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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 55,538

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The Old Farm

“If the way which, as I have shown, leads hither seems very difficult, but it can nevertheless be found. It must indeed be difficult, since it is so seldom discovered. For if salvation lay ready at hand and could be discovered without great labor, how could it be possible that it remains neglected by so many people? But all noble things are as difficult as they are rare.”
-- Spinoza


Most people could agree that it is a difficult time in the United States. And that the world’s nations facing instabilities, often due to issues from outside their borders. That US citizens view today’s circumstances in very different ways -- hence, believing in very different “solutions” -- is evidenced by the support for a wide variety of presidential candidates.

Because this forum is directed at members of the Democratic Party and other liberals and progressives, we should be able to engage in civil conversations about important domestic and international affairs. That sounds simple, of course, but it is definitely a favorable environment, compared to speaking with republicans or members of the tea party.

One of the areas of discussion, in the context of DU:GDP, that seems sometimes difficult is “foreign affairs.” Even sincere attempts can end up polarized: “she’s got far more experience” vs. “she’s a war hawk.” It’s a topic that can easily generate emotional responses.

But it is an important issue, and I’m hoping that people who support each of the two Democratic candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders -- will be interested enough to contribute their thoughts here. I am confident that we can do so, without resorting to insults or put-downs about either of the candidates, or any of their supporters.

My concerns with Hillary Clinton on international issues is, by no coincidence, related to the concerns that I had about Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Before he took the seat that Ms. Clinton would eventually take over, upon his retirement, in the Senate, Moynihan had an impressing career. Besides working as a university professor, Moynihan had served in both the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and as UN Ambassador under Ford.

If a politician’s previous experience was the most important qualification for becoming president, than Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the most qualified of anyone in recent times.

Moynihan was a neoconservative, despite the current misunderstanding of what that term implies. That common error in perception is the direct result of the republican neoconservatives associated with the Bush administrations. But the actual neoconservative movement is properly traced back to 1967. For an accurate, detailed history, please see chapter 35 (“Splinters”) of Taylor Branch’s “At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years” (Simon & Schuster; 2006).

A neoconservative is liberal on domestic issues and policy, but conservative on “national defense,” including endorsing an active role in the Middle East, that is based upon support for Israel. That description can -- and does -- fit many Democrats and republicans in Washington, DC.

As Moynihan lived nearby, I enjoyed a fair relationship with him for several years. However, the Native American support work I did went beyond the USA’s southern or northern borders. Add too that, I was also actively involved in the anti-war movement that formed largely as a result of Reagan’s policies. Hence, I remember one of the responses I got from Moynihan’s office, after I wrote to express my opposition to the US military aggression in Central America.

First, I got a letter in which “the Senator” spoke of his absolute support for President Reagan’s fight against communism. A few days later, I got Letter #2 …..which asked me to ignore the first note, as “the Senator” definitely is opposed to the Reagan policies in Central America. Of course, I took both letters with me the following day, when I visited the editor of Moynihan’s home town newspaper.

I didn’t hear from the Senator or his office for several years after that. It wasn’t until he read a news story, about a speech that I had helped prepare for one of Moynihan’s associates in DC, that there was any contact. The funny thing was that a woman who worked in his office had been close friends with me for decades. I liked and supported many of the projects Moynihan worked on. I simple disagreed with him on foreign policy.

Now, in many ways, Hillary reminds me of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Not a total surprise, I suppose, as I was there when she launched her first Senate campaign from Moynihan’s farm (specifically, from the old two-room schoolhouse he used for his office). Hillary has many of those same qualities that made Moynihan one of the most important and influential politicians of our time. For that matter, not only of this era: both are important historical figures.

Yet, I disagree with the same general policies and positions with her, as with him. Both have been far too close, and too much an advocate for, the defense industry. It’s not that they should be strangers or enemies with the defense industry. Rather, they should have a more neutral position, that allows for objective judgments.

More, I strongly disagree with the neoconservative world view. Those with that outlook on the US role in the Middle East tend to be the same people who bring us violence in Central America. That relationship goes much deeper than simple the name of the Iran-Contra scandals.

I find the position that we should turn away teen-agers and children from war-torn nations such as Honduras to be politically, ethically, and morally repulsive. That is unacceptable. We need to re-evaluate many of our national policies. I do not believe that if citizens were really aware of the nature of our relationships and dealings around the globe, that they would approve. Or be okay with their tax dollars being spent this way. And it’s not just Central America, or just the Middle East. It’s a vicious system that benefit’s the elite 1%, allowing them to live an opulent life-style, with obscene wealth ….off the pain and suffering of innocent human beings.

I recognize that, especially compared to a Moynihan or a Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders does not have the international experience that they have had. But, I trust him. I respect that he is a highly-intelligent person, capable of grasping new things. More, he does not strike me as having a chip on his shoulder that might cause him to instigate fights. Nor does he seems captive to the defense industry, or prone to looking to military solutions to each and every problem.

I’m curious what others think about this general topic. I would appreciate serious responses.

Peace,
H2O Man

The republican debate .....

I think Democrats should watch the republican debates -- such as tonight's on CNN -- in order to fully understand the nature of our opposition. While I do not subscribe to the tired and worn-out "the lesser of two evils" nonsense, what the republicans are chattering about is important. Yet if we lose the general election, we are in for an updated "dark age."

Thus, it should play a role in how we view the contest between Bernie and Hillary.

Are you watching the republican debate? If so, what do you think of it?

Thanks,
H2O Man

Electability

One of the most important issues for people to consider, when selecting a candidate to represent their party in any open contest, is “electability.” This holds true at all levels of government: is the person that you favor electable? Taking into account all factors, is it reasonable to believe that this individual has a good chance of winning?

There are, obviously, a number of factors that need to be considered. Among them is the “numbers” -- meaning, of the potential voters, how many are registered as Democrats, republicans, or independents? And, closely related, how many potential voters have participated in recent election contests? More, one should consider the potential impact of controversial issues, both in terms of previous elections, as well as the one currently being considered. Not every election involves controversial issues; of those that have, how has this impacted voter turnout in general? Among Democrats? Republicans? And independents?

In the context of presidential elections, those factors and figures become even more complicated. For, as we know, winning a presidential election requires a candidate to win in enough states to reach a specific mark. In theory, a candidate could lose the popular vote, and still win the presidency. (And, if the establishment insists, if the all-around loser is desired, the US Supreme Court and select him as the president, despite the election results.)

This brings us to another important factor: likeability. Just like in a civil law suit, a jury naturally tends to favor the likeable person, so it goes in elections. Indeed, in the past century, only one clearly un-likeable candidate was ever elected president. This, of course, was Richard Nixon. Not a single human being actually liked poor Richard -- he certainly didn’t like himself, and for good reason. He was a terrible human being. He was so un-likeable that, even if one does not believe in “God” or the concept of “hell,” you can still think that is where Nixon ended up. Let us pray that he has a good lawyer.

In both the 2008 and 2016 Democratic Party’s primary process, one candidate’s campaign has sought to portray their strongest rival as “un-electable.” That may or may not be a coincidence, the random outcome of a rolling of the cosmic dice. Or, perhaps it is a pattern. Either way, it does raise an important issue, even if an unintended way.

When Bernie Sanders first entered the primary contest, a lot of people believed it must be a noble act upon Bernie’s part. He must think he can “move Hillary to the left.” How decent of him to make a symbolic run ….a run that few would even notice, one that would soon be forgotten! But, of course, Bernie was unelectable.

Well, well, well. The tables have turned a bit. Certainly, a significant portion of Hillary’s campaign still sincerely believes this. I have no quarrel with the, although I know that they are wrong. It is a topic that remains valid for conversation here. For that is what the primary process is all about.

What I do not see happening -- either on DU:GDP or elsewhere in life -- are honest and open conversations about Hillary Clinton’s electability. Indeed, upon this forum, any mention of Hillary’s negatives are automatically met with, “You are repeating republican ‘talking points’ from the 1990’s.” And this highlights the dangers of taking short-cuts to rational thoughts. It ranks “high” among the shallowest thinking expressed on this forum at any time.

To try to characterize sincere progressive thinking as indistinct from rabid republican ideology is no more accurate than to claim Clinton’s supporters love Richard Nixon. There is no benefit to be accrued from such nonsense.

The simple truth is that Hillary Clinton has high “negatives.” Obviously, these include a significant number of republicans -- which is important only in the context of the general election. However, the numbers we are seeing definitely suggest that republicans are energized by the thought that she may be the Democratic Party’s nominee. While it is a factor, in and of itself, it isn’t what should determine our choices.

Far more importantly is that among independents and Democrats, she has very high negatives. And that is hugely important.

Several times, in the past few weeks, I have sought to discuss this with my friends on DU who support Hillary. In fact, more recently, I’ve asked for others -- including those who don’t know me well enough to either like or dislike me, as well as those who know me well enough to strongly dislike me -- about this very topic. It seems to be something that they consider -- for we have all seen posts saying that if we don’t vote for Hillary, we will be responsible for Donald Trump winning in November. (This, of course, suggests that they have discounted the possibility of Carly Fiorina re-entering the republican primary, and engaging in a historic populist revolution.)

Admittedly, it is my opinion that if Trump were to beat Clinton, it would be entirely due to her flaws as a candidate. Notice I was specific about “flaws as a candidate,” which is absolutely distinct from “flaws as a human being.” A flaw as a candidate does not, by definition, equal a personal flaw. For example, the fact that many republican voters foam at the mouth from the mere mention or her name doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. But it does mean that a lot of republicans who “hate” her -- actually, they hate the image of her that they project -- will be going to the polls in November to vote against her.

Many of those rabid republicans are sexists, surely a repulsive character trait. Yet, that does not mean that everyone who dislikes Hillary is a sexist pig ….no matter how loud and often some of Hillary’s supports claim it is.

The truth is that a lot of people do not like or trust Hillary. And the tactics of the candidate and her campaign are re-enforcing that image of her. The more that she avoids addressing it, while her campaign attempts to frame it as being solely the result of what Newt Gingrich said in 1994, the more the dislike and distrust grows. Thus, without any question, the current tactics of the candidate and her campaign are knee-capping any chance she has of being elected in November.

I recently asked a simple question: if Hillary is our party’s nominee, how would her supporters expect people like me to convince others to vote for her? I identified the make-up of the US Supreme Court as the one obvious tool for our use. I was hoping that her supporters would suggest others. Because one thing is for sure: it is hard to motivate people with the tired old “lesser of two evils” bit …..far more so when the candidate you back has such high negatives.

The likeability and trust factors would absolutely be important, if Hillary Clinton is our nominee. I think that really needs to be discussed, without insults.

Peace,
H2O Man

Rumble

The older, long-time DU community members may recall that a couple of weeks ago, I posted an OP here about how the successes of an insurgent campaign are measured very differently than those of an establishment campaign. Thus, despite the Clinton camp’s attempts to portray the Democratic primaries as a done deal, the truth is that the Sanders movement was actually in a great position.

After yesterday’s results became known, I’m confident that those participants in the Sanders revolution who have less experience in insurgencies appreciate the strength of Bernie’s campaign. Our friends in the Clinton camp may feign happiness with yesterday’s results, but that’s merely a part of their collective effort to convince themselves that their candidate is “inevitable.” What is most important today is that the general public is beginning to see the contest between Hillary and Bernie in a very different light.

This morning, I had a medical appointment. My doctor is a liberal, registered member of the republican party. Political anthropologists believe that species is facing extinction, due to climate change within their party. However, there actually are an estimated eight liberal republicans in the United States.

As my strategy at such appointments is to direct attention from my health issues, I use the tried and true tactic of asking, “So what do you think about the primaries?” Works like a charm.

He said that, for the first time, he can see a route to victory for Bernie. He believes that if Bernie can wing the nomination -- against the wishes of the Democratic establishment -- he would be favored to beat any of the remaining republican candidates. In theory, he said, he thinks Sanders is the best candidate of those running. More, his wife -- who he said is very conservative -- has begun watching the Democratic debates, because she finds Bernie to be interesting. She’s not supporting him, but also will not rule out voting for him in the national election. Yet neither of them would ever, under any circumstances, consider voting for Hillary ….not because she is a woman, not because she is a Democrat, but because they are among a larger group that views Hillary as representative of all that is corrupt in our political system.

This is the process that a strong insurgency takes. It’s not a matter of winning each and every primary vote or caucus. That’s the establishment’s measure. Rather, it is to engage in specific battles, as part of the over-all conflict. The results of those battles changes the manner in which the public views the contest and its process. And as a result of that change, the strength of the Sanders revolution continues to build momentum.

I’m off to visit a college in upstate New York, to talk to some student activists about the Sanders revolution. I should be back this evening, to continue this discussion. I’m hoping some of the Sanders movement here will respond to a couple of questions:

First, are you feeling confident today? And second, in the context of a non-establishment insurgent campaign, are you ready to rumble? (Tonight’s debate will definitely be a rumble!)

We are in a great position now. Take time to enjoy it. For what we are taking part in now, at this strange and dangerous time in our nation’s history, is a campaign unlike any previous campaign in America. A lot of the credit goes to Bernie Sanders. And a lot of it goes to people like you. I thank you for that.

Peace,
H2O Man

Revolution in Perception

One of the greatest American political philosophers was Minister Malcolm X. Especially after he left the Nation of Islam (NOI), Malcolm became far more politically active. While he took a global view, he would also take an active interest in local events. He was encouraging black people to register to vote. He advocated registering as “independent,” rather than as a Democrat or republican. Still, those politicians that he associated with were all Democrats.

More, after leaving the NOI, Malcolm began focusing on politics in a more progressive way. For example, he spoke frequently about equality between the sexes, something that was in direct contradiction to the NOI‘s official stance. Also, in terms of economics, he noted that many of the countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia were benefiting from socialism.

Just as his working with Democrats did not make Malcolm a Democrat, or working with Baptists make Malcolm a Baptist, his relationship with socialists did not make Malcolm a socialist. Rather, it is evidence of the open-mindedness that allowed him to recognize the human beings behind labels, it increased his ability to work in cooperation with a number of groups and individuals.

Among this self-educated leader’s most notable talents was to use models of systems to help illustrate the facts and truths he wanted to communicate to the public. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it here on DU, but I like the study of systems, and use of models, myself. And, since my collection of Malcolm-related books, magazine articles, albums, etc, goes back to when I first learned of him in 1964, I’d speculate that he sparked my interest in this form of education.

Malcolm often told his co-workers to “make it simple.” And he had a knack for doing just that. On the topic of if either political party in the US could bring about social justice, Malcolm said that a system could not produce something foreign to its make-up. The example he gave was that a chicken could not possibly lay a duck egg. The hen’s system was only capable of laying a chicken egg.

I believe that it is accurate to say that, for the vast majority of Bernie Sanders’s supporters, Malcolm’s model works. We would like to believe that Hillary Clinton, if she becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee this year, would be capable of producing meaningful changes that provide for social justice. Yet, for many good and sincere citizens, that is viewed as no more likely than Chicken Little laying a duck egg.

Thus, the question that I must ask -- in all sincerity -- to those who support Hillary is: how would you expect those supporting Bernie to help, should she get the nomination?

And I’m not suggesting that only my friends who support Hillary Clinton respond. I’m up for a civil conversation with any of the others. Just as I’d welcome any input from Bernie’s supporters.

I’ve noted that, from our viewpoint, it seems evident that too many in Clinton’s campaign take an insulting “thanks, but no thanks” attitude towards us. That “you have no where else to go” approach, that rarely results in warm, fuzzy feelings.

If Bernie wins the nomination, some Hillary supporters will then vote for Sanders, and others won’t. Just as if Hillary wins the nomination, some Sanders’s supporters would vote for her in November, and other would not. No one can say what the exact numbers, and their impact, are at this time.

So, I ask the Hillary Clinton supporters: If you were someone like me, how would you encourage people who dislike Hillary to vote for her?

I can think of one good reason -- the US Supreme Court. No sane person wants Ted Cruz influencing who gets appointed. I say this as a person who lost a lot of respect for the USSC in 2000. It’s still a huge issue. Still. it is a lot easier for me to present a case for people to support and vote for Sanders, than Clinton

I’m curious what other approaches people might see. Thank you for your comsideration.

Peace,
H2O Man

The 2016 Reunion

Being a creature of habit, with a predisposition for using simple models to illustrate various “systems,” I found that my children were receptive to learning about society by considering their classes in school. It’s a method that most people can easily understand, and discuss politics, economics, and even the justice system. I think that it might even be useful for promoting understanding between people here. But, of course, I could be wrong.

Most of us have had the experience of going to public schools for K through 12th grade. In some cases, people went to one district; others moved around with their families. But, to some extent, we were in a sub-group of our community …..and that subgroup was fairly representative of that community. Obviously, not every family or individual in the community had a child attending school, but enough did that the last names of your classmates were representative of the inhabitants of your neighborhood or community.

In our classes in school, we sat in the same rooms as the children of the wealthy parents, the middle class parents, and the poor parents. And, although we might wish otherwise, these students’ experiences within the school system was influenced by their parents’ socio-economic status. This includes the student’s expectations for their standing within the system of their classmates.

Most of us knew some version of George W. Bush in school, for example ….a cocky, arrogant loud-mouth, with an obnoxious sense of entitlement. No one really liked him, although the “upper-crust” pretended that they did. The faculty and administration held him to a very different standard than they did the other students: if he was suspected of cheating on his homework, teachers looked the other way; if he got caught skipping class, the administration took the “boys will be boys” approach.

We likely encountered a Ted Cruz, as well. The self-righteous, bible-tooter, who took pleasure in being the class tattle-tale. We knew a Marco Rubio, who convinced himself that he was so slick, that he could out-smart anyone and everyone. Our little Marco’s tend to position themselves near the George W.’s, both for opportunity and protection. We had a version of a Willard Romney, the rich geek who took perverse pleasure in bullying the vulnerable kids.

Upon graduation from school and college, these characters provided proof positive about the nature of DNA, by rapidly morphing into their parents, as indistinct as the next generation of dandelions. Today, they are the establishment of our local communities, our state capitals, and Washington, DC.

We understand that the 1% are going to have most of the wealth in our society. And that is okay, because we see that money is their god. They worship the dollar. What we have a problem with, though, is that they are the primary recipients of the school’s free lunch program, which was intended to provide meals for the students from low-income families.

We also have a problem with the manner in which they believe that, to borrow a phrase, some animals are more equal than others. They are convinced that, as the 1%, they have the right to determine not only who will win every election, but even who is allowed to run. And they have been getting away with that type of behavior for far too long.

This has allowed them to stack the deck at every level of government. Hence, for far too long, government has simply served as a tool to advance their business interests. Their sense of entitlement is such that they feel justified in making decision that reward their interests, while damaging the quality of life for the rest of their classmates. It might be deciding to frack under your property -- say, for example, the farm that has been your family’s home for generations. That it poisons the water supply for your neighborhood means nothing to them, for they worship the dollar.

They may determine that their corporations might benefit from a military invasion of a country -- perhaps in the Middle East -- to allow them to control that nation’s natural resources. Obviously, they will not consider sending their own children to “serve” in harm’s way. So they send the recent graduates from the poor and middle class families. They mask their intentions with patriotism, and pretend to honor the military. Right. Hard to line that up with the disgraceful manner in which the needs of veterans’ are so often ignored.

Like Claire Standish in “The Breakfast Club,” they have convinced themselves that everyone wants to be part of the 1%, that everyone looks up to them, and that the school simple could not function without them. Indeed, this is the shared delusion of the dollar-worshipper’s club.

Today, of course, that delusional system they subscribe to is at risk of being shattered. It’s bad enough, in their opinion, that another loud-mouthed rich kid is challenging to be named prom king, and that quite a few students who the 1% had counted on to support them are backing this fellow. But even more outrageous -- and totally unacceptable -- one of the poor kids who reads books and earns good grades is convincing students that the prom is intended for everyone. The entire class is paying for it, and should have equal say in how their money is spent.

The 1% feel betrayed by the others listening to this trouble-maker. They have tasked a teachers’ aide, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, with putting Bernie in check, but that isn’t working quite the way they planned. Thus, their outrage has now gone beyond Bernie, and targets those other students who recognize that what he is saying makes sense. In fact, what he is proposing is exactly what is found in the social studies books they read in school, which describe how our constitutional democracy is supposed to work.

My kids are no doubt looking forward to my class reunion this summer coming and going, so that they don’t have to listen tome babble on and on about this topic.

Peace,
H2O Man

Ripples of Hope

“Our answer is the world’s hope, it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of the swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that comes with even the most peaceful progress.

“The world demands the qualities of youth, not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. It is a revolutionary world we live in ….

“First is the danger of futility, the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills -- against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence. Yet many of the world’s greatest movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man …Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

“It is from numerous diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

-- Senator Robert F. Kennedy; South Africa; June 6, 1966.



I loved last night’s Democratic Party primary debate, between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Even as a Sanders’s supporter, I felt that Ms. Clinton did well in the first-half of the debate. It was evident that she had a campaign message that she was intent upon delivering; if one were to simply compare her to the remaining republican candidates, she clearly has superior communication skills.

But, of course, it wasn’t a competition between Hillary and the republican nominee. Rather, it was between Clinton and Sanders. And, perhaps especially during the second-half of the debate, the public saw the contrast between the illusion of security offered by clinging to the current economic trends, versus the excitement and promise of a new revolutionary movement for social justice.

My intent here is not to insult Hillary or her supporters. There is common ground between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, for example, on the issue of the water in Flint. We know that the political machine that poisoned little children -- and everyone else -- in Flint can not even claim ignorance, as they were fully warned. Thus, these poor excuses for human beings are not even covered by Voltaire’s saying that ignorance is the mother of all cruelty.

Yet, a closely-related question -- one that has begged to be asked in their discussions of Flint -- defines the very real, and extremely important, differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, not only as politicians, but as human beings. And that has to do with fracking.

Now, no highly-contested campaign goes 100% smoothly. And no candidate is perfect. But Hillary’s answer wasn’t rooted in her being caught off-guard. No, it was a packaged response that has been rehearsed numerous times. And I know that it had to be painful for her supporters at the grass roots, who are conscious of the environment. For just as there is no question among the scientific community that “climate change” is real -- with only a few who are paid to pretend it is in dispute -- there is really no question that fracking poisons the water, ground, and air. And, of course, those who are paid by the energy corporations pretend that it is in dispute. Sound familiar?

Ms. Clinton danced around the question. In essence, she said that as long as a community is for fracking, it’s okay. We know that she has advocated fracking in the recent past, which translates to trying to convince a community that the profits from it outweigh the risks. Thus, the majority have the power to poison the minority’s water, for financial gain.

Now, that is simple unacceptable. It is something that I sincerely urge my friends who support Hillary to give serious thought to.

Bernie’s answer was as brief as it was definitive: he is opposed to fracking. He stands with the people who want safe drinking water for their families.

Thus, I’m not surprised that those running Hillary’s campaign are desperately attempting to “spin” last night’s debate, and distract the public’s attention on real and serious issues. For that is what campaigns do after their candidate had a tough night. Rather than discuss what is real and serious, they talk about what is made-up and the opposite of serious.

The Sanders’s campaign is in very good position now. Our opposition will continue to try to convince of otherwise, of course. And there’s no better example of the tools the establish will use than CNN and MSNBC. That’s no more surprising than learning that McDonald’s will be serving cheese burgers. (True fact: when Chris Christie was discussing a possible presidential run in 2012, he told his advisors that he would refuse to stop consuming food from Burger King.)

The truth is that our opposition in the 2016 Democratic primary never thought that Bernie Sanders would be where he is today. Nor did our enemies in the republican party. And they are our enemies. Any republican who supports fracking is your and my enemy. They are hoping to make financial profits off the suffering of our communities. And, as we see in Flint, the republican establishment does not care about what suffering they cause in a community.

In fact, the Sanders revolution is going a bit better than even I could have hoped for. So let’s keep it going!

Peace,
H2O Man

Minnows Unlimited

Although we are not seeing it reported in the corporate media, a significant number of traditional Native American people are active in the Sanders Revolution. Now, of course that doesn’t mean “all” of them are. Some Indians don’t vote, because they identify as members of sovereign nations. And no doubt, among that sizeable and varied a people, some support Clinton, Trump, and everyone else …..except for probably Ted Cruz.

It is part of the on-going relationship between Indians and “others” in the Americas. In terms of US history, it’s good to read books such as “Red, White, and Black: The peoples of early America,” by Gary B. Nash. In the 1960s and ‘70s, good-hearted hippies recognized that there was a spiritual dimension to traditional Native American culture than in the larger society. And, of course, there was the American Indian Movement (AIM).

Even in the work I did with Chief Paul Waterman, of the Onondaga Nation, which was mainly burial protection and repatriation, we would often work with various local and state historical groups and environmental organizations. We were all working on related parts of a larger struggle. There were other groups and individuals, of course; I’m using the historical societies and environmental to illustrate a point.

If Paul and I had a conflict with some industry and their lap-dogs in government, we would often request the support of the historical groups and environmental organizations. Likewise, if they asked our help on a cause, we would lend our support. For this illustrates on of the basic rules in politics: alone, we are like individual fingers that our enemy can easily break; together, we form a powerful fist than can protect all of our rights.

I remember when an organization called “Trout Unlimited” asked Paul and I to support them on a project they were busy working on. And while we were helping, Paul saying that he and I represented “Minnows Unlimited.” He was, of course, being very serious. I think that shows the difference in leadership between Onondaga and the USA, where the establishment is “1% Unlimited.”

I remember back in the 1980s, when I was getting to know environmental attorney Robert Kennedy, Jr. And his saying that his late father had taught him that a person cannot understand environmental issue, if they did not understand traditional Indian issues.

No matter where we come from, what our ethnic identity may be, or what shade of skin color we may have, all of our ancestors lived in traditional, tribal societies. In different sets of circumstances, there were different types of leadership, but they all had the tendency of Minnows Unlimited. And that not only included leaders who were far more like Paul Waterman, than like the “leaders” in DC. …..it requires that the individuals within their community behave very differently than most citizens do today in the USA. For democracy demands the full-participation of all.

It doesn’t matter what Tribe of Humanity that you come from ….the black tribes, the brown tribes, the red tribes, the yellow tribes, or the white tribes …..it is the time to remember who you are, and where you come from …..and to add that beauty to that of our society …..for the benefit of all, equally.

As the ancient prophet Isaiah said, gather together for strength (45-20, remember the past (46-9), and build upon the stone (51-4). I say not to promote “religion,” but rather as something that can benefit some people in a spiritual - ethical movement for Social Justice.

I’ll end this with a quote from Vine Deloria, Jr.’s classic, “We Talk, You Listen : New Tribes, New Turf.” It’s from the early 1970s, but can be applied to today:


“The New Left has tried to create a sense of revolution in the nation by shouting slogans and marching up and down the streets. But when the hated establishment is left secure in its citadel, certain that it cannot be dislodged, then it has very little reason to pay to them and maintains the power to suppress them. The New Left should use the system to create uncertainty in the minds of Congressmen it dislikes so that all would tend to change lest lightning strike them in their next election.

“ In a comparable manner the executive branch of the government could be easily changed if sufficient pressure were applied to it through proper channels. When we speak of America as a democracy, we often fool ourselves. While we vote for our Senators, Congressmen and Governors, we do not get a chance to vote for the multitude of civil servants which they are able to appoint. Thus the majority of people in the system are placed there without citizen approval.

“ This fact should not cause people to give up on the system. Simply because a man is appointed to a position, or through the drudgery of years has followed the Peter Principle and rises to his level of incompetence, does not mean he is immortal. There has never been a system yet that would not gladly sacrifice one of its own for a moments’s peace, no matter how brief. If the system is to be changed, then those who would change it should pinpoint its weakest spot, its blockage points, and place all the pressure on that point until the blockage is cleared.”


In my opinion, the Sanders movement is the most powerful that has graced American politics in decades. Our opposition is invested in convincing people otherwise. Soon enough, our true enemies will up their game. And we will be ready for them.

Peace,
H2O Man

Old Man River

“Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate for the political system we currently have but Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to build the system that we should have.”
-- FourScore; DU:GDP


A few years ago, some environmental activists I was acquainted with asked me to attend a Democratic Committee meeting in a distant town. The drive allowed me to travel through a couple of counties in upstate New York, a setting that is truly beautiful at all times of year. Being the guest speaker in a meeting in a tiny community like this is both “small stuff,” and the essence of our constitutional democracy.

Being the guest speaker also allows one the opportunity to sit through the committee meeting. Like in most of this region, Democrats are the minority. It’s not uncommon for towns, like this one, to have more citizens registered as Independents, than as Democrats. And republicans always are in the majority.

I immediately liked everyone I met. I was especially impressed with three long-term leaders of the town’s Democratic Party. I learned that these three ladies had run the committee since the early 1970s. Before that, in the 1960s, they had been the small town version of “Flower Children,” protesting the war, racism, and sexism. Now they are Elders.

The other leader was a university professor, who teaches sociology and political science. She had her young daughter with her to the meeting, always a good sign. One of the things she said that struck me as important came when she asked for volunteers to distribute something. It could be accomplished by handing them out in the local plaza parking lot, or going door-to-door.

No one volunteered, and this lady seemed slightly frustrated. She said that the people on the left are always willing to step up, and do this kind of activity. The registered Democrats at the meeting are more comfortable doing other types of campaigning.

The topic I selected for my talk was, of course, how everyone’s contribution had value. Everyone is not equally talented in every area of political activity. The simple truth is that we need each and every person to contribute, according to their talents. When we do that, we win. It’s not really that complicated.

On my ride home, I stopped along the Susquehanna River. It is a powerful, living entity, that helps to sustain life around it. I was thinking about how few people have an intimate relationship with the river any more. For thousands of years, it was a highway for the Ancient Ones. Even up until fairly recent times, communities along the river recognized it as playing an important role in their lives.

Every year in May, one town in Chenango County holds a 70-mile canoe race, known as the General Clinton Canoe Regatta. It celebrates a violent chapter in our nation’s early history, during the Revolutionary War. I found myself remembering a story that the Elder of the valley I grew up in told me, when I was a wee-little boy. As a adult, I found some historians -- including faculty at local colleges -- told me that they had never heard of this episode, and could find no documentation. Many years later, in a soldier’s diary, located in the musty basement of a historical society in another state, I found a detailed telling of that very story.

For whatever reason, I found myself thinking of another time, in my home town, when I studied the official records of a huge, toxic landfill. It was 120+ acres of extremely toxic industrial wastes. Among other things, I was looking for documentation to prove that something that an Elder on that mountain had told me. Quite literally, I would find it on page 100,556. The industry was lying, and several state and federal officials had taken the industry spokespersons at their word. What may appear true on paper, may not be true when you visit a site. It’s always good to listen to a creek: like rivers, they don’t lie.

I think about these things, as I sit back as a spectator to much of what is going in the Democratic and republican presidential primaries today. At my age, there are days when I’m not physically able to attend meetings, go door-to-door, or anything else meaningful. Instead, I sit back, and watch the river flow. The currents -- and especially the under-currents -- in the republican primaries is fascinating. While dividing the republican party along harsh, sharp lines, they are creating an opportunity that I have not witnessed in my adult life.

Yet, the growing division in the Democratic Party is concerning. Even here on DU, I see people who I am sure are sincere when they say that the 2016 primary is not as bad as, say, that of 2008. But they are wrong. And sincere but wrong isn’t a winning combination. (Note, for example, that republicans historically demand a combination of wrong and insincere from their ranks.)

Now, back to the quote from our good friend FourScore’s wonderful OP. If we are looking to continue to operate in the current socio-political environment, I think that we can all agree that Hillary Clinton is the perfect Democratic candidate. However, if we view the current system as grossly contaminated, and believe we need to create a very different system, then Bernie Sanders is the only option.

I understand that many good people are no more aware of the potential for changes to be made in the system, than they are of the rivers they see each day, on their drive to the factory or office. They are disconnected. They may take note of the rising waters associated with the river flooding its banks. And they understand that a community such as Flint has been poisoned, as a result of a river and some old pipes.

But the Sanders movement has a different relationship, and makes other connections, when it comes to water and land and air. They might live in a city, but they understand the consequences of our systematic destruction of the living environment. I “linked” to an article from the Binghamton, NY, newspaper a week ago -- the article was about numerous sources of water being cut off, due to the unacceptably high levels of lead. It’s not just a few communities facing that type of thing: it is a common feature in both urban and rural areas, from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. It is no longer just the rural poor, and often non-white, communities that have been poisoned for decades.

I think about an American “war” that they don’t teach about in school. It’s a part of New York State’s history, that has implications for this time. It was known as the “Second American Revolutionary War” in its day. It started in 1839, when there were building tensions between the elite land-owners, who lived around Albany, and the tenant farmers in the outlying counties. It was a form of feudalism, of course, and crushed hard-working people, so that the !% could live an opulent lifestyle.

Unlike the Revolutionary War, which was violent, the Anti-Rent War (as it has become known) was largely non-violent. And it worked. It changed the balance of power in upstate New York. The 1% were still wealthy, and as obnoxious as are their heirs today. But the revolutionaries changed the socio-economic-political system. They did this at a time when the establishment said they had no chance. They did so, knowing they faced the wrath of the powerful elite.

Since then, of course, we’ve had the powerful example of the civil rights movement. It, too, had a lot of different participants, who made valuable contributions. Of the most important for our consideration are those of Martin Luther King, Jr., and those he labored with. For, exactly opposite the members of the Tea Party, we know that we are not going to find solutions by carrying side-arms in public. That is not the type of “power” that can repair and heal our society.

Across America tonight, there are small groups in little towns, working on the Sanders revolution. There are student organizations on college and university campuses, actively supporting the movement. And there are rallies and similar events, in cities in every state. We are intent upon building a new society, out of the compost of the current rot. We aren’t interested in sugar-coating the present system, for Washington has become a toxic waste dump site. We aren’t satisfied to think about incremental change, or possible future improvements. We are changing things, now.

That river is rising.

Peace,
H2O Man

You Are Your Brother's Keeper


Many years ago, when Rubin Carter was undergoing surgery while incarcerated in a New Jersey prison, one of his associates sent word to be that the Hurricane could not be reached for a couple of weeks. “The Rabbi” was one of a small group of inmates at Rahway who took an interest in Rubin’s working with me …..not only on boxing, but on staying out of the types of trouble that angry teenaged males get in to. He said that if I had anything important, to mail it to him, and he would read it to Rubin.

Within a year, after Rubin’s eye surgery had healed, he and Tommy would run for the presidency and vice presidency of the Rahway inmates’ council. And win. This was at a heady time, when “prison reform” was in style. Under Rubin’s lead, the RPC would accomplish several significant changes in how inmates were treated. This included the planning for inmates’ release, in an attempt to curb recidivism. It also included a program called “Scared Straight,” to try to keep angry teenaged males from entering the prison system.

The “rough draft” of Rubin’s autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” had actually been done by way of his speaking into a tape recorder, and he used to send me those tapes after they had been transcribed. In time, he would gather a few friends to discuss the harsh, cold realities of life in prison in their attempt to keep me on the straight and narrow. Thus, the Rabbi had sent word of Rubin’s surgery on a cassette tape. And then he began speaking off the cuff, about prisons and inmates in general, and about Rubin.

When a new inmate arrives, Tommy said, they naturally begin to learn the institution’s system by keeping their eyes and ears open. Because that system requires the de-humanization of the inmates -- by first reducing their identity to a number, and dressing them in drab inmate uniforms -- the new inmate is initially intent upon identifying ways to maintain their sense of self, including self-respect. But, as days turn to weeks, that inmate will find ways to “get along” within the system, to avoid the infractions of rules that result in various punishments, such as solitary confinement.

In time, the new inmate begins to modify his behavior even further. Rather than simply avoiding trouble, he begins to find ways to engage in the types of behaviors that the system encourages. The system reinforces these behaviors with rewards. As the inmate finds more and more ways to gain the rewards that make his daily life more tolerable, he begins to lose sight of those distinctions between his being a unique human being, and his being an inmate in the institution. His behaviors are no longer defined as small compromises with the institution: he has instead surrendered his human identity, and become part of its system.

Rubin, he said, was the only individual he knew of -- and Tommy had spent his entire adult life behind bars -- who had never compromised himself. His stubborn refusal to make peace with the system had often resulted in long stays in solitary confinement, among other punishments. Rubin would not compromise his identity.

After that surgery, I encouraged Rubin to risk upsetting the curious balance he had within Rahway’s system, and run for the seat on the inmates’ council. As noted, he and Tommy ran as a ticket, and won. Soon, sociologists and politicians were coming to Rahway, because they were sincere about prison reform. Even the guards and their union were supportive. Gains were being made. For example, Rubin convinced other inmates to surrender the weapons that they had stashed throughout the prison. He was working on gaining educational opportunities for inmates.

The media began paying attention to what was going on inside Rahway State Prison. This included focusing upon Rubin. He had, a few years earlier, saved the lives of the warden and two guards when there had been a prison riot. In every way, Carter seemed different from other inmates. He refused to wear the inmate uniform, or to shave. Indeed, Rubin even refused to consume the prison’s food. For he was an innocent man, serving a triple-life sentence.

I still have all of the letters and cassette tapes and documents that Rubin sent me back then. I can identify the time when that system began to shift, to regain the balance that Carter seemed to threaten. I have, for example, the letters between the warden and Rubin, in which a man who believed himself “progressive” on prison reform was telling Rubin to slow down, that change takes time. But, when Rubin continued to attempt to make improvements -- at the point he was exposing how drugs were actually smuggled into the prison -- both he and Tommy were “removed” from Rahway, and placed in solitary at the Vroom Building -- New Jersey’s psychiatric unit, for the most dangerous of all inmates.

Years later, a federal court would rule that the prison administration had acted maliciously, and award Rubin a couple thousand dollars in punitive damages. That money paid for the private investigator who located the infamous Caruso file -- which showed that, without question, Carter had not been involved in the 1966 triple murder. In fact, a couple of police investigators had known, and covered-up, the identities of the actual murderers.

But what does this, you ask, have to do with the Democratic Party’s primary contest for the presidential nomination? Good question. Although our prison industrial complex is the largest, most expensive on earth, our polite society prefers to pretend it does not exist. If anything, politicians tend to exploit the general public’s fears, and promise to be tough on crime. The public tends to convince themselves that this massive prison system does not impact society in any way, other than taking super predators off the streets.

However, we are able to draw some parallels between various systems. Let me give you an example. About a decade ago, there was a Democrat running in a heavily republican region, for a seat in the House of Representatives. Although I did not know him personally at the time, I had been impressed by his record as a county prosecutor. It was evident that he could not win, if he went exclusively for Democratic support. More, he was unlikely to get any meaningful amount of republican cross-over votes. What is a Water Man to do in such circumstances?

I met him at a county Democratic headquarters, and explained that I could likely get him enough votes from the Democratic left to fuel a victory. Most people in his shoes would have thought that I was full of already digested baloney. But he hadn’t become a successful prosecutor by being dumb. He liked what I had planned.

A week before the election, I asked him what he thought? He said that it was too close to call, but that either way, he wanted to thank me. I responded by telling him that I habitually count numbers, and was confident we would win. In fact, I predicted the outcome, and was within ten votes overall.

We had become friends, and our families would socialize together from time to time. But, pretty soon, it was time for him to run for re-election. This campaign was tougher, as the republicans had been caught off-guard the first time. One evening, at the campaign headquarters, I explained why this one was too close to call. When no one else was around, he told me that he kind of wanted to win, but that even more, he hoped that he would lose.

That surprised me. I asked why? And he told me that he had been shocked at how corrupt Washington was. He said that he was extremely uncomfortable there, because the level of open corruption was shocking. Again, this came from a solid, moderate Democrat, who had served as a District Attorney with distinction. By the end of our discussion, he had made his mind up: he did not want me to invest the effort that could have made his re-election possible.

In terms of the model of systems I prefer -- a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib -- this illustrates how an entrenched system will attempt to reject a new piece, that threatens the balance. And make no mistake -- he wasn’t a Mr. Softie -- he was a tough man, a dedicated public servant. Just the type of person we want in Washington. But his code of ethics would not allow him to go along to get along.

Now, I’ve said all of that, to say this: Bernie Sanders is an unusual phenomenon in Washington. He goes by a strict code of ethics, and he hasn’t given up …..either upon the system, or on the American public. And that is distinct from literally everyone else in the DC establishment.

By no coincidence, the vast majority of his supporters are people who are marginalized by that Washington establishment. The only times we hear from most of our elected representatives is when they want something -- our money and/or our vote. But other than at these times, we inhabit very different worlds. They do not tend to socialize with our type most of the time, for we have little if anything in common.

Yet, by way of the internet, people from across the country, who have refused to conform to the system, are finding that there is quite a few people with similar opinions. More, there are lots of groups and individuals, with slightly different beliefs, that we can break bread with. And the more we really think about it, the funnier the 1%’s attempts to convince numerous groups that they are tiny minorities.

It is extremely rare that, at the same time people are demanding something new, a candidate with Bernie Sanders’s background comes forth. It appeals to those who know the system, but who have refused to become acclimated to the environment. And it speaks to the dreams of a huge segment of society. As we have shown, beyond question, we are not some tiny minority. Democratic politicians need to recognize -- by way od committed action -- that they do not take us for granted,

And we have to recognize that this system -- the structure put in place by Ronald Reagan -- cannot be left in place. We aren’t talking about fine-tuning the Reagan economy, or any version of it. And we are not satisfied to sit back and expect that establishment bureaucrats can deliver meaningful change.

There is no evidence -- zero -- that if Sanders does lose the Democratic primary, fair and square, that the majority of his supporters are going to buy in on the campaign of an establishment candidate. They understand that the establishment, like the administration of a jail or prison, would prefer to deal with a band of merry fools, rather than a lone, wise individual.

The struggle continues …..

Peace,
H2O Man
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