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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
March 29, 2014

Shades of Nixon

The late president Richard Nixon is certainly looking down from his office in hell with pride, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pays tribute to him. The "official" report authored by a gentleman from the law firm that will defend Christie in the 2015 federal court trial actually has less substance, than the investigative report on Watergate that Nixon tasked John Dean with writing. At least Dean had the insight to abandon ship, and deal with those investigating the series of crimes known collectively as "Watergate," and not write the report that was intended to "prove" Nixon bore no responsibility.

This resulted in Team Nixon turning the focus onto Dean, who had played a central role, much as Team Christie now blames Bridget Anne Kelly. The ugliness of their anti-Kelly campaign ranks with the essence of a Nixonian smear campaign: attempt to fully discredit an "enemy" -- often including someone that the top dog had recently promoted as worthy of the public's trust. The truly repulsive, sexist assault on Ms. Kelly really do not differ much from the Nixon camp's attempt to smear Dean with "hints" that tied his wife to a call-girl ring.

Being offended by the Christie whitewash does not translate into being a Kelly supporter. However, even if one disagrees with her on virtually every political belief she holds, it is important to defend her from the type of vicious attack she now faces. More, in doing so, one needs to highlight that not only is the sexist attack not acceptable, but two other extremely important facts: first, it is a blatant attempt to take focus off of the reall issues at hand; and second, it illustrates the character of Chris Christie and his pals.

I've never met Bridget Anne Daul (and certainly never want to). However, I do have a fair share of Kelly relatives in New Jersey. I understand that Bridget used to be young, and that the "slut-shaming" campaign is ready to "leak" some photos that the puritan strain of republicans will find so gosh-darned shocking that they will have to stare at them for hours.

I'm old enough to remember that John Dean was a shithead before he joined the Nixonoids; that he was a criminal while serving Tricky Dick; and that he was a jerk throughout the 1970s. But he changed. In the years 2002 to 2004, he was actually one of the best critics of George W. Bush and especially Dick Cheney. While not necessarily someone you'd want to be friends with, definitely a person that would be worth talking to.

Maybe, in time, Bridget Kelly will undergo a similar transformation. As a religious person, I am convinced that God eventually forgives republicans -- at the very end, of course. A tiny percentage of even the most foul of republicans have been redeemed while still living.

Like Dean, I think Kelly needs to be faced with criminal prosecution. However, I am not convinced she needs to be incarcerate. Certainly not, if others -- including Christie -- do not face far, far more significant punishment.

March 23, 2014

Rage Against the Republican Machine

"Share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, cover him ....
Then shall your light break through like the dawn
and your healing shall spring up speedily."
-- Isaiah, 58: 7-8

The 2014 mid-term elections are rapidly approaching, and 2016 will be here before you know it. The questions at the national level are: which party will control the House and Senate during President Obama's final two years in office, and who will take the Oval Office after Obama?

The answers to those questions should be the most obvious -- that it will be determined by how many people get out to vote, and who they vote for. Yet, as the 2000 presidential election showed, that isn't always true. More, for all the republican party's claims about voter fraud, the truth is that they are playing point in the effort to disenfranchise specific groups of potential voters.

Thus, other dynamics come into play. An important example can be found in the tea party movement. While it hasn't reached its full potential to damage the seams of the republican party, it has -- specifically in primaries -- removed some of the dehydrated fecal matter from the bowels of the republican machine. Luckily, it has produced candidates who are proud to explain that, "I am NOT a witch."

A structurally similar dynamic has, over the years, impacted the Democratic Party. This is because the Democratic Party can only access full power when it has the support of the Democratic Left, which includes people who may not be registered democrats. Although a segment of registered democrats are part of the Democratic Left, it also includes other liberals and progressives; they might be independents, Greens, socialists, or identify themselves in different ways.

At the grass roots level, the actual activists are found at a higher percentage among the Democratic Left, than in the Democratic Party itself. Those activists are the men and women who go door-to-door, who run the phone banks, who hand out fliers on street corners, and other things that help to get out the vote.

Traditionally, republicans can be depended upon to do whatever they are instructed to do: contribute dollars to campaigns, and vote for all (and only) republican candidates. Indeed, the average republican is a mere cog in a machine that produces results that frequently are not in the cogs' best interests. So long as the party's leadership serves up hatred and fear, it can count on the cog vote.

Individuals from both the Democratic Party and Democratic Left are much more likelt to think for themselves, and to have positive values; the resulting synergy can lead to their not always voting the way that the Democratic Party's leadership tells them to. Hence, the democratic candidates cannot be assured of a large turn-out from potential supporters.

This can lead to the type of tensions that we see here, on the Democratic Underground, during campaign season. Both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left have found their fullest strength when working together. The party is frequently limited in the scope of candidates it can win general elections in, without the left. And the left has rather limited power in the current political context. While both the party and left do have options for increasing their strength alone, it seems obvious that their combined efforts hold the greatest promise.

This, of course, raises some obvious questions. What forces prevent greater coordination between the party and the left? And what steps might remove such roadblocks?

I am a registered democrat; I have been since reaching voting age. In those same years, I have been a member of the Democratic Left. Like many others on this forum, I've had experience, as a candidate and as a campaign worker/ manager, in town, county, and state contests. I've been an active volunteer in presidential elections. I've taken a fair share of political science courses in college; read hundreds of informative books on campaigns; and have had the pleasure of learning from some outstanding grass roots activists over the decades.

Thus, I'm certainly not coming from any high places, but rather, am speaking from my grass roots experiences. My opinions on the relationship between the Party and the Left are just that -- my opinions. Others view things differently, and I respect that. There are relatively few black-and-white issues in political science.

Current trends in Washington, DC, should concern all of us. The outlook for the mid-term elections for the House and Senate should be unacceptable. The republican party offers no solutions, except for tax cuts to enrich the 1%. The necroconservatives are itching for a war (to be fought by other people's sons and daughters). Their lust for wealth would further destroy the environment.

The Democratic Party should be burying the republicans, both in congressional races and at various state levels. The fact that they are not is evidence that something is wrong. Very wrong. I say that, as someone who thinks that the vast majority of elected democrats in DC are doing a shameful job of representing our interests and values. That doesn't change the fact that the republicans are far worse, and have betrayed our nation.

There was a report on MSNBC last night, that listed many of the candidates for office being related to past officials, such as Rand Paul. This isn't limited to the republicans. Having political dynasties is damaging to our system, as it confirms that certain families are fronting for the elites. If there is a Bush vs Clinton contest in 2016, one can at very least accept that much of the Democratic Left will view it as diagnostic of the failure of the current two-party system. You can respect Hillary Clinton, and despise Jeb Bush, and still believe this type of thing could happen only because our system is sick.

Many thoughtful democratic loyalist recognize that we face very real problems, and that the usual democratic candidates are corporate lap dogs. Too many democrats attempt to use shallow scare tactics: if you don't vote for so-n-so, you are responsible for George W. Bush or others like him. It's not good to limit your own thinking, or to try to limit the mental options of others.

It's important that we not limit our thinking. I had long respected Ralph Nader, but by 2000, thought he had become bitter. I definitely supported Al Gore, 100%. Now, there are good people who mistakenly believe Nader cost Gore the election. Baloney. The US Supreme Court participated in a plot to steal the presidency. We must understand the full implications of that fact, in order to defend ourselves today and in the future. If we are to defend ourselves, we have to be able to identify exactly who our enemy is. And we need to understand the nature of that enemy.

When we identify that enemy, we'll find that many other groups have that in common with us. We face a common enemy. It's far better that the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left find common ground. It goes beyond that common enemy. We share values, and interests.

When we have that much in common, we should be working together. It doesn't mean that we will always agree. And there isn't a "one size fits all" way to deal with those areas of disagreement. But, in general, we should be able to agree to all support the strongest candidates we can. While most at the congressional level will be from the Democratic Party, there should be a growing number of candidates from the Democratic Left.

If we expect the Democratic Left to not only vote for Democratic Party candidates, but to invest their time and money in the campaigns, there has to be the same type of consideration for their candidates. This doesn't mean splitting the vote and thus allowing a republican victory. It simply means supporting the best candidate. In doing so, we reduce the obnoxious, paternal "you have no other choice but us" attitude that far too many establishment democrats take. That attitude is toxic, and can only increase resentments.

In my opinion, it's not too late to pull off a significant number of election victories in 2014. But in order to do so, the Democratic Party has to get back to its traditional values. Attempts to out-republican the republicans will cause humiliating defeats. Let's get the party back to where it once belonged.

H2O Man
March 20, 2014

Ali & Carter

"I ain't got nothing against them Viet Cong. They never called me 'nigger'."
-- Muhammad Ali

{0} Introductions
Perhaps my favorite part of the Democratic Underground is the friends I've met here. In some cases, that involves communicating by way of e-mail; recently, a good friend snail-mailed me copies of some outstanding music he has made, that I am busy distributing to both young and old artists friends, all cultural-political activists; others, I've spoken with on the telephone; and a few I've had the pleasure of meeting in person.

Earlier this week, one of my best friends here asked me to write an essay on the significance of two long-retired boxers. Both Muhammad Ali and Rubin Carter were more than gifted athletes: they challenged the conscience of the American public. Each has had, since the 1960s, both supporters and detractors. Among their "detractors" in the '60s were people in government offices, as well as in law enforcement. Both have enjoyed some support from some in government/ law enforcement, too.

By no coincidence, their lives were intertwined, from the time that Cassius Clay was a young heavyweight contender, and Carter was gaining national exposure on the infamous "Friday Night Fights." In the 1970s, Ali would serve as the #1 supporter of Carter's effort to get a retrial. A few years back, on an ESPN's Friday Night Fights card in Detroit, Rubin tended to Muhammad's needs, as the pair sat ringside.

Friend "panader0" -- being aware of my interest in both men -- suggested an essay on the pair might be of interest, both to "old-timers" who grew up in the 1960s and '70s, and to younger folks, who understand that these men contributed some things that should be as valued today as way back when.

{1} "I am the Greatest!" -- Cassius Clay

A dog-gone lot of hard work is required to become an overnight success, and so it was for a brash contender named Cassius Clay, who was consider too young and fragile to challenge heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston. Clay, who began boxing amateur at the age of 12, had won the national Golden Gloves title before competing in the 1960 Olympics. There, after the 18-year old won the gold, a reporter from the Soviet Union asked Clay about racial discrimination in the US? "At least we don't have people living in mud huts, wrestling alligators," Clay responded.

As Clay began his early professional career, President John F. Kennedy invited the heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, to the White House. JFK told Patterson that, if he opted to defend the title against #1 contender Sonny Liston, it was essential that he win. For Liston, an ex-convict with mafia ties, frightened Americans, both black and white. For younger readers, picture a "thug" who would make Mike Tyson seem like a Boy Scout with an Eagle Badge.

Liston would destroy Patterson twice in one-round knockouts. Despite his sincere attempts to be a good man outside of the ring, the media despised Sonny. They refused to report on his numerous activities to provide support of terminally ill children. Liston was literally trapped in the image the media created for him.

Meanwhile, Clay was defeating the second-tier heavyweight contenders. In fact, the bash young man was predicting what round he would knock them out in -- and he was consistent in doing so. Another important point was that his trainer, Angelo Dundee, would have Clay spar with the light heavyweight champion, and with a former heavyweight champion; Clay easily handled both men.

In his two bouts before signing to challenge Liston, Clay struggled against Doug Jones, then got off the canvas to stop Henry Cooper. Virtually all the "experts" were convinced Liston would flatten Clay in a round or two. No one was more confident of that than Liston himself, who trained for a two-round bout.

Clay released a record album titled, "I Am The Greatest," in which he recited round after round of his poetry, worshipping himself and insulting Sonny Liston. At the time when Cassius was entering his training camp, JFK was murdered in Dallas. A couple months later, the English rock group, The Beatles, invaded America. The Beatles would spend an afternoon at Clay's training camp; they did not, of course, visit the Liston camp.

The press began reporting that another figure was in Clay's camp: Malcolm X. Soon after JFK was killed, Malcolm had been "suspended" from the Nation of Islam. He had become something of a big brother/ mentor to Cassius by that time, and Clay had invited his family to stay in Miami with him. A fight between a mobster champion and a "Black Muslim" would be a promotional nightmare, and so -- under pressure -- Malcolm made himself invisible until the night of the fight. More, Cassius opted to not answer reporters' questions about Malcolm, much less tell them he had actually joined the NOI, and changed his named to Cassius X.

Dundee understood that, despite the media's perception, Cassius had grown in the past year, and when he entered the ring, was actually bigger than Liston. More, from his past experiences managing other top fighters, Angelo knew that a boxer can grow during a bout. Thus, the Cassius who entered the ring to challenge Liston, and who was anxious, even fearful in the first round, was not the the same fighter who left the ring after six rounds, as the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.

After each of his previous ring victories, Clay had celebrated with a dish of ice cream. That is part of the self-discipline that had made him champion. However, after the Liston fight, legend has it that the Champ let loose, and had two dishes of ice cream. He would never smoke, consume alcohol, or any other drugs. Indeed, at this point in his life, he was still very shy around women.

The following day, at a press conference, the Champ announced he had joined the NOI, and changed his name to Cassius X. There was reason to believe he might stick with Malcolm, rather than the NOI, in the anticipated split. NOI leader Elijah Mohammad then bestowed the name "Muhammad Ali" on Cassius, and the fighter would turn his back on Malcolm.

Ali's life would shift into a much higher gear, reflecting the growing tensions in American society. After his re-match with Liston was postponed, due to Ali's suffering from a hernia, Malcolm was gunned down in Harlem. Malcolm's followers set fires in a couple NOI properties, including Ali's home, in retaliation. An FBI plant in the #3 position in the NOI took steps to encourage the violence between the two groups of black Americans, distracting them from their intended purposes.

The WBA -- one of two boxing commissions at the time -- "stripped" Ali of the title for joining the NOI. Uncle Sam suddenly changed his draft status. Ali was forced to go to Canada and Europe for a series of title defenses. Sports writers were more influential back then, and so when Jimmy Cannon wrote that Ali's NOI ties were "the dirtiest thing in American sports since the Nazis were shilling for Max Schmeling as representative of their vile theories of blood," he increased the threat of violence all too common at the time.

"I don't have to be who you want me to be," Ali told reporters. When drafted, Ali refused induction into the military. This was huge -- far more significant at the time than it sounds now. Not only was the civil rights movement reaching a point where many, including the criminally insane FBI director, believed that it could lead to a violent civil war, but the anti-war movement was gaining strength. Uncle Sam needed a steady stream of young black men (and poor white ones) to sacrifice in the jungles of Vietnam.

Having an undefeated, outspoken heavyweight champion model refusal to be drafted was serious business. Hoover, who had direct contract with Army Intelligence through shared staff, had authored his infamous memo, calling for the destruction of the militant black leadership -- in which he included Martin Luther King, Jr. There were no "great white hopes" -- nor any black contenders -- with a prayer of beating Ali in the ring. Thus, the draft was an attempt to put him in check.

Hoover et al knew the NOI was compromised by greed and crime. Malcolm had reported on Elijah's business meetings with the Ku Klux Klan, and other racist groups. The government was aware of other high-ranking NOI officials' ties to the very vices that their aging leader had fought to eliminate in the black community. Officials knew that Elijah was willing to make an acception to God's Laws, and allow Ali to take a cushy position in the military. However, phone taps had recorded Ali speaking with Dr. King, who was beginning to publicly identify the war in Vietnam as racist.

After refusing induction, Ali told reporters that he "would rather face machine guns" than betray his conscience. He had the courage of his convictions: he was stripped of his title; denied a license to box and earn an income; convicted in federal court; and sentenced to prison. For 3.5 years, Ali went from exhiled champion to People's Champion. He toured college campuses, and spoke against the war.

When his case was taken up by the US Supreme Court, the justices were all prepared to rule aggainst him (one recused himself). But an intern had one justice read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X": this literally led to an 8-0 victory for The Champ. Early in the first phase of Part Two of Ali's career, he remained a hated man among the pro-war people, and hero to the left. His first bout with Joe Frazier -- the "Fight of the Century" -- divided Americans based upon war sentiments. Though he lost, Ali's bravery in that fight won him the respect of many of those who had despised him.

{3} "Carter repeatedly spits out words like 'kill' in conversation. They reflect an easily triggered violence that lies barely restrained beneath his malevolent-looking exterior." -- Milton Gross

Rubin Carter had more in common with Sonny Liston, than he did with Cassius Clay/ Muhammad Ali. Like Liston, he was an ex-convict, who had concussive punching power. After escaping from a reform school, Carter had joined the military. Stationed in Germany, Carter learned to box. He was good enough that he might have fought in the Rome Olympics as a welterweight, on the same team as Ali. But an introduction to Islam, combined with pursuing his education, led to Rubin's leaving the military, and returning to New Jersey to do things other than box. Both fate and alcohol led to his being incarcerated in prison.

There, Carter focused exclusively on preparing for a ring career. He engaged in a daily routine of 5,000 push-ups and 5,000 sit-ups, along with hours of shadow-boxing. His activities caught the attention of a guard, who had connections with local boxing. While the guard was a well-intentioned man, he would connect Carter with some of the mob figures who controlled boxing in the northeast.

Carter's extremely muscular upper body made him appear to be a heavyweight. Actually, in today's terms, he would be a junior middleweight. Carter quickly earned the nickname "Hurricane" due to his destruction of opponents in exciting fashion; Carter mastered the ability to literally knock opponents through the ropes, and out of the ring. This made him a favorite on the Friday Night Fights.

Because he appeared so large -- and because of his own stubborn pride -- Rubin served as one of Sonny Liston's sparring partners. The two anti-social loners bonded, at least outside of the gym's ring. However, while sparring, Carter found the 50-pound heavier Liston had vicious punching power. Upon taking off his headgear one afternoon, Rubin found that he was bleeding from both ears.

That experience ended his sparring Sonny. It did teach Carter the value of defense, and his skills in this area were more solid than most of the "experts" recognized. (Years later, as the studio guest on ESPN's FNF, I asked Rubin to tell the audience about his times with Liston. In answering, Rube expanded on memories of Malcolm, as well.)

So long as he fought for mob managers, Carter's career seemed destined for a championship. But his father showed Rubin that he wasn't being paid the money he earned -- certainly not uncommon for boxers back then. His managers were keeping the lion's share. When Rubin terminated his relationship with them, these gentlemen told his father that he would pay a severe price.

Rubin's father thought the mob would shoot his son; Rubin, however, thought that his inability to secure top fights was the retribution. He would be forced to travel to Europe, South America, and South Africa to get fights. His contact with blacks in his first trip to Africa resulted in his bringing two duffle bags of guns with him when he returned.

Carter's new "management" consisted largely of some of his friends who were involved in controlling the bars -- hence, vice -- in Patterson, NJ. It was, of course, through these contacts with the growing organized crime elements in the black community, that Rubin had gotten the unregistered guns he delivered in South Africa. He didn't realize that the police were quite aware of this.

Carter was interested in Islam, but not the NOI. Still, circles in Patterson (and NYC) overlapped. The NOI squad that was tasked with murdering Malcolm, for example, was organized in Paterson. Unlike Ali, Rubin did not live a disciplined life outside the ring. He was a "night owl," who spent too much time in the bars, and pursuing the pleasures of the flesh.

There were some interviews with sports magazines, where Carter came across as intelligent and thoughtful. He was aware that the "thug" image sold tickets to his fights. But he began to find that, partly his own fault, he was unable to separate from that image. There were two incidents where Carter made the headlines as the result of fights in bars. More, when he attempted to speak about the need for black people to control their neighborhoods, and protect their children from police violence, the Saturday Evening Post article quoted a friend as saying Rubin wanted to shoot police.

In June of 1966, Carter spent an evening in Paterson bars, attempting to organize the training camp for what would be his last boxing match. This included talking with his manager-advisors, and a couple of sparring partners. As night turned to the early morning hours, Carter and two friends were pulled over by Paterson police. They were looking two black men in a white car, and allowed the three black men in a white car to continue on its way. About eight minutes later, after dropping off one friend, Rubin and John Artis were again pulled over, and their nightmare began.

Two black men, described by witnesses as "light-skinned," dressed in dark suits, and both about 6' tall, had entered a bar and shot four white people. The assassins had drove off in a white car. Police had chased a vehicle fitting that description out of the city limits, heading to NYC. Upon returning, they first encountered Rubin's car.

Everyone was on edge: earlier, a white man had murdered a black bartender, over an argument about money. This fit the increased tensions between the traditional mob, and the new black organization running the vices from the bars. Although the second incident at first was reported as an attempted robbery, people would soon assume it was in retaliation for the first hit.

The entire story of what happened that night has never been told. Certainly, it never came out in the twenty years of Carter's legal struggles, nor in the magazine articles, books, or movie that came out after a federal court overturned Carter and Artis's conviction. In writing his second book, Rubin told me that he was frustrated by the publisher’s refusal to print the full story, for fear of expensive suits. (Similar suits had caused huge legal fees for the publishers of "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," and kept the book from being sold in the US for several years. Similarly, a book about Carter's case by friends in Canada was unavailable in the US for years.)

Long story semi-short: two of the shooting victims said it was not Carter and Artis; the pair had over a dozen witnesses to their whereabouts at the time of the murder; several people in the neighborhood, who saw the gunmen, said it was definitely not Rubin and John; and after intense questioning -- including polygraph tests and a search of Rubin's car -- the pair were released.

Carter and Artis volunteered to testify to a grand jury that investigated the crime. The lead detective told the grand jury thatRubin and John "didn't remotely fit the description" of the killers. In fact, one shooting victim was able to tell the investigator the identities of the gunmen -- who were NYC residents. A neighbor had also recognized them. In fact, the following month, police held two suspects in jail for the brutal crime.

It was not so much a problem because pieces of the puzzle were missing, as that there were too many pieces. For example, the police responding to the shooting had interviewed a woman who lived above the bar; she told of finding a young man behind the bar, robbing the dead bodies. He was also questioned. More, he was suspect -- not only because he was stealin money at the scene of the crime, but because he was wanted with others for a string of robberies across the state.

The woman who, after being shot, had identified the actual gunmen died unexpectedly in July. The lead investigator was convinced that Carter, while not a gunman, was the brains behind the crime. He believed that Rubin was the leader of the Mau-Mau-style group that Malcolm X had said would benefit black Americans. Putting Rubin in the electric chair became his primary focus.

Over a three-month period, he worked to get the thug who robbed the dead to say he saw Carter and Artis leaving the bar with guns. The cop who had searched Rubin's car would place two bullets into evidence, claiming he had found them in Carter's car that night. It would be more than a decade before it was discovered he actually filed this "find" the following month. More, the bullets were not the same as used in the crime Carter was accused of; rather, they matched the type used in the earlier murder. And, if there were such a thing as coincidence: that officer had collected the shells at that first murder, and the exact number he claimed to have found in Rubin's car were now mysteriously missing.

Thus, Rubin and John were convicted, and sentenced to triple life in prison.

{4} "Muhammad Ali is a figure transcendental to sports. He's important to the history of this country because his entire life is an index to the bigotry lodged deep in the wellspring of this nation and its people. And Ali had the advantage of coming in the 1960s. Look at what was happening back then: the birth of the drug culture; the birth of the pill; riots in the streets; an ugly unwanted war; assassinations. Then you go into the 1970s. The most ignominious moment in the history of this country, the shootings at Kent State...." -- Howard Cosell

On October 10, 1970, Ali returned to the ring in Atlanta, Georgia. Ali would TKO tough contender Jerry Quarry in three rounds. While the fight itself was important in the context of the sport of boxing, those sitting at ringside reflected a new socio-political reality in America: Julian Bond, Bill Cosby, Ralph Abernathy, Sidney Poitier, Jesse Jackson, Diana Ross, Whitney Young, and Coretta Scott King were there to watch the Champ’s return.

Ali’s phase two became more than merely symbolic of the struggle for social justice in this nation. Senator Ted Kennedy told reporters how his late brother Robert had been influenced by Muhammad’s refusal to be drafted. Ali’s appeal was heading to the US Supreme Court, and documents released through the FOI Act show that the powers-that-be in Washington, DC, were exerting pressure to make sure his conviction led to five years of incarceration. Hence, Ali opted to fight the new undefeated heavyweight champion, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, in March, 1971. This was too early in his comeback, especially after his second bout, in which he absorbed more punishment than he had in the first half of his career.

“The Fight of the Century” was, without question, the biggest sports event ever. It was the first time that two undefeated men with valid claims to the heavyweight title met in the ring. Each fighter was paid an unheard of $2.5 million (they would have made over $9 million, had they accepted an offer that included a percentage of the closed-circuit sales). The fight was broadcast around the globe.

In the US, the bout divided the country. Ali represented the anti-war and civil rights movements; Frazier was cast, incorrectly, as representing the establishment. Ali took part in the perception management – among other things, telling reporters that Nixon would call Joe if he won, but not Ali – by going well beyond the pre-fight insults he had hurled at Liston: not only was Frazier “too ugly” to be champion, but he was stupid, and an Uncle Tom.

The anticipation leading up to the fight was perhaps best measured when a ringside fan was rushed to the hospital moments before the pair entered the ring. Then, during the 15 rounds, two men literally died of heart attacks. When Joe floored Muhammad in the last round, one of the men stood up and shouted, “Allah has fallen!” and collapsed. All of the “beautiful people” that came out to see Ali that night saw a brutal bout that Frazier won.

It is curious to consider how the USSC might have ruled, had Ali won that fight. But there was a shift in sympathy, in large part because of how he lost. He had displayed courage in the fight, and a quiet dignity – at first – in accepting his first defeat. As ex-champion, Ali did not seem as threatening to Washington. Hence, the court ruled 8-0 in his favor, in a decision that really did not pave the way for young black men to join the NOI to avoid the draft. It was as politically motivated a decision as the court would make until the Bush v Gore bout.

It was while he was on the comeback trail that Ali took up Rubin Carter’s case. As noted, the two had some history from earlier in their boxing careers. They had not been friends. In fact, a number of Ali's sparring partners had fought Carter: Jimmy Ellis, Luis Rodriguez, Ernie Buford, Sugar Boy Nando, and Gomeo Brennan among them. So it was not entirely surprising when Ali made plans to box an exhibition against Rubin at Rahway State Prison, to bring attention to his legal struggles. However, shortly before the exhibition could be held, Rubin was “moved” to the Vroom Building, the state’s psychiatric wing for the violent, criminally insane inmates. This move is shown in an opening scene in the movie “The Hurricane.”

No movie can tell the whole story, of course. But Ali had found that Carter was working towards prison reform. This was in the era of Attica, the most famous of a series of prison riots. There had been, in fact, just such a riot that involved Rubin. However, Rubin was credited with saving the lives of the warden and two guards. Carter, who had long been a hermit in Rahway, had been convinced to run for president of the inmates’ council. He won, and then convinced a range of people – including law enforcement, sociologists, and politicians – to listen to his recommendations on reducing violence, and on rehabilitation. Add Ali’s ability to gain the spot-light, and the New Jersey correctional system reacted by labeling Carter criminally insane, a threat to the prison.

A federal judge ordered Carter to be released into general population; eventually, Rubin got a financial settlement against the state for the incident. That money would pay for a private investigator, who was able to follow leads which eventually uncovered much of what happened on the night of the murders, and how two police manipulated the evidence – including planting some, and covering other things up – which resulted in Carter and Artis’s convictions.

Before this information came to light, however, the NJ Supreme Court had vacated the 1967 convictions, and the pair had a re-trial. Artis was offered a deal in which, if he said that Carter had been involved in the planning of the murders, he would not be charged. The prosecutors were going on a new theory, based upon a study conducted on the governor’s behalf, that indicated two men other than Carter and Artis committed the vicious murders. Their key witness would be the fellow caught robbing the dead bodies: a polygraph indicated he was inside the bar at the time of the shootings, and saw Carter and Artis outside the bar. The defense knew he had seen Rubin and John when the police had brought them to the bar in the hour after the shooting – and that he told police they definitely were not the gunmen.

However, early in the retrial, the prosecutor was able to put forth the theory of “racial revenge,” claiming Carter and Artis so hated all white people that the earlier murder of a black bartender – a man neither of them ever met – led them to massacre the people in the “white” bar. The prosecution also focused on the large defense committee, claiming it was a case of Madison Avenue versus the good police of Patterson, NJ.

The defense committee did have some “dirty laundry.” Any time significant amounts of money are involved, such issues arise. Some “supporters” were lining their pockets; others were promoting their own political agenda. There was a group already planning for Carter to run for Congress after the retrial, rather than focusing on winning the case. And there were divides between some black and white supporters: Congressman John Conyers, for example, sought to isolate the whites, who he assumed were attempting to exploit Rubin.

Rubin and John were again convicted, and for the rest of the 1970s, Carter dropped from the public consciousness. Most of his supporters simply walked away from the case. A few, including Ali and Coretta Scott King, continued to support Rubin.

{5} “I had wanted to meet the Dalai Lama for a long time. He is a sweet and humble man who works tirelessly for peace. ….I understand that there are many paths to God, and I believe Islam is the correct path for me. Like the Dalai Lama, I respect people of different religious beliefs and agree that spirituality should be a central focus of our daily lives. …. I have come to understand that there are those who believe in God and those who make God a reality. The Dalai Lama is among those who manifest God in the journey of their everyday lives.” – Muhammad Ali

In the decades that followed the 1960s and ‘70s, Ali and Carter (vindicated by the federal courts) would become the Elder Statesmen of the struggle for social justice and human dignity. The pair continued to bring a powerful message about the need for reconciliation. This is required on a personal level, and community level, if it is to reach the international level.

In 2001, after Rubin introduced me to an audience at SUNY-Binghamton, a professor writing a book on the Power of Forgiveness asked me if I could get Carter to add a chapter to her effort. The following quote comes from that book, and would seem a good way to end this essay.

“Hate can only produce hate. That’s why all these wars are going on, all this insanity. There’s too much anger in the U.S. People are too afraid, too numbed out. We need to wipe out all of this hatred, fear, distrust, and violence. We need to understand, forgive, and love. – Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
March 11, 2014

Congress versus CIA (one question)

Which do you think has more power in our society: The US Congress (Senate & House), or the Central Intelligence Agency?

There is no "right" or "wrong" answer here ......I'm merely asking for your opinion.

There is, of course, the potential for a bit of a showdown taking place right now. One might think it's merely a "show," or that the "down" side is that the concern seems to be if the CIA is spying on select members of Congress.

A potential complicating factor is that we have a corporate Congress, and the CIA was born from corporate spy operators, and continues to represent corporate interests.

Another source of confusion is that the Congress is provided certain rights and responsibilities by the US Constitution, while the CIA has limits placed upon it -- in theory, if not practice -- by our federal laws. Add to this that, again at least in theory, the CIA is supposed to work for the Executive Branch. Hence, even if one is convinced that the CIA has equal power to the President, or even that all recent Presidents have served the CIA, it still involves a serious question of constitutional authority.

In a bit, if there's any interest in this discussion, I'll add my opinion. I wonder at times if I'm (relatively) alone in seeing the man's face in this tree.

H2O Man

March 6, 2014

Voodoo Child

I stand up next to a mountain
And I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I stand up next to a mountain
I chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand
-- Jimi Hendrix; Voodoo Child

I read "Jimi Hendrix: Starting at Zero (His Own Story)" today. Although the book was published in 2013, it was in the "new books" section at the public library. The book is by Alan Douglass and Peter Neal; however, it consists primarily of Jimi's writings from journals, and answers to interviewers' questions.

There are a few good biographies of Hendrix, and his music holds up very strongly to this day. Still, I agree with my librarian friend who recommended this as a "must read" for those who enjoy Jimi's works.

Like many others of my generation, I have an enormous collection of music by Jimi. This includes what he released; some "live" releases that include Jimi, such as Woodstock; a handful of low-quality releases, where he played a tiny role as a backing player in a studio; three LPs that were released shortly after his death; and some very good CDs his family has released in recent years.

It seems clear that Hendrix was an extremely talented musician. Heck of a show-man, too. And he also was obviously a very sensitive soul, who suffered a good deal throughout his brief life. He had an other-worldliness to him, and a gentleness that allowed the music industry to exploit him.

In this book, Jimi tells about his childhood, his teen years, serving in the military, and being an artist living on the streets of American cities. He describes the years of investment needed to become an "overnight success." Then the joy of making it big, followed by the frustrations of having the media portray him as a "wild man," and a public demand for a burning guitar, rather than his music and message.

Towards the end, his writings document his becoming frazzled by the pace of touring, and the demands of the record company executives. He expresses a desire to move into new directions; a great deal of self-doubt about his talent; and a growing alienation from the culture that he had been part of. His thoughts center on death quite often.

It is an amazing and a tragic story, well worth reading. I'm curious if other DUers have had a chance to read it yet?

H2O Man

March 5, 2014

Carmen Basilio

An old friend called me yesterday; he said he needed to stop by my house. I put a pot of coffee on, and waited. When he got here, he handed me a beautiful framed picture of Carmen Basilio, the great welterweight and middleweight champion. It was autographed, with a nice message from the Champ.

My friend is a retired carpenter, who still does some work from time to time. He had been cleaning out an old house for a friend, and found the photo in a pile of trash. He said he knew I'd like it, as he associates my family with boxing. And he thought there was some connection that he couldn't remember.

My great uncle had trained Carmen in his early career. In fact, Uncle Pat had promoted Carmen's first five professional bouts in Sherburne, although they do not show up on his "official" record. Old copies of Sherburne's newspapers record the bouts, though, and I talked to Carmen about them. Uncle Pat also co-promoted Carmen's early fights in Binghamton, where his recorded career began.

Carmen was a frequent guest at Uncle Pat's house. Basilio would always give Pat tickets to his fights. The family would travel all over to watch Carmen; this included his most important fight, where he took the middleweight crown from Sugar Ray Robinson.

Carmen worked my brother's corner in his pro debut. My brother-in-law twice fought Carmen's last fighter, heavyweight Greg Sorentino. And Carmen came up into the ring to congratulate me after I won a big amateur tournament. Even when he was old, and not in the best condition, Carmen remembered Uncle Pat.

It's funny: last Friday, my son and I met Floyd Mayweather, Jr. On our ride home, we discussed how Floyd would have done against past greats. All speculation, of course, but a fun mental game. I said that Carmen might well have matched up best against Floyd. We pass through Sherburne on our ride, and we have our own little tradition of stopping for a visit to Pat's grave.

On Saturday, before watching the televised card, we continued our discussion of a dream fight between Carmen and Floyd. And we talked about the times I introduced my son to Carmen, who was one of the nicest, funniest people you could hope to meet.

Two days later, I got this autographed picture. It will be a nice addition to my son's collection!

March 4, 2014

From Here to Internity

To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
-- William Shakespeare; Hamlet

This soliloguy from Hamlet was used by Minister Malcolm X in a speech at Harvard University in the last year of his life. It's something that people around the globe are wondering about as violence is breaking out in the Ukraine. And, of course, there's still military conflicts going on within numerous countries.

It brings up tough questions. One of those is, simply, how do we want the United States to respond? The way we answer as a nation is hugely important. Not only that, but how we respond to that question as individuals is mighty significant, too. I include the community at the Democratic Underground, for our individual opinions are as important as any other individual's. (Not as influential as everyone's, of course. And not as politically powerful as those of corporations.)

I'm anti-war. There hasn't been a war in my lifetime that has been in the best interests of American citizens. But I could not say that there has never been a just war. Or that there may not be another, in the future.

A nation's approach is not unlike individuals engaged in, or responding to, threats and other acts of violence. Some national leaders, like Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, act like George Zimmerman in terms of policy. Not that they were ever fighters. Heck, they'd probably want Zimmerman as a body guard
If someone is invading your house, you have the right to stop them. Malcolm used to say that if a robber comes in your house with a gun, and you stop him with a gun, that doesn't make you a robber. In the early years of his adult life, even Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., kept a shotgun in his home.

Why did King eventually get rid of his weapon? A person can believe in non-violent resistance, as a social-political tactic, and still believe in the right to defend one's self and family. Yet King moved beyond this stance. His understanding of the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi led to his change.

My friend Rubin knew both Malcolm and Martin. In the 1960s, he certainly was closer to sharing Malcolm's beliefs, than Martin's. But, in his book "Eye of the Hurricane" (2012), Carter writes that he has come to see that Martin's way was the correct path for reaching that higher ground where violence is rejected in society.

There are, of course, good people who will say that Martin's way is unrealistic, becvause it ignores human nature. This, of course, ignores the example that individuals throughout history have shown ......that it is indeed "human nature" to be peaceful. It is a very real human potential that is available to the world. Yet, it cannot come into being because of "leaders." A Cheney, Bush, or Putin does not have the ability to bring about a peaceful, non-violent resolution to any serious dispute.

This dangerous nonsense in the Ukraine is about the control of resources. It's not because Putin hates us for our freedoms. It is an appeal to the ugliest of human potentials -- and that includes Americans' and well as Russians' -- of greed, fear, and hatred. The "success" of such appeals depends entirely upon the willingness of every day people to be invested in greed, fear, and hatred.

This dangerous nonsense can't be stopped with more negative energy or armies. It can only be ended by people refusing to participate in the negative. The "weapon" of true moral force, as defined by Gandhi and King, offers the only solution. The common folk united, without artificial boundaries.

Is there any other way?

H2O Man

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