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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,115

Journal Archives

White Nights

Last night, I went for a long walk with one of my dogs, Kelly. It was pleasant: there was almost complete silence as we ventured through the woods, and across a large field. At one point, we could hear some people riding snowmobiles in the distance. (I don't mind if people walk on my property, but have asked the local club not to ride their snowmobiles on my property. Most of them respect that.)

Kelly is a great friend. He's mostly boxer, but looks very different from his parents and siblings. His body looks like a Lab; his head is square; and he is white, with light blue spots. His tail wags faster than the speed of light.

Kelly is medium-sized (extra-medium, perhaps), and so the snow in the field came up over his shoulders. When he ran into the many snow drifts, his head would disappear from sight, then pop out on the other side.

We came across several spots where deer have nested under the apple trees in our old orchard. I think it's been a harsh winter for the deer: most mornings, I see where they have come close to my house, to eat any left-over cat or dog food. They also have been trimming my rose bushes for me.

The blowing snow has covered most of the other animal tracks that we usually see in the field this time of year. Kelly still dug his head into the snow a hundred times, probably sniffing where a mouse had been hours earlier.

My pond, fire pit, and sweat lodge were all covered by deep snow. If I didn't know they were there, I wouldn't have even noticed anything different from the rest of the field/edge of the woods. Kelly did, though -- he plunged down where one of the springs runs into the pond.

Every so often, Kelly would stop whatever he was doing, and come over in front of me, and put his front paws on my legs. I'd kneel down, and pet him, until he was ready for us to be on our way.

Like everyone around these parts, I've had my fill of winter. Can't wait for spring. But, since that is still a way's off, I try to enjoy what is real, now.

Peace,
H2O Man

Spill the Wine (Snowsuit Rendition)

"I was once out strolling one very hot summer's day
When I thought I'd lay myself down to rest in a bit field of tall grass.
I lay there in the sun and felt it caressing my face.
As I fell asleep and dreamed ......."

One can hardly be surprised that Rand Paul is attacking the Democratic Party -- and Hillary Clinton -- by ranting about something Bill Clinton did decades ago. What is more annoying, however, is the corporate media's reporting this, over and over, as if it is somehow "news."

At very best, Rand's rants are evidence that the 2016 presidential primary season is officially open. It speaks loudly to the fact that without Chris Christie, the republican field is an open sewer.( In fact, it already was with the New Jersey governor.)

More, the conversations about President Clinton's behavior in the 1990s appears to be setting the tone, too often, in the current political climate. Our focus should be primarily on the 2014 elections. We should not allow discussions, debates, or arguments about the possibility of Hillary Clinton running in 2016 distract us. We need to take care of the current issues now, confident in knowing that by doing so, we will be in a better position to take care of business in '16.

It is perhaps natural, considering the length of presidential primary campaigns in this era, that people will begin to consider who they want to run in 2016. In general, this is a good thing. There is only one exception, which is when members of the Democratic Party and Democratic Left begin to argue to the point of divides. For sake of discussion, let's consider the example of a possible Clinton run.
DUers and other good and sincere people may very well support the idea of Hillary running; they may have mixed feelings; they may not favor her running; and/or, they may support someone else -- if they are even thinking that far ahead.

The idea of electing a woman as US President has power. And it isn't the idea of "any woman" -- it isn't like we considered Sarah Palin as an option in 2008. Hillary Clinton has a long and serious career: she was part of the Watergate investigation; she served as US Senator from New York; and served as Secretary of State.

The closest thing the republicans have is Condi Rice. And mark my words: by early 2016, you will hear the old, establishment party men talking about Condi .....maybe for VP.

Now, some will not support Hillary, because of her corporate ties, her vote on Iraq, or because they are uncomfortable with political dynasties. At a time when the reality of the 1% versus humanity is being grasped by more and more voters, the idea of a couple of families controlling the executive office could be an issue.

However, those are issues that: {1} we don't need to decide today; and {2} we need to discuss in a rational, calm manner. Be fully aware that even now, there are rabid republicans who are hoping that they can divide us by way of fights between male vs female; young vs old; black vs white; and on and on.

Divided, we are like individual fingers, which our common enemy can easily break. United, we become a powerful fist, fully capable of advocating for -- and protecting -- all of us.

These are the options that we have today, on "President's Day." We can put our minor differences aside, and concentrate on that very real power we access when we put our minds together.

Let's start that now.


"I thought to myself what could that mean?
Am I going crazy or is this just a dream?
Now, wait a minute,
I know I'm lying in a field of grass somewhere,
So it's all in my head ....."
--The Animals

Michael Dunn/ Swimsuit Edition


"There's no right way to do wrong, and no wrong way to do right."
-- Smokin' Joe Frazier, Heavyweight Champion of the World

Like many others, I have followed the Michael Dunn murder trial. As some older DUers will remember, I have had a nephew viciously attacked -- and left for dead -- by a racist hate gang in 1998. My nephew survived; the local justice system was flawed; and some of the gang went on to commit more assaults and gun violence. While I don't have any great insights on the workings of the jury in the Dunn case, I'd like to say a few things about the case in general.

First, and most important, it appears that Mr. Dunn was an angry, paranoid citizen right up until the day he murdered Jordan Davis. He had gone to the wedding of a son, with whom he had a failed father-son relationship. slammed down a handful of drinks, and left early. Stopped so that his lady could pick up more alcohol and chips; got pissed off by some teenagers "disrespecting" him; and got out his gun.

The murderer had fled the scene, but some good citizens -- including the three teens in the vehicle who were not killed -- provided police with information that led to Dunn's capture and arrest. The police investigation seems solid to me. They knew he was lying to them from the moment their first interview with him began.

Jordan Davis was murdered; the jury returned an uneven verdict; and Jordan's parents et al are left with mixed feelings. While not the gross injustice of the Zimmerman verdict, the unresolved "mistrial" on the most serious charge brings to mind King's saying that justice delayed is justice denied.

What may make this all the more frustrating for many people is that only Dunn stands out as toxic. The judge seemed a decent man; the two prosecutors handling the case came across as sincere, as did the defense attorney. The trial appeared flawed, so far as providing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth .....and it may well be that, as frustrating as that surely is, it is exactly why the jury could not deliver justice on the most important charge.

It is not only what evidence can, or can not, be introduced in trial that counts. It is also how those laws have been interpreted in that state's courts over the decades, that can increase the likelihood of something being grounds for a reversal on appeal. In some circumstances, even a "good" law can lead to an unjust end; it is difficult, however, to imagine "bad" laws as serving as the foundation for anything good.

Some journalists have asked if Michael Dunn told his lies so often that he now believes them? I do not think so. I'm convinced, from watching him testify, that he knows he is lying. Part of the problem is that Dunn does believe he was 100% justified in murdering young Davis. Not because he felt afraid, but because he felt entitled. And he honestly believed that, even if the police knew he was lying, they "couldn't prove it."

From a legal standpoint, the convictions stand as victories, and the big charge can be re-tried. But from a human context, this whole episode falls into a long and bitter history that continues to de-value the life of young black males in American society.

In my opinion, it is essential that all people og Good Will understand -- and act upon -- the potential good that "the public" can do, in regards to the legal system. And one thing is for sure: you and I can not only be registered voters, but we can work to make sure that other like-minded people are registered and vote. More, starting from the local level, we can work to elect decent public representatives -- in every branch of our government, and at all levels.

Things can change. In fact, they absolutely will! The only question is if they will get better, or get worse. For they cannot stay the same.
I encourage DUers to become increasingly active in the 2014 election cycle. Starting now, if you already haven't. (If we take care on now/2014, we can be confident that we can deal with 2016 when we get there.) The Democratic Party should be finding common ground with the Democratic Left, and finding the very best candidates possible.

I'll be investing my time and energy in this. How far are you going to go?

Peace,
H2O Man

Re: Governor Chrispie

MSNBC has featured some high quality reporting on the "troubles" of New Jersey Governor Chrispie recently. The Chrispie scandals are similar in some manners to previous political scandals, both on the federal and various state crimes. Some of the DUers my age likely sense shades of the Watergate cover-up; others will think in terms of the Plame scandal; or perhaps, the cheaper corruption of Rod Blagojevich.

The New Jersey state republican party is using MSNBC's reporting as an excuse to raise funds. This is less to support Chrispie, and more about banking for the future. Those who claim that there is really nothing about the investigations of the governor, or that nothing has been proven, are either ignorant or damned liars. However, this is a tiny minority of republicans nationwide. Both the republican party's rabid wing (tea party) and corporate gentlemen will both exploit Chrispie's suffering for their own benefit.

And suffering there will be. Both the state and federal investigations are taking a similar approach. Generally, it is the same approach as used in the investigation of organized crime. One studies the possible crime or crimes in an orderly way. First, one considers the power structure being investigated. Materials are collected. Then, even when a high-profile person is suspect, you begin at the outside, or lowest levels, of the group.

You send them notice that you need a certain group of documents. If they cooperate, you interview them. If they refuse to cooperate, you inform them that you need specific documents. You do this based upon what you've already learned, with focus on the area that individual is most at risk. And you let them know you are going to need to talk to them.

There are, of course, more people at the lower levels than as you move up. They tend to be less invested in protecting the boss, or bosses. Once one begins to turn, more will. One must be patient, and investigate all those at lower levels; this provides a more solid base of evidence to be used at the second level.

Governor Chrispie will come to have little loyalty from the highest levels around him. When he did his press conference in January, he did more than throw a couple of them under the bus: he insulted them in a manner that precludes his being able to protect them. Even Nixon was publicly loyal to the aides he sacrificed to try to save himself. Hence, they tended to be loyal to him (except John Dean). It was VP Cheney who demonstrated that his loyalty to Scooter Libby paid off, for very few politicians deserve incarceration more than Cheney.

The national republican party will reject Chrispie by summer. Although he has reportedly raised funds in his current travels for other governors, it keeps him in far too high a profile. In the period between mid-summer and the fall elections, the republican party does not want his scandals being reported by the media. In time, like in previous scandals, people Chrispie has to listen to will quietly tell him that he needs to fade away.

Then, it will really be interesting.

Boxing: Very Good News!

ESPN's Friday Night Fights has arranged two interesting 8-man tournaments. One is in the lightweight division, the other is among welterweights. The tournaments will be held during February through May.

Older fight fans will recall that the WBA held an 8-man tournament in 1967-68, to replace Muhammad Ali as heavyweight champion. In all seven of the bouts, the underdog won. Ali's former sparring partner Jimmy Ellis won the WBA crown, which he eventually lost to Smokin' Joe Frazier.

In 1976, Don King promoted a tournament that tarnished the reputation of The Ring magazine, which had been known as "the bible of boxing." I know, I know: hard to believe that the Great Sport has had more than its share of corruption.

In recent years, Showtime held what started as a 6-man "round robin" tournament in the super middleweight division. Although the tournament was imperfect, it was not tainted with corruption. In fact, the eventual winner, Andre Ward, is one of the sport's most honorable men. More, he is widely recognized as the #2 pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport.

That tournament's popularity became a major factor in allowing Showtime to contract with the #1 fighter, Floyd Mayweather, Jr.; Floyd's leaving HBO for Showtime has had a very positive impact upon boxing promotions, with 2013 being the most competitive year the sport has had in a generation.

ESPN's Teddy Atlas has also worked to improve the quality of televised fights in recent years. Atlas is a favorite among the boxing community, because he is honest and willing to expose corrupt promoters, as well as incompetent officials (both referees and judges).

The upcoming tournaments feature good young contenders in two of boxing's better weight classes. These are not fighters from the "top ten" in their divisions, but are from the next tier. ESPN found guys who have the potential to be title contenders within a year's time, and this will not be limited to the eventual winner in each class. The exposure that each young man will get can provide them with top ten opportunities. And that's something that television can definitely help with.

Here are the lightweight contenders, as they will be matched in the opening round:

• Chris Rudd (12-1, 8 KOs) vs. Yakubu Amidu (22-4-1, 18 KOs).
• Fedor Papazov (14-0, 9 KOs) vs. Petr Petrov (32-4-2, 15 KOs)
• Miguel Gonzalez (22-3, 16 KOs) vs. Miguel Angel Mendoza (21-2-2, 21 KOs).
• Fernando Carcamo (15-5, 12 KOs) vs. Samuel Neequaye (21-0, 15 KOs).

And here are the middleweights:

• Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1, 6 KOs) vs. Willie Monroe Jr. (15-1, 6 KOs).
• Cerresso Fort (17-2-1, 11 KOs) vs. Vitalii Kopylenko (22-0, 12 KOs) of Ukraine.
• Brandon Adams (12-0, 7 KOs) vs. Daniel Edouard (23-4-2, 12 KOs).
• Raymond Gatica (13-1, 7 KOs) vs. Sena Agbeko (15-0, 15 KOs)

The initial bouts are scheduled for six rounds, allowing ESPN to broadcast all four on the same card. When the winners meet in the semi-finals, they will be eight round bouts. The finals of both divisions will be ten round fights, on the same card in May.
The middleweight semi-finals and the finals are being held at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York. I will, of course, be ringside.

While every one of the 16 young men are solid prospects, I am especially excited to see my friend Willie Monroe, Jr., in the middleweight mix. His great uncle holds a victory over Marvin Hagler. Willie is a slick boxer, who has benefitted from being in training camp with Roy Jones, Jr. In fact, Willie reminds me a lot of a young Roy. Plus, he's my youngest daughter's favorite fighter!

I'm looking forward to these fights, and think that you will enjoy them, too. I'll keep you updated with more information.

Hey, You

Our society is “at risk.” The reasons a legion. The chances that what has been known as the United States of America will remain much as it has -- say, for the past 50 years -- for the next 50 years is slim. There are relatively few people 50 or older who believe that this is the same country that they grew up in. Fewer yet believe that things are better today for the average citizen, or that we are, as a people, advancing in a positive direction.

There is, in psychology, a personality dynamic known as depersonalization. One can read the DSM-IV-TR for a description. The symptoms and experiences are, I suspect, not limited to individuals who identify enough of the cluster to be deemed to suffer from the condition. Further, I suspect that if enough bees in a hive experience some range of those symptoms and experiences, it might be worth considering depersonalization as a condition of that hive, rather than something unique to a limited number of bees.

If indeed depersonalization is a societal condition, we can and should look for biopsychosocial dynamics involved. These will tend to be similar to those in individual cases, but not necessarily limited to the exact same types of conditioning.

What will be “limited,” for the sake of this discussion, will be the biological factors. For example, many people use legal and/or illegal substances that are mood-alerting. That, of course, includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, alcohol, pot, and many more. Prescription medications are, when prescribed and taken correctly, a good thing. But there are enough individuals who are either prescribed medications they do not need, or who access those drugs illegally, that it certainly has an impact upon the beehive of American society.

Thus, “drugs” in general often serve as social novocaine. To borrow a saying from Minister Malcolm X, people numb the pain of their everyday existence. Just as novocaine allows a person to sit still while a dentist rips a tooth out of their mouth, social novocaine keeps people sitting quietly while a corrupt system steals the value of their being.

Two closely related psychological factors also play a role. These are self-efficacy, and locus of control. The first involves a person’s belief that they are capable of completing a given task. It is human nature for individuals to prefer to attempt tasks that they believe they can complete successfully. Success tends to be far more pleasant than failure.

The second involves if an individual believes that they have a significant degree of control over the important factors in their life. A person with an internal locus of control believes that they are primarily responsible for how they respond to various things – including those involving other people’s actions. Those with an external locus of control feel that they have little control over their lives, and take little responsibility for how they respond to others. In other words, some people deal with life with a positive attitude, while others believe they are mere victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Few of us are at either extreme in the locus of control bit. We tend to be somewhere in the middle. Likewise, few of us are so delusional as to believe that our level of self-efficacy would allow our individual efforts will change the course our nation is on. However, many people are hoping that a “leader” (or leaders) will come forth and bring forth answers to guide us safely into the future. This type of social/group external locus of control prevents “the masses” (or 99%) from realizing that it can only be by way of the combined efforts of all of us – including you and me – that can possibly result in the progress that we so desperately need to survive.

It’s late January, 2014. What do you, as an individual, plan to do? What groups, large or small, are you going to invest your time and energy in?

Peace,
H2O Man

Stepford Republicans

That was, in a very real sense, even funnier than the candy-cane flag guy, or the geek with the dry mouth.

Is that all they have? Really?????

Two Questions on the Great Divide

A couple of questions, to which there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. What I would appreciate, and what might lead to a worthwhile discussion, is your opinion.

We have important elections in 2014, which will set the stage for significant elections in 2016. I consider elections at all levels – local, state, and national – important each and every time they are held. But I do believe there is an urgency involved in the upcoming contests, that demands our full attention.

In my opinion, there are two general groups that have the potential to make meaningful advances in 2014 and ’16. Included are the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Left. The party includes progressives, liberals, moderates, and conservative democrats. The left includes progressive democrats, and those to the left of the party.

For sake of discussion, liberals tend to think that “the system” needs fine-tuning, in order to make it more capable of providing social justice. Progressives tend to believe the system needs a major overhaul. Thus, for example, while I am a life-long registered democrat, on the majority of important issues, I am convinced we need revolutionary change. I do not believe that anything less bodes well for our nation, or species.

The entirety of “the system” is so complex, that some of the dynamics and issues involved are relatively well-defined, while others are definitely not. For example, our opposition includes republicans (who may be relatives or neighbors), corporations, the numerous “-isms” that are entrenched (racism, sexism, dollarism, etc), and class warfare.

It also seems that the fact we can best confront these social ills by having a united front that includes the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left. Our opposition will apply as much pressure as possible to those areas where there has traditionally been splits between the two groups. More importantly, at least in my opinion, is that both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left have proven fully capable of dividing themselves into factions incapable of exercising their full political potential. (DU discussions on the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016 illustrate this quite clearly.)
Hence, my two questions:

First, what issue (or issues) provide the firmest regions for us to find “common ground”?

Second, what issue (or issues) provide the greatest area of disagreement, which could serve to divide us?


Again, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Your thoughts and contributions are most appreciated. Thank you!

Peace,
H2O Man

New Jersey & New Systems

"A chicken can't produce a duck egg. It has not the means nor the system within to produce a duck egg. In the same way the Capitalist system cannot produce freedom for a black man. It has not the means within to produce freedom, it has not the educational means, the political means, the legislative means. And if a chicken was to produce a duck egg, it would be considered a revolutionary chicken." – Malcolm X

A chicken can’t produce a Governor James “Chris” Christie egg, either. So, any attempt to identify what type of system produces a hoodlum-politician such as Christie, it’s safe to cross chickens off the list of suspects. Ducks, too.

Yesterday, while discussing the most recent corruption coverage about the republican party’s potential 2016 presidential candidate, a friend said, “It’s just New Jersey politics.” I really don’t agree with that. Perhaps he was partly correct, but attributing Christie’s behavior as being typical of New Jersey seems rather short-sighted to me. It is similar to the idea of “Chicago politics,” and the myth that Joseph Kennedy “bought” his son’s victory in Illinois in 1960, thus winning the presidency. It’s not so much that adherents to this fable are incapable of doing the math; rather, they don’t take the time to do it. And such shortcuts often add up to incorrect conclusions
.
My knowledge of New Jersey is limited, and pretty much to politics. In the late 1960s and ‘70s, the New Jersey Supreme Court was highly respected. It was described as not only the best state supreme court, but the best Supreme Court in the land. Interestingly, the state also had some of the most corrupt police and politicians in the country, too.

The state’s health department is, in many ways, superior to that in my state (New York). For example, the “acceptable” levels of contact with toxic industrial wastes such as trichloroethylene are lower than in New York. It’s not that New Yorkers are of a hardier stock, and less “at risk” from exposure to such poisons. Rather, the policies in New Jersey were based more on science, than corporate interests.

Not all of the science that has come out of New Jersey is good, of course. In a 1958 study of the state’s largest prison, Princeton University’s Gresham Stokes wrote, “Centers of opposition in the inmate population – in terms of men recognized as leaders by fellow prisoners – can be neutralized through the use of solitary confinement or exile to other state institutions. Just as the Deep South served as a dumping-ground for particularly troublesome slaves before the Civil War, so too can the mental hospital serve as a dumping-ground for maximum security prisoners” (“The Society of Captives”).

One can only speculate on how many members of the Christie administration may end up serving time behind bars, yet be sure that none will be the target of this type of behavior control. It’s not because their crimes are less serious than the run-of-the-mill inmate’s; instead, it is because New Jersey, like the rest of the United States, has distinct systems of justice for the rich and poor.

In recent history, the New Jersey judicial system that functioned below its State Supreme Court was significantly corrupt. This translated into not merely different standards for the wealthy, primarily white population, and the lower-income, non-white people, but gross corruption, as well. Official probes in Passaic County in the late 1960s- early ‘70s documented ties between (some) police, prosecutors, judges, and organized crime. They found “sentence-fixing” in cases that included narcotics, gambling, and homicide. Governor Hughes’ Commission on Civil Disorders documented police violence against the black and Hispanic populations. One member of the commission noted that the Paterson police force was “the worst in the state, possibly the worst in the country.”

That system was frequently incapable of rendering justice in high-profile cases. Three such cases stood out in the second-half of the 1960s. These included the murder of Judy Kavanaugh, of Gabriel “Johnny the Walk” De Franco, and the triple homicide that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was wrongly convicted of. The Kavanaugh and De Franco cases were closely related to narcotics and pornography; they involved characters identified as Phil the Gorilla, Steve the Greek, and Frankie T, all of whom were low-life, low-level mobster muscle. In the Kavanaugh case, the police and prosecutors used the testimony of a career-criminal in their attempt to convict four people; it was later proven that the four – who faced the electric chair – were not merely “not guilty,” but were totally innocent.

The Carter case is better known. As I had the opportunity to assist with Carter’s legal defense efforts, and have copies of the prosecutors’ and defense lawyers’ filings, as well as court rulings, I could focus on the legal questions that were only answered when the case left New Jersey, and was heard in the federal courts. Instead, I’d like to talk about a couple of lesser-known issues, as these are often the exact cause of injustice in America.

First, besides the four shooting victims in the bar in Paterson, and the two low-life, career criminals who saw parts of the horrible crime, there was a neighbor who saw the gunmen leaving the bar. He knew that Rubin Carter was not one of them; in fact, he knew exactly who they were. The lead investigator would opt to separate this witness from the case: there is no record of the lead investigator’s interview of him, and the defense was never notified by police or prosecutors that he existed.

Second, a police officer working under the lead detective would claim that he found two bullets in Carter’s car, which matched those used in the triple murders. Eventually, it was found this cop did not “log” these bullets until about a week after he claimed he found them. Then, it was found the two bullets did not match those used in the triple murder. Next, it was found they did match bullets used in a homicide from earlier on the night in question. The cop who claimed to have found the bullets in Carter’s car had been at the scene of the first murder. In fact, he collected and logged the bullets at that crime scene. And it was found that two bullets from this crime were missing from the police station’s evidence room.

While the defense was allowed to show that the lone survivor from the triple murder told police that it was not Carter and co-defendant John Artis who shot him, other related evidence was barred. The jury did not hear that the women who lived for a month after the shooting had identified the shooters to police; that police had been investigating the connection between organized crime and the shooting; or that police not only identified other suspects, but had jailed two men a couple of weeks after the murders.

A system that, among other things, introduces false evidence while suppressing actual evidence, is deeply flawed. It’s important to note that, in Carter’s case, it only took the covert actions of two police officers, to contaminate the case. Most of the other police and prosecutors assumed, based upon the “evidence,” that Carter and Artis were guilty. More, many of those same individuals would have their careers – in police work, judges’ benches, and state political office – enhanced by the case.

So the type of system that produces a James “Chris” Christie isn’t unique to New Jersey. It’s everywhere these days. It’s found where it takes but a few corrupt players, and where others will turn their heads, in order to avoid seeing the system being poisoned. Where citizens do not take a stance, because of anything ranging from indifference to ignorance to intimidation.These are system dynamics found in every community, and every state, and definitely in Washington, DC.

Unlike that chicken which Minister Malcolm spoke of, our system is not limited to producing but one type of egg. While it produces poisons that corrupt our society, it can also produce good. It produces corruption, yet it also, at times, produces social justice.

In my opinion, 2014 will be a pivotal year. I include the elections in the House and Senate, and at the state, county, and local level, as essential in determining if we add more poison, and more corruption, to the system ….or if we work, harder than we’ve ever worked before, to bring about positive change. Two things are required: creative tension, and personal sacrifice. For Democrats, part of that tension may come by way of primaries. For those in the Democratic Left, it may be in attempting to identify which candidates from the Democratic Party that you can break bread with. This process often produces tension between these two groups; this can be healthy, so long as common ground is recognized. One hand should wash the other.

It’s this simple: there is no other way.

Martin Luther King Day

I wasthe union vice president, and on the county workers' contract negotiating committee, when the topic of Martin Luther King Day was raised. I lived and worked in a conservative, rural upstate New York area, where the majority of the town supervisors serving on the county board were retired farmers, with small businesses in their respective communities. Most of them were of my father's generation, and as I sat in the negotiations, I remembered Dad warning me that they were tight with a dime.

Chenango County had the highest percentage of millionaires in the state, but it also had an extremely high rate of unemployment and poverty. County services were not only providing support for the lower economic class, but also at increasing rates for the middle class, which was being stressed by factory closings, and industries moving jobs out of the state. The Board of Supervisors resented the amount of tax dollars being invested in human services, and were intent upon expressing their outrage by insulting the union contract negotiators.

A gentleman who knew my father began questioning me: "So you're at mental health?" Yes. "Well, I figure that social workers are a dime a dozen." Oh, that's the good ones; the bad ones are far more expensive.

When the question of getting Martin Luther King Day was raised, another gentleman from the board of supervisors said, "I don't think we need that. There are many Negroes in Chenango County." What was stunning -- besides the fact that he said that -- was that he believed he was making a valid contribution to the discussion.

That was, of course, only part of the conflict that we faced. When there was no evidence of good will upon the board of supervisors' part, we increased the pressure. Although we could not go on strike, we began having marches around the County Office Building during our lunch breaks. We also attended all the board meetings. The local and regional media provided good coverage. I was asked to serve as our media spokesperson, a role that I rather enjoyed.

Eventually, we got a contract. It was not particularly good, but it did include the Martin Luther King birthday holiday. County employees have the day off tomorrow. I wonder how they will view the day. There has been quite a bit of turn-over in the twenty years since the contract negotiations that led to it being included as a holiday.

It really doesn't matter that the old republicans didn't understand why King's birthday should be a holiday celebrated by all Americans, including the white people in Chenango County. They were savages, inhabiting a frightening world of ignorance. But it does matter how the working class and the unemployed view the meaning of the day.

While we should honor Dr. King on the holiday, and consider the many achievements of his ministry, it is most important that we focus on how King can inspire us to attempt to bring about social justice today. We must confront today's savages and savagery. We will not have King's authority or talents, nor will we have his commitment to sacrifice for the causes we take up. But we can look inside, and identify what King's example can inspire us to attempt. And that, I believe, is the best way for us to honor the day.

Peace,
H2O Man
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