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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,166

Journal Archives

Bumper

My younger son stopped by my house today. He said that yesterday evening, as he was driving on an interstate highway, he saw a large truck rear-end a car in front of him. The car spun in a circle, and then went over a steep bank.

My boys live near Binghamton, NY, and there has been quite a bit of snow recently. My boy called 911, then made his way down the bank to the car. It had snow up to the windows, and the doors wouldn't open. There was an elderly couple inside. He got the lady out through her window, carried her up the bank to safety, then went and carried the husband up, too. Then he got their dog.

While waiting for the police and ambulance, he cleared the bumper etc out of the highway. Cars continued to speed by, and a piece of metal got thrown near my boy's head.

My boy was here for over three hours today, before mentioning the incident.

There are some really good people in our world today.

Are You Experimented?

"It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment." --Oliver Windell Holmes

The recent federal court decision, in which US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA telephone surveill program is likely unconstitutional, should be seen as a victory for those who subscribe to the radical notions found in the Bill of Rights. However, there are reasons to suspect that the current US Supreme Court will eventually overturn Judge Leon's ruling. If so, it will definitely be a ruling that is not based in law, or shows the slightest respect for the Constitution.

I say this as a person who believes in that Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. And while I admittedly have no formal training in Constitutional Law -- the rulings the Supreme Court makes in interpreting the Constitution -- it's an area of study that I find fascinating and important. Last week, I filled seven large bookshelves in my dining room, with books on politics, sociology, psychology, and state and federal law; the numerous boxes of books had been stored away for several years.

Because Judge Leon's ruling sparked an interest in this area, I've re-read two books that I find of particular interest: The Bill of Rights: Original Meaning and Current Understanding; edited by Eugene W. Hickok, Jr.; University of Virginia; 1991; and Freedom for the Thought We Hate; Anthony Lewis; MJF Books; 2007.

The above quote by Justice Holmes, comes from his dissent in Abrams v United States, a case that had to do with the WW1-era Sedition Act and Espionage Act. "Radicals" who opposed the war were tried for the distribution of pamphlets; the appeal of their convictions failed.

Although that case was based upon Amendment 1, it also has an interesting connection to the Amendment 4 rights that Judge Leon considered. The postmaster general decided that those two Acts provided him the authority to examine citizens' mail. He took it upon himself to decide that the Post Office would refuse to deliver papers or magazines that might claim "that the Government is controlled by Wall Street" (Lewis; 105).

There have been numerous bad rulings by the USSC over the decades. This includes two that have taken place since 2000. Thus, while we should recognize that the federal courts have often made just rulings, there is a history of political/financial influences, racism, and fear and hatred found in the history of Constitutional Law.

Echoes of Enterprise

Back in those days everything was simpler and more confused
One summer night, going to the pier
I ran into two young girls
The blonde one was called Freedom
The dark one, Enterprise
We talked and they told me this story
Now listen to this...
I'll tell you about Texas radio and the big beat
-- The Doors; "Stoned Immaculate"

My brother called to tell me about a lecture he heard at the university he works at on the West Coast. The woman who presented on the environmental crisis that the world now faces was inspirational, but like many good people, my brother feels overwhelmed by the ultimate size of the problems we face -- including a corporate "shadow government" that is invested in ignoring the addiction to fossil fuels. And a corporate media that serves daily doses of narcotic nonsense, which dulls the senses of the public, and prevents them from grasping the certain pain and suffering that awaits just around the bend.

Ike issued the famous warning about the military-industrial complex, of course. Much of the public recognized this was a significant warning, but too many valued the statement, more than its implications. Since the end of WW2, the USA had become the most powerful nation on the planet, and the new middle class experience proved comfortable. Yet, by the time JFK took office as a new leader born in the new century, an older form of power-elite had become entrenched in the shadows of democracy.

That group, called the "High Cabal" by Churchill, and the "invisible power structure" by R. B. Fuller, had a governing philosophy based upon four social theories. Prouty notes that these include: "real property," defined by the doctrine of discovery and the rights of conquest; Malthus's population theory, in which humans reproduction is geometric, while resources reproduce at an arethmatic rate, before dwindling; social Darwinism; and Heisenburg's theory of undeterminant synergism.

In this context, Dallas wasn't a coup; it was a re-alignment of power. Likewise for the response to Watergate, in which the congressional actions were merely the visible part of a much larger iceberg. Lamar Waldron's series of three books (the first two written with Thom Hartman) document the "invisible power structure's" on-going re-alignment throughout the 1960s and '70s. (See "Ultimate Sacrifice," "Legacy of Secrecy," & "Watergate: The Hidden History.")

The Reagan-Bush administration demonstrated that corruption alone did not disqualify those fronting for the machine from holding the reins of power. In fact, the Reaganites were more criminal than the Nixon gang, and did more institutional damage to our form of federal government. But the elite prospered: as David Stockman would later admit, "Reaganomics" was a lie intended to redistribute the country's wealth towards the top.

Based largely upon MIT's Jay W. Forrestor's theory of "systems' dynamics," the Reagan-Bush administrations recognized that US resources were dwindling. The example of steel shows how domestic industry was undercut, damaging the entire national economy. Yet the powerful elite became even more entrenched in a modern, updated feudal system.

This required their joining forces with the elites of other nations. This is best illustrated by its impact on US foreign policy: the Reaganites created an entity they called "the Enterprise," which ran the series of criminal activities known as the Iran-Contra scandal. A proper understanding of this "invisible government" activity includes not only a foreign policy that ignored the constitutional system, but which violated the very concepts upon which this nation was formed. It planted the seeds for Wall Street and banking "crises," which continue to undermine our society today.

The power elite's goal is not to avoid global crises, it is to prepare the 1% to survive these crises. Hence, Stockman's comments that the actual purpose of Reaganomics was to build the nation's military capabilities, while destroying the social programs that intended to benefit the masses. Often, this economic theology includes the delusional belief system voiced by James Watt, regarding not knowing how many generations were to preceed the "Second Coming."

One can debate which, if any, US President has challenged the power elite since JFK. What is beyond debate is that this tiny group has continued to increase in fortune, while the majority of citizens have endured a cold and harsh economic reality. More, our system of government has become the Jerry Springer Show. The few rational voices in DC are ignored by a media that provides a grand platform for the outrageous histrionics of jackasses unfit to hold office.

No one person, or single group, has "the" answer to the crises we face. However, in my opinion, every individual and group should focus upon the Constitution for a framework of how government can best work. More, we should study the ideas and activitiies of those who have challenged the machine in the past -- people like Martin Luther King, Jr., for example. We need to divest our investments in McAmerica. We need to stop being unconscious and unwitting participants in the destruction of the living environment, which includes humanity.

I can tell you this: no eternal reward will forgive us for wasting the opportunities of Now.

A Quay in the Life

"All politics is local."
-- Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives

It's been a strange couple of weeks in rural, upstate New York. In one town, I helped run three campaigns; in a town in another county, I helped to run two. Although the record of candidates I've backed in elections in the past two years won five of five contests, this year's results were not so good (two wins and three loses). But we continue the Good Fight.

Early on the morning following one of my letters-to-the-editor being published in a small weekly, I had one of those annoying anonymous calls: "I hope you have life insurance, you big-mouthed asshole." Not having consumed any coffee, I was at a loss for a glib response. And the fellow hung up immediately anyhow.

I did a radio ad, focusing on a republican candidate's record with dumping toxic wastes in the town. I noted that if he wanted, I would be glad to debate him on the issue. After five days of play, he went to the radio station, and demanded the ad be dropped. The station manager offered to arrange a live, on-air debate, if the fellow wanted to "correct the record." He declined; the ad continued to play.

Last Sunday, a friend and I did some door-to-door dropping off of a campaign flier. Most people were interested in the flier. But not all: one fellow wanted to throw stuff at me; another wanted to push me; and a third had to struggle with the urge to punch me. As we left his driveway, he was yelling, "Fuck you! And fuck the environment, too!" Yikes! It's as if "road rage" has seeped into people's lawns and homes.

Five to One

Five to one, baby, one in five
No one here gets out alive now
You get yours, baby, I'll get mine
Gonna make it, baby, if we try

The old get old and the young gets stronger
May take a week and it may take longer
They got the guns but we got the numbers
Gonna win, yeah, we're takin' over, come on!
-- James D. Morrison


Happy Daylight Savings Time.


Watergate Blews

"What did the President know, and when did he know it?"

I was thinking about that famous line today, on the ride home from doing some campaign work. And not in terms of President Obama; I wasn't thinking about any particular U.S. President, but more about what Michel Crozier spoke of in his 1964 book, "The Bureaucratic Phenomenon" (University of Chicago Press). It's the idea that in most large institutions, be they the French experience of Crozier's focus, or the US government, newly empowered "leaders" find it difficult -- if not impossible -- to enact the changes they believe they have been given a mandate for.

Now, obviously, I was tired: how else could my mind dance about from the five local "town" campaigns that I'm helping to run, to presidential politics? While three of the candidates are seeking re-election, two are new to running for office. One of the two is a retired university professor, the other a young business owner. Both are highly intelligent, socially conscious individuals, running for all the right reasons.

But they cannot fully appreciate -- yet -- how difficult it is to make changes, once they are in office. The other three do. They know it, from learning it in their first terms in office (the range there being 2 to 16 years).

"Local" politics is, sadly, beginning to be as raw and acrimonious as the decay in the Congress in Washington, DC. I'm currently working with a three-county bi-partisan group on a range of issues, from an epidemiological study of the most polluted town in the most polluted county in New York State, to endorsing candidates who advocate a balance between economic development and environmental responsibility. Sometimes, I feel that we are but a tiny island of sanity in a sea of madness (though Neil Young was not playing on the radio on my ride home).

Senator Howard Baker, Jr., who made the quote about the President and what he knew and when, joined other former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole, Tom Daschle, and George Mitchell, in forming the Bipartisan Policy Center. Odd, how much such a thing is needed today. Odder yet how unlikely it is that this type of effort is so far out of style.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a Howard Baker fan. But I do realize that for much of his career in the Senate, his positions would disqualify him for today's party. That may be meaningless. From time to time, we read where some person or another claims that Dick Nixon was "more liberal" than President Obama -- which is an absolute fucking lie, and kind of true, all at the same time, because there were and are tons of issues, and times change.

Still, it strikes me as worth considering five of the points Baker, as the VP of the Senate Watergate Committee, made in its final report. (Funnier yet, to remember that Nixon wanted to appoint Baker to the US Supreme Court in '71; terrible that when Baker hesitated, Nixon appointed William Rehnquist.)

He felt there should be a full-time "Public Prosecutor" to keep the Executive Branch from engaging in illegal and/or unethical practices .....after all, John Mitchell had shown that the Office of the Attorney General could be inhabited by a crook. Yet, there were questions about the constitutional balance of powers: Congress can impeach; the Courts decide legal cases. But neither prosecute criminal offenses. Baker supported Senator Ervin's suggestion that presidents appoint an independent "Public Prosecutor" to serve six year terms, and that any president would need Congress to okay the appointment (or firing thereof, to avoid another Saturday Night Massacre).

Oversight of intelligence agencies: a novel concept then, which may seem impossible today, but which really deserves attention.

Protection of witnesses' constitutional rights, when testifying before congressional committees. I think that we can have interesting discussions, when we look at how we feel about Nixon's men versus those serving a president we like: what rules create a just balance?

Campaign and election reform: "Only individuals can vote, and I believe only individuals should be able to contribute," Baker noted, when discussing how corporate contributions to Nixon had financed the huge array of crimes known collectively as "Watergate." That attempted theft of our constitutional democracy almost succeeded. Curiously, Baker believed the fallout from Watergate would prevent any president in the near future from attempting such things again. (This relates to #5 and then his gig with Reagan. Older DUers will recall when Baker took over for Donald Regan, towards the end of the Gipper's 2nd term; Regan believed he was the "prime minister" of Ronald Reagan's very Imperial Presidency.)

Baker thought the description "Imperial President" was cliche, and that the "Strong President" -- with increased power and authority -- was a natural development in our maturing democracy. He was, of course, very wrong about that. However, he did express concern that US Presidents were becoming isolated by their growing personal staffs; more, Congress had less ability to exercise the checks and balances defined in the Constitution, because the president's staff, unlike the cabinet, was largely beyond their reach. Again, for both "good" and "bad" administrations, there might be a benefit for placing more power in a cabinet than staff -- from the public's point of view.

What do you think?

Bonus Question: Who was the far too often overlooked "6th buglar" at the Watergate? Hint: he wasn't caught inside, or ever charged. Next Hint: He worked for McCord for quite a while. And he was paid from Dean's "hush money" that was never accounted for.

"The Ring"

Two days ago, an unidentified person left a bag with ten old The Ring magazines outside of my door. The magazines date from 1035 to 1963. Most are from the 1950s.

I enjoyed (re-)reading predictions by "experts" about the then-upcoming fight between heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston and a young challenger named Cassius Clay. Only two -- Jersey Joe Walcott and Marty Marshall -- gave Clay any chance. Most were sure "The Bear" would flatten Clay in one round!

Walcott, of course, was the former champion who was the referee in the Ali vs Liston rematch; Marshall was the first man to defeat Liston, in the first of their three fights.

I'm having fun going backwards in time.The quality of writing was overall far superior to today's.

Boxing! 10-12

At Las Vegas (HBO PPV): Timothy Bradley Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, 12 rounds, for Bradley's WBO welterweight title.


This is an interesting bout; while it shouldn't be PPV (or should be at a low price), I'm looking forward to it.

Bradley is younger, and naturally bigger. While not a big power-puncher, he is able to set a pace few can keep up with. However, he can be hurt .....and was actually almost knocked out in his last fight.

Marquez is 40, and has been through many tough fights. He is coming off his career high -- flattening Manny Pacquiao -- and is looking to win a title in yet another weight class.

I think it is likely that at some point, perhaps in the 5th or 6th round, Marquez will catch Bradley coming forward, attempting to bang on the inside. If Marquez hurts him, he will take him out. If not, Bradley wins by decision in a bloody fight.

Is anyone else watching the card? Who do you pick to win?

Managerial Conservatives vs Tea Party

"He felt at the moment like a tight-rope artist might feel if suddenly, in the middle of the performance, the manager of the Music Hall were to rush out of the proper managerial seclusion and begin to shake the rope."
-- Joseph Conrad; The Secret Agent


The splintering of the republican party is interesting to watch. It is, of course, causing damage to very real human beings, which comes as no surprise: for the essence of the republican party is corporate inhumanity to mankind. The cog-in-the-machine unconscious nature is found not only in the shutting down of federal government operations, or even the willingness of congressional republicans to sacrifice their aides' insurance -- it's highlighted by the willingness of those aides to continue to work for masters who have so little regard for their well-being.

The malignancy known as the "tea party" is taking a course that many of us "old-timers" on DU predicted. It's not a great mystery. There have been examples of similar dynamics in and at the edges of the Democratic Party in the past. This is definitely not to say that the groups involved are "just alike" -- in fact, they tend to be polar opposites. Rather, it has to do with two sub-groups that, for any of a variety of reasons, become aligned.

The two groups in the Democratic Party are the progressives on the left, and the combination of liberal-to-moderate folks. The example that might best illustrate the group dynamics would be the Civil Rights Movement. Until 1960, a significant number of the southern black registered voters were republicans. Martin Luther King, Sr., is but one example. This was largely because of the Dixiecrats, or southern democrats who strongly opposed integration.

In the years 1960 to '64, more black people placed their hopes on the national Democratic Party. The Kennedy family had appealed to them, when during the 1960 contest between JFK and Nixon, the Kennedy brothers attempted to help Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was in a southern jail. President Kennedy didn't follow through with his infamous "with a stroke of a pen" campaign pledge, but he and Attorney General Robert Kennedy did make some attempts to support the movement.

By '64, the Civil Rights Movement had grown to include numerous people who were not entirely invested with King's non-violent program. The college students in organizations such as SNCC were expecting more immediate change in the system. When the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party attempted to seat their delegates at the 1964 convention, they were following the law and party rules. More, they pledged to support LBJ and the party's plank. However, more than 80% of the regular state delegates had said they planned to vote for Goldwater, the republican candidate.

LBJ wanted a "perfect" convention. Along with other party bosses, he had a host of liberals attempt to convince the MFDP to settle for seats, but no votes; then, eventually, two voting delegates, with the promise of full recognition in 1968's convention. The MFDP refused.

Thus, in that era, the LBJ folks were known as the liberals who attempted to manage the party, and the MFDP and SNCC as the radicals. The managerial liberals offered future gains for current compromise; the radicals were less compromising, and wanted results "now." And, by 1968, the divide between the managerial liberals and the radicals -- which included a strong student anti-war movement -- had begun to separate, often fully, from the Democratic Party.

After the 2008 presidential election, a small grass roots movement, almost entirely white, had begun. It was known in some areas as the "tea party." At first, it included people who were unhappy with both major political parties. But some of the managerial conservatives in the republican party sought to buy it, so that they could control it. And indeed, they did just that. With the new-found funding, the tea party was being managed in a way that it became an entirely anti-Obama phenomenon. It was programmed to disrupt town hall meetings, and a commercial image was created to increase the paranoia and hatred of the white, largely middle class public.And it definitely helped republicans in the 2010 congressional elections.

By 2012, however, the tea party was able to win primary contests, and placing bat-shit crazy obstructionists in numerous congressional races. Some won, and some suffered humiliating defeats. That combination of victories and defeats, along with the failure of the managerial conservatives to put a true, radical tea party clown on the presidential ticket, was the lightening that struck life into the republican party's Frankenstein monster.(All Ted Cruz needs is a couple bolts on his forehead.)

Today, of course, we see that monster is out-of-control. The republican managerial squad is unable to control it. And we hear them on the news shows expressing concerns that the radicals are doing long-term -- meaning 2016 -- harm to their party. The only real question is if the managerial conservative bosses, especially those who operate behind the scenes, will allow Cruz the opportunity to self-destruct, or if they will feel the need to cut his legs out from under him.

Beat Piece

See dig, mama, uh, do ya understand that?
(No)
Well uh, like, I can understand how you can’t, because I’ve been uh,
You know, Paris, Beirut, you know, I mean Iraq, Iran, Eurasia, you know
I speak very very um, fluent Spanish
Ah, todo ‘sta bien, chévere, you understand that?
(Chévere?)
Chevere, bien chevere, is that right mama?
'Cause I’ve got my shaky .....
-- Stevie Wonder; intro to "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing"

Last night, I was looking through some "threads" on DU:GD, and noticed some interesting comments regarding the media coverage of the new Iranian president. Not coincidentally, I was reminded of some recent discussions of the new pope. Some folks find each of their public messages encouraging, and others do not. Now, maybe that is the way it should be -- because especially on this forum, there is never total agreement on any important issue. Those differences of opinion -- which often reflect differing values -- have the potential to lead to meaningful discussions.

On the down side, those same differences of opinions and values can lead to meaningless arguing, with anger and insults saturating a thread. In recent years, that has become all too common on this forum. Of course, it has happened since DU began attracting a wider audience, and intensified during the 2008 president primary season.

My purpose in writing this is not to stir the pot of negativity. I understand that people can, and do, have strong feelings about Iran, the Middle East, US policy there, and the Catholic Church as well. A person could have a connection to one or more of these, or they might view them in very negative ways. Yet, for sake of discussion, I think it is important to remember that both are collections of human beings -- some good, some not good -- and each has a long history.

Both new leaders have recently made public statements that, if nothing else, tend to suggest that they are a bit more open-minded than the person they replaced. That does not translate into either the church or nation suddenly becoming ideal. But it sure as heck is better than some of the narrow-minded to hateful things that have come from both groups before.

Recognizing this does not mean one subscribes to Catholicism or Islam. However, no matter how one feels about them, they do exist. And human history has far too much proof that when any such group -- be it a nation-state, religion, etc -- has a spokesperson who publicly stirs the passions of anger, fear, and hatred, it can result in violence.

Equally true is that when a leader speaks of peace and reconciliation, it can calm people, and possibly open their minds. And an open mind just might catch onto an idea .....and there is Power in Ideas. For example, with very few exceptions, most people suffer when there are constant threats of violence, and violence and warfare.(Not to mention that a closed mind, like a closed room, always becomes stuffy.)

The world has more than enough "leaders" who advocate violence and warfare for reasons ranging from land to oil to how someone interprets a sentence in a religious book. There are enough corporate vultures that prey on death and destruction. And I'm not talking about self-defense against attack -- I mean the Dick Cheneyites of the world.

So, I understand why many of us find it at least potentially hopeful that the new Iranian president and new pope are saying rational things, which suggest more open minds. Likewise, I understand why others among us insist upon seeing real actions, solid proof of good intentions, before getting their hopes up.

Hopefully, to some extent, we can do some of both, as individuals and as a community.

Peace,
H2O Man
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