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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
September 26, 2013

Beat Piece

See dig, mama, uh, do ya understand that?
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?
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.

H2O Man

September 21, 2013

Class Warfare

Have you seen the little piggies
Crawling in the dirt
And for all those little piggies
Life is getting worse
Always having dirt to play around in.
Have you seen the bigger piggies
In their starched white shirts
You will find the bigger piggies
Stirring up the dirt
And they always have clean shirts to play around in.
And in their styes with all their backing
They don't care what goes on around
And in their eyes there's something lacking
What they needs a damm good whacking.
Yeah, everywhere there's lots of piggies
Playing piggy pranks
And you can see them on their trotters
Down at the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks
To thee pig brother
Everywhere there's lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.
-- George Harrison

My father's extended family included numerous activists in the railroad unions. His dad came to the US in 1879, when some absentee landlord from another land evicted the family from the land in Ireland where they had lived on since the beginning of time. Dad told me many of the stories he had heard as a child, about the often violent conflicts between the working class and the non-working wealthy.

My grandfather and his family came here during what Mark Twain called the Gilded Age. He told my father about two federal acts that had been started in the years before he immigrated: in 1862, the Homestead Act promised private citizens title to 160-acre lots out west, for a small registration fee; the second "act" was the government's giving a quarter-million square miles of land to the railroad robber barons. Between 1865 and 1900, this was a gift larger than the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin combined.

It was, my father noted, the American way of institutionalizing class warfare in a legal way.

In the early 1900s, many in the working class again began to think in terms of class warfare. Some, he said, were the "liberals," who felt the political-economic system needed fine-tuning in order to be fair to everyone; others were "progressives," who believed in a more complete change, to what people called "democratic socialism" or "communism." Unions were viewed as the vehicle that would lead to social justice. During the Great Depression, many liberals and progressives began to identify FDR's New Deal coalition. They began to see government, even more so than unions, as being able to protect individual and families' rights.

Obviously, there were still large groups being mistreated as "less equal" than others. In the post-WW2 industrial boom, more and more people (especially white folks) became suburbanites: dad worked, mom cooked and cleaned, happy children went to school, and the whole family enjoyed the miracle of television, and a summer vacation. This was the liberal version of the American Dream.

The pesky progressives shrank in number and influence. Any alliance with liberals disappeared with the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which progressives called the "slave labor act." Congress overrode President Truman's veto to inact what Harry called "a dangerous intrusion on free speech." Seven years later, Senator Hubert Humphrey devised and sponsored the "Communist Control Act," which would have criminalized political thought.

Adlai Stevenson, liberal, was more popular -- thus influential -- than Henery Wallace, progressive. Thus, my father said, the liberals either bought into the system, or were bought by it. People who were living in comfortable houses were unlikely to protest too much, especially if they were making mortgage payments. Only two US Presidents would really work to institute significant changes in "the system" after Ike eight years: JFK would run as a semi-liberal cold warrior, then attempt to make progressive change; and LBJ would try to update the New Deal with his Great Society programs, but folded under the pressure from the war machine in Vietnam.

I think that many of these same dynamics are in play today. Even on this forum, for example, we see liberals who are pro-President Obama, often without any question (bomb Syria? Sure!), and progressives, who want more significant change than this President would ever consider. Some of us were comfortable when the "Occupy" movement brought the idea of class warfare to the public's consciousness; others were uncomfortable. I thought it was a good attempt to bring about an updated version of the "Poor Peoples' Campaign" that Martin Luther King was planning, at the time of his death.

September 13, 2013

Mayweather Forecast

Sept. 14
At Las Vegas (Showtime PPV): Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez, 12 rounds, WBA/WBC junior middleweight unification; Danny Garcia vs. Lucas Matthysse, 12 rounds, for Garcia's WBA/WBC junior welterweight title.

Two outstanding fights tomorrow night. First, let's look at the co-feature. Garcia, who was a top amateur and is now an undefeated pro, defends his titles against the man that many consider the hardest puncher in the sport. For much of his career, Garcia was a "boxer-puncher." In the past two years, he has relied upon his ability to maul opponents. And while it has worked thus far, two of the big names he beat were faded ex-champions. He did flatten Amir Khan, but had been badly hurt a round before he did -- so much so, that his corner was considering stopping the fight between rounds.

If he boxes Mattysse, landing power shots in spots, but not becoming a target, he can win. But that is a mighty big "if." Garcia has not shown defensive skills recently. And no one that size can take Mattysse's punches. Lucas has good boxing skills, and has learned from both of his loses (and both were close, disputed decisions). I favor Mattysse, because of his body-punching ability. He won his last bout with a devastating left hook to the liver.With everything else being fairly even going in, I believe that the body attack makes the difference.

Mayweather faces a bigger, younger foe in Alvarez. There's an old saying in boxing, that even a great champion can become old overnight in the ring. Bernard Hopkins has pointed out that this is an error: a fighter gets old in the gym. And, for the first time, Floyd has shown signs of the aging process in the gym. You can see it in his face -- which looks more and more like his Dad's -- and there are changes in his body.

Yet, he does not have the bad habits outside of the ring that accelerate the aging process. And only his hands have taken a great deal of punishment, relatively speaking, in the ring. He did damage his right hand in his last fight in May, and the hand injuries have been a serious issue since he turned professional. It is not a coincidence that, in training, we've seen Floyd concentrate far more than usual on body punches; there is far less risk of injuring either hand with a body punch, compared to a head shot. Also, Alvarez takes a good shot to the head -- he has been hurt before, but not by a man Floyd's size -- but body punches hurt everyone.

Alvarez has good hand-speed, a very good delivery (especially his left hook), and enough upper-body movement that he could present some problems in a jabbing dual with Floyd. I disagree with the "experts" that say he is stronger than Floyd, but because of his bigger size, he will be able to physically push Mayweather off-balance. This is especially true for when Floyd throws a lead right cross: he almost always steps in, and dips to his right, then steps out to the right. It may be the only pattern that I've ever picked up on with him. Be sure that Alvarez's trainers have, too.

That punch is going to land, no matter what anyone does. Floyd is that fast and accurate. Thus, the only question becomes, how do you respond? Most people simply take it in the face, while trying to cover up. Alvarez will roll the dice: he will be willing to take a hard shot, in order to bring his weight behind a left hook that lifts. Two results are possible: he will knock Floyd off-balance, where he is vulnerable; or he will be stunned by moving into a hard right cross.

The most likely outcome of this fight is Floyd by decision (even the first six rounds, with Floyd dominating the second half). But Floyd does want the knockout. Alvarez is determined to win by decision or knockout, and he has the tools necessary to win. It should be an outstanding fight.

(I'm heading to the gym with Marvis Frazier this afternoon, to train my son. And Marvis is watching the fights with us tomorrow night. It doesn't get any better than that!)

September 7, 2013


"Oh say can you see it's really such a mess
every inch of Earth is a fighting nest
giant pencil and lip stick-tube shaped things
continue to rain and cause screaming pain
and the arctic stains from silver blue to bloody red ...."
-- Jimi Hendrix, American scald; 1983 ....(A Mermaid I Should Turn to Be)

I decided to not watch the news today. The same recycled commentaries about US intervention in Syria -- we must, we mustn't -- tend to present a limited range of opinions on what "options" the nation faces. It's not that I do not appreciate the insight of some commentators, be they journalists, politicians, or other guests. But today, I venture out to the quiet of my pond, armed only with two books and some food for both the fish and the birds.

I am accompanied by one of my dogs, Kelly. He is a white boxer-mix, with beautiful blue spots -- one could easily imagine one of his ancestors riding a fire truck. Kelly is one of my best friends; usually semi-hyper, he too relaxes at the pond. There is one spot on the stone retaining wall that he sits on, staring in amazement as the fish splash about, consuming their food. A couple of times, Kelly has ventured in to sample fish food ..... the koi are rather used to him, and compete with him for what is floating nearby. But today, he simply sits quietly, watches the fish for about ten minutes, and then lays down for a nap. I wonder: why does he lay on the rock, rather than the ground? While I like to sit on rocks, I find the ground a more comfortable place to lay down.

One of the books is Reza Aslan's "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." Since buying it last month, I've had two friends ask me with great discomfort: "Why are you reading this?" (Perhaps for the exact reason Kelly sleeps on the rock. I have read it three times now, and I sense that I'm okay.) I've told them that the book takes Jesus off the stained glass window, and views him in the context of human history -- where I suspect he not only belongs, but can do the world the most good.

The book tells of numerous wars, in and around that region known as the Middle East. Of an empire that expanded, over-reached, and fell. Of human beings killing and dying for reasons political and religious on the surface, but all saturated by hatred. "Jesus, your eyes," another North American scald sang, "they shine like the sun. I wonder why?"

It's written that he healed a leper. Halldor Laxness, the Nobel Prize-winning writer from Iceland, called war "the leprosy of the human soul." That was in the early 1970s, when my generation questioned the nation's war in Vietnam. The second book I have is: "The Eloquence of Protest: Voices of the 70's," edited by Harrison Salsbury (Houghton Mifflin; 1972). It contains powerful speeches, including the April 22, 1971 testimony of John Kerry, before the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Likely a majority of folks my age have thought of that testimony recently, as they watch film clips of Secretary of State John Kerry speak with absolute certainty about the moral necessity of the US bombing Syria.

As evening approaches, Kelly lifts his ears, well before opening his eyes and raising his head. It's only then that I hear a couple "clucks" coming from a distance ..... behind some tall grass, and inside a cluster of gnarled shrubs and dead trees. It is a small group of wild turkey; I can't see them at this point, but recognize their voices. They know that there is food here, but they also know there are two beings they do not want to encounter. Wild turkeys are in ways smart, in ways dumb. Thank goodness that the same can't be said about dogs or people.

The image of the turkeys reminds me of the great philosophical question regarding chickens: which came first -- the hen or the egg? If I could answer that, I could likely understand why "war" has been a constant human reality, not only in my lifetime, but since the beginning of this country, even back to the days of that rabbi from the other book.And what,exactly, did we humans not learn from the last war? Or the one before that? Or WW1? What am I missing here?

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