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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 53,895

Journal Archives

The Longest Race

“This world and yonder world are incessantly giving birth; every cause is a mother, its effect the child. When the effect is born, it too becomes a cause and gives birth to wonderous effects. These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well lighted eye to see the links in their chain.”
-- Jalal-ad-din Rumi; Persian Sufi poet.

The controversy over some people from Black Lives Matter interrupting Senator Bernie Sanders’s presentation is more interesting -- at least to me -- than the actual event. I’d like to discuss some of the dynamics involved in such human interactions, though not limited to either BLM or the Democratic Primary. My aim in commenting on the features of the events and subsequent responses on DU:GD is not to feign certain knowledge of “why” the disruption took place. People certainly have every right to their own opinion …..based upon their life-experiences and social-political education. I’m not seeking to change anyone’s opinion. Indeed, I find the range of opinions to be valuable, in the sense of stepping back and considering why people may view the exact same incident in very different ways.

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that The Intercept had acquired documents through the Freedom of Information Act that showed that the Department of Homeland Security has been closely monitoring BLM for the past year. Here is a link, in case anyone did not see this news reported (or had forgotten this):


This does not mean that the federal intelligence agencies are manipulating BLM. But it does mean that BLM is being monitored by national, state, and local police agencies. And that suggests, as a scene in Michael Moore’s classic “Fahrenheit 9/11” showed with citizen groups that were opposed to the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq, that these types of movements are frequently infiltrated by individuals who may not share the group’s goals.

This is not new, of course: in the 1960s and ‘70s, most Civil Rights and anti-war groups were similarly infiltrated. And, historically, it is the infiltrators who encourage others to engage in the most aggressive, confrontational, and offensive manner. This is distinct from having, during a public activity, undercover officers in an audience. Rather, it is during strategy sessions when infiltrators attempt to persuade the most impressionable folks to engage in some extreme action.

I’ll give an example: in doing Native American support work, among other things, we have had infiltrators attempt to get people to engage in confrontational tactics, such as disrupting a Columbus Day Parade. (No, thank you. That’s not our way.) Or, recently, at a pro-environment, anti-fracking program, the fellow who insisted we all engage in clearly illegal activities. (You first. And last.)

This in no way means that BLM has been infiltrated. Nor that, even if it has been, that the events with Senator Sanders was done by infiltrators, or because they encouraged others to do so. But when some DU community members have questioned the possibility, it isn’t paranoia by definition. Stranger things have been know to happen.

It is also true that political campaigns, on their own, have used community-based, grass roots groups to disrupt their opposition’s programs. This has been particularly true of the republican party since the era of Richard Nixon. The majority of the US Senate Committee’s report on what we remember as “Watergate” actually focused on an extraordinary amount of just this type of activity.

In the modern era, it is also accurate to say that members of the Democratic Party have, at times, played hard ball during campaigns. This doesn’t mean that they have engaged in unethical and/or illegal activities in the exact manner of republicans. But it does mean that Democrats are capable of creative campaign tactics, both in primary and general election contests.

This does not mean that any of the other candidates in the 2016 primary contest would encourage or endorse the BLM’s disruption of Senator Sanders’ presentation. But, again, it would not be the definition of delusional to consider the possibility that some individuals that are associated at some level of another candidate’s campaign might encourage, endorse, and/or participate in some disruptive activity.

“Racial” issues are frequently uncomfortable to discuss on DU:GD. This makes sense, of course, for two obvious reasons: (1) racism has played a central, destructive role in the Americas since 1492; and (2) while the concept of “race” exists in people’s minds, there is no actual validity to “race” as a scientific concept. Rather, it is like the boarder between, say, New York State and Pennsylvania: it exists in people’s minds, and thus impacts their behaviors, but is not otherwise real.

Another model for understanding “racism” is one that my Good Friend & Brother, Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter used in his speeches to university students, politicians, and the general public. This model, which Rubin would fully grasp while engaging in a ceremony known as the Sun Dance with the Lakota (who accurately named Rubin “Badger Star”), takes a global-historic view. It allowed Rubin to fully understand his relationship with all other human beings.

Rubin would suggest that, rather than races, the extended human family had -- by the process of evolution -- been divided into tribes. These Tribes of Humanity include the Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and White Peoples. Within each of these five tribes, there have been periods of conflict within what are the sub-tribes. We can identify hundreds of painful examples throughout history; more, we can see troubling examples today. An example would be the warfare that is taking place in the region known as the Middle East.

Historically, Rubin noted, while the White Tribe might frequently have wars between sub-tribes -- say the French against the English -- as a general rule, whenever a white sub-tribe went to war against a non-white sub-tribe, most all of the other white sub-tribes would rally to support their fellow white folk. Consider, for example, how Uncle Sam would respond to the conflict between France and Vietnam after the end of WW2. The only valid explanation is tribalism (“racism”).

In the United States today, we have members of each of the five Tribes of Humanity. Rubin and I frequently spoke about the beauty and the social-cultural confusion that results from individuals of one Tribe marrying an individual of another Tribe, and producing offspring. That beauty is illustrated, in my opinion, by the example of Barack Obama. The confusion is, too, when we consider the hatred that so many of our sick brothers and sisters feel towards him.

“Hatred,” like “racism,” is a human concept. It does not exist outside of human beings. One cannot find “hatred” in the Natural World (soil, water, air), or in the Plant Kingdom, or among the non-human Animal Kingdom. Yet, as Rubin taught me when I was a teenager, hatred demands existence within the Human Family today. (And that is the stuff of fascinating discussion in the context of psychology, anthropology, and theology. But I am trying to keep this essay semi-focused.)

There is no wholesome ability to control hatred. While an individual can develop the ability to harness “fear,” and use it as the fuel to achieve some accomplishment (something that a good boxer does), hatred always consumes the person -- or group -- that hates. There may seem to be a temporary gain that the individual or group attributes to hatred, but it is always a delusion. For hatred, by its very nature, always gains control ….which places the individual or group out of self-control. Always.

Certainly, some individuals/ groups can exercise some temporary degree of control over others by using hate. This is how intelligence organizations, and even the Nixon White House, operated when infiltrating, disrupting, and seeking to destroy those they identify as “enemies.” One need look no further than FBI Director Hoover’s infamous March 4, 1968 memorandum for proof of exactly this.

Too often, society tends to judge groups as sharing exact characteristics. Such group judgments include those based upon sex, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, national identity, education and socio-economic status. This infects the way that too many view other groups and the individuals that comprise it. Here, we need look no further than the discussions of BLM and Bernie Sanders. People see and attribute a wide range of characteristics to “groups” (members of BLM), and individuals (Sanders and individual forum members), that range from insightful to sadly ignorant.

By no coincidence, the same range of characteristics that define a group such as DU also may well be found in another group such as BLM. Or, for that matter, among politicians. Or any group comprised of individuals of a certain age, sex, ethnicity, nation-state, etc. This, again, is why groups can be infiltrated, emotions exploited, and behaviors controlled. It is also why, in most groups that focus on emotional issues, there are often a few individuals who will behave in an obnoxious, offensive manner, spouting ignorant and erroneous statements, and self-righteously be certain they are 100% right in doing so.

Becoming a Human Being involves constant struggle.

H2O Man

Senator Schumer vs Iran

There have been a few DU:GD threads about Senator Charles Ellis Schumer’s plan to vote in opposition to President Barack Obama on the proposed agreement -- which surely resembles a “treaty” -- proposed by several nations, including Iran. Numerous community members, including New York State residents, believe that Schumer is betraying the President, the Democratic Party, and, indeed, the United States. Others have described it as “politics as usual.” And still others support Senator Schumer’s position.

I think that one of the important issues here involves the neoconservative advocacy of the US seeking military solutions to the “problems” found in the Middle East. As President Obama has accurately noted, many of the people opposed to negotiating an agreement with Iran, rather than attempting a military strike solution, are the same folks who supported President Bush and VP Cheney’s invasion of Iraq.

Perhaps it would be advantageous to review the genesis of the neoconservative movement, and examine more closely those who supported the worst military miscalculation in American history, that 2003 attack on Iraq. The most important resource to start with, in my opinion, is found in the third volume of Taylor Branch’s three-volume history of “America in the King Years.” In the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s third book, “At Canaan’s Edge” (Simon & Schuster; 2006; pages 617-622), he documents how a segment of liberals who fully supported King’s non-violent approach to civil rights as a domestic issue, opposed King when he spoke against warfare as an acceptable solution to international “conflicts.”

This included King’s historic April 4, 1967 speech opposing the US war in Vietnam, and hit a new level when King spoke out against the “Six Day War” in the Middle East. The later marked the birth of the neoconservative movement’s rise in Washington, DC. It included those who were “liberal” on domestic (social) issues, but hawks when it came to international issues, most specifically those involving the nation of Israel. And it is important to understand that it was not simply Jewish Americans: individuals such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan would be among the most influential of the neoconservatives in the decade of the 1970s. Nor, for that matter, has it ever been somehow restricted to republicans -- with Moynihan again being a prime example.

Senator Chuck Schumer is, by any and every correct definition, a neoconservative. More, he does represent a significant portion of Democrats, as the results of his primary victory over two competitors in the year he ran for the US Senate demonstrated (he won with 51% of the primary vote). Likewise, it is accurate to say that his opposition to the potentially peaceful solution to the issue with Iran, that President Obama advocates, represents the wishes of those who assist in financing his campaigns. This, of course, includes AIPAC.

In the same years that the Office of Vice President Cheney was being investigated for the Plame scandal, a US Defense Department employee named Lawrence Franklin was convicted of passing classified documents on our national policy towards Iran to a high-level member of AIPAC, who in turn shared it with Israel. This type of thing should be viewed objectively. And that must not include either anti-Semitism, or false accusations of anti-Semitism. It is what it is: there are people who sincerely believe that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, and who thus attempt to influence US policy towards Iran. And that’s not always “good” or “bad” -- instances such as Franklin’s case should be judged on their individual merits.

Likewise, Senator Schumer’s position on President Obama’s proposed treaty can and should be viewed objectively. And this should include an honest examination of if Senator Schumer’s opposition is itself objective. In June of 2010, for example, while speaking at Orthodox Union event in Washington, DC, about the conflict in the Gaza Strip, Schumer said, “They don’t believe in the Torah. They don’t believe in King David. So, they don’t think its our land.”

The “our land” in question is definitely not part of New York State, or of the United States. It may be that Senator Schumer experiences difficulty in remaining objective about questions involving the Middle East. Thus, citizens of New York State not only have the right, but also the responsibility to question Schumer’s analysis of the treaty that President Obama is advocating. Doing so does not mean that one is anti-Israel. In fact, as President Obama has stated, this treaty may be viewed as insuring Israel’s safety, rather than somehow threatening it.

The topic of US relations with Iran too often involves emotions, subjectivity, and people’s religious belief systems. That can make a rational discussion difficult, including from the internet to this nation’s capital. Failure to examine the issues objectively, and to behave rationally, will definitely result in much greater difficulties.

President Obama at American University

I listened to President Obama’s speech at American University with great interest. I think that it is essential that he speak to the American public about the deal with Iran. Below is a link to a new NY Times article about the presentation:


Today’s presentation by President Obama was appropriately held at the university where President Kennedy delivered his most important speech. The NYT article provides some background on this, for those who are not familiar with JFK’s advocating for world peace.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was just on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” discussing the deal with Iran. That segment was followed immediately by a commercial for a front group that is opposed to the treaty. That, I believe, starkly defines the situation that our nation is in today.

There are two distinct groups: those who believe that negotiating differences in the global community, in an effort to avoid war when possible, brings some much-needed stability to the Middle East; and those who are convinced that the US needs to “bomb” nuclear sites in Iran. There is also, of course, a very large group of citizens who give this conflict very little thought.

The anti-treaty, pro-war group includes many of the same characters who were behind the 2003 military invasion of Iraq. The neoconservatives are intent upon another step in the regional conflict. Some people are “convinced” -- sincerely and otherwise -- that only military strikes on Iran can keep Israel safe. This includes many of the right-wing christian community, based upon their curious misinterpretation of ancient religious texts.

The pro-treaty group includes those who, among other factors, recognize that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was our nation’s greatest military error. It has added to the instability in the Middle East, and surely created a new generation of people who hate the United States. They recognize that to reject the treaty would severely damage the US’s standing in the global community, especially among the others who labored to create the proposed treaty. More, they recognize that another war will endanger Israel.

I am convinced that one of the most important things that we can do today is to call, write, and e-mail our elected representatives in Washington, DC, and encourage them to support President Obama on this. That includes contacting President Obama, and requesting that he address the nation on the importance of this treaty, some night soon.

Thank you for your consideration.

H2O Man

Sixteen Shades of Gray

“While that amendment failed, human cloning continues to advance and the breakthrough in this unethical and morally questionable science is around the corner.”
-- Governor Mike Pence; Indiana

Last night’s republican warm-up for Thursday’s debates has raised ethical and moral questions about the cloning of candidates. The two-hour pageant provided proof positive that a republican “think tank” -- or mind-control cult -- is mass-producing candidates for the 2016 presidential primary. Inspired by the 1967 movie The Graduate’s prediction that there is a future in plastics, and 1972’s The Stepford Wives, the republican party showcased 14 models of the new plastic “leadership” candidate.

“We learned a lot from our 2012 experience,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “The Mitt Romney Chief Executive model, while favored by the 1%, didn’t appeal to those who opt not to have auto-elevators in their summer homes. We thought that its bold gray color would convey the sense of leadership the public would invest in. But at this time, we’re excited to be offering sixteen shades of gray for customers to choose from.”

Last night’s viewing audience learned that each of the 14 republican candidates believes strongly in Mom, the American flag, and apple pie. More, each is opposed to Obama-Care, ISIS, and Iran. Time did not permit for close questioning in the areas where they may have their greatest disagreements -- on issues such as favor color, and the theme songs from their high school proms. One can hardly wait to have these burning issues addressed on Thursday night.

(Note: This morning, at a medical appointment, I discussed the republican cluster-fuck with one of my doctors. He is a registered republican, although he frequently tells me that he has not cast a single vote for a republican since 1988. Today, he said that the majority of people he has spoken to in the past two weeks about “politics” are older white men; he said that most of them have expressed support for Donald Trump. While he would not vote for Trump, he added, he believes that the republican corporatists are reaping what they’ve sown for decades.)

Republican Debate #1

As Thursday, August 6 approaches, community members may be deciding if they will watch the freak shows on Fox. The paternalistic nature of the republican party, along with the large number of candidates entering their primaries, has resulted in a two-tier debate format. It is, in essence, the JV team going first, followed by the varsity players. The republican machine’s attempt to decrease the number of primary debates seems sure to backfire on them.

In a sense, the JV contest could be viewed as a struggle to be considered as a vice presidential contender. Being relegated to the lower level would seem to close the door on those participant’s dreams of becoming president in 2016. Yet the character -- and specifically, the character flaws and the utter lack of character -- creates a situation in which several of the candidates will be going for broke, and attempting to gain a significant jump in the national opinion polls.

Thus, in many ways, the JV debate may provide more entertainment than the varsity game. There will be competition to see who can deliver the most outrageous sound bites. Indeed, some of the candidates are already shifting into high gear -- for example, Mike Huckleberry’s saying he would consider using the military to prevent abortions in the USA.

The self-righteous Huckleberry will no doubt gain support from the republican party’s rabid religious right with that claim, but he will also stoke the opposition of a segment of the tea party that opposes the use of federal troops in state and local matters. A few of them may have even read the Constitution. These folks weren’t concerned when, under Richard Nixon, Al Haig brought the US Army in to attack the Oglala Lakota who were at Wounded Knee in 1973. But they have become a wee bit more paranoid about the possibility of such confrontations, that may involve their circle of friends.

Such selective outrage can provide entertainment at both debates. Normally (relative to the republican party), candidates tend to be cautious in the early debates. They have a few well-rehearsed lines they are intent upon delivering. But they don’t want to make a mistake that could knee-cap their campaign. This would be the case in the varsity debate, except for the Trump factor. For Donald Trump is aware that in many contexts, emotion matters more than logic. And by appealing directly to emotion, he has established himself as the early leading contender.

Former Reagan aide Peggy Noonan recently noted that Trump is capitalizing on the utter contempt that republicans feel for politicians. That is, of course, accurate. The grass roots republicans recognize that the politicians they’ve long supported do not care about the; rather, they are the lap-dogs of the corporate state. As Trump’s numbers show, a growing number of the grass roots republicans are becoming unwilling to simple do what they are told, and to be satisfied. They are not excited about another Willard Romney candidacy.

The other varsity candidates face obvious difficulties in the debate featuring Trump. They can’t afford to ignore his outrageous statements, but the format for the first debate only allows 1 minute answers, and 30-second rebuttals. Hence, no detailed policy responses are possible. Thus, the verbal duels will be dangerous territory, as Trump has shown a greater ability to toss out one-line insults. His saying that Rick Perry needs to take an IQ test, while perhaps crude, reminds the audience of Perry’s 2012 primary fumble. Everyone will want to be the republican who puts Trump in his place; no one will want to be the target of his zingers.

The issues may favor Trump. Foreign policy issues will be fairly limited: ISIS, Iran, Israel, and Russia. Everyone will want to sound tough. Domestic issues will be more interesting. From boarder security to abortion, the economy to guns, the debate format will only allow for the shallowest of answers. And while all of the top-tier republicans have mastered “shallow,” Donald Trump has more experience in shallow television programming. Indeed, he doesn’t need to deliver more realistic, workable ideas than the other competitors: he only has to convey contempt for them.

It could be very entertaining. In fact, it would almost be funny -- but for the fact that one of these people could actually be elected in 2016.

H2O Man


Malcolm X used to ask his audience: what does a white racist call a black man with a PhD? The answer, of course, was a harsh term that conveyed racist hatred. For sometimes the Truth is stark, and can make open and honest discussions uncomfortable.

Half a century later, I find myself thinking of Malcolm when I read some of the OP/threads on DU:GD that attempt to discuss “racism” in a meaningful way. In the early and middle phases of his ministry in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm identified whites as “devils,” believing that white skin prevented them from having the capacity to love all of humanity. In his final years, of course, Malcolm identified the system that whites were raised in as the cause of racism.

“Systems,” as anyone who has had the sad misfortune of reading my nonsense on DU over the years knows, fascinate me. While my employment career was in the field of psychology -- the study of the individual -- I have a great interest in sociology -- or, the study of groups (“systems”). The tree versus the forest, so to speak.

“Racism,” by definition, is the attribution of a set of characteristics to all -- or almost all -- members of a race of people. It includes the belief that members of a given race have abilities or weaknesses, specific to their race, which make them intrinsically superior or inferior to other races. Related terms include such words as bigotry and nativism. Racism leads directly to stereotyping of groups and individuals, and pre-judging what qualities they have, or lack.

In the United States, racism has historically been defined in the context of white people’s opinions of, and interactions with, African Americans and Native Americans. White people, who have generally held the reins of economic and social power, frequently viewed non-white peoples as less than fully human. Thus, for example, in much of the 1800s, blacks were viewed by whites as “domestic animals,” who were exploited for labor, yet prevented by law from participation in white culture. Indians, on the other hand, were considered “wild animals; their lands, rather than their labor, was to be exploited, and the force of law used to introduce them to the “superior” white culture.

In the late 1800s and early-to-mid 1900s, the fields of psychology and sociology were highly influenced by what we could politely, yet accurately, call Euro-American chauvinism. Thus, certain disorders among white women were studied, in an attempt to determine why they were unhappy with being “kept in their proper place” …..with little if any regard to the social pathologies that sought to restrict their humanity. Likewise, educated white men attempted to answer such questions as: What do blacks really want? And what is wrong with those Indians? Quite often, such theories were based upon blacks and Indians in the clinical setting of a prison.

However, as time moved forward, blacks, Indians, and even white women would move well beyond the restrictive roles once assigned to them. They became doctors and lawyers, teachers and scientists. And psychologists and sociologists. By coincidence, perhaps, the influence of Euro-American chauvinism began to be challenged. Open and honest discussions became rather uncomfortable for some.

As progress was made in advancing society’s understanding of social pathologies, such as sexism and racism, certain words (or phrases) would come to take on specific meanings within the context of scholarly study. And, within that context, those definitions are correct. Yet, we have to understand and appreciate that those contexts are specific systems. Thus, the meanings applied within that system -- while correct -- are not necessarily the full, or only, correct definition.

Let’s consider an example. One of the ugliest aspects of a sexist society (re: system) is domestic abuse. And the majority, without question, of the cases of severe physical abuse in family systems is male against female. When I worked in human services, I was trained in what is known as the “Duluth Model,” which defines domestic abuse as exclusively male against female. And that’s fine, although it clearly excludes things such as domestic violence within lesbian couples.

Likewise, many social scientists define “racism” within the context of the US system, in which whites have the power to inflict damages to non-white peoples. Again, that is a good definition, and definitely has a few centuries of evidence to support it. Yet, the US is not the only system that we are part of. Indeed, we can think “larger,” in the context of globally -- and plenty of white racists despise non-white people around the planet, though they lack the power to damage them …..or we can look at a smaller example, such as any men’s or women’s prison in California, where the populations are primarily two or three non-white groups. Within such a system, there is racism; one could argue, of course, that it is still rich white folks who capitalize on that racism.

Racism, like sexism, is a pattern of thought. More, because people’s thinking tends to define their actions, racism and sexism poison human relationships, from the smallest of systems (the family) to the largest (global). Their potential for negative consequences -- especially violence -- increase when there is a power differential in play. This includes not only the ability to do harm, but the likelihood of consequences for inflicting that harm. The legal system, for example, has little ability to render justice, if the police, district attorney, and/or judge are racist or sexist. And our culture’s history with violence, from lynchings to domestic abuse, bears that out. Current events are further proof.

In order to get a healthy grip on the severe damage that these “-isms” do to our society, we are going to have a lot of those uncomfortable conversations. Because these pathologies are entrenched in all levels of society -- from family systems to the national system -- those conversations must likewise be held at every level, and become an active part of every system.

One of those systems is DU. It’s not a huge or tiny system, but even as a “medium-sized” system, we have numerous resources that can contribute to a meaningful discussion on the various “-isms” that pollute our larger culture. A lot of community members with a wide span of life experience and education. That translates into the potential for insights on “-isms” on every level of systems.

The only types of person who could inhibit such discussion would be those here simply to disrupt, and those who think they are right, and only they are right. Anyone and everyone else should be able to participate, add things of value, and be able to do so without engaging in the silly arguments we too often see here.

H2O Man


New York: PBC on ESPN

Danny Garcia vs. Paulie Malignaggi, 12 rounds, welterweights.
Danny Jacobs vs. Sergio Mora, 12 rounds, middleweights.

Saturday night’s card features two top fighters, in bouts that should showcase their considerable skills. While anything can happen in the ring, both Danny Jacobs and Danny Garcia are heavily favored to win their bouts. Let’s take a look at each fight!

Danny Jacobs (29-1) is one of the sport’s rising stars. His career was almost ended by cancer in 2011-12, but he has been able to come back in impressive fashion. Jacobs is a boxer-puncher, who tends to score early knockouts.

Mora (28-3-2) made his name in the boxing series “The Contender.” He won the junior middleweight title from Vernon Forrest in 2008, but lost it in a return bout three months later. His record also includes a draw with Shane Mosley, in a bout that Mora clearly won.

Jacobs, at 28, has been more active than his 33 year old opponent in recent years. He holds one of the division’s paper titles, and is looking to challenge either Cotto or Golovkin in the near future. However, Mora is a solid journeyman fighter, who could present a serious test if Jacobs is looking past him.

Danny Garcia (30-0) is moving up from the junior welterweight division, after holding the title there since his July, 2012 knockout of Amir Khan. In perhaps his most impressive win, Garcia beat tough Lucas Matthysse by decision in September of 2013. In his next fight, however, he was out-boxed by Mauricio Herrera, although he was given the decision. He has not been impressive since that bout.

Paulie (33-6) was most recently stopped by Shawn Porter in a mismatch. Malignaggi was simply too old, and Porter too strong. There is a good chance that this will again be the case on Saturday. Paulie’s last meaningful win came in 2012, and on paper, there is little reason to think he will be able to hold off Garcia.

Still, if Malignaggi is able to put together one last solid fight, and Garcia fights like he did against Herrera, anything is possible.

Enjoy the fights!

Hard Ball

I was able to catch the late re-run of MSNBC’s “Hardball” tonight. In my opinion, Chris Matthews is doing a good job of advocating for President Obama. I think that Mr. Matthews’ reporting on the international agreement with Iran -- which, of course, includes the United States -- is among the best from the best journalists.

Tonight, for example, he had a panel review the worst five over-the-top republican attacks on President Obama and the proposed treaty. This included some rabid foam that came dripping out of Dick Cheney’s snarl. I think that the administration should make a commercial, with a few short clips of Cheney warning us about Iraq’s WMD threat, followed by a brief clip of his current crap, with the simple question: “Do you believe anything this man says?” It would be the flip side of the 1964 “Daisy Chain.”

What was equally interesting, though sadly disappointing, were Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s answers to Mr. Matthews’ important questions. There were three significant weak answers. They included to a question about the difference between a socialist and the Democratic Party. She had similar difficulty answering if Bernie Sanders should speak in “prime-time” at the Democratic Party Convention, win or lose.

Yet the most troubling response, I thought, followed Mr. Matthews’ questioning if she would vote in favor of President Obama’a effort with Iran. She said that our country needs to do what will best insure that Iran does not acquire “the bomb.” She also stated that she had to find out what the people in her district think.

I do not doubt that Debbie Wasserman Schultz represents many Democrats. But, at the same time, there are also many Democrats who not only feel that she doesn’t represent them in any way, but that she is actually part of the opposition. This is a problem, as she is the Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

She said that the 2016 presidential election will highlight the differences between the Democratic Party and the republican party. Indeed, it should. But that should include a discussion about the differences in socialism for the 99% and socialism for billionaires and corporations. It should not simply include Bernie Sanders at 3am, if he doesn’t happen to win; we should be highlighting him. And it should damn sure endorse President Obama and negotiations, and oppose VP Dick Cheney and friends’ demand for war with Iran.

Yet, we won’t get there ….we won’t reach that point in the future …..if the Democratic Party isn’t moving, perceptively, today. And that means the part of the party that believe Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks for them, and represents their interests. This isn’t to say that the growing divides within the Democratic Party will result in a victory for republicans. But it could make it a close election, since the presidential election goes by state-by-state results, not national popular vote totals.

Primary seasons always bring out differences in opinions. That’s a good thing. But the Democratic Party seems to be experiencing significant differences in values. And it’s not good if the traditional values we associate with the modern Democratic Party no longer hold for a large segment of party members.

H2O Man

Down at the Spring

“God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time.”
-- James Baldwin; The Fire Next Time; Dell; 1962; page 141.

Like many community members, I had read DU before eventually joining on December 29, 2003. A number of associates from the group I worked with at that time had recommended this internet discussion site to me. But what actually convinced me to join was a powerful essay that Will Pitt posted earlier on that day.

At that time, the forum was a smaller, tighter community, comprised of liberal and progressive Democrats, along with a number of “leftists.” In large part, DU was created in response to the frustration that grass roots activists felt after George W. Bush was selected -- by the US Supreme Court -- to occupy the White House, despite the fact that Al Gore had clearly won the 2000 election. The focus of many discussions was on the undemocratic and unconstitutional manner in which Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were ruling in.

Now, I say that, without intending to define the intentions of the creators of the Democratic Underground. Over the years that I’ve participated here, I’ve read a number of opinions, from a wide range of members, regarding the intentions of the gentlemen who started DU. I could speculate on this topic, but see little benefit in that. I’m more concerned with the discussions -- including, of course, the tone of many of the debates.

On a couple of occasions, when “old-timers” have stated their belief that “DU ain’t what it used to be,” an administrator responded by saying that it actually is pretty much the same as its always been. And, in some ways, that is correct.

But it is inaccurate in other ways. This isn’t to imply that the administrator was lying, or trying to deceive people. It is simply in recognition that no system remains static or stagnant. Only that which is completely non-organic could remain the same system, unaffected by outside influences. But systems of human beings always change.

Change is constant. Internally, the system grows or shrinks; even if it stagnates, it will have internal decay that causes it to lose its potency. Externally, changes in the outer world will have an impact upon it. Even traditional systems -- for example, the Amish, or Native American people -- must either react or respond to the changing dynamics in the outside world.

With DU, there have been two significant changes: one external, one internal. The external includes the changes in the presidency. George W. Bush is no longer president, though the damage he accomplished remains a reality. Advances have been made in health care and marriage equality. Yet, war remains a constant, and income distribution continues to separate the 1% from humanity.

The internal changes include a larger forum membership, which often involves people who have very different interests and goals than the original community of the early years. When I say “different interests and goals,” that isn’t intended as a value judgment. But without question, what was once a primarily liberal-progressive community of Democrats and others to the political left, has slowly but steadily absorbed new members, including a significant number who tend to be to the right -- to various degrees -- of the early community.

When we think of a system as being like a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib, we can see how adding new pieces on one side shifts the system, slowly but surely. When we also include the removal of other pieces, the shift continues. Let’s briefly consider a few types of pieces/ members who have been removed from the community.

An insignificant group of DU rejects are known as “trolls” or “freepers.” Their only goal is to come to DU to splatter the excrement of their being, before being tomb-stoned. A sub-group of this ilk attempts to disguise themselves as “liberals” -- or even pseudo-revolutionaries -- and to create dissention and divide the community. There have always been a few of them here, seeking to spread their infectious pus. They, too, are of minor consequence.

Another group of former DU members are those who have died. Their influence is still felt by those of us who were honored to know them. Yet the loss of their on-going contributions to our discussions diminishes the forum.

A third group are sincere individuals, who simply lose interest in DU, usually because of the toxicity of the debates and arguments -- particularly those that involve presidential primaries, and a few divisive topics.

The group that I am focusing upon here today includes some of the most steady, reliable, and insightful members -- often “old-timers” -- who have made this forum worthwhile. These are the women and men who -- subtly or openly -- make us view things differently, and to think in new ways. If we were in the “public square,” we would anticipate that the opposition would focus their wrath upon these individuals. They would openly insult them, and attempt to undermine their influence, by pointing out that they made a mistake in the distant past. Or try to belittle them, by identifying them as being in a tiny minority, or the old, worn-out insult that they are conspiracy theorists.

We’d expect such attempts in a public forum, such as a city board meeting, much like we expect it when we watch a debate on television. In such a format, the rules of engagement allow for direct, firm responses. Sadly, we’ve come to expect it on DU, as well. And I’m not talking about the healthy, respectful debates we have between forum members who are on the left versus those on the right of the Democratic Party. Rather, it involves when, in what could be a meaningful discussion of important issues, one group attempts to mis-use the forum rules to sidetrack such discussion or debate. When they attempt clever personal attacks, pretending that they respect the other person. When they attempt to control what opinions can be expressed, and indeed how they can be communicated.

Many of us have, at various times, reached the point where we take a step back, and take a break from DU for a few weeks or more. And that’s fine. But there have also been many instances of where good people -- those who elevate DU -- get so tired of being the target of petty personal attacks, that they simply quit. And we’ve witnessed some examples of this in the past few days.

I hesitate to mention them by name, only because I know these two men well enough that I am sure they will think it unnecessary. But I’ll do it anyhow …..for two reasons: first, because I have the utmost respect for each one of them; and second, because this community is definitely diminished by losing their contributions. “Will Pitt” and “kentuck” have decided to stop posting on this forum. They were not driven out in shame, or tomb-stoned for outrageous behavior. Instead, they are simply opting to move on.

It would be an error for their opponents to believe they have silenced these gentlemen. In whatever format they use the energies they have long invested here, they will continue to influence the way that others around them think. Likewise, it would be an error for anyone to believe that, well, that’s just the way it goes ….that while some folks leave, other new members replace them. No, it is a change in this system, and the removal of these two pieces on the DU mobile results in a shift that isn’t corrected by adding a couple of new pieces.

What doesn’t change is what many of us recognize as an on-going, coordinated dogging of a group of forum members who are sincere in attempting to communicate their opinions, insights, and values. My “short list” includes members such as nadinbrzezinski, Sabrina 1, trumad, and Octafish. I could easily list a dozen others.

If we were in that public square -- a city board meeting, for example -- there would obviously be a segment who would try very hard to silence this group of people. It shouldn’t be the case on the Democratic Underground. That it is -- and without question, it surely is -- is something that should be of concern to the greater community. I have been impressed by a few threads that include thoughtful responses to the glee that some folks have expressed about Will’s leaving (as if they somehow defeated Will in a contest that exists only between their ears). That provides solid evidence that the Goodness I associate with the DU community still exists.

Thank you to anyone who has read this long an essay. And keep on fighting the Good Fight.

H2O Man

Verbal Marathon

“Words are flowing out
Like endless rain
Into a paper cup….”
-- John Lennon

When I was a youngster, due to a variety of reasons -- all connected to being poor -- I was not able to speak clearly. Hence, for many years, I preferred not to talk. I liked reading and writing far more. My best friend and I would spend hours, either at his family’s pond, or mine, without hardly a word being spoken.

I was successful in the ring. And the sport of boxing led to my becoming friends, as a young teenager, with Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. (He, too, had suffered from a speech impediment as a child; we both had experienced being made fun of as children, which resulted in both of our love of fighting.) At the time, Rubin was incarcerated, having been sentenced to “triple life” for a vicious crime. I had learned enough about his case to believe he was innocent, and to reach out to him, well before it became fashionable in the mid-1970s.

As a teen, I was mighty impressed with Rubin’s uncanny ability to cuss. Looking back years later, I noticed that before this -- while he was a prize fighter -- Rubin delighted in having become an eloquent speaker. It didn’t fit the image the media had created for this destructive fighting machine. Yet, outside the ring, Carter was very capable of discussing philosophy, astronomy, and a number of topics that he had become self-educated in.

But, of course, the New Jersey prison system was a terrible environment, and Rubin was angry at his circumstances. And he began to swear like, well, an angry black inmate in a New Jersey prison (which is not to suggest that the non-black inmate population didn’t curse). Now, by the mid-70s, a segment of the population -- mainly white, wealthy liberals -- had come to respect black inmates/ former inmates who cussed and snarled a lot. Men like Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson were also good writers, of course, but even swore and snarled in their most popular writings. (By no coincidence, similar characteristics created more support among angry, younger Indian men, than the more peaceful Elders, among the wealthy liberals.)

When Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan took up Carter’s cause, a lot of other people would join. This, of course, included the media. “Are you an angry black trouble-maker,” one television reporter asked Rubin? “Yes, I’m an angry black trouble-maker,” he replied. Lines like this made Rubin a popular vehicle.

One can attribute a number of motivations to those who suddenly began supporting Rubin’s fight for a re-trial. Many were definitely sincere individuals, seeking justice. Others may have been motivated by what was known as “white guilt” -- the Civil Rights movement of the 1`950s and ‘60s had made progress in some areas, but racism still poisoned American culture, and there were people, believing they had failed in their efforts, who were waiting for the next messiah.

While Rubin had already become a highly respected individual among the country’s non-white inmate population, his case had held little appeal before 1973 for the black middle- and upper economic classes. The only person of stature that had supported him before Ali and Dylan was Coretta Scott King. Rubin told me that many of the other Civil Rights leaders had believed he was a “crazy n____r,” guilty of a heinous crime.

Ali was, at this time, at his peak as a spokesperson for justice, widely respected by most Americans (and all of the world). While the song “The Hurricane” -- which Bob Dylan did not write -- was powerful and popular, I can say for absolute certainty that The Champ’s assistance, which took many forms, was the essential element.

Soon a group of celebrities created a committee to support Carter. Within literally a couple of months, it was fractured into several groups, with the most tension being between black and white members. Both of these groups made detailed plans to have Rubin run for Congresss, overlooking the fact that he was still incarcerated in New Jersey. And that the NJ political machine -- now having elevated a number of those involved in Carter’s prosecution to high positions -- wasn’t about to let him go.

One of the “lost chapters” from this era involved both the black and white supporters enjoying spending Ali’s money -- intended to benefit Carter’s legal defense -- with lavish parties. At one such party, held the night before Dylan’s Madison Square Garden benefit concert, ended up with John Conyers verbally attacking Carter’s white supporters, and having a mixed drink tossed into his face. (In my opinion, Conyers’ concerns did have merit: Dylan, for example, made big bucks off of Rubin’s case. His support was important, but came at a price. A lot of people were looking to capitalize on Rubin.)

The “they” in this case -- the NJ machine -- would find it amazingly easy to fracture Carter’s support team during the ‘74-76 period that he was much in the news. They pit a Nation of Islam female versus a white, Wall Street executive. And on and on. Those higher up than NJ, etc, were concerned that off-shoots from the defense committee, especially college students, might attempt to “resolve” Rubin’s case by illegal, perhaps violent means. (I could tell some stories!)

Fast-forward to the late 1970s: Rubin is still in prison. His support committee has disbanded. Muhammad Ali and Ms. King are still involved in the case. But people like Dylan have dropped Rubin completely. This would be the period when, if one is familiar with the movie “The Hurricane,” that Rubin underwent his transformation. The very few of us who remained in contact with Rube refer to this as his Buddha phase.

As his state of mind changed, so did his word choices in both speech and writing. No longer did he rely upon that wide range of curse words and other language that tended to catch people’s attention. For when his being transformed, his communication skills were, well, elevated.

I think about these things, when I read the DU wars about certain words, or about the often simmering conflicts between those who tend to view humanity in black and white terms. And that, of course, includes -- but is not exclusive to -- things like “race,“ which exists only in people’s minds, and male vs. female, which exists as one of the Natural World’s most powerful realities.

Black Lives Matter. We need to embrace that, no matter what color our skin is. If some of us struggle with that, and ask, “Do not ALL lives matter?” ….well, take the time necessary to study the history of the Civil Rights movement …..especially in the north, where two of the foundation stones were police brutality, and inferior educational opportunities. Black Lives Matter. That was a huge part of the program -- though expressed with different words in 1965 than in 2015.

Certainly, people other than black young men are targeted for extreme violence by a large segment of police in this country. Yet, it is important to recognize the importance of Black Lives Matter. For there is near zero chance of our protecting the rights and safety of all, until we focus on the most vulnerable. Tactically, it can provide benefits that diffused focus cannot. Does that make sense?

Rubin’s case was extremely difficult to “win.” While he was far from the only wrongly-convicted inmate in the US prison system -- black, brown, red, yellow, or white -- his case presented some unique qualities. Indeed, Rubin was a unique man. Yet, by focusing on his case, those of us who understood it as something “bigger” than that unique man’s torture, were then able to move forward once he won his freedom. We have been able to free many, many other wrongly convicted human beings.

When I used to call Rubin about a case in the US (often in the northeast), he never asked what color their skin was. Or their religion, ethnicity, or sexual identity. Nor did he question their diction. His only question was: did I believe the person was innocent? He respected my insight in terms of recognizing injustice.

Writing things like this always leaves me wondering if I’ve communicated my point, or points? I’ll sum up with this: the struggle for social justice is a long and constant process. We do better when we recognize our common ground, and invest our energies there. Consider the potential benefits of people on DU:GD working towards common goals -- Higher Ground -- rather than emphasizing divisions, and seeking to win debaters’ points. Just a suggestion.

H2O Man
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