H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
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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.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Mar 8, 2016, 11:22 AM (25 replies)
“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!
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Mar 7, 2016, 02:40 PM (92 replies)
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.
Posted by H2O Man | Sun Mar 6, 2016, 04:00 PM (9 replies)
“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.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Mar 4, 2016, 09:36 PM (58 replies)
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 …..
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Mar 2, 2016, 10:12 PM (43 replies)
Systems are funny things. As everyone who has had the misfortune of reading my contributions here knows, I often compare various systems to a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib.The mobile’s objective is to maintain balance. Thus, if one piece moves, several others must adjust their position to maintain the balance. If a new piece is added to the mobile, all the other pieces must adjust, and a new balance be found.
Let’s consider some potential examples of fall shifting, as the November election approaches. Let’s say that Trump does not win the republican nomination. That leaves about 30% of the republicans angry. If, in this circumstance, Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate, he will get about half of those Trumps supporters, because they hold Washington in utter contempt. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, she will not get any of the Trump supporters’ votes.
Now, let’s consider another possibility. Suppose that Trump is the republican nominee. If Bernie is the Democratic nominee, he will defeat Trump. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, that could be a very closely contested election ….unless certain things shift.
As always, I’ll take a second to clearly identify my position. I support Bernie Sanders. Still, I have been clear that I will support the Democratic Party’s nominee in November. More, I will encourage my family, friends, and associates to do the same. However, because the majority of the people I hang with are either progressives in the Democratic Party or Democratic Left, I do not believe many will vote for any Democratic nominee other than Senator Sanders.
Indeed, I have attempted to communicate that to my friends who are supporting Hillary, both here on the internet, and in “real life.” For a variety of reasons -- and it doesn’t matter if one believes them to be valid or not -- it is evident that just as she has many people who support her, Ms. Clinton has high negatives. Obviously, she received a lot of negative attention from bat-shit crazy republicans in the 1990s. But it is equally obvious that this is distinct from the reasons why, over the past 16 years, lots of progressives have come to dislike her. And it would be very difficult to convince people who do not trust Hillary, who view her as part of Wall Street, to still vote for her.
I do not believe that those people who are running the Clinton campaign are stupid. They know that besides those who definitely support her candidacy, they will require another segment of the voting public to win. They must recognize that the old, “you have no where else to go” will not work in 2016. It’s not that any meaningful number of Sanders’s supporters would vote for Trump. That won’t happen. Rather, they will either cast a “third party” protest vote, or not vote at all.
Instead, it appears to me that the Clinton campaign is banking on something similar to what worked for Nixon and Reagan: getting votes from the opposition party. Many of us here recall Nixon’s “the Silent Majority,” or his southern strategy, and the “Reagan democrats.” And, seriously, if the November contest features Clinton vs. Trump, who will the Bush family be supporting? Who will Henry Kissinger endorse? Who will John McCain favor? And who will Goldman Sachs support?
I think that this model explains a lot of the curious features that we see today. The hostility and utter contempt that Team Clinton shows daily for the Sanders movement does not make sense in any other context. Two things have threatened the balance of the system: on the left, the Sanders movement, and on the right, the Donald Trumpsters. Hence, those with the most to lose hanging in the balance will tend to reinforce one another.
Now, whenever someone talks like I am here, and points out some things that the Clinton campaign prefers to ignore, there will be a few general responses. The first, of course, is to simply ignore it. Yet, as John Lennon noted, a conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words. Others, at the grass roots level, will simply say, “No, that’s incorrect” …..for they are largely unaware of the true nature of that mobile. Most of them would not consciously seek to promote a program that appeals more to republicans, than actual Democrats. And those at the upper levels of the Clinton campaign view it as holding promise that as President, Hillary Clinton could work effectively with republicans.
Again, these are the types of things that would make it very hard for a person like me to get friends and associates to vote for Hillary if she is the Democratic Party’s nominee, especially if she is competing against Donald Trump. It deflates the argument that there are really important differences between the two parties, at the top levels. If it was Clinton vs. Cruz, I could use the US Supreme Court for leverage. But that argument is far less compelling if it’s Hillary vs. Trump.
Hence, when I think about why the Clinton campaign treats the Sanders movement the way it does, I find that the idea that they are betting on Clinton vs. Trump in November -- with the republican machine quietly backing Hillary, makes the most sense. I find that unacceptable.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Mar 1, 2016, 12:50 PM (64 replies)
“It is absolutely necessary that rebellion find its reasons within itself, since it cannot find them elsewhere. It must consent to examine itself in order to learn how to act.”
-- Albert Camus; The Rebel
One of the areas where those of us supporting Bernie Sanders could benefit from discussing is how we call each take additional steps to advance our cause. Clearly, one of the most important parts of the Sanders revolution is the Democratic presidential primary. We are doing good, up to this point, and have reached the point that we can step it up to the next level.
I do not hesitate to discuss grass roots’ strategies here on DU:GDP. Although I do not believe that many of the forum’s Hillary Clinton supporters read my Ops, that isn’t a factor. As a matter of fact, it would be good for our party as a whole -- indeed, the nation -- if more of our friends who support Hillary were getting more people out to the voting booths on primary days. We all benefit from a large, active electorate …..just as the republican party benefits from the lowest possible voter turn-out.
I’m not concerned that republicans read the Democratic Underground, as Rush Limbaugh recently documented on his hate radio show. And, perhaps especially in primary seasons, it’s possible that a few “trolls” will show up, to try to stir the pot here. I know that a few journalists, including those doing research for the cable television news shows, read DU. More, there are community members who, as supporters of a specific candidate, then contribute to other blogs on the internet; one recently attacked another forum member’s recent OP, then linked to it in an OP, as evidence of how “bad” some Bernie supporters are.
These things happen. And, of course, they become increasingly common, when one side is uncomfortable with how the other side is doing. Politics ain’t a pillow fight. Still, it is a shame that the levels of acrimony are such that it could very well become a factor in November. In my opinion, our party faces the very real possibility of having a split impact the general election outcome, in a manner that could approach the 1972 contest …..when our party’s establishment -- the moderate and conservative Democratic leaders -- preferred to vote for Richard Nixon rather than the party’s nominee.
Now, one of the most impressive thing that I’ve seen recently has been when, no matter the outcome of an individual state’s primary or caucus, many here make yet another financial contribution to the Sanders’s campaign. That’s huge. It is, of course, the millions of “small” donations from common citizens, that allows Bernie to compete with a campaign financed by Wall Street.
Though many may not have the resources to donate money to the campaign, either on a regular basis or at all, there are many other ways to support the movement. Obviously, there are plenty of others here who can recommend options that I might never have thought of. But, because I have had quite a bit of experience in grass roots organizing and activism, I thought that I’d add a few things that I think are important.
To begin with, I believe in a political program that has been largely influenced by my exposure to the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America’s greatest socio-political theologist. He advocated the non-violent exercise of our constitutional rights and responsibilities. At times, he practiced the art of creative tension-building.
In my recent experience, in a four-county section of upstate New York, most of my efforts have centered around environmental issues. For years -- decades, really -- some of the villages, towns, cities, and counties therein haven had almost exclusively republican representation and rule. In this region, the majority of registered voters are republican; the second largest group is Independents; and last are registered Democrats. Among the Independents, there is a wide range, from tea partiers to Greens to socialist to environmentalists to libertarians.
As some here know, I’ve run a number of local candidates, by combining the local Democratic Party with the Democratic Left. And we won 80% of the elections. We elected, in one town, the first Democratic majority in office, ever.
In the one county where the long-time “leaders” refuse to break bread with the Democratic Left, and instead attempt to cut in on the republican votes instead, they continue to lose 100% of the time. Those “leaders” have endorsed the Clinton campaign.
The most urgent thing we need to concentrate energy on right now is getting voters out on primary day. There’s a lot of ways to help on this, in your state, and even those states around you. Make use of your local resources. The structure of the Sanders campaign is going to be different in various settings. What is available in a city is usually distinct from in a rural region.
Connecting the larger campaign issues with events in people’s day-to-day lives is essential. An example of that could be the poisoning of the water in Flint, Michigan. There aren’t any candidates who will openly say that this situation was okay, because it saved money, while campaigning openly. But, behind closed doors, most of the current presidential candidates favor fracking, and other energy corporation operations that exploit the environment, and poison drinking water supplies. Bernie Sanders is the sole exception.
Here is a link to a report from last week, regarding the drinking water in Binghamton, NY:
Our job is to expand the public’s awareness of the connection between this type of situation, and the current election. We present the Sanders revolution as a glass of sparkling clean water; the opposition as a glass contaminated with corporate sludge. When we do so, we can be confident that people thirsting for real change will make the right choice.
In 2012, I wrote a booklet on effective grass roots community organizing. As there are lots of new DU community members active here, I will again provide a link to it:
We are in a really good position now …..much better than we might have anticipated, or hoped for. Our opposition will continue to try to frame it as a hopeless battle. This is because, by and large, they have lost hope for a better future for everyone. Our mission is to keep hope alive, and to spread it across this nation.
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:20 AM (32 replies)
One of the most interesting phenomenon of the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential primary contest is the tension between the manner that supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton view the process. I say this, not in an attempt to present it as “right vs. wrong,” as the differences are ones of opinion, after evaluating the same basic materials.
As a Bernie supporter, who will vote for the party’s nominee, I understand that -- for example -- I view the Clinton campaign’s refusal to release the transcripts from her talks to Goldman Sachs much differently than do my friends who support Hillary. We look at the same general set of facts, and come to very different conclusions.
And that’s okay. There is no good reason for the growing hostilities that exist between the supporters of each candidate. There are very real differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Those differences include what each one would seek to if elected. More, these differences will determine the outcome of the presidential election in November.
In my opinion, the biggest difference between the two candidate’s supporters is this: there is a Clinton campaign versus a Sanders movement. Just my opinion, nothing more. I suspect that more of the DU community that supports Bernie would agree, though, than those supporting Hillary.
One reality that both camps share is that no person, no matter how intelligent and insightful, can properly judge the historic significance -- and ultimate value -- of a movement, while it is happening. That is distinct from a campaign: we know the results of elections shortly after they are held -- unless the machine decides to interfere, as in 2000. But, even then, we knew within a short time who won, and that the US Supreme Court was overturning the outcome.
Both campaigns and movements can represent what is good in our political life. There comes times when each are appropriate. And, at their peak of potential, each can coordinate with the other. But even then, the true impact of a movement will be impossible to fully judge at the time. Specific gains can be measured, but the sum total cannot. Let’s look at few relatively recent movements, and take an objective view of their worth.
In the lifetime of the “baby-boomer” generation, we have seen the civil rights movement; the anti-war movement; the women’s movement; rights for the disabled movement; gay and lesbian rights movement; the anti-nuke movement; the environmental movement; and, most recently, the Occupy movement. Although these may appear diverse, they all share a common goal: to expand social justice, by recognizing the human rights of people who were marginalized by society. More, while they provide safety and protections for human beings, they did not infringe upon the rights of others in any manner whatsoever.
They have more in common, my friends. In virtually every case, they faced the opposition of an entrenched group, who were intent upon denying others their human rights. More, they had to deal with an even larger group of people who may have been sympathetic to their cause, in theory, but who were convinced that “now is not the time.” Friends who believed the activists wanted too much progress, too soon. The best example of this can be found in the clergy who, from the comfort and luxury of their homes, told Martin Luther King that they were with him as he sat in the dark in dreary cell in the Birmingham jail, but that he needed to slow down. To be patient.
I suppose is it easier to be patient, when you are comfortable. And so it would make sense to support a campaign that promises to extend your comfort level, especially in uncomfortable times. Yet, for those who are denied those “comforts,” it would seem self-defeating to merely campaign. And when the numbers of those that society pushes outside the margins becomes, as it is today, a majority, a campaign is not as attractive as a movement.
The Occupy movement showed the beauty and power of this. It highlighted the insanity of allowing the 1% to exercise “majority rule” in this country. Occupy put into effect a simple truth of movements: if you want people to behave differently, you must first help them to think differently. And that’s the proper place for patience. But, on the flip side, with that patience must come creative tension.
The Sanders movement (aka Sanders revolution) was, at first, incorrectly perceived as a “pipe dream” by the Democratic Party’s establishment. Surprise, surprise! As Bernie stated, “Do not underestimate me.” Yet the establishment, including those organizing the Clinton campaign, absolutely underestimated Bernie Sanders, because they viewed his challenge as coming from an intelligent, sincere man who has inhabited the margin of the US Senate. The Clinton campaign had not hired a weatherman to tell them which way the winds blow.
One example of this, in my opinion, can be found in the actions of an honorable man, Rep. John Lewis. I consider him a hero. He was a powerful member of the civil rights movement, who used advances in voting rights, to become a voice of conscience in Washington, DC. He was -- and is -- the type of human being that we want in government. For we want decent, honorable people inside of the government’s establishment.
Yet, some of the tactics he used in initially endorsing Hillary were wrong. That doesn’t mean he is less than a hero. It means, rather, that years within the establishment can influence most people’s values. Like many other good people, Rep. Lewis believes that we are better served by a campaign, than a movement. I’d like him to listen to Neil Young’s song, “Old Man.” Because in his younger days, he, too, heard some of his elders say that “now is not the time for a movement.”
By treating the Sanders movement as if it were simply another campaign, I believe that those in the Clinton campaign will do so much damage that it risks the fall election. As I’ve noted, based upon general elections coming down to states, I am fully confident that Bernie Sanders will win against any republican. But I do not think that Hillary would be in the same position. She might well win, but it will be a tougher fight. And among the reasons for that is the old Democratic Party belief that progressives have nowhere else to go. That tends to be true in campaign contests, but not so for movements.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Feb 26, 2016, 09:07 PM (121 replies)
“There’s Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs.”
-- John Lennon; Nobody Told Me
This past weekend, I was talking with some young adults, who will be eligible to vote for the first time, about presidential campaign history. While I assume that most of them have been aware of “politics” before reaching the age of 18, there is no question in my mind that they are passionately engaged in learning much more about how the system is intended to work …..as well as how it actually works.
Now, in the context of my participation on DU:GDP, community members know that I am a firm supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. More, that I have been clear that I will definitely vote for our party’s nominee in November. Still, for the sake of conversation, I should acknowledge that the voters that I was speaking with are all supporting the Sanders’s revolution. But I hope that this OP will nevertheless be of interest to everyone on this forum.
A number of events in two of the three Democratic primaries have concerned these young adults. The specific events are being discussed on the internet, and not surprisingly, these young people at a level of using technology far beyond my own; hence, they have more of the specific information than I do -- just as here on DU, younger folks do.
However, one of the few advantages of being old is having experienced previous elections, and remembering previous controversial campaign activities. When people of my generation hear about certain behaviors, for example, we’re likely to look at one another, and say, “Rat-fuckers!” This is in reference to programs such as were made famous by the “Committee to Re-Elect the President” (CREEP) in 1972.
Even as recently as 2004, as I wrote about on this forum at the time, I was contacted the morning following a break-in at a “Kerry for President” Democratic Party headquarters in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA. Volunteers from a NYS social workers’ union were assisting in running that office, and they immediately contacted me. I asked if they had called the police and press? They had not. I told them that they needed to do so, They said they were afraid to. Think about that.
Such break-ins were also modus operandi of the Nixon team. There were far, far more than documented in the series of crimes commonly known as “Watergate.” More, the corruption of that era wasn’t limited to break-ins, I told these young adults. To show how obscene the republican party was, I spoke of California businessman Robert J. Walter’s role: he funneled White House campaign funds to the head of the Nazi party, to gain their active support for President Nixon’s re-election (see pages 306-308 of the Senate Watergate Report).
What was the consequence of Walter’s slimy activities? He would be rewarded with influence within the Reagan administration, which actually set the bar higher for corruption than did the Nixon gang. This “businessman” -- a petty mobster with ties to the Nazi party -- would influence our nation’s economic policies under Reagan. You can’t make this shit up, I told these university students.
When they asked about the connections between government and organized crime, I recommended that they research two examples. The first, not surprisingly, was the vice presidency of Richard Nixon, specifically concerning the role of the mob and US policy towards Cuba. But, because that may seem like ancient history, I added a more recent example.
Most people are somewhat aware of the case of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. He was, of course, a sociopath who ruled the Boston underworld for decades. His legend is that he was assisted by one corrupt FBI agent, who he served as an informant for. A recent CNN documentary tells a far more troubling story. Bulger was never an FBI informant. Rather, he employed numerous FBI agents, including some at high levels, as well as a handful of influential Justice Department employees. These government employees, who “earned” salaries of tax-payers’ money, were also employed by Bulger, who paid them higher salaries.
The number of individuals who worked for Bulger first, and for the government second, was so large, that the US Department of Justice refused to address this in Bulger’s recent trial. Indeed, as CNN documented, the Justice Department withheld, and then altered, official documents that indicated how corrupt their system was.
This is, obviously, an extreme example. But if federal government employees can be bought by organized crime, one can reasonably ask what amount of influence can Wall Street buy? And if men like Mr. Walters, with ties to the Nazi party (as documented by the US Senate) works with the Nixon and Reagan administration in setting economic policy, might we not want to reconsider what defines “organized crime?”
The CNN documentary shows that for decades, Bulger knew that he would not be indicted by the federal government, no matter what crimes he committed. None of the Wall Street gangsters responsible for the 2008 economic melt-down were ever prosecuted. Is that perhaps a pattern? Or merely the long arm of coincidence, wrenching itself out of its socket?
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Feb 23, 2016, 10:28 AM (71 replies)
I am 100% pleased with Bernie Sanders’s showing today in Nevada. Obviously, I would have been happier if he had won the contest by a few percentage points. And I’d get out of this chair, and dance an Irish jig if he had won by more than 10%. But he did not. So, on one hand, I congratulate the Clinton supporters; on the other hand, in the context of a political insurgency, I know that we have done much better today than necessary, in terms of continuing this struggle.
An insurgency is, of course, a fight against the an established form of government. While throughout my entire adult life, as a registered member of the Democratic Party, I have voted for the Democratic candidate in literally every presidential election. Yet, in these same years, I have witnessed our party’s leadership move so far to the right, that many Democratic politicians today that they would have been accurately viewed as conservative republicans in the past.
I believe that the insurgency, which is represented by Bernie Sanders today, is the healthy response to the class warfare that the 1% has systematically engaged in over the past fifty years. In this sense, I am reminded of Minister Malcolm X’s saying that the difference between some Democrats and republicans is the difference between a fox and a wolf. The fox smiles to your face, but attacks you from behind; while the wolf always makes it clear that he is your enemy.
I appreciate that many good people on this forum are happy that Hillary Clinton won today’s contest. I know that they are sincere in their belief that Hillary is the better candidate. That they support her does not surprise, nor bother me. We look at pretty much the same facts and circumstances, and come to different conclusions. I like and respect them as much as I did before the 2016 primaries began, last year.
I understand why they assume that today’s results would be discouraging for Bernie’s supporters. Indeed, these results would signify “defeat” for an establishment candidate. But that is a very different metric, than the one used to measure victory for an insurgency. And since by definition, an insurgency always begins as a minority effort, relatively few people understand the on-going goal of the insurgents’ efforts.
As a non-violent, pro-constitutional democracy insurgents, we do not need to “win” every time we engage the opposition. Rather, state-by-state, we are changing the public’s perception of the contest . It’s not the same as what’s happening in the republican primary, for their “rebel” is a billionaire who requires that his followers NOT think. Our insurgency is rooted in people thinking for themselves.
A clear sign of our success is found when the opposition increases its attacks. In every instance, we should be using each attack as an opportunity to engage in a conversation, both with our opposition, and with the greater public. In order to achieve positive results, we need to remain positive. For we are engaged in a historical struggle, part of a long tradition in this country.
It’s related to the great insurgent movements including Gandhi’s in India, and King’s in the USA. It is in the tradition that the democratically-inspired among the Founding Father’s encouraged. And it ties in with Jim Morrison singing, “Five to one, Baby, one in five.”
Posted by H2O Man | Sat Feb 20, 2016, 10:47 PM (205 replies)