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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 49,486

Journal Archives

Bridge to Nowhere

Christie's press conference was important, but is unlikely to help him in the long run. First, while some are attempting to spin his performance as a positive, we see numerous serious questions being asked on internet forums.

Second, while the press had opportunity to ask some valid questions, that format still allowed Christie a large degree of control in what he would answer, and how .....not to mention potential follow-up questions. This is very different than a setting in which he is either testifying before a legislative committee, or is being grilled by an attorney.

The possibility of civil cases, and potential criminal ones, makes it likely that one of the currently identified "fall guys" will decide they aren't going to pay the price for keeping silent. It will only take one to cause the dam to burst.

Enjoy the show.

Rickety Woo

My children's pediotrician became a close personal friend. He saved my oldest son's life, when my boy was a tiny infant, misdiagnosed by two other doctors. That was 30 years ago this month, and even after that amount of years, remembering that period of time brings up some emotions. I think that a story about him might shed some light on one of the current "controversies" being debated on DU:GD
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My friend was a faculty member at Syracuse University. He was highly respected in the medical community. He was also on the board of the NYS Museum's Iroquois Studies. His passions had areas of overlap: for example, he knew that Onondaga children were the only group that did not suffer from diabetes. Children from the other nations of the Confederacy have much lower rates of childhood diabetes than the rest of the country, but Onondaga still stood out.

At this time, this is certainly a topic of interest for the United States. It may not be the #1 issue confronting our society, but it has areas overlapping the larger issue of "health care" in our country.

A question at the starting point of considering why this small sub-culture doesn't have childhood diabetes would be is it genetics or environment -- or, of course, a combination of the two? Since virtually all Onondaga people have some Celtic DNA, due to interactions between the Iroquois and Euro-Americans in the colonial era, my friend wanted to study differences in life-style; these include diet, ways of dealing with stress, family support systems, etc.

Repeated attempts to gain the access such a study required proved frustrating for my friend. He never got a "yes" or "no" response from the nation's leaders. As we came to know one another, my friend realized I could assist in his gaining that access. Hence, on weekends, my boys and I would bring him up to the Territory.

This led to some interesting discussions on related topics. For example, the Jesuit diaries from the "contact era" document how the Iroquois treated some Euro-Americans for what is known as "rickets." This was a condition the Iroquois recognized, and knew how to treat. To make a long story a little shorter, it involved boiling the inner bark of a White Pine; that tea successfully treated rickets.

For several years, my friend boiled the said bark, but could not identify what made the tea work. Yet, he knew it wasn't just in people's minds. One evening, after we returned from the Territory, something clicked in his mind: he had boiled the bark in a metal pot, whereas the Iroquois had boiled it in clay pots.

He experimented with a clay pot, a reproduction of what the Iroquois used in the pre-contact and early contact eras. And he found the answer.

I tell this story, not to advocate "woo" over "science," but rather, to suggest that having an open mind is generally a good thing.

Peace,
H2O Man

Two Questions:

What American (or Americans), living or deceased, would you say represents what you consider among the very best our society has produced?

Why?

Boxing: 2013 in Review

I have watched boxing -- amateur and professional, on television and from ringside -- for fifty years now. In fact, I had my first amateur bout 50 years ago this past summer. In my opinion, 2013 was boxing's best year in my lifetime. And that is in spite of the fact that the heavyweight division has continued to be largely non-competitive, and that amatuer boxing continued to be subjected to international scoring rules that were developed to hamper USA boxers.

"Boxing is dead (or dying)" has been a constant theme of those who dislike the Great Sport. It seems hard to believe in a year where one fighter earned more than $90 million for a single bout. That fighter is Floyd Mayweather, Jr., of course. At the beginning of the year, I had noted that Floyd's going from HBO to Showtime would have a huge impact upon the sport. It changed the HBO promotion of mismatches, in which the HBO-contracted fighter faced lesser opposition, to showcase their talent. More, it did something else equally important: it added depth to the undercards of mega-main events.

In picking my choices for "fighter of the year," etc., I'm going to go with others in the sport. Floyd is the "Greatest of the Era." In May, he easily decisioned tough Robert Guererro (and earned $40 million); in September, he decisioned Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who entered the ring with a 20 pound weight advantage. Several of my friends who have longed to see Floyd defeated came away with a new-found respect for him after that fight.

Here are some of my choices:

Fighter of the Year: I'm gooing with Philly's Danny Garcia. He defended his title against Zab Judah in April, in a bout where the aging ex-champion put on his best performance in many years. Garcia showed that he was more talented than most fans (and "experts") had realized. Next, on the undercard of Mayweather vs Canelo, Danny decisioned Lucas Matthysse in a 12 round, action-packed, war. The odds had heavily favored Lucas to knock Danny out, but this tough young champion showed both a skill set and chin that surprised everyone, except Garcia and his father.

Fight of the Year: This is a tie between Tim Bradleys's split-decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in March, and Marcos Maidana's upset victory over the highly obnoxious Adrien Broner in December. Bradley, who was almost knocked out in both the first and last rounds, fought the wrong fight, and suffered serious damage in doing so. (Ten months later, he fought a near-perfect fight in defeating Juan Manuel Marquez.)

Maidana had been picked to showcase Broner's skills. But he hurt the champion in the first 30 seconds of round one; decked him in rounds two and eight; and forced Broner to fight toe-to-toe in an action-packed bout. Despite the referee's blatant favoring of Broner, Maidana won a lop-sided decision.

Knockout of the Year: The most significant was Adonis Stevenson's first round destruction of Chad Dawson, to win the light heavyweight title. The scariest was Deontay Wilder's devastation of Siarhei Liakhovich in one round; the victim of Wilder's 29th straight knockout appeared to go into convulsions as he lay unconscious on the mat
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Prospect of the Year: Deontay Wilder, at 6' 7" tall, with an 84" reach, won four impressive knockouts in 2013. He appears to be the best American heavyweight in a long time. He reminds many of a heavyweight Thomas "the Hit Man" Hearns. He has won all 30 of his fights by knockout.

Elder Statesman of the Year: Bernard Hopkins decisioned previouslu undefeated Tavoris Cloud in March, and tough Karo Murat (25-1) in October.

Under-appreciated Champion: Guillermo Rigondeaux easily outpointed Nonito Donare and Joseph Agbeko this year. He is this era's Willie Pep ("You couldn't hit me with a handful of pebbles!"). However, his "hit and not-be-hit" style does not excite the casual boxing fans.

Comeback of the Year: Manny Pacquiao lost both of his 2012 bouts -- a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley, and a devastating 6-round knockout to Marquez. In November, Pac Man returned to the ring with a one-sided decision over Brandon Rios.

Note: Because Pacquiao is in debt, both in the Phillapines and in the US, he is likely to agree to fight Mayweather for $40 million. Floyd remains undefeated, holds the title, and far outsells Manny on pay-per-view numbers. It could happen in May, although there is a better chance this long anticipated bout will happen in September.

Charles "Sonny" Liston

Former heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston is believed to have died on this day in 1970. The exact date of his death is, like that of his birth, unknown. He was an enigma, even in the curious sport of boxing. In my opinion, he ranks high among boxing's all-time great heavyweight champions, with Ali at #1, Joe Louis at #2, followed closely by Liston. When Liston won the title, the majority of boxing writers compared him to Louis; it was his two loses to Ali -- and Ali's domination of the sport -- that overshadowed Sonny's career.

Liston's father was a sharecropper who had fathered 13 children with his first wife in the early 1900s. He re-married when he was in his mid-50s (to a 16-year old), and had another dozen children. Charles was reportedly the last-born, and although different records (mainly from jail and prison) indicate he was born by 1930.

By the age of approximately 12, Liston was "man-sized" -- standing close to 6 feet tall, and weighing close to 200 pounds. Around that age, he ran away from his father's home, to avoid the violent beatings his father routinely administered. Coming north, the man-child found he could best survive by serving as an enforcer for street gangs, and the lower rungs of organized crime. He accumulated quite a police record as a minor, and was in and out of jail frequently.

Liston graduated to state prison when, cornered by a police officer in a dark alley, he disarmed the cop, broke both of his arms, and stuffed him into a garbage can. While in prison, he learned to box. A Catholic priest who counseled inmates found that Liston, while illiterate, was actually very intelligent. That priest would help guide Liston's amateur and professional boxing career. (In response to charges that Liston was "owned" by the mob, the priest noted that these were the only people who would invest in a young man like Sonny.)

His amateur career lasted about one year. Liston quickly became recognized as one of the top three amateur heavyweights in the world. Indeed, with proper backing, he would certainly have become an Olympic champion. But boxing, reflecting society's values, was not ready to welcome Sonny Liston with open arms.

When Liston turned pro in 1953, Rocky Marciano held the title. A promoter offered "the Rock" big money to face Liston in his pro debut; Marciano declined the offer. (After Liston won the title, Rocky was offered $1 million to come out of retirement to fight him. Rocky's response was, "Are you crazy? You fight him!") Sonny would rise in the ranks in the next few years, defeating most of the top contenders of the era. Ali's future trainer, Angelo Dundee, told of watching Liston break opponents' teeth off with his left jab.

Floyd Patterson won the vacant title after Rocky retired. His trainer/manager, Cus D'Amato, was famous for not doing business with what he considered the mob. That was, of course, not the only reason he had Floyd avoid facing Liston. Eventually, Floyd and Cus parted ways, and Floyd opted to defend the title against the #1 challenger. President John Kennedy invited Patterson to the White House, and told him it was essential that he defeat Liston. But that didn't happen: Sonny destroyed Floyd in the first round, and did it again in their rematch.

In his second defense, he fought the undefeated contender Cassius Clay, and was TKOed in seven rounds. The scheduled rematch would be delayed, because the now Muhammad Ali had a hernia. Reporter Howard Cosell had, after visiting Liston's training camp before the originally scheduled date, felt that Liston was in great shape, and favored him to beat Ali. The delay harmed Liston, which is evidence of an aging fighter. He would be TKOed in the return bout in the first round, due to the referee's confusion.

Liston had a successful comeback after that, but promoters refused to include him in their title searches after Ali's forced retirement. But his career is remembered best for the losses to Ali.

In truth, his prime came before he even won the title. He had nine bouts in 1959-60, and the films of those bouts suggest that he likely would have beaten anyone, except Ali and possibly the great Joe Louis. Styles make fights, and I can't see many of the greats who could have competed with Liston in his prime. Yet he remains the sport's forgotten champion.

RIP, Champ.

On Domestic Violence

"Well, we have ALL, from time to time, been prisoners of one kind or another; we have all, at times, been prisoners of our own assumptions." -- Dr. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Yesterday, I joined an on-going DU:GD debate about the battle of the sexes. In doing so, of course, I was running the risk of offending segments of the DU community. From past experience, I knew that to even put forth some of the lessons taught by Erich Fromm in his classic 1955 book, "The Sane Society," was likely to upset the minority of people who seem more invested in arguing, than in identifying ways in which we might resolve the tensions between the male and female species.

Without question, western culture rests upon a patriarchal foundation. This involes the majority of social structures, from the family to religious institutions. I mentioned those yesterday, and again today, because any system that is patriarchal at these levels cannot avoid the negative potentials that patriarchy contains. This does not imply that every aspect of that society is saturated with those negative potentials: we see, for example, that Amendment 1 attempts to create a wall between church and state. However, even among those Founding Fathers who were not "religious" in the context of their time, the willingness to deny large segments of the population the rights and protections of the Constitution.

Indeed, even the greatest of (known) American thinkers from that era were infected by both racism and sexism. And that is not a coincidence: for both racism and sexism are assumptions that go hand-in-glove with patriarchy.

The September, 1987 edition of National Geographic features a wonderful article about "James Madison, Architect of the Constitution." It's worth reading. That article is followed by one on the "Living Iroquois Confederacy." It, too, might well be of interest to DUers.
The Haudenosaunee played a significant role in the founding of the United States. (See: "Exiled in the Land of the Free," by Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, and Vine Deloria, Jr.) One cultural tradition that didn't get across that divide was the concept of an equality between the sexes. They knew "equal" did not mean "exact." But they knew that equality was best obtained by a matriarchal social structure
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That structure was found in family systems and religious/spiritual systems. When that is the family and religious structure, it leads to political systems (likewise, if we apply the positive social values that we advocate for politically, we can be sure they will impact other systems, from family to church). This did not reduce men's rights and responsibilities. Far from it: it strengthened them.

That edition of National Geographic has a map that showed Haudenosaunee influence during the colonial era as covering a quarter of the current United States. But their influence didn't stop with the Revolutionary War. As I noted yesterday, Engels' inspiration for his 1884 "Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State" was the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. (Engels learned about the Haudenosaunee by reading "Ancient Society," by Morgan.)

So long as we continue to define "family" in the manner prescribed by patriarchal society, a great number of social inequities will continue. That doesn't mean we should attempt to return to pre-Columbian times, of course, but we do not have the luxury of ignoring those principles that promote social justice. Such principles are constant, even within the context of a changing society. The truth is the truth. Respect is respect.

Obviously, no society is perfect. But what I suspect was the most promising of Haudenosaunee principles was that children were, as human beings, not to be abused. They had the right to be fed and clothed, and loved by an extended family. They were not to be beaten or molested.

There are lots of good and dedicated parents today. Mothers and fathers. And there are many good grandparents, aunts, uncles, and step=parents. Likewise, there are numberous good teachers, babysitters, ministers, and neighbors. While no childhood is "perfect," a lot of children in our country enjoy a fairly stable, nurturing environment.

On the flip side, a lot of children in our society do not have enough of these supports. And that doesn't mean that they have a bad parent, or terrible school teachers. There are parents who, due to the economy, do not have all of the resources that they need. Same with teachers. More, just as not every child who grows up in comfort turns out to be good (think of George W. Bush), lots of children who are deprived are Good their entire lives.

Yet, as Gandhi often said, poverty is the worst form of violence. Societies with the economic stratification like the USA will perpetuate violence, in many, many forms. I've mentioned sexism and racism, but there is a wide range of social pathology that is institutionalized in this nation. (Which is not to deny either other equally bad or worse places, or to ignore the many good things in and about America.)

In the introduction to his book "Gandhi on Non-Violence," Thomas Merton speaks of the potential benefits of combining western culture's intellect with eastern culture's wisdom. A similar benefit is found in making use of all people's full potential to be Human Beings, no matter if they are male or female. We need to recognize the value and dignity of all people. And that requires a conscious awareness that we are all connected, part of the human race, a large extended family.

It may be that at some future time, we will reach the point where we will be, to borrow from a Good Friend on yesterday's thread, a human-iarchal society. It would be nice if some of the unhealthy tensions that divide the human family were eliminated. But, until that time, we have the right and responsibility to take what steps we can -- as groups and individuals -- in that direction. Obviously, not everyone will agree on the nature of those steps. And that's okay. In fact, that's the way it should be.

Peace,
H2O Man

Battle of the Sexists


Every so often, there are a cluster of threads on the Democratic Underground that highlight the tensions between the sexes in our society. In the past 72 hours, General Discussion has had quite a few of these, ranging from serious attempts to discuss important aspects of the current culture, to rather shallow efforts to insult the "opposition." Even among the more sincere efforts at rational conversation, we have seen emotions replace reason.

For sake of conversation, if we want to engage in meaningful discussions on this topic, I would suggest we take note of one of the rules that applies to our legal system. This alone will not insure a productive group didscussion, but it is likely a good starting point. In court, most witnesses are not allowed to testify as to their "opinion" ......with the exception being those with the proper background to allow them to be considered an "expert." The simple reason for this is that an actual opinion requires one to have background information, that allows them to examine the facts of the case, and then provide their interpretation.

Without that background knowledge, a person cannot actually have an "opinion," in the legal sense, but rather, they have a bias. In other words, they reach a conclusion that does not have va factual foundation. Hence, we hear people say, "I feel that ....," as opposed to, "I think that ..." It is not a coincidence that some topics -- including religion and the battle of the sexes -- tend to involves feelings, or passions, as opposed to a logical foundation in fact.

Hence, most of the DU:GD discussions on patriarchal versus matriarchal societies have the potential to be meaningful, but are frequently derailed by the misinformation that produces bias. A common example of this involves claims regarding the frequency of "war" among both patriarchal and matriarchal societies. In fact, "war" and "warfare" are specific terms, that can accurately be applied to cultures that have reached a specific level of social order. In the history of human experience on earth, only a tiny minority of nations have had that ability; far more have been at the level that allows for violence to be limited to feuding and battles. Thus, one cannot actually have an opinion on "warfare" in matriarchal societies; at very best, one can speculate on the possibilities.

Religion, as a social construct, has long played a significant role in the levels of both internal and external violence in human culture. Hence, there is value to be found in examining the differences between patriarchal and matriarchal religious belief systems. This is true, even within the cluster of religious belief systems known as "Christianity." It is fascinating to examine the influences of "male versus female" dynamics found within Christianity, from its early days up until the present. Indeed, this is an outstanding example of when a person's feelings are, at very least, as important as their intellect and educational background: for in the most literal sense, it sheds light upon that individual's level of being. And that, far more than a diploma or sex organ, defines one's potential for violence -- morganized or disorganized.

Both patriarchal and matriarchal concepts have to do with general characteristics found in the sexes. They can be best understood -- hence, applied -- when we recognize that human potential is not rigid. For example, in our current culture, there are good and bad fathers, and good and bad mothers. More, even among the very best fathers and mothers, individuals make mistakes -- for parenting is difficult, and we can only attempt to do our best.

Now, let's consider one of the basic differences found between "mothers" and "fathers," and then apply it to a societial potential. Mothers tend to love all of their children the same; they may recognize that one has a unique skill, or another a specific weakness, but each one is of value, with the same right to love and care as his/her siblings. Fathers, on the other hand, tend to have a rating system, in which that child that best meets his highest expectations is his favorite. (A "good" father will favor the child most like himself, while a bad father dislikes the child who most reminds him of himself.)

Thus, the good potential found in matriarchal societies is a sense of affirmation of life, and equality among the group that promotes individuality. The good potential of patriarchal society is reason, discipline, conscience, and individualism.

The negative aspects of matriarchal society include being bound to nature, to blood and soil, and thus blocked from developing the individuality that results from reasoning. The negatives associated with patriarchal society include hierachy, oppression, inequality, exploitation, and submission. (For the best detailed analysis, see Ericch Fromm's classic, "The Sane Society.")

Thus, in matriarchal societies, while "warfare" in the literal sense has never been found, the dynamic known as "blood feuds" is not uncommon. And in our current society, domestic violence is not exclusive to men. Even among highly trained professionals, there are flaws in perception, perpetuated by things such as the Duluth Model, which is easily exposed as unable to address much of the domestic violence spectrum. Yet, this in no way invalidates the unacceptable reality of male violence in our culture.

The sad truth is that we are an extremely violent nation. That violence is found in families, in churches, schools, and in Washington, DC. And I say that, without even beginning to touch upon the genius of Gandhi's saying that "poverty is the worst form of violence."

The truth is that we we do not have a prayer of reducing that level of violence in any meaningful way when we allow our energies to become trapped in a male versus female construct. There will, of course, always be some degree of tension between the sexes. That isn't a bad thing, in and of itself. But it surely can be, as we see in our society today -- even on this internet site. No one benefits from the combination of ignorance and hatred that we see.

We can keep going down that path, or we can change directions. That changing of directions begins at the individual level.

Peace,
H2O Man

Water Flow


Back in 2007, I posted some photos from a presentation by Elizabeth de la Vega and John Nichols, about impeaching President George W. Bush and/or VP Dick Cheney. I remember when, during the Q&A period, my then 12-year old daughter gave a short, off-the-cuff talk; when she finished, Elizabeth said, "Ladies and gentlemen, here is your future U.S. Sebator." I took photos of my daughter with both de la Vega and Nichols.

My daughter held up a "Democratic Underground" bumper-sticker in those photos. That was at a time when people, including the two presenters, were familiar with DU's "general discussion" forum, which featured posts linking to important news reports, and fantastic analysis of that news. It's not as if "grass roots" reporters have the resources that the large corporate media enjoys -- but in terms of interpreting the news, internet journalists can compete quite well.

A lot has changed in the seven years since. My daughter has graduated from high school, where she was her class's valedictorian. She's in her second year at a nice university, and remains politically-culturally active. She worked on Indian territory, where the environment has been devastated. She has traveled to meet Amy Goodman, Jane Goodall,Cornel West, and Robert Kennedy, Jr.

When she got home for the semester break last week, she requested that I pick some books out for her to read. She started with Chris Matthews' book on President Kennedy; other selections include: God Is Red, by Vine DeLoria, Jr.(1973); Revolution for the Hell of It, by Abbie Hoffman (1968); The Last Campaign, by Thurston Clarke (2008); ans Crimes Against Nature, by Robert Kennedy, Jr. (2004).

One afternoon, she asked me, "What is it about President Kennedy, that everyone finds so fascinating?" DirecTV had on a documentary, "JFK: A President Betrayed." At the end, she said, "Okay, I got it."

One of the things that she needs to do for school -- and wants to do for herself -- is to contribute to a blog. We've decided that we will work on that together. I will post some links (and cross-post essays) as it comes along. It's kind of a neat project for me.

Peace,
H2O Man

Bumper

My younger son stopped by my house today. He said that yesterday evening, as he was driving on an interstate highway, he saw a large truck rear-end a car in front of him. The car spun in a circle, and then went over a steep bank.

My boys live near Binghamton, NY, and there has been quite a bit of snow recently. My boy called 911, then made his way down the bank to the car. It had snow up to the windows, and the doors wouldn't open. There was an elderly couple inside. He got the lady out through her window, carried her up the bank to safety, then went and carried the husband up, too. Then he got their dog.

While waiting for the police and ambulance, he cleared the bumper etc out of the highway. Cars continued to speed by, and a piece of metal got thrown near my boy's head.

My boy was here for over three hours today, before mentioning the incident.

There are some really good people in our world today.

Are You Experimented?

"It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment." --Oliver Windell Holmes

The recent federal court decision, in which US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA telephone surveill program is likely unconstitutional, should be seen as a victory for those who subscribe to the radical notions found in the Bill of Rights. However, there are reasons to suspect that the current US Supreme Court will eventually overturn Judge Leon's ruling. If so, it will definitely be a ruling that is not based in law, or shows the slightest respect for the Constitution.

I say this as a person who believes in that Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. And while I admittedly have no formal training in Constitutional Law -- the rulings the Supreme Court makes in interpreting the Constitution -- it's an area of study that I find fascinating and important. Last week, I filled seven large bookshelves in my dining room, with books on politics, sociology, psychology, and state and federal law; the numerous boxes of books had been stored away for several years.

Because Judge Leon's ruling sparked an interest in this area, I've re-read two books that I find of particular interest: The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding; edited by Eugene W. Hickok, Jr.; University of Virginia; 1991; and Freedom for the Thought We Hate; Anthony Lewis; MJF Books; 2007.

The above quote by Justice Holmes, comes from his dissent in Abrams v United States, a case that had to do with the WW1-era Sedition Act and Espionage Act. "Radicals" who opposed the war were tried for the distribution of pamphlets; the appeal of their convictions failed.

Although that case was based upon Amendment 1, it also has an interesting connection to the Amendment 4 rights that Judge Leon considered. The postmaster general decided that those two Acts provided him the authority to examine citizens' mail. He took it upon himself to decide that the Post Office would refuse to deliver papers or magazines that might claim "that the Government is controlled by Wall Street" (Lewis; 105).

There have been numerous bad rulings by the USSC over the decades. This includes two that have taken place since 2000. Thus, while we should recognize that the federal courts have often made just rulings, there is a history of political/financial influences, racism, and fear and hatred found in the history of Constitutional Law.
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