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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,304

Journal Archives

Reagan vs Maryknoll

“The story of sanctuary is hardly remembered and is therefore a missing piece of the Reagan puzzle.” -- James Carroll; House of War

Thirty years ago, the United States was faced with the question of what to do with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Central America. These people were fleeing their war-torn nations: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. It was part of an important era in the struggle for human rights, and involved significant changes in the manner in which “middle America” viewed the government.

For many decades, US policy towards Central America was shameful. US corporations such as United Fruit and Domino Sugar (and multinationals such as Gulf & Western) had installed oligarchs to insure that those nations’ natural resources were accessible. This created a huge economic imbalance between the 1% and the 99% in those countries, not unlike the direction our society is heading in today.

When the people rebelled, the oligarchs responded with horrible violence. If the “threat” continued, the US military was sent in. A pattern was set: anyone who opposed the oligarchs was called a “communist,” which justified the swift and repeated use of US military force.

In the mid-1970s, two dynamics changed: in Central America, the synergy of Native thought and Catholic practice resulted in “liberation theology”; and in the USA, the experience of the Vietnam war had opened the public’s mind to the reality that many of the civil wars around the globe had more to do with nationalism, than a centralized communist threat.

In 1979, a group known as the Sandinistas overthrew Somoza in Nicaragua. The eight-member leadership council included one Marxist, three Catholic priests, and four left-wing nationalists. President Carter, who was preoccupied with other domestic and international events, did not seem concerned by the Sandinistas coming to power.

However, in 1980, a failed, B-grade actor was elected president, and Ronald Reagan suffered from extremely concrete, paranoid thinking. He viewed Nicaragua as a “second Cuba” in the Western Hemisphere, and was intent upon destroying the red menace. Thus, US advisors and “contractors” began “assisting” the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- and the “Contras” in Nicaragua -- in warfare against those seeking liberation.

On March 23, 1980, archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador pleaded with the soldiers to refuse to kill citizens, and to end the repression in their nation. The next day, he was shot dead while saying mass. During his funeral, the military again attacked, killing 40 people. However, two US bishops were among the crowd, and when they returned home, they began addressing the US-backed violence.

Later that year, four American women (three nuns and a lay person) were kidnapped, raped, and murdered by the same group of thugs who murdered Romero. Their leader had been trained in the School of the Americas at Fort Benning. Reagan’s UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick told Congress that the women were “not real nuns.”

However, the Speaker of the House knew better. Tip O’Neill’s aunt was a Maryknoll nun, which taught and practiced liberation theology. He was also influenced by the Jesuits from Boston College. O’Neill, although he had a good personal relationship with Reagan, knew that the president lacked the intellectual ability to view Central America in anything but the starkest black-and-white context. And so he began lobbying others in the legislative branch to handcuff the Reagan administration’s drive to involve the US military in a regional conflict.

Another powerful force that was organizing in the US was the Democratic Left. In 1980, for example, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador was formed. Headquartered in Washington, DC, CISPES had chapters across the country. (CISPES still exists today: http://www.cispes.org/ )

The Reagan administration would target American citizens belonging to, or supportive of, CISPES. I could tell some stories. However, the Democratic Left had matured over the years, and was able to coordinate efforts with both liberal church groups, and several members of Congress. Perhaps the most significant focus, in my opinion, as it relates to today, would be the pressure to have refugees from the Central American countries to be recognized for exactly what they were.

The Reagan administration fought this tooth-and-nail. If these human beings were given political refugee status, it would put attention on the administration’s Central American war policies. Thus, the Reaganoids insisted upon labeling them “illegal aliens,” and attempting to deport them.

Churches across the nation would provide sanctuary to the refugees -- openly violating the law. Transporting the refugees could be risky, and hence much of this was done by members of the Democratic Left who had backgrounds with the “underground.” It was absolutely the modern version of the “Underground Railroad” from the pre-Civil War era. And there were several thousand depots across America.

Eventually, because of Tip O’Neill and others in Congress, the Boland Amendment was passed. This put the Reagan war effort in check, legally speaking. However, as we know, the Gipper and crew created a pipeline, which included selling weapons to Iran; funding the Contras; and, of course, dumping tons of cocaine onto the streets of American cities, primarily in minority neighborhoods.

The rule of law worked, to an extent, and ended much of the US government’s direct involvement in such schemes ….at least briefly. Reagan clearly faced impeachment, and VP Bush really should have faced criminal prosecution. It never got to that point, but that is a long story in and of itself. “Private” interests in the US would continue the drug and weapons trade -- it wasn’t high school and college students flying cocaine into the country. And the combination of gangs and military in Central America were their partners, at least for a time.

Between 1982 and ‘84, over half a million refugees from Central America fled to the USA. Our nation was not “harmed” by them. Quite the opposite, they added to the fabric of our culture. It was the Reagan-Bush forces that posed a threat to America.

I believe that the Sanctuary Movement of the early 1980s provides us with an important model. It illustrates the root causes of the crisis the refugees face today. And it provides us with lessons on how we, as human beings, need to organize and respond.

In closing, I want to stress one point: the citizens who struggled for social justice thirty years ago were not “supermen and women.” They were ordinary people, no different than you and I. And if “they” could do it then, we can do it now.

H2O Man

President Obama

Today, I have listened to a number of republican vultures speaking to television cameras, pretending to be offended that President Obama is not visiting the border. In their diseased minds, these talking heads believe that President Obama has an obligation to go to the Mexican border, and declare that no one shall cross. I believe that President Obama should consider another response …..

There are times when the President of the United States must address the nation on specific issues involving social justice. Two great examples come to mind. On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy spoke to us about Civil Rights: “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures, and is as clear as the American Constitution..”

On March 15,1965, President Johnson told Congress and the American people of the dire need for the nation to deal with the hatred that required laws such as the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts. He famously stated: “And we shall overcome.”

As a candidate, Barack Obama gave a powerful speech, “A More Perfect Union,” on March 18, 2008 in Philadelphia. This was in response to a controversy involving Rev. Wright’s sermons. While I didn’t find Rev. Wright offensive, I felt that Obama delivered one of the greatest of American speeches.

I’d like to see President Obama respond to the crisis at the border, involving thousands of children, by speaking to the nation. I am calling and e-mailing the White House, to express this hope. I hope that you will consider doing the same.

H2O Man

Merry X-mas

One Christmas Eve, in the early 1980s, two of my associates and I handed out a flier to people coming out of various houses of worship. It was at a time when the US was directly involved in the terrible violence in Central America. Although Reagan was, at the time, the public face of the administration, his VP -- Bush the Elder -- was running that show.

Death squads in El Salvador, under the leadership of sociopaths trained in the US, had raped and killed four American nuns, and murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero as he said mass. Romero was, in my opinion, one of a small percentage of Christians who channeled the spirit that is often called “Christ” or “God.”

Our flier quoted the lyrics to John Lennon’s classis, “Merry X-Mas -- War Is Over.” In between the verses, we put a message about the extremely anti-christian US involvement in the wars in that region of the world.

99% of the people we greeted with the flier were polite, and interested in what our message was. Looking back, I can sum the message up this way: that community was home to a defense industry plant that was making the weapons used to savage the communities of innocent people in Central America. Among the victims were children. On the eve of a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus, it makes sense to consider what he had to say, both about children, and those who do harm to children.

One person was “outraged” by the flier. A former military chaplain, he now was served as the priest of the community’s Catholic Church. He ordered us to leave the area where we were handing out the fliers, or he would call the police. By chance, a town cop was coming out of the church; he told the priest that we were well within our rights. A few older women told the priest he needed to read the flier carefully, for it delivered a christian message.

The following week, I had a couple phone calls from the angry priest. He asked what I would do if he “handed out pornography from (my) porch?” I asked if he had a collection of pornography?

The next time I saw him was a few years later. I was investigating the suspected (eventually confirmed) sexual abuse of a vulnerable teenager. The bishop from Albany would step in, and save the priest from facing legal consequences.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The texts from various world religions speak of the value of children. Prophets from Jesus to Gandhi noted their natural enlightenment. King used children to rouse the conscience of the nation. Only the harshest of cultures could condone the cruel treatment of children.

We have thousands of children crossing into the United States in the southwest. The majority of them are coming from the very countries that the Reagan-Bush (the Elder) devastated in the 1980s. The violent conditions that causes these children to seek safety in the US are direct results of the US’s corporate/military policies.

US citizens with social consciences recognize that this is a serious crisis. They want to offer safety and comfort to these children. Those suffering from moral rabies have identified these same children as “the enemy.” In their paranoid thinking, these children pose a threat to what they demand is a christian nation. Their misplaced rage is being directed at little children.

In the 1980s, as older D.U.ers will recall, many of the churches across the USA began offering sanctuary to the people fleeing the violence in Central America. The media today rarely, if ever, makes mention of this today. Yet it stopped much of the Ronald Herod Reagan administration’s attempt to deport those human beings they called “illegal aliens.”

In my opinion, it is important that all people of good will take a stance on this issue. We must confront the shadowy tide of hatred that is infecting people today. I believe this is especially true for those who identify themselves as “Christians.” For, if Jesus was serious in what he said, each of these innocent children is, in fact, Jesus. I believe that.

Please write/call/e-mail your elected representatives. Write letters to your newspapers. If you belong to a church, advocate that it take a stance on this issue.

Thank you for your consideration.

H2O Man

Twilight of the Idols

“True words always seem paradoxical;
But no other form of teaching can take its place.”
-- Lao Tse

Organized religion intruded upon national politics by way of the recent US Supreme Court decision, in precisely the manner that the Founding Fathers labored to prevent. For when public policy is squeezed to fit the design of rigid religious belief systems, the result is always to restrict the rights of some group or another. This is not an attack on organized religion per say -- although I admittedly have more faith in disorganized spirituality: indeed, its proper role is to impact the believer in such a manner that he/she will strive to expand the human rights of everyone.

The separation between church and state is, quite simply, to restrict the state from endorsing any religious belief system. It is not a restriction upon a religious (or spiritual) person’s involvement in the politics of the day.

Hence, when the USSC rules in a manner that elevates one group’s religious agenda, and in doing so, denies another group their rights, it becomes important that all people of good will -- no matter if they are religious or not -- to confront that crime against our constitutional democracy.

Because so much of the tension in the United States, and the global community, centers on the viewpoint of those who follow the teachings of the religious tree that grew in the Middle East (and which today has three primary branches), it seems worth our examining an original misunderstanding that relates to much of the violence we see today.

In the story of Abraham, we recall that he so worshipped what he mistook for “God,” that he was prepared to “sacrifice” his son. In fact, Abraham confused the collective unconscious of mankind for “God,” a projection of himself on an idol. The demand for sacrifices has always and only been made by human beings. We still see old “wise” men, willing to send their sons and others to kill and die for some projection, some cloth or book that serves as an idol.

This is in stark contrast to the enlightened men and women who, throughout human history, have served as role models: they have been willing to sacrifice their own being for the betterment of others. In some cases, these people have actually sacrificed their lives, although it is their lives and not their deaths that are important. Indeed, their deaths are only more important to those of lesser understanding.

The “organized” religion’s mixing up of doctrine leads to such stupidity as a Protestant minister being removed from his position, because he married a same-sex couple -- which included his son. If Christianity were rooted in the teachings of the historical man known as Jesus, it’s the judgmental folks who would be viewed as having less authority. Any objective reading of the gospels can result in but three “rules”: love one another, don’t judge others, and forgive those who seek to do you harm. Again, with the judgmental, we witness the worship of an idol; again; that idol is the projection of their own fears and ignorance.

And this, of course, brings us to the Supreme Court’s unjust decision. It was not a shock, for two other recent decisions have proven the USSC to be incapable of ruling against yet another idol -- the corporate state, which is short-hand for saying the military-industrial-energy corporate state. Or, in biblical terminology, the “beast.”

Earlier today, I read where someone noted that the law once said that slaves were property, not people; today, the law says corporations are people, not property. So long as the majority of the USSC’s (in)justices say this is so, those who worship idols will accept it as truth. As if a mere black robe changes a petty, arrogant, vindictive charlatan into an honorable leader.

The need for the day is two-fold: first, the government cannot be in the business of religion; second, all people of good will who do identify themselves as “religious” must become active, including under that banner, in the struggle for social justice -- in a manner similar to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi. And that means publicly refusing to accept, or remain silent, when “government” attempts to deny any group their human rights. This obviously must include women’s health care.

H2O Man


The FBI presented a case to a federal grand jury, resulting in indictments being returned against New York State Senator Thomas Libous. Below are two links to regional newspapers’ reports on this corrupt republican:



Why should D.U.ers be interested in this story? One reason is that, a couple of years ago, forum member H2O Man engaged in a hunger strike, to pressure Libous to meet with representatives of the pro-environment, anti-hydrofracking citizens. Will Pitt had authored an article for TruthOut about this. (Link below)


On the 8th day of the hunger strike, after I spoke to over 1,000 people attending a rally in the State Office Building in Albany, NY, state senator Libous finally met with me. Shortly after that, a group of environmental activists (including myself) met with Libous’s two top aides.

I have been following Libous’s legal and ethical “troubles” for years. In recent times, I had begun an effort to organize a run against him for later this year. Besides this case, he has recently been called out for failure to report his wife’s and his investments in the gas industry. More, he recently sold out upstate public schools.

Although Libous claimed he was going to run for re-election this fall, I have been told -- by way of reliable republican sources -- that he is being replaced by a local assemblyman. He might not know it yet. But the state party considers him damaged goods …..too damaged to back again.

Why should forum members care? For one thing, these news reports note something that I’ve spoken of here before: Libous is a close friend, and political partner, of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Indeed, Cuomo calls him his “mentor.”

That fact should be recognized whenever we discuss the concept of the Democratic Left’s relationship with the Democratic Party. Now, I’m a registered democrat. I voted for Andrew’s father, Mario cumo, in every election contest that I could possibly vote in. I met Governor Mario Cuomo a couple of times, on Native American business. I liked and trusted him. The son, not so much. The fact that he and Libous worked on a plan to make NY’s Southern Tier a “sacrifice zone” for fracking confirmed every bad thing I thought about Andrew.

And finally, I want to say one more thing that is important. At least, I think it is. I wanted to run against Libous. I could easily run 3rd party; however, I wanted to be on the Democratic Party’s ticket -- as well as on a 3rd party that I break bread with. However, it appears Libous is done. More, in discussions with party leaders in a few counties in this district, I found that two others planned to run. I would gladly have followed through on a primary contest, but there is another candidate that I can feel good about supporting.

Obviously, the issues I care about are most important to me. (I even rank them in significance identical to myself!) But we need coalition movements at this time. One candidate, who has experience on a county board, has two qualities that I think are important: she’s female, and a retired public school teacher. Now, not just any female or teacher would have my support. But she does.

So I think this case is important. It highlights the connections between government, big business, organized crime, and the “energy” corporations’ strangle-hold on democracy.

Divided, we are but individual fingers that our common enemy can easily twist and break. United, we form a powerful fist, fully capable of protecting all of our rights.

H2O Man

A Toad

Kelly smelled something, from several yards way, as we walked toward the pond. When he pounced on it, I saw what I mistook for a rat jump away. It turned out to be the largest toad that I’ve seen in many years.

Ever since I was a wee-small boy, I’ve loved toads. There is something old and good about toads. It goes beyond the wonderful description of toads (and other inhabitants of the northeast found in books such as the Peterson Field Guides “Eastern Forests,” by Kricher and Morrison (Houghten Mifflon; 1998).

Recently, I’ve seen a number of the tiny toads that are coming fresh from the swamps and ponds that dot this region. It has been a wet spring in the northeast, and toads are among the many living beings that benefit from the excess water.

It is rare, however, that I see any toads of more than medium size. I asked my childhood “best friend” about this recently. He and I studied toads, turtles, and every other thing that walked, flew, or swam in these parts. (I have known him since we were 3 years old. As a young man, he joined the Marine Corps; around this time, he considered me “dangerous.” These days, he is far more extreme in his thinking than I ever was!)

My friend says that part of it is that people have taken over the territory that the snapping turtles had when we were young. Another part is the toxic contamination, I believe, that impact those beings towards the bottom of the food chain. The snapping turtles we see today are not as big as those we used to catch with his grandfather -- with perhaps one exception that lives in a pond at a near-by NY State Park, and that gets a lot of fried chicken thrown its way.

It’s hot and humid today. There are tons of small dragon flies out at the pond, all an electric-blue color. A few larger “mosquito hawks” are also flying about. The humming bird feeder is the most in need of a re-fill; I also place sunflower seeds around the many feeders, and the pond’s shore. Kelly has waded into the pond to cool off. He attempts to eat the bread I toss in for the fish; however, they are more adept to swimming that he is, and soon he steps out on shore and lays down. Within a couple minutes, he had gone to a swampy area, where a spring pushes water out from under a boulder, and was rolling in the mud.

The amount of rain that we’ve had this spring has resulted in all of the plant life growing very well. The flower gardens that my oldest son and I have put in are producing flowers as varied in bright colors as the koi swimming in the pond. A woodland turtle drops off a rock and into the water as I walk around to throw in food. After a couple of minutes, its head came up close to the surface, before grabbing a quick bite, and disappearing again.

With that, I sat down to (re)read a book I recently picked up -- “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” by retired Justice John Paul Stevens (Little, Brown and Company; 2014). It’s a short read, in terms of length, but the type of material that makes you stop and think about its implications. The chapters include: the “anti-commandeering rule; political gerrymandering; campaign finance; sovereign immunity; the death penalty; and the second amendment. In a very real sense, it is one of the most important books that I’ve ever read.

If we were living in a healthy society, the changes he advocates would not be necessary. But we live in an extremely diseased culture. By and large, the wrong people hold social-political power, including too many in elected office. From the local to state to federal level, most people in office are among the wealthy. If they aren’t rich, they serve those who are; if they are rich, they serve themselves.

There are good men and women who are ethical, and enter the political arena with good intentions. Yet, politics is the “art of compromise,” and far too many politicians compromise their own value systems. More, the nature of the beast today provides more opportunity for those who are unethical to begin with -- greedy, cruel, lying, self-justifying, judgmental, vile snakes -- with Dick Cheney and George W. Bush as prime examples. Would a healthy society consider such thugs as leadership material? No! In a healthy society, both were be incarcerated for murder.

Changes to the Constitution are likely required. At very least, we need to have a national discussion on this. One area I find potentially beneficial is recognizing that, in its entirety, the Constitution addresses both group and individual rights. Too often, we focus on the individual aspects; without question, the 1% focuses on groups (when the pretend to honor the Constitution). Our culture has become high-tech feudalism. Serfs, unite! We have nothing to loose but our poverty.

The sun begins to go down. The frogs are singing songs that other frogs like. Soon, lightening bugs begin their lift-off from the swampy area. Kelly runs ahead of me, as I make my way back to the house. I am thinking about how the Iroquois and Lenapi peoples would meet to talk shop near a giant Elm that still stood in the early 1900s. The first public meetings in this area, shortly after the Revolutionary War, were held outside, under that Council Elm. Our culture is so cut off from the mental state these days.

H2O Man


“I had money, and I had none
But I never been so broke
That I couldn’t leave town
I’m a Changeling
See me change”
-- Jim Morrison

There are some discussions on DU:GD regarding change: some people think DU has changed, while others think it has not. I think that both positions are correct.

As a long-retired social worker, I still tend to view everything from a “systems” approach. Families are systems. Schools are systems. The work place, group homes, social clubs, jails, and neighborhoods are all systems. In my mind’s eye, I find it useful to view each system as being engaged in an attempt to find balance, much like a mobile that hangs over an infant’s crib.

DU is a mobile. It has a curious balance. When it was formed about 13 years ago, it hung over the crib of the Bush-Cheney theft of the White House. In 2008, the election of Senator Obama to the presidency promised change in the crib. Since the presidency is the most visible source of political power, it would be impossible for DU to remain exactly the same.

No living organism can remain exactly the same. Those which come the closest are, by definition, stagnant. Organic systems that stagnate soon decay, as evidenced by the republican party.

All organic life on Earth -- and, indeed, the Earth, herself -- either grows, or wilts. That is the cycle that even the smallest of organisms share with the sum total of the entire organism. Cycles within cycles within cycles. And while the life-force within living organisms is “energy,” the material of life always follows that mechanical cycle.

The only thing that can “change” in a non-mechanical way is people. And that type of change is distinct from the reality of the evolution of life forms on Earth. It’s the inner-evolution that all of the enlightened “leaders” from various eras, around the globe, have spoken of. It’s not limited to religious or spiritual theories. Rather, it is what it means to be fully human, to reach one’s potential.

If anything can “save” our society, it can only be people. It won’t be a supernatural remedy. It won’t be Santa God or Stained-Glass Jesus. It will be human beings harnessing that growth potential within themselves.

Now back to DU.

The membership of the forum has obviously changed. Some of the good people from way back when have died, or moved on to other places. Other people have joined. One of the biggest changes, in my opinion, is that more of the people from the organized Democratic Party have attempted to use DU as a resource to promote the party line. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. It suggests that people in the party take internet discussion sites somewhat seriously. Still, in the long run, they seek to make change by way of elections -- by getting people to the voting booth. And that is a good thing; if one needs proof, just consider the republican party’s on-going effort to keep people from voting.

There are, of course, some tensions that are bound to arise when people who always and only vote for democrats attempt to convince those who recognize that not everyone who is registered as a democrat makes a good politician. Those who are inhabiting Washington, DC’s halls of power tend to have far less in common with the grass roots, than they do with many of the republicans that they work with. For the corruption of things political also follows a mechanical route.

Thus, the highest potential for DU is not found in producing cogs who will limit their political activity to voting every few years. It’s how we spend the time between election contests. That includes our political and social activism -- and arguing on the internet should not be mistaken for activism.

If a person has been on DU for 10-plus years, and they think just the same as they did on the day they joined, it suggests that they have wasted a lot of time. If their other efforts have remained identical to what they were 10-plus years ago, they have become stagnate. It means that they have used DU as a sedative.

DU should be a stimulant. It should be used to increase the scope of our thinking. That doesn’t mean it should change our values. Rather, it should assist us in learning how to communicate our values to others, and to increase our willingness to engage in grass roots activism. That’s how real change can be made -- not mechanically. And that’s the real value of this forum.

H2O Man

Strawberry Fields Today

">>>No one I think
is in my tree; I mean it
must be high or low.
That is you can't, you knw,
tune in, but it's alright.
That is I think it's not too bad."
-- John Lennon; Strawberry Fields Forever

I went for a walk this afternoon. Probably the time could have been better spent had I invested my energy into working on my lawn. Or cleaning the house. But I had a lot on my mind, and needed to spend some time talking to myself.

Walking near the Susquehanna River in the summer is an adventure. The paths along its side are the same that human beings have walked for ten to twelve thousand years. I’m sure that, at different points in time, other people have walked the same trail that I was on today, trying to clear their heads. And in the future, others will do the same, looking for answers to some of the same existential questions that I asked myself today.

(The name "Susquehanna" comes from a phrase regarding the strawberry fields along its edges in Chenango County.)

At one point, I noticed the dark soil that indicates that, long ago, there was a fire pit on the first terrace above the river’s bank. Upon closer examination, I found some scarlet-colored sand stone, shattered by the fire. Inside the pit were two broken, pocked arrowheads. A hunter had no doubt had success in killing his prey; perhaps his family sat around the fire while their meal was cooked.

Upon closer examination, I found four decorated sherds of pottery, another four arrowheads, and a flint drill. The arrows were all of a type known as Levanna. They are thin, well-chipped triangular points. The pottery is from the same cultural phase; it had been decorated with a net that would have been the type used for fishing the shallow rapids of the river.

The 11 artifacts all date back to approximately 900 ad. Maybe the individual or family using them had enjoyed the warmth of the early summer’s sun, much as I did. The sounds of the river’s rapids would have been much the same, though these people would not have had the background noise of automobiles driving in the distance. Nor would they have watched an airplane in the distance, circling around a small airport that is found on a field that, in colonial times, was the site of an Iroquois village.

Whatever those people were thinking about, and perhaps discussing as they sat near the fire, are long forgotten, no matter how important a topic it may have been at the time. Likewise, the issues demanding my attention will pass, soon enough. But they are real to me today.

In mid-May, my younger son called me from a hospital in Binghamton. He and his brother were there with their mother. She had been misdiagnosed in February, and had just been told that she had cancer. Thirty days later, she died.

I’m very proud of both of our boys. They are young adults, living busy lives -- work, college, girlfriends, and all the other things that fill young men’s lives -- had cleared their schedules, and taken good care of their mother. Their two younger sisters -- mine by way of a second marriage -- had also provided much-needed support. Although the boys’ mom and I split up more than a quarter of a century ago, we were good friends in recent years; my daughters really liked her, and she enjoyed spending time with them.

The day after she died, one of my close friends had a couple of medical tests come back bad, and he is going to have open-heart surgery in a couple of days. Then, the day before the funeral, one of my siblings had troubling news, and was diagnosed with yet another serious illness.

In theory, everyone who is born will eventually die. I leave room for myself to be the exception to this, but I try to be realistic, by assuming there is at least a 50-50 chance that I will die before reaching 200 years of age. I keep in mind a Woody Allen quote: “I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

After picking up the artifacts, I turned to walk back to where I had left my automobile. As I looked at the river, I thought how human beings had enjoyed an intimate relationship with it for thousands of years. Even in the time period when my childhood took place, lots of people were connected to the Susquehanna. They fished, canoed, and swam in its waters. Today, most people in my area don’t tend to notice that river, unless its waters are either extremely high or low. They see it through their car’s windows as they drive by it.

I try to make a conscious effort to take nothing for granted. Not people, not water, not anything. We are all part of a bigger cycle, involving a bigger system. At times, it is filled with pleasure; at other times, its painful. But its all part of the miracle of life. We shouldn’t take it for granted. Nor should we view it from a disconnected seat, through the false lens of the mechanical world.

H2O Man

A 2016 Question

While the most pressing issue on DU:GD seems to be related to the Prude Pundit and bad words -- including the obsessive-repulsive need of some to sneak in words that are only intended to insult others, and reflect the inability of the user to communicate meaningfully to serious conversation -- I thought it would be fun to talk about something less important.

Older forum members will recall that a group known as the “neoconservatives” gained political power in the Bush-Cheney years. This group had been around for some time, but would have their greatest influence upon American foreign and domestic power from 2001 through 2008. By the end of the Cheney presidency, they were widely held in utter contempt.

Today, a mere six years later, these same neoconservatives are attempting to exploit the religious civil war in Iraq to promote their agenda. Briefly, the neoconservative agenda can be defined as being “liberal” on domestic policy, and hawks on foreign policy. In other words, while they enjoy the benefits of the stratified economic realities of the USA, they like to give lip service to “helping the most needy” in our nation. That is especially true if they get a write-off on their taxes if they make a charitable contribution to ease what they mistake for a conscience.

On foreign policy, they are hawks. They have shown an intense focus on the Middle East in particular, where they have two primary interests: one is supporting the military of a specific country; the other is insuring access to the natural resources of the US, that somehow ended up being placed in the Middle East. The neoconservatives are so interested in protecting US energy interests’ access to our oil there, that they will engage in “perception management” to arouse the anxieties, fears, and hatreds of the American public, and send other people’s sons and daughters to kill or die for access to our oil.

During the past week, the news media -- television in particular -- has featured the same gang of neoconservatives that ruled the Bush administration, advocating for a third military invasion of Iraq. Now, as funny as that may sound, it really isn’t funny at all. Admittedly, it lacks the long-term significance of a Rude Pundit sentence about Dick Cheney and his daughter, but it is still something to consider.

The neoconservatives definitely want to exploit the tragic events in Iraq, to promote the neoconservative agenda. And that includes both this year’s elections, and the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Several times, during DU:GD discussions about the 2016 contest, if a forum participant voices concerns about Hillary Clinton, one of the responses is that those who do not support her candidacy will help elect a republican snake. For example, a Rand Paul. Now, while I think that this is a weak response, I am sure that we can all agree that Rand Paul should never, ever, be the President of the United States.

Yet, those very discussions raise another question, one I think is both interesting and important. If the 2016 contest is between Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul, who do you think the neoconservatives would favor?

Change the World: Today

“Libby had reasons beyond politics to be obsessed with Matthews. …Libby called Russert on July 10 to complain about Matthews. For Scooter, it would be a fateful call. …Russert suggested Libby call the president of MSNBC. Russert promised to call Neal Shapiro, the president of NBC. …Russert told Shapiro that he viewed Libby’s call as an implicit warning …. Shapiro spoke with Matthews’s executive producer, and urged him to have the talkshow host throttle back a bit. ’Hey,’ Shapiro recalled saying, ‘this guy is still the vice president’.”
-- Michael Isikoff & David Corn; Hubris; Crown Publishers; 2006; pages 266-67.

Two weeks ago, while driving on a local highway, I saw a snapping turtle attempting to cross the road. I’ve long stopped to assist turtles during their egg-laying season. For snappers, I have some tools to help me avoid their powerful beak. As I was getting the shovel out of the back of my vehicle, a lone car approached. The driver purposefully swerved, to kill the turtle, and continued on his way.

Watching clips of Dick Cheney’s rant against President Obama last night -- covered on MSNBC -- I found myself questioning if the former vice president reminded me more of the dead snapping turtle, or the guy who killed it for no good reason?

As obscene as it is to see the vile thugs like Paul Wolfowitz babble on about U.S. “national security” interests in Iraq, Cheney is by far the most toxic. Everyone on “The Last Word” agreed that Cheney’s contribution to the national conversation damages the republican party. In part, this is because while many republicans wish Cheney would just shut u, another segment of the party views Cheney as a wise elder statesman.

Anything that creates a divide among republicans is, by definition, a good thing. And every time that Dick Cheney’s evil mug is shown in association with that party, it’s a really good thing for all non-republicans. For when he opens his beak, everyone recognizes that lies are his language, and death and destruction roll from his tongue. You go, Dick! Straight to hell.

Recently, I posted a short essay on DU, urging people to become active in a non-violent movement to counter the republicans’ call to yet more “military intervention” in Iraq. It is important, in my opinion, to express support for NOT getting involved in yet more violence and warfare at this time. No matter if one supports President Obama or not is immaterial. He is definitely being pressured by the necroconservatives to attempt to secure energy corporations’ access to the resources of the Middle East -- no matter how many middle class and poor young American soldiers would be involved in killing and dying, or the horrors that the Iraqi people would suffer.

Cheney provides a vehicle for the Democratic Left and Democratic Party to make progress in areas beyond Iraq itself. This is obviously important in the context of this year’s elections. I’d like to discuss this in the context of some of the negative responses my last OP got -- not as an argument, an insult, or pointing fingers. Rather, we should be focusing on the potential benefits for all of us.
First, some people believe that, at the national level, politicians from both parties serve the same master. I am among those who thinks this way. That is not to say that I don’t think a President Obama, or a President Clinton, isn’t better than any George Bush or Ronald Reagan. Obviously, both Obama and Clinton are superior beings than Bush or Reagan, and are hoping to make positive contributions to the lives of ordinary citizens. But our nation has not only become an empire that colonizes, but it has been in the post-overreaching phase of empires. And it has for far too long been based upon a military-industrial economy, to provide for a military foreign policy. More, it is turning against those very ordinary citizens, fearing that they will practice democracy.

Others believe that no meaningful progress can be made, until Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld are prosecuted for war crimes. Again, I am among those who advocate prosecuting those hoodlums. Yet, I do not believe that no significant progress can be made until such prosecutions take place. Indeed, I would say that until progress begins to build steam, there will be no accountability for men I rank among the most terrible criminals in human history.

In his 2008 book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” Vincent Bugliosi made a strong case for the criminal prosecution of Bush, Cheney, et al. Interestingly, he noted that such a prosecution could take place on a “local,” county level. A prosecutor could indict any one (or all) of them, charging them with the murder of any military person from their district. It would seem more likely that this could take place, than the Justice Department from any administration ever seriously considering taking the case in the name of justice.

Is that totally unrealistic? Muhammad Ali once said that he believed that anyone who didn’t believe in miracles was totally unrealistic. And, as friend Rubin “Hurricane” Carter told me on July 4, 1976, “Miracles DO happen -- they just take a dog-gone lotta work.” I believe both of these men accomplished the impossible here in America.

What would it take to elect a District Attorney willing to prosecute a Bush or Cheney? It would definitely require a coordinated effort by the Democratic Left and Democratic Party. And what would that require? You. You and me. And the next person. And the next one. It is possible to elect such a District Attorney, and fully support her effort to seek justice. But it isn’t possible if we do not assume other progress is impossible, until that somehow happens upon its own.

Others questioned if non-violent action could accomplish meaningful change. That’s a fair question. I recognize that everyone is entitled tio their opinion. But if your opinion somehow locks you into a position where you identify yourself as helpless and hopeless, you might want to get rid of it. If your opinion reduces you to simply complaining on the internet, get rid of it.

How effective is non-violence, either as a tactic or a way of life? We need to consider that for ourselves, as individuals. Surely, the victories of a Gandhi or a King provide evidence that non-violence can work. Likewise, we can identify times where non-violent groups were crushed to earth.
It would be easy to mistake the efforts of those who have been crushed as failures. There are actually two types of related failures, however: the moral and ethical failures of those who participate in the crushing, and the failure of those who, for whatever reason, choose to turn their backs and say that nothing can be done, the opposition is too powerful, and accept the conditions inflicted upon them.

Non-violent activism includes public rallies, marches, and sit-ins, but it is not limited to those things. It includes everything associated with Amendment 1. We need voter registration and education campaigns. That means going into those neighborhoods that are taken for granted by politicians -- either because so few residents participate in the election process, or because they typically vote in a routine manner for machine candidates -- and exposing them to new ways of thinking.

I understand why some people honestly believe that the Cheneyites are too powerful to confront. But they have been lied to. They do not understand the Power of Ideas. Thus, they can not fully appreciate that the Truth is stronger than any lie.

We have an opportunity, now, today. Let’s not waste it. For if we allow it to pass us by, it will never present itself again. Another opportunity that looks kind of like it may come our way, but it can not be the same as we have now. It can only be more difficult to exercise.

Let’s get to work.

H2O Man
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