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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
December 28, 2012

Amendment 2 Blues

While reading through numerous threads on General Discussion, I am reminded of an old saying of Mark Twain’s: “The problem today is not one of ignorance, but rather, is one of folks knowing so much that just ain’t so.” Surely, this fit’s the on-going discussions on Amendment 2 like a glove. And that glove becomes an even more snug fit, when the emotional content transforms cool conversations to the heated arguments found here.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that there isn’t enough focus on the Constitution, and its application to our culture, in public education. I do not blame either teachers or administrators for this. Public education should teach the rights and responsibilities of our nation, just as surely as reading and writing. That was, in fact, a significant part of its “original intent.” However, in the post- Civil War era, public schools became the training ground for obedient factory drones, and the need to raise one’s hand to secure permission to use the restroom became more important that understanding the Constitution. Today, as public education is being geared -- again, not by teachers -- to separate the potential high-tech employees from the “service” workers, that new stratification requires a greater ignorance of the Constitution, multiplied by emotion.

I do not claim to be a “Constitutional scholar” -- a label frequently misused here -- but I do have many years of informal study on the topic of the its history and application, along with a couple of years of studying the law in college. In other words, I am at about the level that I think is required for responsible citizenship -- no more, no less. And although I’ve seen no evidence of any Constitutional scholar inhabiting the forum, I do think it is beneficial for our community to discuss the many related issues here.

Let’s start with a basic description of some of the terms used in meaningful discussions of the Constitution. First, there is “original intent” (or original meaning) and “current understanding.” The original intent is, of course, what the Founding Fathers believed the Constitution, and especially the Bill of Rights, meant. Even a shallow knowledge of the workings of the Founding Fathers includes the recognition that they frequently disagreed. One area of disagreement was the often ill-defined gray area of the rights of individual states versus the power of the federal government. Indeed, if that were not so, we would still be governed by the Articles of Confederation.

How the Constitution applies to current events is defined by “Constitutional Law.” In other words, it is defined by the interpretations of the US Supreme Court. The federal court system deals primarily in appeals of lower court (re: state) decisions; it is not based upon “guilt” vs. “not guilty,” but on if there was a potential violation of Constitutional Rights. And, right or wrong, the lower federal courts are required to follow the precedent set by the Supreme Court.

The fact that the USSC at times renders split decisions indicates that, even today, there can be vigorous disagreement on issues of Constitutional Law. Likewise, there are many indications that the “current understanding” of the law evolves: hence, for example, the increased number of amendments since the Bill of Rights was confirmed. This is obviously one of the primary reasons that the public should have a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the Constitution and Constitutional Law. The troubling lack of insight is threatening to allow the federal government’s non-judiciary branches to stack the courts with right-wing and corporate-minded injustices -- not limited, unfortunately, to conservative republicans -- who follow a path that shreds the very foundation of the Bill of Rights (the “Patriot Act” being the most obvious bi-partisan example).

Now, let’s look at just one example of the current lack of understanding of the Bill of Rights, currently raging on this forum. And I’ll start by saying that I am definitely in favor of stronger “gun control” laws, as are the majority of Americans. However, Amendment 2 has to be taken into account -- at least until such time that it is repealed, something that isn’t going to happen any time soon. Yet the second amendment does not, as a matter of Constitutional Law, provide for an unlimited right for individuals to own any and all weapons that strike their fancy.

But before we can have a meaningful discussion of that complicated issue, it is important to have a grasp of the original intent. Why is there an Amendment 2 ? What led to it? And did it address individuals, militias, or both? The answers to those questions is found rooted in the dynamics which, by no coincidence, led to what would become known as “the shot heard around the world.”

The British powers were concerned primarily by the guns held by the citizens of and around Boston, MA. Hence, “General Sir” Thomas Gage attempted to force these people to turn over their guns. The Continental Congress recognized how foolish this was, especially under the circumstances. And it had nothing to do with the hunting rights (or self-defense against Native Americans) that folks in the rural border areas had.

After the Revolutionary War, several individual states would include “gun rights” in their state constitutions. When the general concept came up a (relatively) short time later, in the context of Amendment 2, a central question was if these rights were exclusive to a militia, or did the right apply to individuals? As with so many issues, there was a wide range of opinions on what was needed. Those representing four states in particular -- Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont -- would advocate strongly for the individual’s right. Indeed, one of the topics of conversation was that a state militia could, by definition, allow for the said state to deny individual rights. A proper reading of the history of Amendment 2, as well as of the Constitutional Law related to it, makes clear that it is -- at very least -- intended to protect individual rights, as well as group (militia) rights.

People on both sides of the on-going debate would do well to become more educated about the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, and of the detailed history of Constitutional Law. It strikes me as unlikely that any meaningful progress can or will be made by those who base their thinking about this important issue solely upon bias and ignorance. Yet the need to address the brutal realties of violence in America demands action, now.

H2O Man

December 26, 2012

A Holiday Greeting

“The original instructions direct that we who walk about this earth are to express a great respect and affection and a gratitude toward all the spirits that create and support life. We give a greetings and thanksgiving to the many supporters of our lives …..the plants, the animals, the water, the air, and the sun. When people cease to respect and express gratitude for these many things, then all life will be destroyed, and human life on the planet earth will come to an end.”
-- John Mohawk; Seneca Nation; Presentation to the United Nations; September, 1977.

I’ve been thinking about the late John Mohawk today. He passed away six years ago, at the age of 61. John taught at the University of Buffalo for many years. He was also a prolific author; he published books, magazine articles, and newspapers, focusing on a wide range of issues. One of his passions was cooking traditional foods, which tend to be far healthier than much of what is represented as nourishing these days.(His last trip abroad was to Vietnam; his reason for going was to learn the recipes for some of his favorite meals.)

My older daughter, home for the semester break at college, made a delicious squash soup today. For years, preparing the squash soup was my duty. Times change.

Her friend from college, who is from China, is staying with us. This gives me a unique opportunity to talk to a highly intelligent young lady about Chinese history and current events. She used to work summers in a museum in the small city she was raised in, and thinks it is outstanding that our home is something of a museum, too. Later this week, she will be preparing some traditional Chinese meals.

She told me about how, a few years back, there was a construction project in a neighborhood near her home. Under the ground, the workers found the remains of an ancient structure, some 2,000 years old. Some of the artifacts uncovered ended up in the museum that she worked at.

I think about that, and a few of the threads that I’ve read here in the past 24 hours, about how Christianity borrowed from older traditions, for its Christmas festival. That’s to be expected: it is no different than one building being constructed on the site where an ancient one once stood, or than my daughter making the squash soup, much as I used to.

It’s important to be aware of the reality that this is our turn in the cycle of life. Try to find the balance that works for you: work on social-political issues; fight the Good Fight; and be sure to enjoy the simple things in life.

Happy holiday season to all.

H2O Man

December 22, 2012


“And then they start looking for a scapegoat, because someone has got to ‘take the weight’ for people’s lack of moral consciousness and their low level of being. For the tyrant-politician knows what most people do not even suspect: that hatred is the greatest pacifier of this entire planet earth; that all you have to do is to make the people hate a common enemy and they will soon forget about everything and everyone else ……and particularly their own low level of being.”
-- Rubin “Hurricane” Carter; letter to H2O Man; 6-26-1979.

Years ago, I accompanied a young man to a court hearing near Syracuse, NY. He was one of the people on my caseload at the county mental health clinic. Although this fellow was enormous, fierce-looking, and suffered from a psychotic disorder, I knew him as a gentle giant who did his very best under circumstances that would cause most people to simply give up. The court personnel saw him as mentally ill.

On the ride back, we stopped for lunch at Onondaga. While we ate, Chief Paul Waterman came into the diner, and joined us at our table. Soon the young man was telling Paul about how painful it is to be labeled and treated as “mentally ill.” Paul told him that this was not his true identity; that at Onondaga, he would be recognized as Gerald, the wood-cutter, who treated everyone with respect, and who at times had to deal with a mental illness.

I think about the way society sees people. For example, consider the distinctions between the following two statements:

{1} Some mentally ill people are dangerous and violent.

{2} Some dangerous, violent people are mentally ill.

As a society, our focus should be on reducing the ability of violent, dangerous people to commit crimes of brutality. This includes all violent, dangerous people -- not just one subgroup -- and it includes focusing on the tools of the trade.

And it includes not falling for the lies of the weapons industry’s point guard, like the specimen who delivered the NRA’s talking points yesterday. They will continue to try to distract and divert our attention from their agenda, by trying to spread hatred and fear, and to identify the most defenseless of scapegoats that they can find.

Keep your eyes on the prize.
H2O Man

December 18, 2012

A Raid on the Unspeakable

“One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. I do not doubt it all, and that is precisely why I find it disturbing.

“If all the Nazis had been psychotics, as some of their leaders probably were, their appalling cruelty would have been in some sense easier to understand. It is much worse to consider this calm, "well-balanced," unperturbed official conscientiously going about his desk work, his administrative job which happened to be the supervision of mass murder. He was thoughtful, orderly, unimaginative. He had a profound respect for system, for law and order. He was obedient, loyal, a faithful officer of a great state. He served his government very well. He was not bothered much by guilt. I have not heard that he developed any psychosomatic illnesses. Apparently he slept well. He had a good appetite ….

“Torture is nothing new, is it? We ought to be able to rationalize a little brainwashing, and genocide, and find a place for nuclear war, or at least for napalm bombs, in our moral theology. Certainly some of us are doing our best along those lines already. There are hopes! Even Christians can shake off their sentimental prejudices about charity, and become sane like Eichmann. They can even cling to a certain set of Christian formulas, and fit them into a Totalist Ideology. Let them talk about justice, charity, love, and the rest. These words have not stopped some sane men from acting very sanely and cleverly in the past.... No, Eichmann was sane. The generals and fighters on both sides, in World War II, the ones who carried out the total destruction of entire cities, these were the sane ones. Those who have invented and developed atomic bombs, thermonuclear bombs, missiles; who have planned the strategy of the next war; who have evaluated the various possibilities of using bacterial and chemical agents: these are not the crazy people, they are the sane people. The ones who coolly estimate how many millions of victims can he considered expendable in a nuclear war, I presume they do all right with the Rorschach ink blots too. On the other hand, you will probably find that the pacifists and the ban-the-bomb people are, quite seriously, just as we read in Time, a little crazy. I am beginning to realize that ‘sanity’ is no longer a value or an end in itself. The ‘sanity’ of modern man is about as useful to him as the huge bulk and muscles of the dinosaur. If he were a little less sane, a little more doubtful, a little more aware of his absurdities and contradictions, perhaps there might be a possibility of his survival. But if he is sane, too sane ... perhaps we must say that in a society like ours the worst insanity is to be totally without anxiety, totally ‘sane.’”
-- Thomas Merton; Raids on the Unspeakable

The brutal mass-murder of 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adult females last Friday was a stark example of what Merton called the “Unspeakable.” In recent years, a former student of Merton, James W. Douglas, has authored books on President John F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi’s experiences in challenging the Unspeakable. I have found myself reading from these and three other related books, trying to make sense of this terrible incident.

Merton’s definition of the Unspeakable includes: “One of the awful facts of our age is the evidence that (the world) stricken indeed, stricken to the very core of its being by the presence of the Unspeakable. It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of politics and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss. It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience.”

Douglass’s first book, on JFK, notes that President Kennedy would reach the higher level of consciousness required to recognize the Unspeakable, during the Cuban Missile Crises. The haunting thought of millions of little school children potentially being killed in a nuclear war fueled the rapid change in his level of understanding. Douglas provides amazingly detailed documentation of how, as the result of the missile crises, Kennedy evolved from a “hawk” (though a relatively thoughtful, careful one) to a Peace Maker.

Gandhi’s journey was one in which after years of meditation and prayer, along with his non-violent revolutionary struggle, he reached enlightenment. It’s fair to say that to have a true manner to measure a man or woman, you must have a basic understanding of their level of understanding. This is true not only of a President Kennedy or a Gandhi: we can see evidence of this phenomenon right here, on the many threads about the school shootings.

********* ********** ********** ********** **********

We all view “the world -- and hence, this violent tragedy -- through our own prism; it is a lens that develops by both our life’s experiences, and equally importantly, our interpretation of them. It was heartbreaking, for example, to watch an itty-bitty boy being asked by a reporter about what he was thinking during the tense minutes inside the school? The child was silent for a moment, then said, “Whoa!” This makes an important point -- that identifying a person’s level of understanding is not a value judgment. Indeed, that boy’s brief statement was as profound as any reporting done by any journalist.

Thus, the many different ideas and opinions found on this forum, each attempting to identify the root cause -- or what is to blame -- for the school killings. Too many guns. Not enough people packing iron. Violent video games. Mental illness. In the media, we see others: Hollywood. Taking prayer out of school. And on and on, with each one expressing the person’s understanding, and coming through their individual prism.

The third book is Erich Fromm’s “The Sane Society.” Although it was published in 1955, I think that it can not only be applied to today’s world, but is actually more important now than it was at any time in the past half-century. Fromm details how conditions in the post-WW2 industrial society was resulting in increasing levels of social dysfunction: addiction, depression, anomie, and violence ranging from suicide to murder.

Next is Fromm’s “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.” This 1973 classic examines the personality traits which are related to cruelty and extreme violence. While there are descriptions from the past, for example, of psychopaths/sociopaths in pre-industrial revolution times, both the frequency and the technological advances that allow for larger violent outbursts in today’s culture are part of the Unspeakable.

The other book is James Carroll’s 2006, “House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power.” The author provides a fascinating history of how good and sincere men entered the Pentagon with a goal of making it a more efficient machine for advancing democracy around the globe. (Obviously, not all of those who entered were good or sincere.) Without exception, those good people found their plans frustrated. Not only was the Pentagon an entity, but it exerted control over these people’s thinking.

********** ********** ********** **********

When I saw President Obama speak last night, I found myself thinking that he recognized the brutal killings -- especially of the little children (although each adult certainly used to be such children) -- as the Unspeakable. I am aware of the very real possibility that this is just me, seeing events through my prism. But his words, and their delivery, were different than at other times.

Perhaps he, too, has grown in office, and like President Kennedy, has learned from the enormity of understanding the reality of life-versus-death for children. This is not an intellectual ability: both Barack Obama and John Kennedy were intellectually gifted men long before really confronting the Unspeakable. (Likewise, Robert Kennedy’s journey from 1963 to ‘68 was not intellectual; more, his came as a direct result from his late brother’s.)

President Obama is 100% correct that no one law can solve the problems that create the type of violent crime suffered last week. He is correct in saying that this does not excuse us from trying our best. That must include evaluating, and changing, some gun laws. It will mean expanding the health care system to include affordable, available mental health services. And that requires the recognition that people with mental illness live a legitimate life experiences, worthy of respect and dignity. A society that treats human beings with mental illnesses cruelly is morally ill.

A society that puts “tea party activists” carrying dangerous weapons at political events on television, and gives coverage to people who question Obama’s birth certificate, and reports on hate-mongers wanting to separate from the United States because a brown-skinned man is president, suffers from as high a level of paranoia as does any sick individual. It can comes as no surprise, really, when this cocktail of hatred and paranoia results in violence.

A community that cares for all of its children will not sit by when children in the next town suffer. President Obama must recognize that, just as we love our children, people in other nations around the globe love their children, as much as we love ours. And so we must change our approach to foreign policy, especially to conflict resolution.

I’ve read where people dismiss the idea that American foreign policy has any connection to a domestic incident such as this. Those of us who lived through the 1960s know better. We remember four little girls dying when hateful, paranoid people dynamited their church. We remember that Martin Luther King, Jr., became the greatest American prophet when he connected civil rights and Vietnam -- something that Malcolm X had done before King.

There are numerous examples of “common folks” who have recognized and struggled against the Unspeakable. Like the more famous ones, they see -- and understand -- the connections between all of the various individual factors that most of us view through our limited prisms. And they all say the same thing: the change we need will not be delivered by a leader, or a law, or any other single thing. The change we need is found in all of us doing our part, to the best of our ability. And the best of our ability requires that we rise above hatred and fear.

H2O Man

December 16, 2012

Blame & Responsibility

“The killer awoke before dawn.
He put his boots on,
And he walked on down the hall.”
-- Jim Morrison, The End

Adam Lanza decided to kill his mother, and as many human beings at an elementary school as possible. He dressed for the part in a manner that had meaning for him. He took the weapons and ammunition he thought necessary to commit the violence that would shock the nation. He loaded the guns, and he -- and he alone -- pulled the trigger.

It is normal, or at least as close to “normal” as is possible under such abnormal circumstances, for people to not only ask, “Why?” ….but to try to assign blame and responsibility to those who might have been able to prevent such a tragic events. Indeed, when these types of horrible mass-murders seem all too common, it is actually important that people, including you and I, engage in searches for answers.

Because such searches are important, it is essential that we do not lose track of the central fact that Adam is responsible for this outrageous example of man’s inhumanity to mankind. He killed those children and adults. And, without any question, he intended to do exactly that. The intense pain and suffering that he caused was the goal of his mission.

It is only after we recognize that Adam is fully responsible and can correctly be blamed for this brutal crime against humanity, that we can objectively evaluate any and all other factors that could have played a role in this. This search for answers includes a sequence of three important questions: What individual (psychological) and group (sociological) dynamics creates a person who fantasizes about, plans for, and then actually engages in this type of behavior? What can we, as individuals and as a society, do to prevent others from becoming such a person? And what can we do to prevent such individuals from having the capacity to maim and murder innocent victims?

It is obviously beyond debate that guns have played a significant role in the mass-shootings that so damage the social fabric of our culture. Thus, “gun control” is a valid topic for discussion. The balance between individual rights and group safety is clearly off kilter when a person like Adam can easily access the weapons of death as he did.

Likewise, it is fair to include topics such as mental illness, and public policies on “mental health care,” in our discussions. While we can all agree that mass-murderers are not “normal,” the truth is that ignorance about what mental illness is, and its relationship to violent crimes, helps to insure that there are gapping holes in the social safety net. In fact, people who suffer from a major mental illness are far, far more likely to be the victim of a violent crime, than to commit one.

The mass media plays a role in creating fear of the “insane mass-murderer,” of course; increased sales of their product depends upon this. Other factual errors in reporting enhances public misperceptions on everything from the “insanity defense” to where Mrs. Lanza was employed. It is fair to question if the media coverage of violent crimes serves to attract people like Adam, who want to make a public statement of hatred.

Issues including parenting, bullying, and school safety can also be very important. And hand-in-hand with these discussions goes the responsibility to educate one’s self, and to become an active participant in efforts to make society safer and less violent. We are at a point where nothing less than our best efforts, approached with an open mind, are required.

H2O Man

December 14, 2012

Flower Power

“Well I see fingers, hands, and shapes of faces
Reaching up, but not quite reaching the promised land.
Well, I taste tears and prayers and precious years wasted,
Saying, ‘Lord, please give us a helping hand’.”
-- Jimi Hendrix

What I’m about to say may not be popular on this forum. But I’ve never been particularly concerned with being popular. I do try to be a Human Being, but recognize that entails many complexities and contradictions.

I believe that humans are Earth Flowers. As individuals, we have the potential to bloom, and to reach the highest levels of earth consciousness. Those higher levels are usually associated with the teachings of the human race’s great teachers, or masters. But it can be found in every-day life. Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman taught me to listen to the song of the smallest birds.

Earlier this week, for example, when I went to pick my daughter up from high school basketball practice, I saw “God.” A friend who really can’t afford to -- she is a single parent with many responsibilities -- had taken in a four-year old girl who had been rejected, hatefully, by her biological mother. This little girl, a Central American Indian, had been severely abused by her young mother (who now resides in NYC). The love of my friend and her family is providing this beautiful little child the fertile ground needed to bloom.

I’m economically poor at this time, and so I’m not in a position to offer my friend financial assistance. However, because some of the best lawyers and the judge in this county are friends and extended family members, I can make sure that all the legal costs my friend has volunteered to take upon herself will be provided at no charge.

There is also the potential for humans to do “bad” things. When a society such as our own secretes so much fear and hatred, it creates a poisoned environment -- just as surely as the mindless dumping of toxic industrial wastes poisons the environment. When healthy populations are exposed to high levels of toxic wastes in their land, air, and water, a number of them will develop cancerous growths in their bodies. When a population is exposed to the hatred, tensions, and fears that poison so much of this nation, it should come as no surprise that it will take root, and result in destructive individual rages.

I’m getting ready to go to my daughter’s school soon, to watch her basketball game. As a parent and a school board member, it’ll be the end of a busy week there: a couple of ball games (boys and girls), two board committee meetings, and a few meetings with teachers. After the game, my family and I will be going to our friends’ home; he is a teacher, and she is a social worker.

When I got up this morning, I thought today would be pleasant. That I’d be enjoying watching some of the youngsters who have grown in the garden that is our school. The other team comes from the next town, and so we’ll be seeing relatives and friends who are also there to enjoy watching their children and grandchildren play.

But tonight will be different. Today’s events will impact the mood. It’s not only the knowledge that it could have been our school, or the opponent’s, or your’s. It was someone’s. And it was everyone’s.

I gathered 68 stones earlier this week, mainly from a vein of white flint cobbles. Tomorrow, I will bring loads of wood down to the fire pit near my sweat lodge. On Sunday, I’ll be doing a sweat lodge ceremony, most likely by myself. Some people see power in weapons; others see power in corporations. I think that real power is found in nature, in the natural world. The stream where I’ll get my water for Sunday is power. The stones, the trees, the fire: they are power. Human beings have real power, too, and I believe that we need to gather it together, to contest all of that hatred that is being poured into our environment.

H2O Man

December 13, 2012

On Susan Rice

A few thoughts on the news about Susan Rice:

{1} I agree with a post by Will Pitt, that it is likely that President Obama spoke to her about stepping aside before she did so.

{2} I believe that Rice was “qualified” for the job of Secretary of State. The idea that members of the republican party would say otherwise is obscene, considering their last choice under Cheney-Bush.

{3} I think that Rice’s investments in “energy” alone should have been enough for her to remove herself from consideration for this position.

{4} I personally would not and could not support her for this position, because her positions are too often identical with those of the neoconservative movement.

{5} I suspect that the republican party made a significant error in opposing her, because she played -- at very most -- a minor role in the issue they ranted about. Thus, it appears to many people that their opposition was based upon her being a black female.

{6} I think that John Kerry would be a decent option; more, I think that there are several democratic MA candidates who could win his seat in the Senate. Likewise, I think there are other good options for Secretary of State within the Democratic Party.

December 12, 2012

A Ring Walk

“ I count no sacrifice too great for seeing God face to face. The whole of my activity, whether it be called social, political, humanitarian, or ethical, is directed to that end. And as I know that God is found more often in the lowliest of his creatures than in the high and mighty, I am struggling to reach the status of these. I cannot do so without their service. Hence, my passion for the service of the suppressed classes. And as I cannot render this service without entering politics, I find myself in them. “
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi

Last week, I secured the funding necessary for the epidemiological study of a village in upstate New York. Although the actual “work” is being done on a voluntary basis, this project entails extensive “material” costs. Fund-raising has always been my least favorite part of social - political activism, but this is one of the projects that I could not cover on my own.

In the past, I’ve done grant writing for a non-profit human service agency; for a historical society; and for a “neighborhood” environmental group. All told, I secured hundreds of thousands of dollars that way. That, of course, required tax-exempt status, and tons of detailed reports and documentation of where every penny would be spent. Old habits die hard: I had prepared data for the two area businessmen who agreed to fund the health study. I was pleased when they both said that they didn’t need to see the information. Although we have only recently become acquainted, they said that my word was all that they required.

Among the volunteers we have ready to go door-to-door to deliver the health survey are high school and college students. When they ask me for estimates on how much time it will consume, I tell them that this depends upon if they stop to talk to people. By nature, I tend to take longer than anyone else I know, because I view the chance to listen to people as an opportunity to get them to become more involved politically.

Take, for example, the poor. This community has the largest “non-city” low-income neighborhood in rural upstate New York. It was where I lived until I was four, and again as a teenager. In my first job in human services, working with family violence, over half of my caseload was in that neighborhood. To a large extend, among a population that does not trust “the system,” people there trusted me. I had a job to do, but parents and grandparents understood that I was going to put their children’s well-being and safety first. I dare say that the majority of people there -- especially those from families that remembered my family from living there, or who knew me as an angry teen -- took me at my word.

There is a toxic industrial waste dump site at the edge of what used to be a neighborhood play ground there. It’s where I played as a child, and partied as a teen. The numerous dump sites in and around the village contain some of the same toxic chemicals used in hydrofracking. Hence, the epidemiology will document some of the effects of these poisons, and serve to illustrate, in human terms, what impact fracking will have.

I will enjoy the opportunity to go door-to-door in this neighborhood. As a general rule, although the residents there may be equally informed about fracking as folks in the middle- and upper-income neighborhoods, their life experiences have resulted in their viewing such issues differently. They might read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch the news on television, but they have too often convinced that their opinions don’t count. This is true among most of this nation’s poor.

In the 1980s and ‘89s, I had -- on my own time and dime -- organized the residents there on three projects. First, we got out the vote on school board elections, and helped elect two good and decent individuals who were interested in working to help all of the children of the school district. Second, we petitioned the village board to fix the neighborhood’s playground; when the board ignored the petition, we began attending their monthly meetings to demand they do their job. And third, when local interests sought to misuse a large HUD grant intended to improve the neighborhood, by evicting 120 families to make space for expensive “town houses,” we formed a tenant’s union. The media attention reached a university professor who is among the nation’s leading experts on poverty in the United States. No one was evicted.

In order to organize a movement from the grass roots up, we must involve high school and college students, as well as the poor. In doing so, we change the dynamics in everything from local elections on up. I am certain that it will also result in a change in tactics from our opposition. And in a case like this, our opposition isn’t limited to the republicans from the village, as they huddle at the bar of their country club. It includes the energy corporations that seek to exploit our region’s natural resources, no matter what the impact on the local people’s health and well-being may be.

When I was a young man, I loved that period of time spent in the locker room, getting sure enough ready to walk down that isle to the ring to fight. I loved that warm feeling of loosening up and shadow-boxing, and feeling fully confident that no opponent could possibly match my skills. These days, I’m an old man, looking forward to walking the streets of the village I once lived in. The only thing that I’m really confident about is that I will try to do my best.

H2O Man

December 9, 2012

Marquez by KO in 6 !

When a fighter goes down face-first, they are almost always counted out. And so it was tonight in Las Vegas, when Juan Manuel Marquez flattened Manny Pacquiao at the end of the sixth round.

The fight was outstanding. Pacquiao outboxed Marquez for the first two rounds. Then, in the third, Marquez landed a hard overhand right that snapped Pac Man’s head back, and deposited him on his back. Manny got up, and fought back through the end of the round.

Marquez took the 4th round, in which both men landed hard blows. In the 5th, Pacquiao scored a flash knockdown, and then administered a beating on an obviously hurt Marquez.

It was evident that Marques had a broken nose when he came out for the sixth round. Pacquiao was dominating the action, but appeared to be somewhat tired after expending a great amount of energy in the last round. He began to pressure Marquez in the final thirty seconds of the round, moving Marquez into the ropes. Then it happened: Marquez countered with a straight right, that put Pacquiao out, flat on his face. He was out cold for several minutes.

This was their 4th bout. The first was a draw; Pacquiao won the second by split-decision; and won the third by a highly-disputed majority decision.

December 9, 2012

On the USSC

“ ‘Justice is on our side and we won’t stop until equality reaches every corner of our vast country,’ Mr. Griffin said in a statement.”

Chad Griffin; President of Human Rights Campaign

I was pleased to see that the US Supreme Court will be hearing an appeal on the issue of marriage equality, with an opinion anticipated in June of 2013. It seems most likely to me that the Court will support marriage equality in a 5-4 vote. Interestingly, I’m confident that they majority will base their ruling on Amendment 14, while the minority will root their opinions based upon a purposeful misinterpretation of Amendment 1.

Let’s look first to the important section of Amendment 14‘s Section 1:

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Marriage is both a civil and human right. “Equal protection” applies clearly to marriage equality. Obviously, our nation has denied both groups and individuals numerous basic rights in the past, and that unpleasant reality applies here. However, the times, they are a’changing. And it seems clear that five of the Justices on the Supreme Court will recognize, and rule upon, this very clear rule of law.

The “state” has no actual interest, in any legal sense, that justifies the denial of marriage equality. In order to claim a valid interest, the state would be required to identify some illegality that could result in that “due process of law” noted in Section 1. Previous USSC decisions -- or Constitutional Law -- has already shut the door on that.

Hence, the opponents of marriage equality -- those who wish to deny other people the very same rights they enjoy -- are reduced to making historically incorrect and religious arguments. In the above quoted/linked article, a church official states:

"The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to hear these cases is a significant moment for our nation. I pray the Court will affirm the fact that the institution of marriage, which is as old as humanity and written in our very nature, is the union of one man and one woman.”

This, of course, brings us to Constitutional Law as it applies to religion:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There have been on-going disagreements on exactly what the relationship between church and state is, since the founding of the nation. Indeed, for years, this Amendment 1 restriction on government was interpreted as being exclusive to the federal government. Various individual states had laws that favored specific denominations, and restricted the rights of all others.

Even the great concept of a wall between church and state remains debated, and widely misunderstood to this day. While there are people on the political left who mistakenly believe that churches cannot and should not be active in things political at all, there are clearly far, far more on the political right that mistakenly believe that churches have an unlimited role in politics that is justified by their individual beliefs.

Thus, while progressive religious leaders have been involved in socio-political issues, such as the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement in the 1960s, they did not violate Amendment 1 in any way. Quite the opposite: those cases that were heard in the federal court system, including in the USSC, often helped give definition to those rights -- as in the case of Uncle Sam vs. Muhammad Ali. Clearly, what these types of cases have in common is that they seek to enhance the right of individuals and groups, in a manner that is legal and causes no harm to others.

The right-wing socio-political advocates of religion, on the other hand, consistently seek to limit the rights of those individuals and groups that do not subscribe to their particular viewpoint. The history of their attempts has never yet been based upon the target groups’ doing damage to anyone. This causes them to rely upon such weak arguments as their “way of life,” which could mean the tradition of restricting non-white people on public buses, or paying females less than males.

When their legal and historical errors are addressed, they then resort to their religious beliefs, which are by definition narrow and exclusionary. It’s a fact that they expect the state to endorse their particular religious beliefs -- as if others do not have an equal right to their own beliefs, or no religious beliefs at all. Sad to say that not only in the past, fundamental civil and human rights have been denied to individuals and groups, based upon corrupt religious rot ….but we can fully expect at least two, and probably four, of today’s Justices to rule in favor of religious intolerance and abuse.

It will be interesting.

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