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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 51,951

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Voices in the Wilderness

“For those who want America to one day be the great nation it once was, it can hardly do this if it doesn’t take the first step of bringing those responsible for the war in Iraq to justice.”
-- Vincent Bugliosi; The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder; Vanguard Press; 2008; page 13.


Between logging on to DU:GD numerous times throughout the night, I re-read Bugliosi’s book on prosecuting Bush et al for murder. The outrage I saw here regarding torture was mirrored in that powerful book. The same passion for justice is found in each. Perhaps the only surprising thing is that Bugliosi frequently uses even stronger language than the average D.U.er to describe his utter contempt for George W. Bush.

This morning, after again reading through DU:GD, and the numerous OP/threads regarding the Cheney-Bush administration and torture, I was struck by the number of posts that took a defeated position -- “yes, the torture policy and its execution were criminal, but there will be no legal consequences.” I understand that thinking -- yes, I do -- and cannot argue that it is irrational or not logical. Yet, I believe that we must fight to hold Bush, Cheney, etc accountable, not because we may or may not win, but because they are war criminals who are responsible for committing horrible crimes against humanity.

Vincent Bugliosi, like every good prosecutor, knows that it is not possible to arrest, try, and convict certain criminals for the “top” crime (or crimes) they have committed. We saw this with Scooter Libby. But it is possible to bring charges relating to that “top” crime, and get a conviction. So let’s put on our DU prosecutorial hats for a few minutes, and ponder our options.

We know that President Obama and his administration are not going to pursue any criminal charges against Cheney and Bush. Although the Senate report proves beyond a reasonable doubt they committed war crimes, and Bugliosi’s book proves beyond any doubt that they committed murder, the administration doesn’t want to risk having the republicans in DC obstructing President Obama in his final two years. We certainly don’t want that, now, do we?

However, as Bugliosi documents in his book, any District Attorney in the United States can file charges of murder against Bush et al. As long as some man or woman from the DA’s region was killed in Iraq, they can file those charges. And one of the damned shames about that war is that this country has forgotten those who died in Iraq -- including our soldiers, and thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.

It would seem less likely that, DU on its own, has the juice to convince a DA (even one with a strong conscience) to pursue this. Yet we do have options. Earlier in the year, for example, Bill Maher attempted to use his HBO show “Real Time” to “flip” a congressional district. While this effort was not successful in terms of flipping the district, it was an important exercise of political muscle. It would be foolish to abandon that option, simply because it was 100% successful. Indeed, the only thing that is 100% for sure is that if we don’t try, we definitely won’t accomplish anything. And that is exactly what the real enemies of democracy are hoping for, and counting on: that we will not even try.

Now, I’m not saying that Bill Maher is the perfect vehicle for trying to find a DA with conscience. Nor am I suggesting that he is not. Rather, I’m using his recent effort as a model that we could use. If the DU community were to put our minds together, and engage in a letter-writing campaign to someone like Maher, we might get a response. Maybe he’d have Mr. Bugliosi on as a guest to discuss the Senate report, and the possible prosecution of Cheney and Bush, etc.

The most important question at this time is: What do you think?

I’m just one person, and I think it’s definitely worth making an attempt. Being an American citizen should mean something. We have rights and responsibilities. And I think we are responsible for saying that these crimes were not committed in our names, and that we aren’t okay with overlooking them. That the criminals must be held responsible, and have consequences for crimes such as torture and murder.

I also know that when the DU community lobbies individuals in the legal system, it gets noticed.

Thank you for your consideration.
H2O Man

Prosecute Cheney & Bush

The following is from an interview that I did with Chief Paul Waterman, of the Onondaga Nation, shortly after 9/11:

Q: President Bush has referred to the “evil doers.” What do you think about this?

CPW: Well, he’s the same way. Those people in Afghanistan are poor and miserable. They suffer when bombs kill their parents, and they hurt when bullets kill their children. So, even if Bush believes what he is doing is right, he has to commit evil acts to achieve his goal.

But he can’t stop. The other guy won’t. And when they kill bin Laden, someone else will take his place.



Like everyone on this forum, I was horrified by the information released in the US Senate’s investigation of torture. While I doubt that any of us were surprised that the torture was worse than what was previously known, I am stunned by attempts to justify what happened.

I find the attempts to justify torture, the claims that it was a “patriotic” response to terrorism, even more offensive than the attempts to keep the public from learning the truth about the policies of the Cheney-Bush administration. Attempts to keep this information secret are cowardly, unpatriotic, and shameful. Yet, in a real sense, they are admissions that the torture was evil.

It’s no coincidence that the two individuals who are most intent upon not merely justifying the torture, but defining it as patriotic, are none other than Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. Their smug self-righteousness is no different than that of the most sinister, psychopathic mass murderers, in attempting to justify their acts by blaming others.

This nation had problems before Cheney and Bush were selected by the US Supreme Court in 2000. In his autobiography, Malcolm X quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who noted that the United States was created from, and built upon, the violent abuse of Indians and Africans. Of course, other minority groups have had trials and ill treatment. But those two examples are important in helping us understand not only what went wrong in the distant past, but can be applied to help Americans to understand many of the problems that we continue to face today.

It’s not a coincidence, for example, that a nation that invests in torture of enemies abroad, would also begin to rapidly militarize its domestic police forces. I remember when I was a teenager, hearing basketball legend Bill Russell say, “Use care in selecting those who you hate, for they are the very people you risk coming most closely to resemble.” Listening to former president talk about torture, I could almost believe that he really thought it was right.

“Almost believe,” though, because of something that my other mentor told me.I’ve been fortunate to have both Chief Waterman and Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for teachers. And Rube had, in his capacity as an opponent of capital punishment, met with then-governor George W. Bush, of Texas. He told me that he found Bush to be a repulsive human being, who delighted in having the “power” to send people to the electric chair. Rubin described Bush as becoming “giddy” when discussing the horrors of the chair. He asked me, “Do you know what that ‘W’ in his name really stands for? It’s for ‘death.’ His name is George Death Bush.”

(Another family friend, who was central in attempts to improve services for troubled youth in NYS, had been hired to assist Texas in a similar way. Her programs were very effective, in both costs and outcome. She enjoyed working with the governor of Texas, until Bush took office. She also describes him as a cruel, hateful human being.)

In order to change behavior -- be it an individual teenager or a country -- there is obviously a need for information. The public has to be informed. Thus, even though we have only been given access to a review of the Senate investigation of torture, it’s a significant start. But it is only a start. Again, to change behavior, there have to be consequences. This includes rewarding good behavior, and punishing bad behavior.

More, in order for the general public to maintain faith in the system, it is essential that the top dogs do not get a free pass, and avoid all responsibility for their misdeeds. And it is rather clear that the top dogs in the Cheney-Bush administration have been given that free pass thus far. Their list of misdeeds includes torture, the war in Iraq, the Plame scandal, and many others. In this case, the failure to prosecute is consent.

In his 2008 book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” Vincent Bugliosi presented a strong case for prosecuting Bush et al. That book still holds up extremely well. When we add the war crimes of torture, it is evident that the top tier of that administration has to have legal consequences for their crimes. Anything less makes a mockery of our justice system.

Boxing: Dec 11 - 13

Thursday, December 11, on ESPN:
Austin Trout vs. Luis Grajeda, junior middleweight; 10 rounds.

Friday, December 12, on Showtime:
Erislany Lara vs. Ishe Smith, for Lara’s WBA junior middleweight title; 12 rounds.

Saturday, December 13, on Showtime:
Devon Alexander vs. Amir Khan, at welterweight, 12 rounds,

And on HBO:
Timothy Bradley vs. Diego Chavez, at welterweight, 12 rounds.


This week offers the boxing community a number of high-quality fights. I’ve only listed the “main events” on each of these four televised bouts, although the under cards will also feature quality competition, as well. More, the best fights are all in two of the best weight classes; the fact that the sport’s two most dominant fighters -- Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao -- are active in these weights and nearing retirement, makes all of these bouts significant.

(Note: Keith Thurman defends his welterweight “title” on the Alexander vs. Khan undercard, against Leonard Bundu. Most experts recognize Thurman as one of the most talented young contenders today. He could definitely compete with any of the guys in the main events. In fact, I would tend to favor him over Pac Man if they were to meet in 2015. And I think he could cause Mayweather serious problems by 2016.)

Austin Trout was the undefeated WBA junior middleweight champion, going into what was then his biggest fight: Miguel Cotto, at Madison Square Garden. Cotto, who ranks among the all-time greats, had never lost a fight at the Garden, and was coming off a competitive loss to Floyd Mayweather. But Trout would handle Cotto convincingly, and win a lop-sided decision on that night in December of 2012.

In 2013, Trout would lose two fights in a row: first, to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, then to Lara, both by decision. He was also floored in each of those fights. He took the next eight months off, before coming back to decision a journeyman -- fringe contender. ESPN televised that bout, in which Trout was floored twice in the third round.

When my son and I have talked with Austin Trout, he comes across as a highly intelligent and polite gentleman. On Thursday, he faces a hard-punching opponent, with inferior ring skills. It will be interesting to see if the southpaw Trout is able to outpoint Grajeda, and remain upright and strong for ten full rounds. (I suspect that Trout may need to move up in weight in 2015).

The Lara vs. Smith bout is the only one that threatens to be boring to all but boxing purists. Lara is very talented in the Cuban style of “hit and don’t get hit” boxing. Smith is capable, but not compelling, in the ring. I expect Lara to win by decision in a fight that causes few to call for a re-match.

Alexander and Khan are both very talented ex-champions, with the ability to compete against any fighter their size. Both are fast with their hands and on their feet, and are talented boxer- punchers. While Alexander has shown the stronger chin, both have panicked when under real pressure in the past. On paper, it is a very close fight; while I’d prefer to see Devon win, Amir seems a bit more likely to pull out the victory.

By far the most interesting fight of the week will be Bradley vs. Chavez. In fact, this could easily turn out to be the most intense fight of 2014, and is sure to please any sports fan who enjoys watching toe-to-toe slugfests. Bradley, the former junior welterweight and welterweight titlist, is coming off his first professional loss; after winning a disputed decision over Manny Pacquiao in June of 2012, he lost to Pac Man last April.

But it was his two fights in between the Pacquiao bouts that probably shed more light on what we can expect from Tim on Saturday. He easily out-boxed Juan Manuel Marquez in October of 2013, in a slow-paced battle between two counter-punchers. But seven months before that, he had won a very close decision over tough Ruslan Provodnikov. In that fight, the referee blew the call on at least one early knockdown that would have reversed the decision. Bradley was decked in the 12th round, and barely made it to the final bell. (It was later revealed that Tim suffered a serious concussion in the fight, which impacted his speech for several months.) It was clearly the 2013 Fight of the Year.

Chavez is a good aggressive boxer, who has extreme punching-power. He only has two loses on his record: a 10-round knockout lose to Keith Thurman in the summer of 2013, in his first bout on the big stage; and a DQ loss to Brandon Rios last June. Chavez was actually thrashing Rios, and the referee, Vic Drakulich, made the worst call of his career by disqualifying Chavez -- for undisclosed reasons -- in the 9th round. (Although I generally like Vic, I am convinced that he disqualified Chavez because he knew the promoter wanted Rios to “win” by any means necessary. The kindest thing that I can say was that Vic’s call was criminal.)

Although Bradley is physically very strong, he lacks even average punching power. Hence, he may out-box Chavez for three rounds, but the fight will definitely become more intense by the middle rounds. More, both fighters are fully capable of fouling their opponents: Bradley has long used his head to butt like a billy goat; and Chavez, while wrestling on the inside, throws purposely low blows. So this one surely will not resemble a pillow fight.

Many in the boxing community -- myself included -- question the wisdom of Bradley picking Chavez for his next fight. Sure, he can and should win on Saturday. But a victory over Chavez does little to promote his career. If he were able to make it a boxing clinic, it won’t make Tim a “must see” challenger for a title shot. If, on the other hand, Bradley fights to win fans -- exactly why he opted to slug with Provodnikov -- he risks far more than a loss. Chavez has concussive power, and the sad reality is that Bradley has already suffered an unacceptable amount of damage to his brain. That’s the worst part of the Great Sport -- far worse than losing a bad decision, or having a Don King steal your earnings.

Enjoy the fights!

"Hard Choices"

I called my friend while she was working at the library, and asked her if she could pick out something new for me to read. When I stopped by, she had selected two options: the first was a book about Antonin Scalia, the other was Hillary Clinton’s newest book. My friend knows that I do read books either by or about scoundrels such as Richard Nixon, and that my children think it’s a giggle to listen to me argue with various books, so she thought I might favor the Scalia book. But, actually, I prefer the Clinton book at this time.

I live in rural, upstate New York, not that far from where Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan lived. Everyone knew that if you had business with him, be sure to conduct it before noon. For Moynihan suffered from the Irish flu, and during afternoons and evenings, he was frequently dealing with the symptoms. He was a curious man -- he had served presidents in the 1960s and ‘70s, before becoming a US Senator. But for a flaw, he would have been considered presidential material.

Of course, he authored a controversial study on black families, and became identified with the neoconservative movement. He also proved quite capable of not only working for a republican president, but -- more importantly -- working with him, because their agenda was the same. Thus, it wasn’t bipartisanship; it was shared values. Although a young Pat Moynihan had identified his value system as being “democratic,” by middle age he recognized that at the top level, party identification was largely a game to be played.

I have had the chance to meet Ms. Clinton. I saw her in Oneonta, after she announced that she was running for Moynihan’s seat in the Senate. A few years later, I met her in Sidney, after a private meeting she had with a couple town officials and the head of a regional energy executive. The press, from national to local, covered the first event; no press at all had been invited to the second.

There was never any serious question about if I would support Ms. Clinton’s efforts to become a US Senator. I had long found her to be a far more likable human being than her husband. In 2000, I assumed that with Al Gore being elected president, that having Clinton represent my state in the Senate would be a huge plus, in terms of creating a national health care policy. And, other than one vote -- the one that granted Dick Cheney and his sidekick the authority to illegally and immorally invade Iraq -- I believed she had adequately represented our state in DC. Still, I’ve always wondered exactly what she and the energy executive discussed in Sidney, in that meeting that both declined to comment upon.

In the early 2008 Democratic Primary season, I tried to keep an open mind. By late 2007, it had become evident that the Democratic Party had a number of qualified candidates, while the republican party had virtually none. In many ways, I favored Senator Joe Biden, who I believe is an honorable man, despite the fact that he is a career politician. However, two other candidates offered the possibility of having either a women or a brown-skinned man elected to the highest office in the land.

To be certain, neither genitals nor pigment define an individual’s ethical standards. Maggie Thatcher and Clarence Thomas come to mind as examples of individuals who stand in direct opposition to what I consider necessary for holding positions of responsibility. And John McCain, in a desperate hour, would select Sarah Palin as his choice for VP, in a move that would make Bush the Elder’s choice of Danny Quayle appear statesman-like in contrast.

In the years since President Obama took office, the public would learn more about Hillary Clinton. This has been primarily because, rather than stay in the Senate, she agreed to serve as the Secretary of State. It is that experience that this book, “Hard Choices,” is about. If her years as First Lady and Senator provided a view of her positions on domestic issues, the years as Secretary of State provide insight on her beliefs on foreign policy.

Obviously, any book such as this will contain a lot of fluff -- things like the pride the author takes in the red, white, and blue, etc. And, when the author is considering running for office in the future (as opposed to definite retirement), it’s likely to influence how the book is written. Still, such books have value, and this one does make for a fun and valuable read.

Hillary Clinton is a unique character in American politics. She offers her supporters far more than simply being female. In terms of substance -- intelligence and experience -- she is obviously a thousand times more qualified to be considered for president than Sarah Palin. Yet, at this point in time, I am hoping that the Democratic Party puts forth a variety of candidates in the upcoming 2016 primary season.

What I think would be interesting here would be if people would answer three questions:

Do you want Hillary Clinton to be the 2016 candidate for president?
What do you believe is her greatest strength?

No matter if you support or oppose Hillary Clinton for president, it is important to recognize that all politicians have both strengths and weaknesses. I’m hoping for a meaningful discussion; in other words, avoiding the “so you’d prefer Mitt Romney?” or “she’s a corporate tool!” shallows. (Note: expansions on these, such as the ability to pick Supreme Court nominees and/or specific corporate ties could add to the discussion.)

Thanks,
H2O Man

News Report

There are two videos with this report:

http://www.wbng.com/news/local/Guzy-pleads-not-guilty-to-murder-284876781.html

So Far, So Good!

Court went well this morning. John Guzy’s attorney did not make a request for bail to be set. He did, however, reserve the right to ask for it in a future hearing (he has 45 days to do so).

We had a good turn-out of family and friends. There was also a lot of media; I should have a few links to post later today.

One of Guzy’s daughters did attend the hearing. I feel no animosity towards her, or the rest of her family -- except, obviously, her father. I feel sorry for them, for Guzy’s violence damaged their lives, too. (I did say, to folks outside the court, that she probably was tempted to join us in opposing that this guy ever gets out.)

My cousin continues to have serious medical issues. One of his lungs has recently begun to fill with fluid. Back to the doctor's this afternoon.

I wore the tie-clip that Robert F. Kennedy handed out on the steps of the Chenango County Court in the late summer of 1964, during his campaign for the US Senate. There’s a lot of history that has been made at the beautiful building. I do wish that my family wasn’t involved in this chapter. But we are all living in a strange time. There’s so much anger, fear, and pain these days. The DU community took a stance against that today.

Now, I've got to try to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Again, thank you!
Pat

Thank you, DU!

As I am preparing for tomorrow morning’s court hearing, I want to again thank all of you who have supported my family and I since the 10-27 shootings. And I speak for my cousin, his daughter, his siblings, nieces and nephews, and his parents. The District Attorney has also asked that I convey his thanks, as well. By 48 hours ago, the public response -- phone calls, letters, and e-mails -- had already been the most that Chenango County has ever received, on any case. And 100% of these provided the same message: no bail for John Guzy.

Anyone here familiar with my rants over the years, knows that I am fascinated by the workings of “systems.” Having said that, I want to briefly note a couple of discussions that I’ve read here recently. They were focused on if the Democratic Underground was fading into insignificance. Now, granted, I am but one cranky old man, and my opinion is of no more value than any other individual’s. But in light of the fact that the DU community stepped up, for no reason other than their beliefs in the need for social justice, and more than tripled the previous record for statements on a legal case in Chenango County …..I think it speaks loudly about just how significant this forum is.

This case is, of course, related to the many others that now infect our culture with hatred, racism, and violence. Guzy is a retired NYC cop, and had indeed just finished a shift as a sheriff’s deputy. In fact, he had left work furious, because he was required to work a 12-hour shift, rather than a regular 8-hour shift. As one of my good friends noted, he was going to kill someone that day, and my cousin and his son were the first people he encountered.

This case is unlike many of the others currently in the news, in that the victims were not black. Yet I can relate to those -- as can my family -- if only from a 1998 incident where a racist hate gang savagely attacked my nephew. This took place in the same town where the shootings occurred. One of the Assistant District Attorneys advocated prosecuting the case as exactly what it was -- attempted murder. Seventeen thugs attacked a high school student, because they were enraged that a brown-skinned youth was getting state-wide press, recognizing him as a top scholar-athlete. They left him for dead in a dark field.

The DA opted to charge the gang leader, who admitted that he had punched and kicked his unconscious victim in the head, at least 12 times, with a misdemeanor. When the ADA introduced testimony that the gang leader had called my nephew a “dumb nigger” (among other things), the (in)Justice of the Peace said -- in open court -- “Well, I don’t believe that indicates that ‘race’ played any role in this.” Then what the heck did it indicate? I remember the disgust I felt for this man, when he rendered his decision -- a $50 fine, for having an open beer at the time of the assault.

When I see people who are outraged by the legal system’s frequent refusal to hold violent criminals responsible for their crimes, I understand it. Oh, yes I do. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have thoughts about going after the men who inflicted permanent physical damage on my nephew. Non-violence was not my first nature, and those days sorely tested my attempt to live a peaceful life. It would have been easy -- very, very easy, indeed -- to react in a most violent manner.

Even today, I have periods where I wrestle with feelings of hatred for John Guzy, because he seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. He did a lot more damage to my family and our friends than “merely” shooting two men. I cannot describe how difficult it is to see my 84-year old aunt, and 86-year old uncle, suffering as a consequence of Guzy’s violent outburst. It would be easy for me to hate, and to feel justified in doing so.

But I will not. For if we are to change these systems that our lives experience daily, we must stop the violence and hatred. We have to rise above that, and identify the higher ground that is found in human potential.

So again, I want to thank each and every one of you who has supported me in recent weeks. It is much appreciated. And, if not before, then I look forward to talking with you tomorrow afternoon.

Peace,
H2O Man

Update: Road Rage (important)

Last week, I asked the DU community to contact the Chenango County District Attorney’s Office, to express opposition to John Guzy being granted bail. This is the man who, on October 27, shot my cousin and his son, in a fit of “road rage.” Guzy, a retired NYC cop, was employed as a part-time deputy at the Sheriff’s Department at the time.

On Friday, December 5, there is a court hearing in which Guzy’s attorney will ask that bail be set. Under NYS law, a judge can set bail, but does not have to if there are strong reasons not to. If ever there was a case in which a person should be denied bail, this is it. Indeed, both the DA and police think that this case could spark a change in the law that allows the John Guzys to be considered appropriate candidates for bail.

This morning, I was told by a source very close to the prosecution of the case that the DA’s office has had an unprecedented public outcry, demanding that bail be denied. This is due to the good people who are part of the DU community. A lead investigator on the case said that the DA’s office has been “overwhelmed” with the number of letters and e-mails, and extremely impressed with their quality. He requested that we now send those same messages to the Judge’s clerk.

Typically, such messages are appropriately sent to the DA, who then informs the judge of the general responses. This case, however, is not typical. It is important that the judge hearing the case be fully aware of the public opinion. More, we have identified one exception to the state law that prohibit’s a judge from reading a letter. If the opening sentence of the letter begins with, “As a (family member, friend of the family, concerned citizen, etc), I want Judge Frank Revoir to hear my voice before deciding if John Guzy should be granted bail,” he is allowed to read it.

There are four primary reasons that the Court can use to determine to not grant bail. These include:

The viciousness of the crime: Guzy was furious that the car ahead of him was traveling at the speed limit. As a result, he shot and seriously wounded Derek Prindle, age 60, a passenger in the vehicle; and shot and killed Derek Dylan Prindle, 26, the driver. Derek Dylan died in his father’s arms, before an ambulance reached the scene of the crime.

Guzy threatened to kill both men. In fact, while Derek attempted to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to his dying son, Guzy slammed his handgun into the back of Prindle’s head, and pulled the trigger. The bullet jammed in the chamber. Guzy’s home is located a few miles from Derek Prindle’s, and the entire Prindle family is afraid of what Guzy might do if released.

Guzy has threatened other community members in recent months. The police and DA are aware of his having at least two other “road rage” incidents, including one where he threatened to kill another driver. More, this summer, he became angry when two kids were riding “four-wheelers” (on their parent’s property). He fired his gun in their general direction.. Their parents called the police. Guzy claimed that he was merely “target-practicing” on his property. We know exactly what he was “practicing,” and what he is fully capable of.

Guzy presents a flight risk. Last night, my youngest daughter, a high school student, summed it up very well -- if he has the resources to make bail, he has the resources to leave this area. He knows he is facing a life sentence, and has nothing to lose. Even if he got caught, what can the court do? Add years onto a life sentence?

Derek’s 86- year old father, a WW2 veteran, has taken him to the doctor’s today, as the bullet wound he suffered on that terrible day became infected. Having had the DA inform him yesterday that the Judge is considering actually setting bail on Friday has re-victimized my family. The past 24 hours have been hell. Derek called me early this morning, to let me know he wouldn’t be home (we are in contact every day, and I visit him most every day). A few minutes after we got off the phone, he called back to remind me to express his thanks to all of you for your support.

By nature, I do not like to ask for help. And asking twice is way more difficult. But I am asking that, if possible, you please send an e-mail to the Chenango County Court Clerk, asking that bail be denied to John Guzy on Friday. I hope that you know how much your help means to me.

I’ve got a full schedule between now and Friday’s court hearing. So, if not before then, I will definitely be updating you on how it went on Friday afternoon.

Peace,
Pat

Link to Court Clerk: http://www.nycourts.gov/courts/6jd/chenango/county.shtml

Giving Thanks


The message of the words spoken is Good, but reading them really cannot compare to listening to an Elder reciting this prayer of thanksgiving. Something is always lost when words are translated from one language to another. Still, this is the approximate thanksgiving that has been said to open meetings between groups of people here in the northeast since the time of the ancestors’ ancestors, since at least 450 ad. I hope my friends here at DU enjoy it.]

I want to greet you, and to ask that we all put our minds together as One, to give thanks to the Creator for bring us together on this day. I hope that we are all well, and appreciate this opportunity to spend this time together. The Creator has intended it this way: that we take the time to consider all the Good around us, and give thanks for the many things that sustain life around us. Now it is my duty to give thanks.

The Creation includes the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. We give thanks for these. The Earth contains many entities that carry on their duties each day: these include the air, the water, the soil and rocks, and all that live on and within them. We give thanks for these life-sustaining forces.

The Earth is our Mother, and provides nourishment for all who live here. The Earth intends that we give thanks for these, and appreciate that her bounty is intended to be shared by all. When we honor our Mother’s intention that we share, we find there is enough for all of us to enjoy our turn to be alive here, today, and to participate in the ceremony of life on Earth.

We give thanks for the air we breath, for breathing clean air is an important part of life that we must never take for granted. We give thanks for the clean water that sustains all life on Earth. When we see the water, from the largest river to the tiniest stream, we learn about the flow of life’s energy here on Earth. From the rain to the great lakes, water provides Life. For this we give thanks today.

We give thanks for the soil, and all that grows from it. When we walk, sit, and sleep on the ground, we are aware that we share it with the plants, and the two- and four-legged beings that live around us. We appreciate that the life cycle depends upon the gift of the soil; we give thanks when we plant seeds, and harvest the foods that sustain our lives so that we may enjoy our turn to be alive here on Earth. For these things, we give thanks.

We give thanks for the plant-life on Earth. We appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. We give thanks for the trees, the shrubs and bushes, and the grasses that live all around us. We give thanks for the food that they provide, and for the wood that allows us to build a fire. We give thanks for all of these things, which participate in the miracle of life on Earth.

We give thanks for the fish in the waters; for the birds and insects that fly in the air; and for the many two- and four-legged beings that live on the grounds around us. We appreciate that they are participants in the miracle of life here on Earth, and we give thanks to them for carrying out their duties each and every day.

We give thanks to those who lived before us; they lived their lives in such a manner that we are allowed to live our lives today. We thank them for the lessons that they have passed on to us, so that we can enjoy our turn in the miracle of life on Earth today.

We give thanks for our families and friends. We appreciate that they enrich our daily lives. We give thanks for the opportunity to be alive with them here, today.

Now, let us put our minds together, and to see how we can hand down the opportunities to participate in the miracle of life on Earth to the generations to come.

Burnin' and Lootin'


“This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too - yeah!
Could not recognize the faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality. Eh!

“How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the cost.

“(That's why we gonna be)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(Say we gonna burn and loot)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(One more thing)
Burnin' all pollution tonight;
(Oh, yeah, yeah)
Burnin' all illusion tonight”
-- Bob Marley; Burnin’ and Lootin’


I stopped by an associate’s house this evening, to pick up a legal document pertaining to one of the handful of cases that I’m currently involved in. I hadn’t seen her husband since early summer, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with him before heading home. He is in his mid-twenties, a clinical social worker, and has been active in a couple of the conflicts that his wife and I work on. We stood out on their porch as he smoked a cigarette; looking up at the sky, he said that “the whole world seems to be crazy right now.”

It would certainly appear that way to anyone reading a newspaper or watching the news on television. And even more so, to anyone surfing the internet. The attention being paid to events in Ferguson alone show how unresolved conflicts that polite society attempts to cover over will always rise again. After the 2008 election of President Obama, there were such attempts -- in discussions of how a mature America had reached a “post-racial” age. Yet, however well-intended or sincere those discussions were, in reality they were but fancy words, that at most defined a thin film covering our culture.

Beneath that thin film, our society still has the ingredients of social pathology brewing: poverty, racism, sexism, and crime. Each one of these is large, indeed -- for example, crime includes everything from domestic abuse to police violence, white-collar crime to armed robbery. More, each one of these ingredients has overlap with others, creating synergism. And, as we witness in Ferguson, one event can spark an explosion.

The events in Ferguson in the past several months raise numerous questions that have to be answered, in order for the United States to move to the higher ground of social justice. And while “race” and “racism” are not the only ones, they are definitely central. Racism, much like sexism, can be uncomfortable to discuss in a meaningful way -- even here, on a liberal/progressive democratic web site.

Related issues include police brutality; a multi-tiered justice system; property being valued above human life; and options for grass roots activities, both positive and negative. These, too, can be difficult to discuss in a meaningful way, especially when emotions are raw.

I can only speak for myself, of course. I am opposed to “burning and looting” for a variety of reasons. The first has to do with ethics: I am opposed to the use of violence, with self-defense being the only exception. Yet, I certainly understand why people engage in these destructive behaviors.

Tactically, rioting does not accomplish much. It is not going to bring about positive change; in fact, it is likely to hinder, even prevent, potential positive change. Imagine if that same energy was harnessed by disciplined community leaders. A peaceful protest -- perhaps involving civil disobedience -- could have made a profound statement. More, an organized voter registration drive would provide the numbers needed for the community to elect officials with shared values. A new district attorney could still charge the cop with murder. It’s not unheard of for a prosecutor to present a case to a second grand jury. There’s not a statute of limitations, or double jeopardy involved here.

There are a lot of communities where the people are disorganized. Even more neighborhoods are. Although it is hard work, a couple of people -- or an individual, if need be -- can start the process of community organization: voter registration, public education, and active participation. It’s really odd how that is more difficult than, say, instigating violence in certain situations.

When I was young -- in my mid-thirties, as I recall -- a Clan Mother told me that the world, and many of the circles/cycles within it -- were entering a phase where they would begin to move very fast. And cause confusion, mistrust, and frustration. She told me to remember that as we went further in this era, that it would be important that some people -- those who are “awake” -- make the effort to move slower. Not avoid responsibility, nor withdraw. But use patience, and resist the momentum of the circles/cycles that were moving so fast that innocent life suffered.

I think we are there now.
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