply can never happen. As such, it can only be seen as a scare tactic that fails to support the very case the person was seeking to make. By derailing an important conversation, it can only backfire.
I’m not interested in discussing the pro and con reasons that people may have in terms of Hillary Clinton. In fact, people can make strong cases both ways. What did concern me was when one person -- someone I respect -- said that if she’s nominated and you aren’t going to vote for her, you should quit posting on this forum. Hogwash.
The Democratic Underground should be an open marketplace for facts and individual opinions, in a search for answers to the questions we face. No one has a monopoly on the truth, any more than any one politician is the Democratic Party. There shouldn’t be any purity tests here (excepting, of course, that those known as “trolls” get zapped). If we are confident in our beliefs, and have the courage of our convictions, we should welcome the opinions of others, even when they are very different than our own.
Obviously, we should be focusing on the 2014 elections. That doesn’t exclude thinking about what is to come in 2016. While it is unlikely that we can totally avoid the foolishness that saturated so many discussions here in 2008, it is possible that we can elevate the tone of those discussions. That is, of course, up to each and every one of us, as individual participants. It is certainly worth a try, isn’t it?
Thank you for your consideration.
Posted by H2O Man | Sun Apr 27, 2014, 09:29 PM (39 replies)
What is one to make of Cliven Bundy? To rational thinking people, he is a circus
freak, overstaying his 15 minutes of fame. For republicans, he held the promise
of being the next Marlboro Man -- a self-made tough guy, combining the best
qualities of Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin. After opening his mouth,
however, it appears he is best suited to be a minister of the militia-minded,
or the theologian of the rabid tea partiers.
Humor can be found in the watching of many of the republican political
and media stars who, after praising Bundy on bended knee, are now
seeking to distance themselves from him. However, there is really nothing
funny about the man, nor the disturbance he is causing. It's not simply because
he is a tapeworm that has grown wealthy by stealing from the public. He really
should have been held responsible for that theft, long ago.
What is particularly troubling is that American society continues to produce
diseased individuals such as him. Surely, it is not new. It is good that he has not
been elected to the U.S. Senate, in the manner of Strom Thurman. But it is not
enough to think that he is old, representative of a shameful chapter in the nation's past, and will be dead soon. If only it were that simple.
Bundy is the nucleus of a malignant cell that has grown into a cluster of armed,
angry, and ignorant people who are seeking a violent confrontation. His racist
remarks will not decrease his appeal to the militia- and fringe tea party-types.
As established republicans and Fox News hosts publicly reject him, he will not
hesitate to take up the mantle of extremism.
The extremist element views the Bundy conflict as being a fuse that could
cause a powder keg to explode. That they are, by definition, "terrorists" seems
crystal clear. They openly identify the federal government as the enemy. The
holding of this opinion is not, in and of itself, a problem. Their willingness to
take up arms, to defend a dead-beat, is definitely a problem.
Most of the young people I encounter do not carry on the hatreds
of their parents and grandparents -- the hating of "others," based on race,
religion, sexual identity, ethic background, etc. Yet in other regions of the
nation, these hatreds are handed down like valued heirlooms. Rooted in
fears and anxieties, they threaten the fabric of our society. And because these
irrational belief systems will not be buried when Cliven Bundy goes to his
grave, we must deal with them before they explode.
Two questions: First, what would you recommend the federal government do
now, to deal with this particular stand-off? And second, how do you think that
the larger society should confront the problems with the extremists on the
Thank you for your consideration.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Apr 25, 2014, 08:29 AM (10 replies)
"Muhammad Ali means 'One who has walked and talked with Kings, and yet has not
lost the common touch.' ....Muhammad Ali means Constant Struggle. But that's what
America's all about -- is it not?"
-- Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
Shortly before Muhammad Ali was to regain his heavyweight title from Big George
Foreman, the editor of World Boxing magazine asked Rubin to pen an article on what
Ali meant to black Americans. The above quote, from the article, was part of Carter's
expanding on that topic, by addressing what The Champ should mean to everyone
in America. As I was re-reading the article yesterday, I thought it was an equally good
description of Rubin Carter.
In the years after the federal court system vacated his conviction for triple murder,
Carter would walk and talk with some of the most powerful people on earth. These
included Nelson Mandela, and President and Mrs. Clinton. His work in support of
people he believed had been wrongly convicted -- meaning "innocent," rather than
merely "not guilty" -- took him around the globe.
In those years,I only heard him speak ill of one politician: then-governor George W.
Bush. Rubin described the future president as "giddy with delight" when he spoke about
his power to allow people to be executed. Indeed, he told me that the "W" in Bush's
name stood for "Death," the most appropriate middle name for the man.
I've been looking through old letters and scrapbooks, court documents and books, and
a number of boxing magazines, since getting word that Rubin had died on Sunday
morning. We had been friends for over 40 years. Some of my favorites are from
when Ali was becoming active in his support of Rubin and co-defendent John Artis.
This was before their cause became popular.
Rubin had fought twice in Africa, where Muhammad would fight Foreman. During Ali's
visits to Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, he and Rubin would discuss the best
ways to prepare to box half way around the globe. Nights, Rubin would write to me
about his advice to Ali. And while most "experts" knew that Ali stood no chance against
George, Carter believed Ali would upset his powerful opponent.
In the mid-1970s, I thought that there had been a fairly wide-spread effort to falsely convict
Carter for the 1966 triple murder. Plenty of the officials involved in the investigation of
the brutal crime, and the prosecution of Carter and Artis, would get significant career
promotions following their convictions. This included prosecutors in other counties,
who dropped charges against the two career criminals who would testify against Rube.
Later, I came to recognize that it only takes two investigators, to plant some "evidence"
here, and hide real evidence there, to gain a knowingly false conviction. Most of the
other authorities simply believed those investigators, and dismissed anything and
everything Rubin, John, and black witnesses had to say.
I'm proud that I was able to play a role in gaining access to state and federal law
enforcement files on the case. During the 1967 trial, the police believed that a group
of radical black nationalists were planning a violent attack to "free" Rubin from the
courtroom, and to hide him on the underground. Stool pigeons will tell the police any
lie they think the police want to hear. In fact, there was not a shred of real evidence to
support that tall tale. Looking back today, its only value is that it illustrates the huge
amount of fear and anxiety that clouded some folks' minds.
While Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a unique person, the wrongful convictions were
not uncommon. This is not because of massive, widespread conspiracies; again, it
only requires the misdeeds of one or two individuals to poison the legal process. While
living in Canada, Rubin would work with an organization -- which coordinated efforts
with a university's law program -- to seek justice for wrongly convicted inmates held
in prison cells around the world. Rubin was also opposed to capital punishment in
any case. He was fully aware that the prosecutor in 1967 sought to put him in the
From time to time, I would call Rubin to request that he consider a local case, or one
I had learned about in the media. Each time, he would say that if I thought it was
important enough to call on, he knew it was important enough for him to examine. In one
area case, one of his associates helped to get a teenager's life sentence overturned.
That fellow has not had a single legal problem in the 15 years since leaving prison.
In the past few days, I've heard from old friends from high school and college, where
I had introduced classes to Rubin's case. Even 40 years later, my high school
classmates remember how we communicated with Rubin through letters and
cassette tapes.A couple years back, I was invited to speak to a class at that same
high school about the case. When I told Rubin, he provided me with a personal
message to deliver to the students.
Rubin was an extraordinary man. Like all human beings, he was a combination of
qualities. He was well aware of his faults, and worked very hard -- and he had an
intense sense of self-discipline -- to overcome them. When he spoke at SUNY-
Binghamton in April of 2001, a professor from the school was impressed; she
contacted me afterwards. She was writing a book on forgiveness, and asked me
to see if Rubin would contribute a chapter. Rubin was happy to do so, and in one
short chapter, he documented the Power of Forgiveness.
At the end of the SUNY-B presentation, Rubin played with my little daughters. My
wife asked me if I had noticed Rubin flinch when he first saw them? And how old was
his daughter when Rubin was incarcerated? She was about their age. Twenty years
of incarceration takes a toll on a man. He suffered the effects every day. Yet he rose
above the physical and mental scars.
All four of my children met and knew Rubin Carter. Over the years, he would always
ask me about how each one was doing, and where they were in life? He was also
interested in how members of my extended family were. And he would also ask me
about various members of my high school class, who he said had "sent rays of sun-
shine into (his) darkand dreary cell."
On Sunday, each of my children posted on "Face Book" about the loss of a great
man. My younger son recalled how proud he was when Rubin singled his father out
when he spoke at Colgate University. I'm glad that I have had the opportunity to
introduce my kids to Rubin.
As older men, Rubin and I talked about flower gardening. That hobby had become a
passion for both of us. More, "tending his garden" was Rubin's description of living
his life. He noted that my children were my "most beautiful flowers." I liked that.
Rubin's favorite topic of discussion was the ultimate meaning of life. He would
seek the answer in manners that too few consider. I remember that he went to the
lands of the Lakota, in the Black Hills. There, he took part in the sacred Sun Dance
ceremony. A medicine man named Rubin "Badger Star," and presented him with
a headdress that belonged to the great Chief Red Cloud.
This coming weekend, a number of old friends will be traveling to my home, to
participate in a ceremony to celebrate Rubin's life. I'm honored to have known him
as a Good Friend and Brother for all of these years.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Apr 22, 2014, 09:11 PM (30 replies)