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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 72,214

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Rape, part two

{1} There is a core of participants on the Democratic Underground who have a solid grasp of 1960s/early ’70s trivia, including little-known or long-forgotten stuff about The Beatles. (And that includes some post-breakup information.) While younger folks may associate music videos with MTV, we older people know that the Beatles made some outstanding ones, too. John and Yoko did as well; more, they made some thought-provoking non-musical videos.

I’m not sure how many here will recall that John & Yoko produced a short film titled, “Rape, part two” (also known as “Rape”). Probably a few have actually seen it. After starting on a pleasant note, it made a deep and disturbing statement.

{2} I’ve told parts of this before in other discussions on this forum: 14 years ago, a racist hate gang attacked my nephew, a high school student who took his basketball team to win a state title. He had a lot of local and state-wide media attention, which the gang resenting going to a person with brown skin. Various gang members would come from another town, to watch my nephew’s team, and would call him “porch monkey” and things like that.

In time, it went from attempted insults at sporting events, to incidents where my nephew received threats. Progress has been made on “racial” issues in this country during my lifetime, but there is still a lot of hatred out there. Eventually, a group of five young men found my nephew in an isolated spot, and attacked him. My nephew “won” that day, in the sense that the leader of the group was hospitalized, two others were injured, and the other two ran as fast as they could when my nephew was not only fighting back, but getting the best of it.

About a month later, as he and a friend were leaving a canoe regatta at night, the full gang of 17 young men attacked them from behind, knocking them unconscious with rocks or bottles, then administering savage beatings. A lady who witnessed the assault described it as being “like a pack of wolves attacking.” They left my nephew for dead.

I know that some of the police, and one assistant DA, wanted to prosecute the crime as an “attempted murder.” But that didn’t happen. Long story short: the gang leader ended up getting fined $50 for having an open beer in public at the time of the assault.

The assault took place on the Friday night of the Memorial Day weekend. I remember on Tuesday morning at work, talking with my supervisor’s supervisor at the mental health clinic. She told me to feel free to deal with the situation, including making phones calls from work to police, prosecutors, and others, as well as taking time off as needed. Then she said, “The process that your nephew will be going through is almost the same as a rape victim.”

{3} A few of the gang members were still in high school; some were in college; and some others were a bit older, and employed in their community. But when the group that came to court every week, to support my nephew and his friend, and to demand justice be done, some members of one of the NAACP branches noticed something curious. Virtually all of the gang had, at some time or another, attending one of the non-violent dispute resolution workshops the NAACP brought to their high school. It’s not, of course, that their program was lacking in value -- but these fellows didn’t think the laws of a civil society applied to them. And, as I’ve noted, the local court tended to agree with them on that.

My nephew and I would discuss the assault quite a bit over the next year or so. I never questioned the way he was dressed that night, or why he opted to have brown skin. But I did talk about the importance of being aware of your surroundings -- including being aware of the nature of others in the area. That’s not to say that my nephew and his friend did anything “wrong” in walking by themselves to their car, which was parked in a large, unlighted field. But they had seen some of the gang were at the regatta hours earlier. Maybe if they had walked to their cars with a larger group of friends …..maybe ….. maybe.

I have sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews. And I know a lot of their friends. I have talked to these young people about a wide range of topics, over the years. These include some of the unpleasant realities of today: there are packs of wolves, and lone wolves, who do not adhere to the same code of conduct that we do. They can come in either sex; any color; rich or poor; young or old; and even wearing the garbs of authority. They have no more conscience than does a dog mad with rabies; thus, they can sit through a class or a lecture or a workshop on anything and everything from rape to assault and murder, and never think it applies to them.

Again, this does not lessen the value of classes, lectures, or workshops. They are important. Yet -- also again -- the wolves do not think the laws of a civilized society apply to them …..and far too often, despite the efforts of the good cops and prosecutors, the wolves in the legal system do not protect the innocent victims of violent crime.

It would be great if it wasn’t that way. But it is. And that being so, good people do need to be awake and aware of their surroundings, and all that involves.

Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton

On November 24, Ricky Hatton returned to the ring for the first time in thirty months. The popular British boxer opted not to have a “tune-up” bout, and instead faced former champion Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-1). When Hatton was counted out in the 9th round, it may have seemed merely another example of an old pug fighting too long after he was through. But I find Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton to be worth taking a closer look at.

Hatton earned a 73-7 record as an amateur boxer, winning seven British titles. In 1996, he competed in the World Junior Boxing Championship tournament; his loss there highlights the problems with amateur boxing that have resulted in the loss of interest in amateur boxing among American sports fans. In a semi-final bout, 4 of 5 judges scored the fight for Hatton. The lone judge voting for his light-punching opponent by a ridiculous 16-point margin, which trumped the combined scores of the others.

Hatton made his professional debut in September, 1997. He stood out, in part because his style in the ring was not that of the much more common, classic European boxer: he was aggressive, bobbing-and-weaving under his opponent’s punches, in order to land his own. Hatton always entered the ring in extraordinarily good shape in his early years, allowing him to set a pace that few could maintain. As a result, his celebrity grew rapidly in England, and he was fighting before large, sold-out stadiums well before he reached the top-ten level in the professional ranks.

The young fighter’s popularity was enhanced by his engaging personality. This included his frequently hanging out in the pubs between fights, playing darts and drinking to excess. As he rose in the boxing ranks, there were rumors -- which Hatton jokingly confirmed to journalists -- that Ricky would put on a lot of weight, quickly, between bouts. And it wasn’t muscle.

Hatton became recognized as a top prospect by the boxing community, when he decisioned Eamonn Magee (23-2) in 12 rounds in May, 2002. He soon beat the tough journeyman Vince Phillips (44-7-1), and top contender Ben Tackie (24-4), both by 12 round decision.

In June, 2005, Hatton challenged Kostya Tszyo (31-1) for his IBF Jr. Welterweight title. Tszyo, who had won the title in 1995, had only had to go the distance in two of his impressive 17 title defenses. He was an outstanding counter-puncher, and Hatton’s style suggested that he would be vulnerable to the champion’s extreme power. However, Hatton would keep Tszyo’s back up against the ropes, and administered a severe beating -- much of it in a manner that, at very least, appeared to “bend” the rules. Ricky broke Kostya’s jaw, forcing the champion to quit on his stool at the end of the 11th round.

The young new champion’s popularity increased, of course, especially in the British pubs he inhabited on too many nights. Despite his ballooning weight, he could still get into good shape for the defenses that followed. In a WBA welterweight “title” bout against Luis Collazo, he looked sluggish; I think he was very “lucky” to get that decision. Still, he was just too strong for most challengers.

In December, 2007, Hatton would again try the welterweight division, this time challenging the real chsampion, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Although he put up a good fight, Hatton was knocked out in the 10th round. Three fights later, he was flattened by Manny Pacquiao in the 2nd round, and retired. He had won 45 bouts, 32 of them by knockout. And his only loses came against the two most elite champions of the era. It would seem that the former world champion, who was set for life financially, would have a happy life in his retirement.

Traditionally in boxing, old former champions would come out of retirement when they ran out of money. The most famous example of this is the great Joe Louis. As corrupt promoters and managers are boxing’s dark side, such returns to the ring are the sport’s pathetic side. However, these were not the dynamics that would bring Hatton out of retirement after three and a half years.

Athletes of even moderate ability experience what is known as a “runner’s high.” This is related to the brain’s production of endorphins. Also, the brain and body produce serotonin, also associated with good feelings. For many retired boxers, that high that comes from competing successfully at a high level, in front of a huge crowd, is missed just as much as the hefty pay-days. Examples include Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, among others. Recently, even Oscar de la Hoya briefly considered returning for “just one more fight.” Oscar has plenty of money, and stays busy promoting fights. But when I see him in the ring before a big fight he is promoting, I know that he misses being the center of attention, and having the crowd focusing on him.

In the past, there were old pugs who were said to be “punch drunk.” Usually, that was in part because alcohol went hand-in-hand with their post-retirement activities that attempt to keep the excitement and fun going. More, substance abuse and addiction have a co morbidity with the types of organic brain damage associated with boxing. Hence, the decline of brain functions in the retired boxer tended to become evident much faster than in the average person.

In current times, like others, retired boxers have more options in terms of drugs available to use and abuse, in an on-going attempt to recreate that excitement and high they enjoyed at the peak of their athletic career. Many boxers, including the late Hector Camacho, found that cocaine came the closest -- at least initially -- to recreating that former sense of glory. Sustained use, however, results in the brain not making the natural levels of the very chemicals that cause “good feelings.” Hence, the person begins using, in order to reach and attempt to maintain their previous “normal.”

Head injuries, as well as other bodily injuries that cause chronic pain, also tend to cause the brain to lose the ability to produce the “feel good” natural chemical states. Thus, in his 30-month retirement, Ricky Hatton dealt with issues including serious substance abuse and severe depression, and would tell of struggling with thoughts of suicide. In his struggle to get his life back on track, he decided to try to again do the one thing that he believed he had done best in life: box.

Hatton is 34 years old. That is young, at least outside of the ring. And there are a few examples, such as Bernard Hopkins, of boxers who are able to compete into their late 40s. But they are men who had defensive skills -- and those were not limited to natural gifts like speed and timing, which fade -- that have allowed them to avoid sustaining the physical damage that comes with Hatton’s aggressive style.

So the Ricky Hatton that entered the ring last weekend was still good enough to have won a “tune-up” fight. But, even if he did have a couple of easy wins, he could never get back to the level necessary to win big fights again -- much less be at the level he once was, where he could win lots of big fights. He was clearly ahead after five rounds on Saturday, but it was evident that it was he who could not hang at Ricky Hatton’s pace.

In every round that followed, Hatton began to throw and miss wider and wider punches; in the post-fight interview, he joked that he came closer to hitting the fans in the back row, than his opponent. Those missed punches resulted in his going off-balance, squaring up, and becoming easier to hit with crisp counter-punches. His face was showing the bloody and bruised results. And eventually, a left to the liver ended the bout.

Perhaps the saddest part came in that post-fight interview. Hatton’s emotions got the better of him, and he said, “I’m not a loser. I’m not a loser.” But at that moment, like in the past thirty months, he did not seem to be able to convince himself. And that was a damned shame.

At his best, in the context of boxing, Ricky Hatton was a world champion who beat some outstanding competition in exciting fights. His two loses came against two all-time great champions. And, as a rule, he treated everyone but himself with respect. If he could see himself like the rest of the boxing community does, he would be mighty proud of himself. I wish him the best in his retirement, and hope that he finds himself in training and promoting the next generation of fighters ….and away from the sport. He is a good and decent man, who has a lot to offer.

Journey to Ixtlan

On Tuesday, November 20, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will not meet a key regulatory deadline concerning proposed fracking for gas. The delay, which re-opens the public comment period, is to allow a medical panel time to evaluate the health risks associated with hydrofracking.

Gas industry mercenary Dan Fitzsimmons told reporters that Cuomo’s decision “is a breach of faith in our government and flies in the face of the promise that New York is beyond its dysfunction and truly open for new business investment.”

Governor Cuomo responded to Fitzsimmons’ comment by telling a reporter, “Yeah, well they get paid to make an argument, and that’s what they do.”

The idea of a health-impact study had long been considered by the pro-environment citizens in the state. For some time, it had been deemed “too expensive” by state officials. However, at the April meeting that I arranged for representatives of the state-wide grass roots activists with Robert Kennedy, Jr., the possibility was raised by Ithaca College scholar-in-residence Sandra Steingraber. (Older D.U.ers may recall a photo of Sandra, Robert, and I from the meeting, which I posted here.) Sandra not only had strong beliefs about the need for such a study -- she also had secured financial backing for it.

The Gannett News story that ran in the Wednesday, November 21 front-page article on Governor Cuomo’s decision quoted Dr. Steingraber: “People throughout New York do not want to be poisoned by fracking.”

Interesting, in an interview on radio, Governor Cuomo echoed this: “People don’t want to be poisoned.”

As the Democratic Underground’s waterman-in-residence, I’m pleased with this decision by Governor Cuomo. Of course, it does signal a possible shift in Governor Cuomo’s perception. More, as Rubin used to tell me, “Small doors sometimes open into large rooms.” Having the public comment period re-opened allows us a solid opportunity. And it may be what allows us to lobby with Michelle Obama, who I consider one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and capable individuals to ever inhabit Washington, DC.

Below is the letter that Yoko sent out, on behalf of Sean and her. Earlier today, I spoke with one of her best friends -- also active in the movement -- about the possibility of a waterman interview with them.

(On a final note, the son of my second-cousin and top assistant just called me. He is finishing up the last class he needs for his Masters. The final assignment is to interview a public servant, and he picked me! How cool is that?)

Keep on fighting the Good Fight, my forum friends. This is a unique period in our history. And no state or federal official or agency is going to “save” the United States. But we will. Believe it.
H2O Man

Dear All,

I truly believe that all of your work against fracking had an effect on Governor Cuomo's recent comments.

We are glad that we have a wise and courageous Governor. We are immensely lucky.

In celebration of this amazing turn of events, I wish to thank you for all of your incredible efforts in working day and night and imagine a beautiful future for all of us.

For those of us living with fracking everyday already, we are with you. I know we are already in a frack free world in spirit.

We will be there in reality very, very soon!

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Yoko & Sean

Thanksgiving 2012

“Thanksgiving” means different things to different people. Some will be gathering with extended family, and others will be alone. Some believe the Pilgrim myth; others are aware of the Native American history; still others understand that all agrarian societies had some form of the feast/festival; and some are focused on “Black Friday.”

My younger son, a student at SUNY-Binghamton, also works in human services. He did a “double shift” today, and will do another tomorrow. He told me about a phone call he had today. A lady in crisis called his workplace, although she was not connected to its services. She lives alone with her pet cat. Two years ago, her adult son died around this time. She was feeling helpless and hopeless. She told my son about the hardships she had faced over the years.

After taking the time to hear her out, my son said that he was impressed: the average person could not possibly have survived the harsh experiences that she had. She had far more strength and survival skills than most people. Those comments changed the lady’s perception of herself, and gave her confidence that she could deal with this “holiday.”

As their conversation came to a close, the lady asked my boy if he was a priest? No. Well, maybe a monk? Nope, just an average person. I told him that, for the hour he spoke with her, he served as a priest or monk ….but not to get too big a head, because he had been talking to Jesus. (Though neither of us are “Christians,” we both know that to be true.)

The period from Thanksgiving to Christmas can be very hard for many people. It can bring up painful memories of loss. I think of a close friend who was murdered on November 22, 1978. I remember the frustration I felt, because although their identity was known, the group of men who killed him faced no legal consequences. And I think of other family and friends, who I used to share this season with, who have passed away.

Earlier this week, I spent some time preparing for a sweat lodge ceremony. In decades past, I could gather the rocks, firewood, and water in a couple of hours. But at my age, it takes me a heck of a lot longer. But I’m thankful for that, because I also have more time to enjoy all that goes into the preparation.

I was thankful for the oak, the maple, the hickory, the beech, the white pine, the blue spruce, and the locus trees that provided the wood. I was thankful for the grey flint, the white flint, and the red sandstones I found. I was thankful for the water I brought down, especially for that which served as drinking water. I was thankful for the bag of tobacco, the sage, and the sweet grass that I made into a braid.

I always enjoy filling the birdfeeders, and feeding the fish in the pond near my sweat lodge. I enjoyed watching a couple of my dogs running circles around me, even when one snatched one of the antlers out of the lodge and made a game out of returning it to me.

Two of my friends stopped over in the late afternoon for the ceremony. A week earlier, they had come over in the early morning, so that we could weave the stones and water together in a ceremony while the sun rose. This time, the sun had already begun to set; we were thankful for the warmth of the fire as the stones were heated. And, to be honest, I was thankful for having the young man there to carry the heated rocks to the lodge, as I had gathered quite a few large ones.

During the ceremony, I focused upon some of the things that Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman had taught me, way back when I was the young man. To be thankful for the earth, the stones, the water, the air, the plants, the animals, and for our family and friends. To be thankful for everything, including what we think of as good, bad, and everything in between. To be thankful for having had the opportunity to know and love those who we miss and mourn today. To be thankful for this moment in time, this day, and our chance to participate in this ceremony we call “life.”

H2O Man

Petraeus v Obama

“ ‘So what’s my option?’ the president asked his war cabinet, seeking alternatives to the Afghanistan commander’s request for 40,000 more troops in late 2009. ‘You have essentially given me one option. ….It’s unacceptable.’ …

“General David Pertaeus, the new Afghanistan commander, thinks time can be added to the clock if he shows progress. ‘I don’t think you win this war,’ Petraeus said privately. ‘This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.’ “
-- Bob Woodward; Obama’s Wars; Simon & Schuster; 2010.

This is my second essay on the Petraeus “scandal.” The first, “Intelligence vs. Counterintelligence,” posted a couple of days ago, sought to provide context for the current events by comparing them to past incidents of internal conflict in Washington. (I also enjoyed reading an O.P./thread that attempted to connect some of the players in the Petraeus case by “following the money.” )

Today I think it might be worth reviewing some of the information from Woodward’s book. This is not because I consider him a gifted source -- quite the opposite. Woodward had an agenda in writing this book: to undermine President Obama, by focusing on the military generals’ mistrust of him. A single sentence from Jonathan Alter’s book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One” highlights the difference in approach found in a book that supports Obama:

“The president might have been annoyed at Petraeus for the foot-dragging approach to Afghanistan, but he owed him a debt of gratitude for Iraq.” (Simon & Schuster; 2010; page 387)

One could disagree with my interpretation of even the title of Woodward’s book, which suggests that President Obama “owns” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bears sole responsibility if they are “lost.” While both of these wars were lost by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the theme of Woodward’s book is that President Obama is pursuing a dangerous policy in Afghanistan, which the patriotic generals oppose.

The quote at the top is taken from the front flap of the book. A fuller version is found on page 332-333. It documents that while he gave lip service to agreeing with Obama, that Petraeus had no intention of following orders from the constitutional civil authority of the President as Commander-in-Chief. The general disregarded President Obama’s plans for number of troops committed, military tactics, length of American involvement, and the desired outcome.

On pages 361-362, Woodward notes that the Petraeus wing thought that the “White House” tended “to leave Petraeus twisting in the wind. An aide tells Petraeus that “they knock you down every chance they get.”

“ ‘They’re fucking with the wrong guy,’ Petraeus said.

The general was not alone. Even after President Obama had laid out his commands very clearly -- on troops committed, military tactics, length of American involvement, and desired outcome -- and demanded that others either commit to support him, or to step aside, others sought to undercut him. And it went beyond the generals.

At a dinner that Secretary Clinton arranged for Karzai, Robert Gates told those gathered, “We’re not leaving Afghanistan prematurely. In fact, we’re not leaving at all.” (page 354)

More, republican Senator Lindsey Graham called General Petraeus shortly after President Obama had made his plans public, and discussed the need to “fix” it. (page 337)

There are things going on in Washington, DC, that are far more serious than jackasses like Hannity or Rush insulting Barack Obama. It is, I believe, a coordinated effort to damage his ability to institute meaningful changes in this nation. There is a group that not only wants to re-write history, they want to control events today in a manner that allows them to pre-write the future. I also think that there are loyal public servants who are working to both support and protect Obama. And I suspect that Petraeus has found that to be the case, too.

Intelligence vs Counterintelligence

I have not been following the “scandal” involving General David Petraeus closely. In large part, my lack of interest is due to so much of the media coverage focusing on human sexuality. And whenever the media seeks to titillate the public with sexually suggestive gossip, I think that it is to provide cover for some larger story.

This is not to suggest that while the media shines a light on the surface sex-story, that the larger part of the iceberg doesn’t involve Petraeus and the intelligence community. Indeed, it would seem foolish to neglect the complex relationship between him, the Obama administration, the military-industrial machine, and the numerous declared and undeclared conflicts around the globe -- particularly in the Middle East.

As always, I recommend the viewing of these various relationships to be based upon the model of a mobile, such as hangs over an infant’s crib. For this discussion, we can limit the mobile’s pieces to domestic characters. At this point, we do not need to assign a “good/positive” or “bad/negative” identity to the players. Instead, we only have to recognize two factors: first, that if one piece shifts its position, every other piece must move to maintain the balance; and second, this “scandal” broke shortly after a national election that might have removed the “Obama” pieces, and replaced them with the neoconservatives who were preparing Romney’s foreign policy positions.

Thus, there would appear to be three general systems that one can attribute this scandal to:

{1} Random bureaucratic coincidence: It could be that the entire scandal is exactly what the media is portraying it as: human frailty that just happened to pop up as a result of a couple of e-mails, which focused some FBI attention upon four central players. This would by necessity define the timing as coincidence, too. When a random rolling of the coincidental dice connects with both titillation and timing, it can be called “fate.” In my own opinion, there is no such thing as “coincidence,” any more than “fate” was the only thing tempted in this scandal.

{2} Intelligence: The “Patriot Act” has instituted a new, intense level of “information gathering.” And information gathering plus analysis equals “intelligence.” The Patriot Act is, of course, simply an updated version of the Huston Plan of the Nixon era, with greater technical and computerized abilities to gather and coordinate information. And the Huston Plan, which brought about the series of crimes that threatened the Constitution, showed that in the jungles of power, there are hunters, and there are those who hunt hunters.

{3} Counterintelligence: When those who gather and analyze information (intelligence) identify a specific threat to the system that they are working for, the taking of specific, secretive actions against the opposition is known as “counterintelligence.” There are two general types: defensive counterintelligence, to quietly strengthen your system; and offensive counterintelligence, which confuses, weakens, or destroys the opposition.

Although General Petraeus’s career, both in the military and with the CIA, is primarily viewed in the context of foreign policy implementation, there may be benefits to examining the recent events in their domestic context. Indeed, there have been other, similar situations that can be useful in understanding how so powerful a figure as Petraeus has been kneecapped in this manner.

Obviously, in terms of “intelligence,” knowledge is power. And, as I have noted in previous essays on this forum, to more fully appreciate what “power” is, we look to the word’s Latin root, “posse,” which means “to be able.” Thus, intelligence by definition leads “to be able” to conduct either defensive or offensive counterintelligence.

Let’s consider an obvious example, personified by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It is well known that Hoover had a pathological drive to collect “intelligence” about the sex lives of public figures. In the case of politicians, it allowed Hoover to apply pressure amounting to blackmail, in order to force the politicians to obey the Director’s wishes. It is important to understand that, reality aside, Hoover justified this as “defensive” counterintelligence.

During the 1960s, Hoover’s FBI would engage in offensive counterintelligence programs that targeted the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements. Two examples stand out: first, Hoover’s disturbing fascination with Martin Luther King’s sex life -- including the infamous sending of tapes of Rev. King’s hotel rooms, with a letter instructing Martin to kill himself before the tapes were to be made public; and COINTELPRO, which sought to disrupt, compromise, and destroy Black Nationalist organizations (and included murder).

The Nixon administration sought to institute a domestic spying program, known as the Huston Plan, to coordinate federal, state, and local police and intelligence forces for purely political purposes. During the various investigations that resulted from “Watergate,” the public learned that Nixon spied upon not only political rivals and journalists, but also upon members of his own administration. More, it was learned that at the same time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were spying on President Nixon.

Nixon’s humiliating forced resignation has been “officially” recorded as a case where mere coincidence leading to two young reporters and a caught-off-guard legal system upholding law and order. But it was far, far more than that. To fully appreciate its significance, one must understand the relationship between Washington politics, intelligence, and counterintelligence. (And again, the use of a mobile model is useful per Watergate.)

One can safely say that the official remedy to the systematic Watergate crimes did not constitute successful defensive counterintelligence or achieve justice. Rather, it sacrificed a few pieces of the mobile, which quickly regained its balance. Thus, the Iran-Contra scandal took place -- again leading to the official clipping of a few of the Washington mobile’s pieces. And a relatively short time later, that same system produced the Plame scandal.

The Cheney-Bush2 administration was publicly claiming something it knew was untrue: that Iraq had yellow cake and WMDs that posed a direct threat to the United States. The coordinated use of the image of a mushroom cloud provided their justifying the ultimate offensive counterintelligence action: warfare. An attempt by one faction within the CIA to expose the false WMD claims (classic defensive counterintelligence) came by way of a New York Times op-ed by an agency employee with the official cover of “former Ambassador,” Joseph Wilson.

Dick Cheney -- a specimen who combined the very worst qualities of Hoover and Nixon -- had overseen the installation and coordination of neoconservative cells within the administration, various intelligence agencies, and the military. Hence, he was fully aware of Wilson’s position, and that included knowledge of Wilson’s wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame. The vice president believed that Wilson and Plame were engaged in a counterintelligence operation against the neoconservative faction of the federal government. Hence, the Office of the Vice President’s offensive counterintelligence efforts to discredit Wilson and Plame, and to intimidate the others associated with them. In fact, OVP employees testified that this offensive as called “Scooter’s ‘black ops’ “ during Libby’s criminal trial.

In this year’s presidential election contest, republican candidate Willard Romney had engaged several of the Cheneyite neoconservatives to mold his proposed foreign policy. While the majority of Romney’s positions were as secret as his tax returns, the candidate did rant about Iran’s mushroom cloud threat. There are factions within the government, as well as in non-official positions, who seek a more aggressive set of “policies” in the Middle East. And neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan had the background necessary to exercise “power” in the context of defining US policy in the Middle East or other areas of the world.

Where exactly General Petraeus fit in is difficult to say. The public image he had cultivated does not identify clearly where his loyalties were, in the sense of the conflicts between the various domestic interests competing for power in Washington and abroad. The corporate media continues to focus its attention entirely upon sexuality. The “grass roots” media has correctly focused more attention on not the “what” of the official version of events, but upon the “why.” I’ve read a number of interesting theories on “why.”

What do you think?


“A drop in the ocean partakes of the greatness of its parent, although it is unconscious of it. But it dries up as soon as it enters upon an existence independent of the ocean.”
-- Gandhi

In the months leading up to this week’s elections, I have posted a number of essays here about the contests in the town of Sidney, N.Y.. Everything good and bad about the United States can be found in this upstate, very republican community. The local volunteer fire department just returned from emergency response work on the coastal region devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Its Town Supervisor -- the infamous tea party Bob McCarthy, who led the fight that sought to force the removal of all Islamic graves from Sidney’s soil -- just cut the highway department’s budget, which translates into the lay-off of all but the first-shift. As McCarthy lives in Florida during the winter months, he does not care that there will be little, if any, plowing of the roads from 5 pm to 5 am, the very hours when fire trucks and ambulances are most often called to emergencies.

In that town’s 238-year history, its Town Board has always had a republican majority. Until this week, that is.

I ran one candidate’s campaign (my nephew), and co-ran another’s; these were the two Democrats, running against three republicans, for two seats on the board. Now, this is in a town where registered republicans outnumber registered democrats by more than three-to-one. There is a significant number of “independent” voters, too, but republicans are by far the majority. Yet not only did our two candidates win on Tuesday, but they won with record numbers of votes, in what local media called “the most heated campaign in Sidney’s history.”

How did we do this? I think that is an important question, because if we could do it in Sidney, others -- including you -- can do it where you live. Our effort included the contributions of the local Democratic Party, and of activists from the independent Democratic Left. Our basic strategy is found, not coincidentally, in the free e-book that I wrote this summer, and which can be found here:


For this discussion, I’ll attempt to briefly outline some of the highlights. To begin with, we knew that we were doing battle with the republican machine, which has three levels: there is the identified leadership (generally older white males) who run the public show, but who tend to be the errand-boys for the true leaders; there is the actual leadership, comprised of those who run events from behind the curtain (they are the businessmen); and there are the cogs, or the registered republican base. This base does what it is told, without giving it conscious thought -- for that is the nature of machines, which are by definition unconscious.

Indeed, the republican machine, be it a tractor in a town like Sidney, or a huge bulldozer in your state, is unconscious of the destruction that its driver uses it for. That “identified leader” driving the machine knows, of course, as does the actual leader, who identifies what their latest project seeks to destroy.

Thus, the basic strategy that I use in running a campaign can be defined in one of two ways, depending upon which you prefer. It’s fair to say I believe in “waking up” the unconscious cogs in that republican machine, trusting that a significant number of them will respond by recognizing their humanity. Or one could accurately say that I believe in kicking the wheels off the republican machine. Either description is fine.

How is that accomplished? The first task is identifying those in the community who are both part of a larger group -- including, for example, people who are not registered democrats -- and who are willing and able to invest time and energy in the campaign. In the context of this campaign, we had eight people who were on “tier one,” meaning they not only had solid experience, but that they attended almost every meeting we held. Then came “tier two,” comprised of people who were eager to gain experience, by investing significant time and energy into our effort.

I am, at this phase of my long life, a believer in non-violence. In social-political activism, that translates into the many actions described in the e-book, such as the hunger strike I engaged in January, 2012. I believe in confronting the darkness with light, and hatred with love (in the manner that “love” is defined in three tiers by Martin Luther King, Jr.). Yet in campaign-court activism, those darker impulses of the machine are best confronted by justice.

Let me explain this. That fellow Bob McCarthy, and his two tea party chums who assisted his cemetery project, are very difficult to like. They have a toxicity about them, that causes citizens at the town board meetings to react in disgust. I must admit that it is easy for me to pray for them while I’m engaged in ceremony, but difficult to not strongly dislike them as individuals. Thus, I try very hard to use the manner in which King confronted “Bull” Connor as a model for dealing with the three tea partiers.

Within our group, each person has individual talents. The full understanding of these differences is essential, in order to best coordinate the group. There are, not surprisingly, some who are not comfortable in trying to appeal to republicans. Their life experiences have created walls between them and republicans in general. Others have bridges that connect them to republican family members, friends, and/or neighbors. Appreciating that difference allows us to identify which group members will be tasked with reaching out to republicans, to wake them up to the reality of the damage the machine is doing.

Having those who aren’t involved in “republican outreach” focus on voter education, registration, and participation among other groups and individuals is equally important. Identifying those who prefer a different role -- such as delivering fliers door-to-door -- provides us with another equally important activity. Coordinating the letters-to-the-editors of local and regional newspapers is another equally important task. Each person is a unique finger, that combines with others to make the group a powerful fist.

When the republican leaders see that fist, they naturally react. And we can count on a hostile reaction. Time and time again, this has happened in Sidney over the last two years. And that has allowed us to separate the extremists from the moderates, to the point where we have won five out of five elections there in the past two years.

At last night’s town board meeting in Sidney, the three tea party members clearly recognized that the game has changed. They are isolated. In fact, even some moderate republicans were there, expressing disapproval of the damage the local machine has done, and continues to do at this time.

I’ll wrap up by saying this: I was also involved in several other campaigns. In one, for an open seat in the House of Representatives, I recommended that the candidate -- who I know casually -- use parts of the model we used in Sidney. Though he listened politely to me, the fellow who ran his campaign rejected my ideas. This prevented the candidate from getting widespread support from independents and the Democratic Left. I do understand the reasons for trying to “play it safe.” But this is no time to play, and our society is far from safe from the damage being inflicted by the republican machine.

Sorry to ramble on so long. I get carried away.

RIP Carmen Basilio

Carmen Basilio, the onion farmer who won the welterweight and middleweight titles, died at the age of 85. Basilio’s greatest victory was over Sugar Ray Robinson, in a true “grudge match,” on September 23, 1957. His “official” record, according to the Ring Record Book, included 79 bouts between the years 1948 and 1961. He actually had more bouts than this.

Basilio’s first six professional bouts took place in Sherburne, Chenango County, NY. I learned about these, as my great uncle actually trained Carmen then, and promoted the cards they were on. This information, incidentally, has been verified through research in the local historical societies, which have the newspapers from that period. A couple of other future world champions would participate on these fight cards. Basilio spent time living with Uncle Pat (as would a heavyweight champion preparing to fight a young contender named Joe Louis).

I first met Carmen Basilio after winning the finals of a tournament in one of NY’s districts. He came up to the ringside after the bout, and we had a great talk. I assumed at that time that he was simply amazed at what I considered my remarkable talent -- being a teenager, I was more than full of myself. Looking back, I assume he watched a kid with the same curious name as his first trainer/promoter, who lived in the same general area where Carmen fought those early bouts.

A few years later, Carmen worked my oldest brother’s corner in his pro debut. And twice, I worked my brother-in-law’s corner when he fought Carmen’s last fighter, heavyweight Greg Sorrentino.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame is in Carmen’s home-town. Most years, during the induction ceremonies weekend, my sons and I would run into Carmen there. What a character! He was always telling jokes, and in a great mood -- unless someone brought up Ray Robinson’s name. Once, as a top-ten contender, Carmen had business in NYC. He had brought his wife with him, and they saw Ray on a street. They waited patiently for Ray to finish a conversation with a couple other people, and then Carmen introduced himself and his wife to Robinson. Ray, then a world champion, was rude. Carmen never forgot that, much less forgave Ray. (Even on an ESPN-Classic special on Sugar Ray, when commenting on Ray’s sad death, Carmen was brutal.)

On June 10, 2005, my sons and I sat ringside near Carmen at a fight card. It was the 50-year anniversary of his dramatic 12th round knockout of Tony DeMarco, to win his first title. I bought a 2’-by-3’ print of the knockout scene, and had Carmen autograph it. It’s one of a few framed, autographed pictures of Carmen that my sons have hanging up in their apartment.

We would see Carmen a few times after that, but that night really stands out for me. We talked about Uncle Pat and the “old days.”

Rest in peace, Champ.

Exclusive ! Ryan v. Romney

I told you about the fool on the hill,
I tell you man he living there still.
Well here's another place you can be,
Listen to me.
Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dove-tail joint-yeah
Looking through a glass onion
-- John Lennon; Glass Onion; 1968

Wisconsin: Lawyers representing Rep. Paul Ryan filed last-minute motions with both the US Supreme Court and the Vatican, to have his relationship with Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential ticket annulled “contingent upon the expected loss to Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.” An attorney for Ryan told the Glass Onion that “the Congressman now realizes that there was virtually no way for this relationship with Romney to work out. More, without immediate action upon the part of the Court and Vatican, any linkage between the two will cause long-term humiliation to Ryan, rendering his political future to be less appealing than that of Gary Condit.”

“Before his noble attempt to save Governor Romney’s clearly doomed candidacy, Paul Ryan enjoyed a reputation as an honest politician. Outside of Wisconsin’s 1st District, few people were aware of his history of fabrications. If his place on this losing ticket is allowed to stand, it will do irreparable harm to Rep. Ryan’s reputation,” the legal brief argues.

As part of the annulment, Ryan’s lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to issue an emergency mandate, naming him as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s vice presidential running mate in 2016. A separate brief to the Vatican seeks their blessing on this, as well.


You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
-- John Lennon; Revolution; 1968

Rhetorical Question: “Why should I vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday?”

I have stated several times over the years that I have participated on this forum that I am a Malcolm X Democrat. This is not intended to imply that Minister Malcolm, even in the last year of his life on earth, when he became more involved in politics than the Nation of Islam had previously allowed for, was a registered member of the Democratic Party. He wasn’t. However, his political activity included supporting democratic politicians, such as Adam Clayton Powell; working with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party leaders; and advocating voter registration.

I am a registered member of the Democratic Party. Being a registered Democrat does not prevent me from breaking bread with a wide range of people belonging to the Democratic Left. And the Democratic Left, while having some overlap with the Democratic Party, is distinct.

But what, some may be asking, does all this business about rhetorical questions, and the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Left, and the late “angriest black man in America” have to do with Tuesday’s election contest, which features perhaps the least angry man in the nation versus a pseudo-human corporate entity? Is this merely the nonsensical ramblings of an increasingly out-of-touch, semi-senile, forum fool? Let’s take a closer look.

In Malcolm’s day, his opposition frequently tried to marginalize his voiced opinions by claiming that he engaged in rhetoric. As if rhetoric, per say, is a bad thing. Malcolm would, of course, point out that the word “rhetoric” comes from a word that meant the finest form of teaching. Indeed, Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion” necessary for the rational grasp of political issues. Indeed, rhetoric is -- in its most proper sense -- the method used to teach those who are less well-informed about a given issue, with the goal of motivating them to take the correct action needed.

The Democratic Party of current times includes a wide array of people; these include, from left to right: progressives, liberals, moderates, and conservatives. For the sake of this discussion, and because the intent of the Democratic Underground’s early membership was primarily composed of these two groups, we will consider the progressives and liberals. In using the correct definitions, “liberals” tend to view the imperfect political machinery as in need of fine-tuning, while progressives tend to advocate the major restructuring of that machine. Individuals can, of course, be a blend of these two definitions. A good example might be to consider that, while working specifically for Civil Rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was engaged in liberal activity: he was seeking to gain access to the American Dream for black citizens. When by 1967 King had openly tied the horrors of the war in Vietnam to the wide-spread poverty in America that degraded the lives of people of all colors, he was advocating a progressive program to restructure the nation.

When we examine the on-going debates and arguments on this forum, involving good people who fully support President Barack Obama’s re-election, and good people who do not share the same passionate feelings about the President, much of that conflict is rooted in the differences between liberal and progressive outlooks. Is Barack Obama a superior human being than Willard Romney? Yes, of course he is. But has President Obama served in a manner that deserves everyone’s unqualified support? The answer to that may well be different among good and decent individuals who participate on this forum.

I’m a progressive Democrat. Among the many things that I believe requires a deep and wide-spread structural change in this country is the current economic system of “vulture capitalism.” That does not mean that I am opposed to free enterprise. It does mean that I am opposed to the perverse form of corporate socialism, that provides comfort to the opulent rich, by crushing the middle and lower economic classes. Malcolm, by no coincidence, taught that the American economic elite were once a mighty eagle, capable of taking any and every resource it desired from around the globe -- but which had turned into a nasty vulture, that dined upon the poor of this nation.

I advocate the idea of people at the grass roots level transforming our nation into a Constitutional Democracy. This is not romantic yearning of a return to a yesterday that exists only in my imagination. Rather, it is an understanding that the basic concepts of the U.S. Constitution -- including the additions that have been made to it -- tend to be solid. All efforts to rebuild our society should rest upon that foundation.

For many, many years, as documented in Arthur Schlesinger’s important book, “The Imperial Presidency,” the majority of presidents have sought to claim more and more power for their office. They do so primarily by talking about external threats to our safety, and by engaging in warfare (declared or undeclared). Obviously, there has been cooperation lent by either sick or weak members of both parts of Congress, from Senator Joseph McCarthy’s “red scare,” to the recent spinelessness of the passing of the Patriot Act. Both, of course, intended to limit the rights of citizens in this country.

The current focus of the Republican Party, being led by Romney and Paul Ryan, is the further denial of Constitutional Rights to a wider and wider segment of our society. The best illustration I can think of is their intense interest on denying women the right to control their own bodies. It’s not only about abortion: it includes access to birth control and health care. And there are literally hundreds of other issues, all of which overlap. Thus, while I view Barack Obama as an individual who flirted with progressive views as a teenager, and who was employed as a liberal community organizer as a young man, and who now spans the liberal-moderate-conservative parts of the Democratic Party, I recognize that is represents a totally superior option than Mitt Romney. If nothing else, his nominees to the federal courts -- including but not limited to the U.S. Supreme Court -- will keep open the most essential door for providing us with a fighting chance of establishing social justice. A Romney presidency, on the other hand, would slam that door shut.

H2O Man
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